Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Evening Out

When I meditate I begin by focusing on the solid things that surround me. The ground on which my feet rest. The knee bones and flesh and skin on which my wrists rest. These things create a stable platform on which I can build.

As I become aware of my body the sense that one side outweighs the other comes in clear and strong. My left thigh has shrunk to child-size in the shadow of my right thigh. I feel as though my right wrist is sitting inches higher than my left as it rests on my knee. Following the sensation, it becomes clear that the entire right side of my body is dwarfing the left side, my right shoulder sits higher in its socket, my right buttock seems more solid and stable and larger than the left. I am not tipping or leaning and there is no clear divide between the two halves of my body, they are simply vastly different in size. The right side seems somehow more real.

The mother/wife side of me is more real, too. It is the side to which I default. When life overwhelms, the 'self' side of me shrinks and its priorities drop off. The personal chef, chauffer, tender of wounds, anticipator of crisis looms large and strong and solid and dwarfs the side of me that craves quiet, solace, peace and predictability. I have long known that the mother/wife side of me draws on the strength and reserves of the other side for its nourishment.

Inevitably, the smaller the self side becomes, the less capable the mother/wife side becomes of coping. Speed bumps bloom into Himalayan mountain peaks, potholes become sinkholes. My teeth grind, my jaw aches, tears flow. The strength contained in the "Right" side of me is spent in flares of anger and I expend my energy in small, chaotic bursts instead of pacing myself for the long haul.

The "Right" side believes that there is a correct way to address every problem. She is certain that if something is not going well, she has chosen the Wrong solution and it will be necessary to try again. The Right side is drunk on its power; the ability to clean up messes, kiss away hurts, anticipate collisions and divert them. The left side, the self side, sits and patiently waits.

If my self is a perfect sphere of Yin and Yang, the walls between the two sides are permeable, but only one way. The self side feeds the do-er side until is depleted and when the mommy/wife side is incapable of functioning any longer, I am forced to stop and re-evaluate. The side that feeds me is itself fed from within. If I imagine a small speck inside and relax enough to allow it to open up, the hidden spring is awakened.

So I sit in silence. I am aware of the imbalance and am awed by the quiet patience of my left side. It knows it will be fed. It waits for the moment when I can re-examine what is truly important to me: writing, meditating, exercising, finding peace and perspective. It does not judge or even measure how long it took me to recognize the disparity this time. It has a sense of self that is not affected its relative size or list of accomplishments.

If I continue to practice this awareness and choose to let my soul side fill up regularly, the discrepancy between my two sides will gradually diminish. It is a wonder to me that all it takes is several moments of silence to show me why my right shoulder is stiff and painful, the fingers of my right hand tingle throughout the day, my head aches at night. When the balance is restored the aches go away and, for a while, I will be even again.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

That's the Way We Roll...

Just a small sampling of the way my family spends our days. To entertain or enlighten or frighten you - I'm not sure which:

Thursday morning we are, all four of us, in the bathroom upstairs. Bubba is shaving and packing his overnight bag. I am brushing my teeth. Eve is flitting around us, making sure we know she is excited about spending two nights with her grandparents without her parents around. Lola is perched on the tile countertop between the double sinks, wiggling her hips and making faces at Bubba as she attempts to block his view of himself in the mirror. He plays along for a while until she starts thrusting Q-tips toward his nostrils like miniature swords - hyah! hyah!

"Dude, you'd better quit squirming around like that or you're gonna fall off the counter and crack your nut," he warns her, laughing as he wipes the remaining blobs of shaving cream off of the skin underneath his earlobes.

"Daddy! I don't have any nuts! Only you do," she rolls her 7-year-old eyes and hops down.


There is something about the car ride from our house to Portland that makes us all loopy around Battleground. We have all made this drive so many times, Bubba and I in the front seats, the girls snuggled into their captain's chairs with blankets and favorite stuffed animals, and the dog nestled firmly between them on the floor, flipping himself up instantly as soon as he feels the car stop because he knows it means he gets to get out and pee. It isn't long enough to be monotonous, but 2/3 of the way in, we know we are close and we all get a little goofy. Bubba starts making up lyrics to songs on the radio a la Weird Al Yankovic, Lola joins in and somehow trumps him and sends us all into fits of giggles. She starts free associating and manages to twist things in totally crazy ways and inspire Eve who is normally the serious one.

