Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Trials and Limitations

 
Three Girls in a Library, by February Grace 8/18 (acrylic on canvas)



I haven’t blogged in forever.

I apologize.

I’ve been a bit busy. With life, trials, and my own limitations.

It all started really with a change in my medication awhile back, as a lot of periods of uncertainty in my life do.

The manufacturer of a medication I’d taken for anxiety for seven years stopped making it. The pharmacy switched to another manufacturer, and I had an immediate and strong allergic reaction to the new formulation of the med I had depended on for so long. 

Off to Urgent Care for a shot of steroids and a nebulizer treatment. They sent me to the ER when I didn’t improve as much as they wanted. I got to the ER and was told the wait would be over four hours because my vitals were stable. My chest was still tight and I knew I needed a shot of antihistamines (I had taken some by mouth but the tablets weren’t enough) and another nebulizer treatment.

So I walked out of the ER and we went across the street to another Urgent Care. Fortunately they had no wait and got me right in. After a shot of Benedryl, a Zantac pill (who knew it had antihistamine properties?) and another nebulizer treatment, they were satisfied I sounded good enough to send home with a week’s prescription for Prednisone.

So, this all led to a big problem, because the med that had caused the allergic reaction cannot be stopped suddenly, or there is a risk of seizures and even, um, well, possibly death.

So this led to me trying another manufacturer of the same med; this one didn’t cause an allergy but was so weak in comparison to the formulation I was used to that I had side effects. My eye muscles wouldn’t stop having spasms, my heart raced. My anxiety was all over the place. I was a wreck.

So my doctor tried me on a sister med to the one I’d been taking; and I don’t know what was in that generic formulation of the prescription med Ativan but let me tell you, not only did it knock me out so thoroughly that it put me in bed for days, the side effects were terrible and not limited to, by the one week point on it, me forgetting my own phone number.

My husband declared “this experiment was over” and contacted my doctor. She told me to go back on the weak generic of the first med for a few days to try to stabilize myself again. I had an appointment to see her a few days after that.

In the meantime, I somehow found the strength and focus to call 19 different pharmacies trying to find one that would order the generic I was now getting used to; most of the refused outright saying that they can only sell what their distributors send them. Talking to a couple of the pharmaceutical companies I learned that is how it works these days; the pharma companies sell to distributors. The distributors offer the meds to the pharmacies, and the pharmacies buy the least expensive option.

Not exactly what is always best for the patient, but business is business. We need better regulations on generic meds, but that is another post for another day.

In the end, my doctor and I decided to try yet another med also related to the one I had taken for seven years, but this one a long acting version that might help stop the spikes of anxiety symptoms that I kept having and smooth things out a bit.

I couldn’t get the manufacturer of that med she recommended, but fortunately was not allergic to the one the pharmacy could get; I’ve been taking it for about a month now and it has helped me quite a bit. I’m having less PTSD ‘episodes’ as I call them (flashbacks, hearing/seeing/smelling things that aren’t there, all that ‘fun’ stuff…) The only noticeable side effect really seems to be that I can’t wake up in the mornings. If I try I just end up falling back to sleep. I’m sleeping more hours per night overall but I can’t seem to fall asleep before eleven PM now. But I’ve decided that sleeping more for better control over the PTSD is a trade-off I am willing to make.

The key issue remains: can I continue to get the same manufacturer of this medication from month to month? Imagine having to call every 28 days to the pharmacy (because they will only fill the prescription two days before the refill date…) to politely beg them to try to order a certain manufacturer for you. I’ve done it for two different generics that I’m taking now, and fortunately so far the pharmacy has been able to help me. But one of the meds (a bipolar med) is on backorder and there’s no word as to when it’s coming off of it.

This all leads to a high level of anxiety for me where my meds are concerned (ironic considering one of them is for anxiety!) Imagine having to wonder every month if one of your four generic meds will change manufacturers again, and you will be at risk for another allergic reaction. Imagine having to be chained to the pharmacy for fear they won’t be able to order your meds before you run out. Let me tell you, it doesn’t do anything good for your mental health.

My therapist suggested that I try meditation to help with my anxiety. I read a very reasonable book on the subject and have tried it a few times, but most of the time my thoughts keep buzzing in my head the entire time until the timer goes off and I’m supposed to be finished and the very last thing I was focused on, really, was my breathing.

It might not be within my limitations to become proficient at meditation. I don’t know yet. How much it would really help me, I don’t know either. I’m still skeptical.

