Friday, March 28, 2008

Rest! Rest? Puke? Spin? Rest!

Praise Jesus!

I just slept for a solid two hours in a row without medicinal inducement and if I had them, I don't remember any of my dreams or nightmares.

Sweet Jesus! Rest!

Here is a copy of an e-mail I sent to a friend this morning:

I'd be lying if I said I felt like I got good sleep last night. Can we rain check today? I am so tired and grouchy and I can't find a shoelace to one of my shoes that I washed and I know I had it in my closet and I am glad that this breakfast is just with PB because any other friend of Justin's would think I was looney toons, [sic]which I kinda am, butwhich I don'treally [sic] care about too much any more. It's just the way things are.

I really did want to see youu.[sic] Please don't take it personally. Our schedules just didn't work outand [sic] if I don't take a nap today ASAP when I am actually God willing capable of lying down and resting instead of just watching my mind go zoom zoom zoom while my body goes shut the F up....

well, you get the picture.

Despite several efforts to sleep until the appointed alarm time of 8 a.m. I was up just after six. As soon as my eyes opened I thought, no, please God, please God, don't let me wake up any further, I just have to go pee.... But by the time I got back to bed it was too late. First we're having breakfast with a friend and then I have that doctor's appointment, and what time is that appointment exactly and where? I need to print out the directions. And she's going to make me go over my whole history with her, I should make a timeline because I won't remember it all. I hope there's enough time for breakfast before I have to leave. It'll be nice to see him. What time is Justin leaving today? What else do I have to get done today? I wonder how much damage there was to those buildings last night. Maybe I want to go for a run. My throat is still a little sore from the smoke. I hope everyone was OK. I hope no one got hurt. Maybe I'll go check it out now, maybe I'll even bring my camera. It wouldn't be so disrespectful now to bring my camera, would it. No, I should try to sleep. But I can't. Maybe if I lay on the couch. [I tried it.] Nope. [I came back into the bedroom at 7:30. It woke Justin up and he asked where I'd been.] Out there. I can't sleep. Maybe now, I'm going to try again. Nope, this isn't working. I'm just going to get up and go for a run or something.

He consoled me with the small wonder that my tossing and turning hadn't disturbed his sleep. I'm just so nervous for this new doctor. Actually, I had been anxious ever since the fire--while all the other neighbors who were unaffected were sure to have moved on and maybe even forgotten about it by then, at 11:30 p.m., my heart was still racing with adrenaline-induced-type nervousness.

I had finally taken half an anti-anxiety pill so that I could manage to pack my suitcase for my mini-vacation with the girls without losing my mind or yelling at Justin for no reason at all.

The new doctor turned out to be good. She is the one that my shrink had wanted me to see from the beginning but who did not accept my shitty military medical insurance, so I had to hunt around. First I called three doctors Nancy recommended in order of her preference, then I took the appointment with the one who had the earliest time slot. That guy was a real ass who made me fill out pages and pages of information while I sat in his lobby saying that if I CALLED him on the phone he would start charging me for each minute over sixty seconds. In terror, I went into his office, cried my way through my entire explanation of the course of events and left with a prescription and disability paperwork, both of which made me cry harder because of the sheer disappointment of what my life had come to be.

Later, after spending a few weeks wandering around (still teaching), balancing on desks between students who had their hands up to ask a question, and constantly looking for the easiest route to the trashcan should I actually throw up, I went to my first appointment with her first insurance-taking recommendation and he switched my medication. Just over two calendar years later, I have been on two more medications that did not make my mood better but did make me suffer their side effects. I am now on a combination of seven medications which are a mixture of anti-depressants, mood stabilizers and anti-anxiety pills that all have some distasteful side effect or another and also seem to work together and against each other to leave me feeling no better than I might feel if I just stopped taking them altogether. (The detox would be so painful that I do not experiment with this option.) Once I ran out of just one of the meds and took too long to get the refill and ended up with such horrific headaches that lying in the darkest room with ice on my eyes did not help.

So you see, I went to alchemist No. 3.