Today, Lola has removed the heavy chain-link leash from the dog's collar and is busy twisting it into different shapes.

"Hey, look! I'm making handcuffs!" She proudly holds out her wrists, tightly bound in chains with only a few inches between them. "Do ya think I can get out of this?"

Bubba rolls his eyes and smirks. He manages to speak softly enough that the girls can't hear him, "Thank God we don't have a pole in the car! Or a whip..."

After a few more combinations and permutations of homemade handcuffs, Lola announces, "I'm going to take this for show-and-tell. I'll ask for a volunteer to come up from the class and wrap me up in these special handcuffs and then I'll show them all how long it takes me to get out of them. Whew! What a terrific idea! I'll bet nobody has ever done a show-and-tell like that before!"

Bubba's talking under his breath again, "Oh, I get it. She's the dominant one..."

Meanwhile, Eve is slowly losing her sense of decorum as well. In her best 'we are siamese if you please' voice she begins singing, "Evlybody in To-kyo, dlives a pink To-yo-ta. C'mon, people - gimme a 't' word."

Against my better judgement, I call out, "Tangerine!"

"Evlybody in To-kyo, has a big tan-ger-i-ine. Give us another one, folks!"

This time, Lola chimes in, "Tankini!"

"Evlybody in To-kyo, wears a brown tan-ki-ni."



When we stay in Portland, we always take the dog. We've discovered a terrific hotel in the heart of downtown that caters to families with dogs. They welcome them, provide beds and toys and food/water dishes. They offer dog-sitting services and have stashes of dog treats and poop bags behind the front desk. It is positively doggy heaven. I will never stay anywhere else. Fortunately our dog can be trusted to stay in the room by himself for short periods of time without trashing the joint. I make it a habit to get up and take him for a walk early in the morning (three blocks up and two blocks over to the nearest Starbucks as a matter of fact) before Bubba and I head out to find breakfast. He always manages to make it out the front door of the lobby before lifting his leg on the enormous planter that delineates the doorman's spot for the day. I am always embarrassed but the doorman assures me that they all pee right there.

Now, our dog is a country dog. He is used to grass and trees and chasing bunny rabbits in the backyard. It usually takes him a few hours to get used to the traffic and concrete and random people wanting to pet him, but he always settles in. The fact is, when we are in Portland he is guaranteed at least three good long walks a day. At home, I generally open the back door and let him go, so I can't say I feel like we're treating him badly by bringing him to the city.

He loves the attention. He loves the other dogs he encounters in the hotel hallways and lobby. He is perfectly content to lie tethered to the pillar outside Starbucks and wait for me to return. He hates the Marriott Hotel. How, you may ask, do I know this? Well, peeing is one thing a dog does well, especially a male dog. I have often marveled at the special reserves of urine he must have that enable him to 'mark' every post, tree, mailbox and sign he deems worthy for miles and miles on a walk. Going #2? That's a different story.

At home, CB will not poop on the grass. He is very picky about finding a spot where there is simply dirt or bark to do his business. This is not something I have trained him to do. He came wired this way.

In the city, finding dirt is a little trickier. Fortunately, in downtown Portland there are many trees that line the sidewalks and most of them have some nominal amount of dirt surrounding them. When he's in a pinch, he'll run to the nearest tree and squat at the base of it. Unless we are anywhere near the Marriott Hotel. At least one time every day he pulls me to the revolving door of the Marriott Hotel in downtown Portland and leaves a huge steaming pile. He may have just pooped two blocks earlier. He may have pooped three times already that day. It does not matter. If we happen to pass the Marriott Hotel he will go out of his way to deposit poop outside the revolving door. I do not know why. I have no idea what message he is trying to send. I only know that he hates the Marriott. Maybe because they don't allow dogs...

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Insight: Courtesy of Fox's "House"

"Why do you value your failures more than your successes?"

"Successes only last until someone screws them up. Failures last forever."

Pause. Hold my breath. Sit up straight.

Rewind. Press play.

"Why do you value your failures more than your successes?"


I don't know. I didn't realize that I did until this precise moment. But you're right. I do. Play.

"Successes only last until someone screws them up."


Ain't it the truth. Each one is fragile, strung together on the strength of a single filament, no bigger than the width of a spider's silk. The safest thing to do is tuck them away in the trees and hope that you can use them to wrangle bigger prey. Keep them out of the path of things that might go crashing through them and shoot them all to sh*t. You'll just have to start over.


