Sunday, February 18, 2018

But wait, there's more

"Sorry that you feel that way, the only thing there is to say
Every silver lining's got a touch of grey."

Neil left for his 12-day trip to see his mom and his dad. He drove because he is carrying some coins that he is going to take for special certification, and they are too heavy and expensive to mail. Plus he will have his car at his disposal to go back and forth between his parent's homes, which are about 80 miles apart.

I'm feeling a bit glum about it, which is better than feeling anxious and depressed about it. We have some very gloomy skies right now to match my mood.

I'll get through it and I imagine each day will be a little easier as we count down to his return. The first days are the worst I remind myself, unless it is the day before he leaves, knowing what is looming. He has to actually leave before I can start the countdown ticker.

I wouldn't say Neil ever traveled extensively, but he usually had at least one international business trip a year that lasted from eight days to two weeks. I think I know why this feels so different. I don't have a support network here, whereas in Texas I had at least a hypothetical one. In truth, I didn't often access it, or make a lot of social plans with people in Neil's absence. The difference is mostly that I knew it was there if I needed it.

I'm determined to do at least one thing per day in additional to my usual routines, to make the time go by. At the moment I lack motivation to begin. I know I should start by dipping mandrels since I have a 45 bead custom order to work on. But I think I want to get out of the house first. It's just a little too dark and cold and quiet. Yes, I know, turn on some lights, turn up the heat, play some music.

But I wonder if being out in the world, in sight of other people, even if they are strangers, would be of more help to dispel this sense of loneliness I'm feeling.

It can't hurt to try. The main deterrent is trading my sweat pants for jeans.

I'm going to have to fight the urge to spend the week in soft pants.

There is some irony in the timing of this trip insofar as it immediately follows my first appointment with a new family practice doctor, after almost 30 years seeing the same medical practitioners.

You wouldn't think there'd be a nexxus, but there is, and I'll explain it.

I may have mentioned once or twice or twenty times that I went through a rough emotional patch a year or so before I met Neil. I call it a year-long dark night of the soul, but it was more than that. The underlying pathology dates back to my teens, maybe even earlier, but sometime in late 1997, as my marriage withered on the vine, I first contemplated medication to treat my neurotransmitter deficiency.

For the next few years I tried and erred at various psychopharmaceuticals. If the side effects weren't intolerable, I became manic. Or sleepless. Or somnambulant. Or I had night terrors. Headaches. Fatigue. Malaise. Or they just flat didn't work.

In between meds, I became serially determined to treat my ailment naturally. Sleep. Diet. Exercise. Rest. Meditation. Baths. Tea. Sympathy. Talk therapy.

In 2001, I went over the edge of rationale when my relationship with Marty ended. I've chronicled that whole theatrical debacle here some years ago, so I'll stick to the elevator speech here. Suffice it to say that when you are emotionally fragile you aren't standing on solid ground. Should you hit a roadblock, you have nothing to fall back on but quicksand.

It really was the first time that I fully understood how crippling an illness depression can be. Depression. I avoid using that label, I don't like typing the word. Because everyone gets the blues now and then. Being depressed is not the same thing as experiencing clinical depression.

Yet somehow I muscled through it. I was one standard deviation from hospitalizing myself, but so much of my anxiety was about the enormous responsibility of life that I was shouldering alone. As long as I could keep going, keep working, keep my job, the worst wouldn't happen. I would have been in no shape to look for work, to sell myself to a new employer. I could barely make myself eat anything but yogurt and oatmeal.

So I fought it with every weapon at my command, and I knew that seeking a biochemical solution was part of the arsenal. I had to let go of the stigma and shame. I had to quit thinking that taking medication for a psychiatric condition was a moral weakness. I was ill. I needed to find an antidote.

It took time to connect the dots but a combination of drugs finally provided relief. I had a wonderful med-management physician who never gave up on me, who always had another trick up his sleeve, who always gave me hope that the next prescription might be the magic bullet.

Of course, the fatal flaw for most of us who suffer is that when we start to feel better, we believe we are cured and no longer need the treatment. It was never my intention to stay medicated indefinitely. So when my mental health and well being were restored, I was eager to ditch the pills.

Because I was still ashamed to have needed them.

So I tapered off everything and struggled with the consequences.

By then I was dating Neil, I was in love, and I was over the moon grateful that Marty had left me because if he hadn't I'd never have met Neil. And to think there was a time when I thought, I'd rather be unhappy with Marty than happy without him.

