Post 10: Betrayal

13 days.

That’s how long I’ve gone without taking one of my little gray and white pills.

That’s how long I’ve suffered with disorienting nausea, knock-me-off-my-feet dizziness from my inner ear, muscle and joint aches and pains, dry mouth and dry eyes, upset stomach, tremors, brain zaps, chest pressure and trouble breathing, swollen/tight neck, irritability, severe fluid retention of my whole body, and depressive thoughts.

13 days.

It’s the longest stint I’ve gone without Effexor XR in my system in the past four years and I’m regretting ever having started it in the first place. I started it after my son was born, because life was crashing down around me and I needed wanted a quick solution. I’ve always been a sucker for instant gratification and was never much for waiting. If I had waited I might have found a feasible holistic and/or cognitive treatment methods. Now I’m paying the real price for my impatience.

13 days.

This withdrawal phase is supposed to last 2-4 weeks and is comparable to detoxing from heroin. I couldn’t know that for sure as heroin isn’t my drug of choice, but I can tell you that if it weren’t for the scopolamine patch currently glued behind my ear I wouldn’t even be functioning at the half-life level I am now. I believe the Internet comps when I read how terrible it is to come off of Effexor XR, even when it’s a controlled, doctor-supervised method of lowering dosages. I’m currently on the lowest dose and still suffering.

13 days.

Right now I feel completely betrayed by my body, and frankly I hate her. I tried to be good to her, treated her kindly, dressed her up and presented her healthy self to the world.

In 2013, I got pregnant. I thought it was her repaying my kindness for all the good health I’d worked hard to give her over the years. But it wasn’t that. First, she dealt me a miscarriage at a vulnerable and lonely time. Second, while she gave me a healthy baby boy for which I am so grateful, she tried to kill me in the process and I haven’t been the same since.

I tried to help her out of her confusion and pain with medication to quickly treat the anxiety. At first we were good again. Like nothing had ever come between us. But then the stomach problems started. And then the depression came on fast, going dark quickly. And then the endometriosis grew and required surgery and synthetic hormones. And then the weight gain that’s been never-ending for the past four years ultimately reached a rock bottom number. Despite working out several times a week for nearly a year and eating health-conscious foods, I’m officially heavier now than when I was 9 1/2 months pregnant and I hate my body for it. I can’t stand the sight of her.

13 days.

I am now 13 days off that horrible medication in the hopes that one day I’ll be totally free and ready to find a holistic solution to manage my anxiety. I’m having to fight a big fight to get there. My body is so angry at me and throwing every symptom in the book my way. I feel half alive after two weeks down. Hopefully not more than a couple weeks left.

And I keep thinking … all I have to do to make all of this go away is take one pill.

But I won’t.

Because … 13 days.

Post 10: my anxiety has anxiety

Things have been happening. Don’t believe me? Check the news. Several people in this country employed by the government are currently not receiving a paycheck. This includes the entire United States Coast Guard, a branch of our armed forces military, which happens to be the service for which my husband is an enlisted person.

We are a single-income family, currently without a single income. We’re about to miss our second paycheck and there’s no end in sight to this government shutdown as of day 34. I’m not going to get into the dirty politics behind all of this because I’m trying to keep my mind healthy. Worrying about the events and people I can’t control has been taking the best of me away from my family and it has to end.

How I’m Managing My Worries

Step 1: I said goodbye to Facebook. I limited my access on a very large scale and have found the past three days to be quite refreshing, or at least as much as I can expect them to be right now. It’s a step in the right direction.

Step 2: I’m attempting to manage my anxiety itself. I have anxiety about managing my anxiety and one of the side effects of the medication I take to treat my anxiety is … wait for it … more anxiety! Tell me how to get out of this horrible cyclone of frustration!

I’ve been on Effexor XR for four years now. It’s caused me so much misery (sweating, dizziness, rapid heart rate, weight gain, more anxiety, etc) and I’ve wanted to come off of it for years now, but I chicken out every time. You see … the side effects of coming off of this medication are worse than the side effects of staying on. The withdrawals are like nothing this prude has ever experienced before in a mind/mood-altering drug. I’ve tried to come off a few times and after four days of intense nausea (so bad I can’t even sit up or open my eyes without getting sick) I’ve cracked and taken a pill. And mind you this is even after I’ve weaned myself to the lowest dose available. I keep trying to find a week when I can block out my calendar and plan to just be sick for days on end. But when my husband drives two hours to work and I’ve got a 4 1/2 year old, having me out of commission helps no one. So I snagged a prescription for scopolamine to help with the nausea and seasick-like feelings I get during the detox of Effexor and hope it helps me function.

Treating anxiety shouldn’t be this terrible. You shouldn’t have to resort to taking a medication that gives you additional symptoms. I’m working hard with an exercise/diet regimen in hopes it will be enough to take the place of the medication completely. Really I just want to feel like myself again … from oh so long ago.

Step 3: I’m writing in my worry journal daily to brain dump everything on my mind that I can’t fully address or control. It helps take the edge off and it feels like once it’s written down I don’t have to carry it around in my head anymore.

Step 4: I’m going to therapy. I’ve been seeing my therapist now for almost a year after I scared myself quite a bit with some really dark thoughts. Thoughts that involved me no longer being needed. I found myself sobbing whenever I took a shower and making folders of passwords and account numbers on my computer for my husband to have on hand, just in case. Something snapped in me and in a moment of clarity through the tears and the fog I realized what was happening and made called a psychologist right then. She got me in the next day.

I’m not sure why I waited so long in my life to add this part of self-care. Although I do find I’m still guarded when talking during our sessions and don’t fully open up, I can talk to her without feeling like I’m weighing down a friend with my burdens, and that counts for a lot. I probably will never not need a therapist, but it helps so much just to recognize that fact.

Step 5: I’m reaching out. While I’m worried that we aren’t getting paid and I have bills piling up and I’m trying to be intentional with every dime we spend, I’m allowing myself to be vulnerable and accept help. We’re used to being on the giving end of these efforts, but our community has done amazing and gracious things to keep furloughed federal workers fed and we’re now finding ourselves on the receiving end. Instead of continuing to say “oh, no, that’s not necessary. We’re fine” I’m opening up more and allowing others to help us.

For one, I’m meeting so many beautiful people this way. People I have much in common with but might not have met otherwise.

Secondly, and to put it frankly, we need the help. For a family that lives paycheck to paycheck on an E-5 salary, missing two paychecks (maybe more) hurts a lot. Sure we can get a loan, but then those will need to be paid back and some of those payments are due before pay will even resume. It’s not a good scenario no matter how you look at it.

I’m trying not to dwell, trying not to let it bury me. We’re keeping our heads above the water and our eyes open wide. This, too, shall pass.