"Failures last forever."


Whoa. He's right. That's exactly how I treat them. As a kid I was taught to take responsibility for my mistakes. But what if 'responsibility' doesn't mean 'fix?' What if 'responsibility' means accepting and apologizing versus atoning and undoing? What if, by owning up to my failures, I've really been focused on punishing myself for even making mistakes at all? And by trying so damn hard to fix what I messed up on, I'm winding the web tighter and tighter around that mistake all but ensuring that it will stay preserved forever. What happens if I acknowledge my failures and move on instead of letting them own me?

Who knew sitting on the couch with a pint of Double Rainbow Coffee Blast ice cream could be so enlightening? This is better than therapy!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

I am consumed by food. Meal planning takes place for the week every Saturday. I set aside some portion of my day to sit with cookbooks and various loose pages of recipes I've collected throughout the week from friends or magazines or online. I scour the lists of ingredients in order to rule out gluten, exotic, out-of-season produce and ridiculous one-time-use spices or potions that will remain in my pantry for three years after I make this one recipe with them.

I set aside recipes that have made the cut, mentally deciding which nights I will have the most time to cook and those that will necessitate a hasty re-heating. We can't simply order a pizza anymore or have soup-and-sandwich night, so the nights we're running from school to activities are rough. Those recipes will be made on Sunday and stuck in the fridge so I can just zap them in the microwave (God forbid anyone ever discover that microwaved food causes cancer or autism or Parkinson's disease!!!)

The grocery list gets made, taking into account the nights Bubba will be away during the coming week. Nights when he's gone I can get away with gluten-free pasta and steamed broccoli for dinner. Next on the grocery list are things for school lunches. How many days of school this week? Any of them I can get away with whisking the girls out for a quick salad-bar treat at Whole Foods?

It's my ritual. I am sick of it. I wish I didn't spend so much time thinking about, shopping for, preparing and cleaning up after food. I think.

This week as I prepare to shut out the world and focus on the week's menu I am realizing it's an easy week. Tonight we're going to some friends' house for dinner (yay, they're gluten-free too - what a boon!), tomorrow I'll cook. Monday night Bubba's gone so we can have pasta. Tuesday night Bubba's gone and Eve's at choir practice until 6:15, so we can stop at Whole Foods for salad bar on the way home. Wednesday night I'm going to a book reading, so dinner is Bubba's to handle, and Thursday we're all heading out of town for the weekend.

Why am I not jumping for joy...

My ritual has been altered. The methodical, tangible putting of pen to paper for the grocery list, the writing of the meal plans in my weekly calendar - those are things I think I actually look forward to. There is something about this ritual that makes me feel as though I am doing something Real. Something productive and pro-active and motherly. Nurturing. Taking care of my family. And I'm good at it. I'm a good cook. I'm a good meal planner. I relish the opportunity to craft a meal that will make my family sated and happy. It validates my ability to provide for my children and my husband. I love our family dinners. I feel secretly smug that I'm not stuffing my children full of convenience foods or having Cheerios for dinner.

Guess I'll have to go do a load of laundry. Not quite as satisfying, but at least I got some writing done today. Even if it wasn't my grocery list.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Walking With Eve

Eve has decided that since she's growing up and getting busier, we ought to have a ritual that belongs just to the two of us.

She has chosen walking the dog on Sundays as that ritual. The grown-up girl in her sees it as a way to talk honestly about things in our lives without pesky little sister hanging around. The little girl in her sees it as a chance to get a special treat: "Be sure to bring your purse, though, so when we're done walking we can sit at Starbucks and have a hot chocolate together."

She has promised that, rain or shine, wind, snow or blazing heat, she will want to walk the dog with me. So far, we've had three glorious Sunday walks. So far, I think we've just barely scratched the surface of the things she's going to teach me.

One Sunday our talk turned to "the trouble with Lola." Lola, as you might recall from several previous blog posts, lost her mind for a while this summer and became an aggressive, snotty, backtalking meanie. Without ganging up on her, Eve and I began discussing why it is that she gets to me so much when she starts spouting off.

"Mom? Not to be mean or anything, but I need to tell you something."

Hmmm, not exactly the way I would have ever opened up a conversation with an adult in my life when I was 9, but, okay...