She actually radiated a sense of calm in the way that women who are not beautiful yet not at all ugly do. While alchemist No. 2 seemed to have a certain charm about him (maybe because he was a flare on my gaydar but seemed to want me not to know, maybe because I actually rode up in the elevator with him and he was in his running shorts holding a salad from Starbucks and checking his watch and my first thought was, "This is him, isn't it?," maybe because the first guy was so heavy and plodding and charged for breathing on his time and he was not so money grubbing), alchemist No. 3 seems real. Maybe women wearing Easter egg lavender just aren't scary. Plus she smiles and interacts with my comments as though she saw me as a person instead of another chemistry formula.

Fortunately, Nancy and she had talked and she seemed to comprehend and believe the things Nancy told her about me, so I didn't have to delve to deeply into the yucky muck of the past, I got away with sliding down in the Patient Chair and doing a quick time line from May 2005 (miscarriage) to the present. There were quick flashes further back, as there are apt to be when doctors want to know really when things got started with a person, but there was no dwelling, which of course there never is when 45 minutes costs $300 and is supposed to cover a lifetime's worth of information that spits out a *please God-willing* formula at the end.

Plus I got to be funny and she actually laughed (twinkling, crinkling eyes and all!) instead of pausing and staring as though wondering why I took it all as a joke.

I mean really, how can I not take it as a fucking joke when it's been more than two years now and grocery shopping is supposed to be a celebratory achievement? Fuck.



One of the funny things about these appointments is as a patient who wants to get as much out of the doctor as I can, I have to talk quickly so that I can get everything in during the time allotted for me to present. So, if I didn't have pressured speech (which I kinda do), I would come across that way anyway.

With alchemist No. 3, I jumped all over the place with my history and stories, sometimes having to say, "Why am I telling you this?" and even derailing her so that she had to look at her notes until one of us found and picked-up the dropped thread.

She asked me smarter questions, like, "How do you feel about germs? Like will you use a public restroom or just hold it until you get home?"

"My mouth is so dry from these damn meds that I can't hold it that long! But I don't touch the door really when I open it, and I wash my hands and use the paper towel to touch stuff, but," and this is conspiratorially,"if someone comes in there while I'm there, and they seem like they'll be leaving soon, I find all kinds of things to do so that they can be the one to touch the door on the way out. I'll put lipstick on, and look at me! I don't wear lipstick! but I'll put some on for a change, and maybe some lotion... and then I follow them out like it was the most natural thing in the world."

"What about checking things? Do you check the doors to make sure they're locked?"

"How many times is too many times?" I asked her. She might have thought that I was being sassy because of my tone, but at this point I have no idea what is "normal" and what is "off" unless it's really obvious (ie. washing my hands 30 times a day, which I do not do (small cheer for me!). I am so sick of all of the questions and frustrated with the whole process that I don't know if it is possible to approach it without a bit of a biting edge.

If I am snippy it's the least of my problems.

"Well, I might check twice," she said.

"I checked it three times last night. And that last time was after I asked my husband, the lights were already off and I had to go back. It's a small apartment, so it's not that bad, but Jesus! Believe the Marine!"

She laughed and noted something down. She's not afraid to indicate that three might be too many times, instead of just keeping freaky little reporters notes while I speak clearly into the sterilized air.

"What about other things? I have one client who goes back to the iron so many times to check to make sure that it is off, that now she just brings it to school with her so that she does not have to worry about it."

"Genius! That's a really good idea. Nah, I don't do that," but then I told her something else, as if I had another really good idea she could maybe share with someone to make them feel better. "But you know those packets, white, pink, blue and brown if they have Sugar in the Raw? If I'm no a date, well, God, on a date--I've been married for almost six years now, I don't "date"--but if I'm nervous, I used to do this.... I'd straighten them all out so that they were all facing the same way and grouped with the right colors. It's very calming."

She got this, "I see...." look and nodded. "So are you very organized?"

"I could swear I once was, but you certainly couldn't tell by looking at my apartment now. I used to be like Monica from Friends, and I know it was just a coping mechanism, but everything had to be just so. Straight. But now, I mean geez, there are papers cluttered everywhere. Who cares that the soup and Naked Juice labels are all lined up when there's boxes everywhere?"

I confirmed later with Justin that I was indeed once very organized--he acknowledged it and managed not to say, "AND GOD I MISS IT!"

Poor Marine.

"What about hand washing?"

"Well, I like to do it--the bathroom, before I eat, when I arrive somewhere..."

"How many times a day?"

"I don't know..."