Just as Yoga won’t help my connective tissue disease (quite the opposite, in fact) I don’t know if meditation is the answer to the noise in my head. I tried cutting back on social media but being without Twitter made me twitchy (I kept reaching for my iPad like I imagine someone reaches for a pack of cigarettes when they’re trying to quit smoking. Often, and without thinking.) As isolated as I am, even my own therapist said I’m one of the few people she knows that she would not encourage to give up social media entirely.

This post is the first thing of length I’ve written (more than a few hundred words) in months now. I keep wondering when I’ll get back to writing fiction, and I think part of the problem is that I am still too caught up in my old books (and I guess they are ‘old’ by this point.) Every time I try to think of a new idea I want to write I think of something I’ve already written and I don’t think I can write anything as well as I have already written.

I have to let go of the past and the expectations I put on myself if I’m going to get back to writing. I also have to just let my brain do what it will, much like I let it wander here in this post to try to catch you all up on what I’ve been doing.

I’ve been sleeping, reading, resting, recovering from the med switch, trying to get adjusted to it. And I painted one new painting recently, shown at the top of this post. It’s called Three Girls in a Library.

Life itself is still a process, but one I am working on getting through one day at a time.

I hope you’ve all been well.

xoxo

bru 

Monday, June 25, 2018

The Time Machine


(Content warning: brief mention of eating disorder, suicidal ideation.)




It is compact, fits in my hand, and requires four AA batteries.

It has a single speaker so it’s not stereo. Still, it does the job.

This is a description of the tiny radio/cassette player that my mother gave me some time ago. She wanted me to have it in case of bad weather, so if the power went out I could hear the weather report on the radio.

I had no idea the journey it would take me on when I happened to find two old cassettes in a storage case along with other keepsakes.

One tape was labeled “Summer 17” and the other, “Rainy Day”. Just from the titles I knew what I was in for, but still there were songs on them that surprised me when I listened to the tinny playback through the almost non-existent speaker.

What surprised me even more was how many of the songs on those tapes I still listen to on a regular basis. Thirty years later.

I remember the summer I was seventeen pretty well, considering how bad my memory is becoming, and also the fact that I remember it through the haze of depression I live with now and also the lens of the depression I lived with then, which was definitely, looking back, mixed state bipolar disorder.

Hind sight, they say…

At the time I was writing poetry and endlessly journaling. I was also writing music that if my own child was playing/singing and I heard it coming from their room I would immediately know they needed help. 

My own mother turned away from my sisters’ pleading that I needed help for my depression before I hurt myself; saying “If she’s going to do that then there’s nothing I can do to stop her.”

Thanks, Mom.

If not for my frequent trips to stay with my oldest sister and her husband at the time, I don’t think I would have gotten through those days. I was so confused. 

I had been infatuated (deeply so) with boys in the past but I was in the process of really falling in love for the first time, and I would have my heart broken a year later (long story—short version, he chose another girl. And married her.)

I wish I could go back in time and tell that girl of seventeen that thought if she couldn’t be the prettiest girl in the room that she could damn well starve herself until she was the thinnest, that she was only harming herself. That no number on the scale would make him love her, but that it wasn’t her fault. There were external forces making sure that he didn’t love her (his mother, for one, for reasons she could barely fathom). He found her fun enough to amuse him, and build up his confidence so he could go after the girl of his dreams, which was not her.

Me at the age of seventeen. A big contrast compared to...




... me at age eighteen. The smile, though, is a lie. I was desperately sad.


I would tell her that knowing that feeling of real love would take a long time to find; but that she’d get there if she just held on. She’d know what it meant to be loved for who she really was, and that would make life somehow more livable.

I’d also warn her that love wouldn’t solve all her troubles, though. I’d warn her that, like love songs, some situations don’t end on a happy note. She’d know frustration and disappointment (and divorce) before the age of thirty. But she’d get through that, too.

Mostly I’d want her to know that she was enough.

Thirty years later, I am still trying to convince myself of that particular truth.

But with the help of music, which has always been there for me throughout my life, and art, and writing, and therapy, and a handful of other things and reasons, I am slowly beginning to do my best to accept it—to accept myself—for who I am. Glaring imperfections and all. Because at the age of forty-seven I have perspective that no seventeen year old can have, even if sometimes inside I still feel like that lost little girl.

I’ve seen too much, know too much now, to believe all the things about life I believed then.

But I’ve learned more than I imagined possible.

Maybe that’s worth the gray hairs on my head, after all.

Love yourself, whether you're seventeen or forty-seven. Because that's where peace of mind begins. It's a difficult thing to do, to learn. But the lessons alone are worth the fight to get there.

xoxo

~bru