"You are always telling me that I can't control anyone else's behavior, that I can only change my response to it. You also always say that when I react in an angry or snotty way to her and get sucked in to the fight, she wins." We are walking side-by-side on a remote, wooded trail. There is nobody but us and the dog within hearing or sight distance. My eyes slid toward her now and then as she spoke, but Eve's eyes stayed firmly on the ground about three feet in front of her.

She took a deep breath, probably relieved that I hadn't stopped her yet. No way! I had to see where this was going.

"You're letting her win. She just wants attention. Does it really matter why she's being so mean? I don't like it when you two start fighting and I don't like it when she gets you so upset. Maybe you could just go to her and give her a big hug and tell her you love her when she's pissy. Sometimes I say 'thank you' when she says something evil to me and she stops 'cuz it's not what she expects."

Her voice is getting quieter and the rhythm of her words slower. I think she's getting talked out.

I slid my arm around her shoulders and gave her a squeeze. She was absolutely right. And she's been listening to me. Something tells me we can move mountains with these walks.

What To Do?

I struggle with balance on a daily basis. Work/life balance. Mother/wife balance. Homemaker/individual balance. Writer/employee balance.

As my eyes move around the rooms of my house, my brain sifts through all that I'm seeing and builds a list, almost without my noticing:

  • laundry's piling up - been three days since you did a load
  • tumbleweeds of dog hair beginning to collect in the corners
  • pantry's getting low on kid snacks
  • leftovers in the fridge are getting a little past-it
None of these things are urgent, but they will all continue to build up. Similarly, as I go through my day at work, certain things stick:

  • gotta make sure someone is here for parent curriculum night to shuttle the lost parents to their respective classrooms
  • we're getting low on emergency lunches - better order some more
  • paper supply is looking a little lean
  • teacher in room 4 says the thermostat is getting funky again
When I pick the kids up from school and sift through the news of their day, I collect still more:

  • fill out the info for Eve's picture day and order a package
  • pay tuition for choir and set up a uniform fitting
  • Lola's dying to get back to her swimming lesson - set that up soon
  • my volunteer day in Eve's French class is coming up next week - set up a carpool for Lola
I somehow manage to get things done. The critical things. Weekly meal planning, dishes, packing school lunches, making sure we've got enough dog food, cat food, vitamins, toilet paper. I don't feel as though I'm jumping from crisis to crisis or managing emergencies all day long. The girls are getting their homework done and making it to practices and school on time. They are in bed and asleep by 8:30 every night and Bubba and I get some face-time and even a date or two a month.

It's the prioritizing I'm struggling with. When I realize that it's been six months since I wrote a word of my new book project, I feel bad. When I decide that it is definitely past time for me to send out a new rash of agent query letters so I can get the first book published, I wonder when I'll get the time to sit down and do the research I need to do first. I'm not going to vacuum one room of dog hair. Once I get started, I'm doing the whole damn house before I put the vacuum away. I'm not going to do one load of laundry at a time. I'm gathering up every last stitch of dirty clothes, sorting them and washing, drying, folding until it's all neatly set at the end of everyone's bed. My daddy taught me not to start something I can't finish. I've made myself crazy for so many years multitasking that I know it's better for me to focus on one thing and do it right the first time.

But the first thing to drop off the To Do list is writing. Somehow, the writing doesn't seem to pile up like dirty dishes or smelly laundry. It doesn't collect under the buffet like tufts of black dog hair or sit on the counter in the kitchen waiting for me to sign it and return it to school. It doesn't reach out and tap everyone else in the house on the shoulder like running out of milk or cheese does. It only speaks to me. It only wakes me up at 2:30am to remind me that I haven't written or read any blog posts in over a week.


Sunday, September 06, 2009


I am absolutely fascinated with the way brains work. Looking at that shiny, lumpy grey blob that sits behind our faces, it is difficult to imagine the astonishing things that happen because of it. The electrical connections that are made that allow us to make our legs move and our throats create intelligible sounds come from this lump.  The signals that originate here direct our every action and reaction to everything around us.

Not only do our brains work nearly 24 hours a day, they are plastic. That is, changeable.  Far from being simple filing cabinets, they sort and assimilate the information we collect and occasionally alter our patterns of behavior because of this information.  

Lying on my bedroom floor yesterday, I worked on stretching my muscles to finesse out some of the stiffness that came along with the beginning of the school year.  My gaze drifted up the wall to several framed pieces of art that were wedding gifts from friends and family.  One in particular features a phrase my mother wrote in calligraphy, surrounded by pressed flowers from her garden.