"No! That would be crazy!" I remembered the disappointment of reading on my Teeth Whitening Mouthwash that I should not use it more than twice a day. "I do like to brush my teeth though. I used to do it all the time. It's very relaxing."

What? I wear braces! (OK. I liked it before the braces, but sue me. I had crooked teeth. At least they could be clean.)

The rest was less funny. OK, not necessarily less funny, but I'm getting sleepy again. I think she got a kick out of me knowing words like mixed state and cyclothymic. When she asked me if I ever got really manic I said, "I wish! I mean God, let me buy something already!"

I am not the only one of her clients who is frustrated by the word bipolar, since we don't get to have any of the so-perceived "fun" of the mania. For the first time I heard her describe it correctly: I go between being depressed and not being able to do anything but lie on the couch and wish I could do something about the stacks of papers around me, to being depressed and not being able to lie on the couch and sit still or even imagine just doing nothing but still not being able to do much.

My mania is making a long list of things I want to get done and then only doing some of them and beating myself up over it.

It's SO not as glamorous as being a real bipolar. Plus it's not really fair because bipolar carries such a heavy stigma with it--if I were asked to hire a bipolar office manager I would be afraid she would one day buy 1000 highlighters for a business of only three employees. Bipolar people are crazier than depressed people, everybody knows that. (Kidding! Get over it!) But who wants to hire a depressed person, either? Someone who sucks all the energy out of the room with her little Eeyore cloud over her head and who cries all the time. Sounds great. I can't imagine it would be that much better if there were a word for being chronically depressed but cycling from paralytic depression to agitated depression. Sad, bitchy, sad, bitchy.

There's no real upside to any of these labels. Except if I were a shrink I'd sure make a pile of money off them.

At some point I caught my breath, covered my face and took a deep breath. "I'm just so frustrated with all of this. I take this pile of pills and I don't feel better; I just want to hurl. And, no offense, because I didn't know you then, but You People certainly weren't helping so I started self-medicating with alcohol, which I knew wasn't good because I'd be depressed later but at least it helped me get through the moment then. And now I can't drink at all because these new pills make me feel like I'm going to hurl if I have so much as half a beer or a few sips of wine, and I'm going to SANTA BARBARA and ROME! How can I go to Rome without being able to drink wine?!?! I mean, I'm not an alcoholic, but it would be nice to have a glass of wine with dinner in ROME!"

So she's adjusting things a bit, pulling me immediately off one crappy pill and slowly off another.

She asked me if I wanted to try this method.

"Honestly? I don't really care. I just want to feel better. If you said, 'Go run in the freeway, that will make you feel better,' I would. I'd run a little off to the side, because I don't want to die from it, but I'd give it a try."

The magic in this decision is that I've also been getting head rushes lately, when there's a change in altitude, like if I go from sitting in a chair and my head is four feet above the ground and then I stand and I'm in the 5'5" range, or even worse, if I kneel down to pick something up from the floor and then I stand up.... holy God! Altitude sickness!


Side effect.

So that might go away too.

She left the room to get me a sample of one of the meds I am already on so that I can up the dosage without running out before my original refill lets me get more. It's not a fun pill, just another pill. I sat there spinning at same altitude I'd been maintaining for the whole 40 minutes and thought, "Dizziness and nausea are symptoms of anxiety too. What if it's just that?"

I asked her.

She acknowledged that fact, but thinks I've got more going on here because of this horrendous cocktail. She kept telling me she really believed I could feel better.

I guess I'm supposed to believe her. I think I do.

Still, when I found my way from her second floor office to the first floor of the parking garage I was seriously considering sticking my finger down my throat and vomiting next to my car before I drove away. Shy, and not wanting to give the appearance of a drunk driver or a lunatic, I did not. I just started the car, almost drove into the parked car behind me (but maybe I was not even close, maybe it just seemed that way from where I was looking with my wobbly head), and got home safely carrying Possibilities with me.

I explored the purging idea further with Justin, but he explained that it probably would not work since I don't feel sick from eating something bad, or having a stomach bug or too much alcohol in my system. Vomiting would probably just make me feel tired but still sick, plus my stomach and throat would hurt in yet another way.

"So I am actually not going to vomit, I just feel like I will?" If I knew it was not going to happen, then I would not have to worry about it so much, I could just feel sick and not constantly checkfor the least embarrassing place to puke.

"No, you might actually vomit, but you probably won't feel better if you do."

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