Marty was an intoxicant for me, a double Margarita, a Zombie, a Jungle Juice, a Long Island Iced Tea. Neil was a fruit smoothie, packed with vitamins and protein powder, good and good for you.

But wait. There's more.

The course of true love and all that. Add in my mood swings, my cyclothymia, my gossamer self-esteem, the scar tissue on my heart, and the ups and downs of any relationship. I was slipping and I knew that if I didn't address it, I risked going down in a blaze of self-sabotage.

So I went back on the medicine and this time I made my peace with the fact that life was better when I wasn't chronically anxious and sporadically sad.

Flash forward fifteen years or so, give or take. I had the therapeutic cocktail sorted. I no longer needed to see a med-management specialist. My doctor was happy to write my anti-anxiety prescriptions as long as I kept up with my annual checkups.

And now we've moved.

Last week I had my first appointment, my annual well-woman checkup, with a new doctor.

One of the medications I take is a controlled substance.

For at least fifteen years, I've been on the lowest maintenance dosage. I haven't needed to increase it, but I do notice when I miss a dose. I feel a tightness in my chest and rising anxiety in the daytime, or I sleep fitfully at night.

My new doctor has qualms about my continued long-term use of this drug.

The psychiatrist who initially prescribed it for me said I could take it for the rest of my life. I remember the precise conversation. He mentioned an elderly patient of his who felt just that much better with a little of the drug on board. His words.

My new doctor said that later in life it could affect my balance or my memory.

I figure, I'll worry about that then. When and if.

My balance is dandy, my legs are strong, I'm fit as a fiddle. My memory is spot on. As Neil would say, I still have my eight ball.

But my new doctor thinks I need my head reexamined. She gave me a list of counselors and psychiatrists.

Damn. Just when I thought I was adapting to our new normal.

Just as the tears have dried up and I'm feeling mostly upbeat.

I made a couple of mistakes during the office visit.

We naturally talked about the reason for my being a new patient. She asked if our move was job related. I said, yes, sort of. My husband retired and really wanted a change.

I said I liked it here but I missed my friends.

The doctor asked if I'd had a flu shot. I said I've never had a flue shot and I've never had the flu. She said, this flu season has been a bad one.

I said, there is some upside to not having any friends.

It was an ill-advised joke.

She said, you still have to go to the grocery store and other places.

I assured her that I was totally germ-phobic and never touch public door handles. Truth. I said, I also wash my hands constantly. Joke.

In the end, she wrote me a one-month supply of my controlled substance. I think we'll go month-to-month with this. I'm hoping she'll authorize refills and over time will come to feel assured that I'm not a drug abuser or an overdose risk.

I don't think she's likely to allow me my usual 90 day mail-order refills. She said something about 180 pills being an overdose amount.

I didn't mention the number of bottles that I have stockpiled.

Not that I am an overdose risk, I've only stockpiled because the idea of ever running out makes me anxious. Really anxious.

I've not been suicidal, bar one moment when I was 23, but that passed. I don't self harm. I've only ever wanted to get better. To feel well.

If I have to see a shrink again, I will. Right now I'd rather not.

I might even consider a trial of cutting my dosage down, maybe halve it gradually. But if I do, I don't think I will tell her.

It would certainly make the stockpile last longer.

It must be getting early, clocks are running late
Paint-by-number morning sky looks so phony
Dawn is breaking everywhere, light a candle, curse the glare
Draw the curtains, I don't care, 'cause it's alright

I will get by
I will get by
I will get by
I will survive

I see you've got your list out, say your piece and get out
Guess I get the gist of it, but it's alright
Sorry that you feel that way, the only thing there is to say
Every silver lining's got a touch of grey

It's a lesson to me
The Ables and the Bakers and the Cs
The ABCs we all must face
Try to keep a little grace

It's a lesson to me
The Deltas and the Easts and the Frees
The ABCs we all think of
And try to wean a little love

I know the rent is in arrears, the dog has not been fed in years
It's even worse than it appears, but it's alright
Cow is giving kerosene, kid can't read at seventeen
The words he knows are all obscene, but it's alright

The shoe is on the hand it fits, there's really nothing much to it
Whistle through your teeth and spit, 'cause it's alright
Oh well, a touch of grey kinda suits you anyway
And that was all I had to say, and it's alright

We will get by
We will get by
We will get by
We will survive

(Jerry Garcia, Robert Hunter)