"The key to a happy marriage is to fall in love many times with the same person."

She recorded the date of our wedding and framed it in a lovely gold frame. 

I love the sentiment. I adore the time she spent getting the lettering just right and pressing the flowers.  I am touched by the meticulous framing job.

The art? It is not me. I don't do "golden" or flowery.  I prefer simple and unadorned.  My mother's house is filled with antiques and countryfied touches. She's got signs and old moonshine jugs cluttered around the woodstove in the corner of the family room. Every window sports homemade checkered curtains that are reminiscent of (and probably actually are) picnic tablecloths.  Her house is cute and cluttered and comfortable. Her yard surprises you with its funky touches, a sign offering peaches for sale, clematis climbing up an old screen door, and a fountain crafted from an old metal watering can.  It is lovely and so, well, her.  I love to visit it. If I had to live there, I'd go nuts in a day.

As I lay on the floor gazing at the frame on my bedroom wall I pondered the ways in which I've become more like my mother over the years.  No matter how hard I've tried or how much I deny it I know that I've uttered the exact same phrases to my children that came out of my own mother's mouth.  

As a child, my mom sewed most of my clothing.  There are family albums full of photos of my sister (despite the fact that she is three years younger) and I sporting matching Hollie Hobby-inspired dresses.  We had homemade cotton shorts and seersucker blouses thanks to Mom.  When I got into elementary school, Mom used to take me to the fabric store to help choose the fabrics for my clothes and, while I don't recall being embarrassed that my mother sewed my clothing, there were clear moments where her taste in patterns and styles clashed with mine like the British and the IRA.  Growing up in the 70s, I was subjected to wearing culottes and macrame vests. My mom was so excited. I was mortified.  

Our fashion tastes only grew farther apart as I got older and I suppose that that is an expected part of growing up and developing your own individual personality.  To this day she shows up for visits in clothes I know she has chosen carefully, as much for her sense of fashion as comfort and the fact that they were a bargain.  Clothes that she is very happy with. Clothes that I wouldn't be caught dead in.  I don't say this to disrespect my mother. I fully respect her right to have her own opinions about her clothing and I am not at all embarrassed to be seen in public with her. I just don't want to be her.

So as I lay on the floor, pondering the art she chose for my wedding day I wondered whether I would ever suddenly wake up to discover that I've become her.  As I watch various friends gradually become more and more like their own mothers, it sets me to thinking.  I have seen my mother-in-law, a woman who used to get unbelievably frustrated with her own mother, become so much like her in her own mannerisms and opinions that it is frightening.  I have no intention of letting her know this because I'm certain it would drive her to distraction.  But will there be a point at which I become my mother as well? Is it inevitable.  Do our brains go along merrily for a certain period of time and then, at some tipping point decipherable only to our individual control centers, BLURP, one wrinkle folds out, forcing a new wrinkle to be created and, there you have it: I have become my mother?  Is there a physical change in my brain or is it simply a neurochemical or electrical difference that makes me suddenly behave more like the woman who has made me crazy all my life?  Or is it that the change has been happening slowly and gradually since the day I was born and it is only at this tipping point that I become aware of it?

Beyond that, if there is some abrupt physical change, if I meditate on it can I stop it? Or become mentally aware at the precise moment that my brain matter goes BLURP and a profound shift occurs?  Will I suddenly look at that frame hanging on my wall and love it from that day forward?

Maybe it's time I got up from the floor...

Friday, September 04, 2009

Getting There...

Less dizziness and brain fog every day. I'm feeling pretty good. I'm sleeping and I only got emotional twice yesterday, but I'm pretty sure that both times I was justified.  The first was after a complete Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde performance by Lola that all started because her evil, evil big sister had the gall to use Lola's pencil without asking (!).  We had 15 minutes before getting Eve to the bus stop and I still had to finish packing lunches and make my coffee to go.  Despite multiple attempts to stop the situation before it escalated, Lola insisted on unleashing her inner demon and was entirely undaunted by each and every one of my threatened consequences.  She has now lost all screen time (computer, Xbox, TV, movies, etc.) every single day for the last 10 days in a row. Apparently, that's not enough of a carrot. She has lost playdates, been sent to her room countless times to "chill out," and seen me dissolve into tears at least twice in the same time period.  The tears are the only thing that seem to sway her even slightly. 

So I lost it. I dropped what I was doing and silently made my way to my bedroom so that I could breathe and center myself before leaving the house.  She followed me. I shut my bedroom door and quietly asked her to leave me alone until I was ready to talk to her.  I sat on the floor in my room and sobbed.  She pounded on my locked door and screamed hysterically, "I don't like it when you cry, Mommy! Stop crying and let me in. NOW!"

Oh, yeah. That's gonna help.  Somehow I managed to convince her to be quiet until I came out and I closed my eyes and concentrated on breathing.  I reminded myself that she is a loving child who is having difficulty moderating her emotions right now.  I reminded myself that I cannot control her behavior no matter what I do.  I reminded myself that this, too, shall pass.  I tried to push away the voice that reminded me it couldn't pass quickly enough.  Somehow I got Eve to the bus on time and steeled myself for the inevitable apologies that come from Lola but never seem to help change her behavior.  I dropped her off in her classroom and headed to work.

It was the second day of school.  One little boy who had cried for 2 and a half hours on the first day was terrified to come back. He didn't want his mother to leave him at school again.  He is just three and hasn't been away from his mother before now and he didn't want to come back. Together, they walked up to the glass doors of the school and once he realized where they were he dug his feet into the ground and his eyes widened in terror. Abject terror. He began screaming hysterically, "I don't want to go to school. Don't leave me, Mommy! I don't like school!"

I remembered sitting with him as he cried on the first day of school, teasing him about the classroom fish.

"What is that silly fish's name? Peter Pan? Peter Peanut Butter and Jelly? Peter Pepperoni Pizza?"

At each silly suggestion he would slow his crying and shake his head.  At one point he stopped and quietly said, "Nemo."

"Oh, you're right. Nemo is his name," I slapped my forehead in recollection. "And he is purple with pink spots, right? No? Green with yellow stripes? Black and white?"

"He is orange."

I finally got him calm enough to join his class and sit with the fish for a while. He did great.  Until the second day of school.

My co-worker noticed how much trouble his mother was having getting him to come inside and she went out to help. She picked him up, had him wave good-bye to his mom, told him what time she would be back, and they came inside.  The screams escalated.  His eyes widened and I can only describe the look on his face as terrified. He was certain he was being abandoned.  As my co-worker continued on down the hall to his classroom, I reassured his mother that he would be fine. She should go and we would call her if we needed her, but I was sure he would calm down again and join his classmates.  It was the look on her face that broke me.

Even though she knew she was doing the right thing. Even though she knew we would take care of him. Even though she knew he wasn't the only kid in the school who was frightened.  Even though she had done this same thing at this same school with her daughter just three years before, she felt as though she was terrorizing him.  She felt guilty and mean and didn't want her little boy to feel alone.

Been there.  

I had to go sit in the break room and catch my breath.

So I think my tears were justified. I don't think it's the fact that I don't have the full dose of meds in my system anymore that caused me to feel that way and I'm pretty sure I wasn't over-reacting. That's what I'm telling myself.

And while the brain buzz and fingertip electricity continue to abate, my newest symptom has shown up. Muscle itch.  I can't find it described online anywhere, but it's definitely something I've never experienced before.  It's not an itch on the surface of my skin and it's not a twitch in my muscles.  it is a muscle itch.  It comes either in my quads or the bottoms of my feet and it is an itch that I can't scratch.  Fortunately, it doesn't last for long and I find it more interesting than disturbing, but it certainly makes me glad to be gradually ridding my body of this drug.

Thank you to everyone who continues to be so supportive. I don't know that I am courageous (although I appreciate you saying so). I just knew it was time.  Thanks.

Think I'm Gonna Barf

Woke up Wednesday morning to the scent of septic tank in my front yard. Knew that's what it was when the dog instantly took off for the tank lid and began digging.

The guy showed up yesterday at dinnertime to pump the tank so he can figure out what's wrong. As I walked him to the spot in the yard where the tank is located, I noticed that CB had visited this smelly place several times during the day and left his own deposits to add to the stench. I apologized to the tank guy for not having had time to clean up the dog poop as we stepped around the piles carefully. He shrugged.

"I drive the truck. I take the poop out of the tank. Doesn't bother me."

I suppose you have to have a sense of humor about that job to do it all day every day.

As he stretched the enormous vacuum hose across the lawn to begin pumping out the tank, I watched him suck up each pile of doggie-doo in his path. Aww, thanks!

Reaching across to turn on the outside faucet yesterday I noticed a small pile of round, white objects nestled up against the house. There were 50 or so of these half-the-size-of-a-Tic Tac things. Never seen anything like it before.

Fifteen minutes later, after watering the plants, I returned to shut the water off and discovered this

Yup, that's an enormous slug laying eggs. Up against my house.

Too bad the septic guy didn't slurp them up, too...

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Blessings and Curses, Part 2

I love the Internet.  I haven't looked at an actual paper phone book in years.  I get recommendations for dentists/doctors/restaurants/music and books from the web.  I keep in touch with friends and family and get most of my news from the Internet.  Whenever the girls pose a question I have no clue how to answer, I head to my computer. Bubba makes his living from social media.

So it makes sense that if I'm looking for a community of people like me who have decided to quit taking their anti-depressants online.  I'm typing "DrugNameHere withdrawal symptoms" into the nearest search engine. I expected to get some garbage along with the good information.  What I didn't expect was so much information.

Standing at the kitchen counter on Monday night listening to dinner sizzle away in the skillet behind me, I narrowed down the search results and finally chose one site administered by a psychiatric nurse that seemed the most reputable.  In order to add any content to the discussions, I had to officially join the site, and although I did,  I honestly didn't think I would be replying to any of them.  Mostly I wanted to read. Gather information. Lurk and benefit from the wisdom of others.  

I got more than I bargained for.  The members range from people tapering off under the supervision of a doctor to people going off cold turkey.  Some quit three days ago, others quit over a month ago.  The ones that scare me are the ones who are 27 days off of the drug and are still having severe nausea, sleeplessness, anxiety and neurological "shocks."  I am afraid to read more but I can't stop reading.  The titles of some of the posts blare out at me: 


Okay, time out.  Stop reading. Email the naturopath.  Even though I know I can't possibly expect a response tonight, I still obsessively check my email as I finish making dinner.  Self check:   have my symptoms gotten worse today? I don't know.  Definitely since Day 1, but are they worse today than yesterday?  Maybe. Maybe not.

By the time dinner was over and the dishwasher was running I couldn't stand it anymore. I got the girls busy with a game and snuck back to my search results.  I was soothed by the fact that there are others experiencing the electric shocks and brain buzz.  I was frightened by those who have descended back into uncontrolled sobbing, fatigue and nausea. 

The nurse gave encouragement, recommended massive doses of Vitamin C to flush the toxins from your body, going back on small doses of the drug itself or asking about using a different anti-depressant like Prozac to help.  Apparently this particular drug stays in your system for significantly longer than most others in its class and Prozac can alleviate some of the withdrawal symptoms. When you're feeling better, the withdrawal from Prozac is relatively symptom-free, she states.  I'm not going on another anti-depressant to wean off of this one. No way.  

That night I decided to take a dose of melatonin despite the fact that I'm not an insomniac. I was afraid of having my sleep disturbed by hypochondriac fantasies.  What if I didn't think I was having symptoms of excessive sadness but I really was?  What if I have only worsening symptoms to look forward to and the tasks I need to accomplish every day like feeding my children and driving them to school become impossible because of the brain buzz?

I struggled to remain positive, breathing slowly and meditating for a few minutes at a time several times a day to convince myself that I was doing the right thing.  I am certain that this drug, while it served an important purpose in my life for a while, is now toxic for me and I need to be done with it.  I talked myself out of feeling nauseous, stopped at the health food store to stock up on thousands of milligrams of B6, B12, folic acid, vitamin C, GABA and fish oil.  Every night as I fall asleep, the mantra I repeat convinces me that tomorrow will be a better day.  Visiting the support site becomes an exercise in gratefulness that I don't have such severe side effects.

Day 7: Yesterday was the worst day. I actually confided in two of my co-workers that I was feeling spacey and disturbed by the symptoms. Afterwards I became paranoid that these two women whom I trust implicitly thought less of me and wouldn't trust me with anything anymore.  I drank a gallon of water and came home to exercise so strenuously that I literally drenched myself in sweat, trying to flush the toxins out faster, faster, faster.  

Today the spaciness wasn't nearly as prevalent.  My fingertips now only feel like a 40 watt bulb and, despite a slight full feeling in my left ear, I am convinced that today is not nearly as bad as yesterday.  Tomorrow will be even better and by October, I hope that the toxic effects of this drug will have left my body altogether.  

I wish I knew exactly what long-term effects four years of daily use have had on my brain, my liver, my nervous system.  Or maybe I don't want to know.  The Internet search may have offered me some small reassurances that what I was experiencing was not abnormal, but I'm not sure it didn't also amplify my symptoms for a day or so.  I will continue to try and monitor my symptoms as objectively as I can and believe that I have made it through the worst of it.

Blessings and Curses, Part 1

I believe in baby steps.  Start with small, easy-to-chew pieces and expand as you are able.  As a new mom I can remember sitting on the floor next to Eve's crib, holding her tiny hand in mine and constantly reassuring her that I was there. She could fall asleep. It was okay.  Within a week I was a foot away from her crib, sitting in the darkness singing lullabies and whispering reassurances.  Another week found me two feet closer to the doorway.  The first night I sat out in the hallway, still singing and talking quietly to her was a rough one. She was upset that she couldn't see me and kept rolling over in her crib, pushing her face against the rails to look for me. That step took a few weeks to manage.

Every so often we had a setback.  I'd stop singing too soon and get up to pee or she would be teething and wanted me more.  I was exhausted and in need of some time with Bubba and we both wished there was a quicker way to do this but I couldn't seem to think of one.  One desperate week we had tried to let her "cry it out" against our better instincts and none of us could stand it.  It's just as well because it turns out the stubborn gene runs strong in this family and Eve kept crying for longer and longer each night instead of less and less.  I guess she didn't read the manual.
In January, my naturopath happened to mention that she was curious whether a lot of my niggling health issues might be due to a gluten intolerance.  When I expressed shock at the idea, citing my lack of digestive issues, she went on to explain that certain individuals differ from the classic celiac symptoms, instead developing skin allergies, rashes and depression as a result of their body's attack on gluten.  I was hooked.

Four years ago I found myself sitting in my doctor's office after a three-day crying binge, ready to throw myself off the nearest bridge or pump myself full of anti-depressants.  Thank goodness he suggested the latter.  Within an hour I was driving toward the pharmacy as fast as legally possible, prescription in hand. The medication he wanted me to try was a relatively new one that acts on both the dopamine and serotonin receptors in the human brain.  It supposedly had relatively few side effects and was getting rave reviews.

Two days later I could barely get off the couch. My ears were ringing, my fingertips felt as though I had plugged them into an electrical outlet, and I suffered from something I can only describe as "brain buzz."  I phoned the doctor, desperately begging for a different drug.  

"How is your depression?" he asked.

"Terrific! I haven't shed a tear in 48 hours and the fog I was in for the last six months has lifted. I feel like I drove out of a tunnel into a sunny day. That part is great, but the rest of this is horrible. I can't function."

He convinced me that these symptoms would pass within a week.  That my brain was simply adjusting to the new levels of happiness bombarding it and, once it leveled off, I would be fine.  I trusted him.  I waited.  He was right.

The drug really did work. I started therapy, began taking much better care of myself, and felt so much better.  Two years later I decided to begin weaning off the drug. Within two days the electric shocks were back, I had a thirst so fierce it couldn't be quenched and my brain was foggy.  Another 48 hours later I began to cry and couldn't stop.

Here I am two years later again.  I recall with uncommon clarity the moment I heard my ND blame gluten intolerance for my depression.  Something within me leapt toward the possibility that I could someday be done with these drugs.  In April I began trying again.  With the help of a new MD (NDs in Washington state aren't legally allowed to treat mental illness) I began a long, slow taper of my anti-depressant.  The switch from full dosage to 2/3 dose went off without a hitch.  I took the 2/3 dose for three months before I went down to 20mg a day.  Again, no emotional symptoms and, with the exception of a slight tingling in my fingertips, I felt great.  My plan was to continue with 20mg a day for at least six months.

Last Thursday I accidentally missed a dose.  Within four hours the brain fog had returned and my fingertips and toes were zinging like a tourist on a zip-line.  I spent the day at work, unable to get home to my meds and decided to deal with it.  Somewhere around 10pm Thursday night I decided that since I was already experiencing withdrawal symptoms, I might as well just stop altogether.

Four days in: every time I turn my head I get a shock in my earlobes, I feel like I'm in a dreamworld or swimming through gelatin and the brain buzz comes and goes 6 or so times during the day.  I decided to do an internet search.

What was I thinking?
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