Thursday, April 28, 2011

Day Four

So I went to the doctor on Monday afternoon. He agreed that I should start on an anti-depressant, and since Effexor has worked so well for me in the past, he prescribed the generic: venlafaxine. I will take 75 mg for 10 days, then 150 mg for 10 days, then 225 mg for 14 days. Then I’ll go back and we’ll see how I’m doing and if we need to further increase the dose. I was on 300 mg last time (which is a fairly high dose), so we’ll see. This is an extended-release form of the drug, so I only have to take it once a day, which is nice.

My doctor thinks that we will eventually need to add a mood-stabilizer to keep me stable long-term. We discussed the side effects I experienced with Abilify last time, and I expressed reservations about trying it again. I told him that I wasn’t taking anything different than I had been before when I took Abilify, so I couldn’t understand why I had such a reaction. He said it wasn’t what I *was* taking with it, but what I *wasn’t.* When I had side effects with Abilify, I was not taking Effexor. He thinks that may be the cause of the side effects I experienced.

As far as how I’m feeling, I would say: guarded. It feels good to know that I’m doing something to correct this before it gets out of control. I took my first dose of the medication as soon as I got home from the doctor (approximately 4:30 pm), and it began affecting my sleep that night. I’m taking that as a good sign; it got into my system quickly and began to have some effect. It does make me extremely sleepy in the afternoon, and I’m sleeping more lightly at night than I usually do, but I think that will go away once I get to a steady dose and adjust to it. In the meantime, I’m going to take it easy, go to bed early when I need to, and plan for extra rest on weekends. So far, I've had no other side effects.

Today is my Friday, and I’m going to try to get a few errands done after the royal wedding tomorrow so that I can have a really lazy weekend. J. is being extremely supportive, and he’ll take care of most things this weekend so I can relax. I’m hoping for a great (albeit quiet) weekend and to start next week with renewed energy.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Hello, Old Friend

I have lived with clinical depression for most of my life. It is hereditary, and it runs rampant in my family, though I'm the first to be open about it. It hit me early; I can remember having symptoms by the time I hit puberty. No one ever took me to a doctor, and I suffered alone with my feelings until I was 23. At that point, I was having moments of extreme rage that felt like spontaneous combustion. The feeling only lasted a second, but it was damaging my relationships. And because I often experienced the feeling in public or in traffic, I became afraid I would do something violent. My doctor ran several tests. Finally he asked me, "Do you have a family history of depression?" I think he was taken aback when I started laughing; I never knew that depression can manifest as anger. It happens more often in men than women (maybe I got that symptom because I'm a redhead), but it's fairly common.

At that point, I went on medication, and my life improved dramatically. The first drug I was prescribed, Effexor, worked extremely well for me right out of the gate. I had few to no side effects, and we arrived at a stable dose in short order. Over the next several years, I did well. My doctor and I occasionally made changes to my dosage, or added different medications, but I had side effects with other meds. We later added Abilify to the Effexor, and I was level.

In the fall of 2007, I left my job, and for the next four years, I had health insurance only sporadically. I went off the meds in spring 2008; stopping these meds cold turkey is a bad idea, but I did it and dealt with side effects for several weeks after. In the spring of 2009, I had insurance, and went to my then-doctor to get back on my medications. I was not living in Dallas, so I chose a doctor off my insurance. At our first meeting, I was pleased with her, but that opinion changed rapidly. I gave my new doctor a medical history, and told her the cocktail of Effexor and Abilify had worked well for me for many years. She prescribed both, starting with a low dose. The Effexor was quite expensive, so (with the doctor's permission) I started the Abilify first, with the intention of adding Effexor about a week later. That didn't happen. I had immediate side effects with the Abilify.

I was aware that for many people, taking medication for depression is not a quick-fix. It can take months or even years to find a cocktail that works and then to stabilize a dosage. I knew I had been lucky in the past, and I had assumed I would continue to be lucky.

The initial side effects were not severe, and I thought my body just needed time to adjust. I stayed on Abilify alone for approximately six weeks. The side effects grew worse, and I asked my doctor to try something else. She prescribed Topamax, which I had taken years before and tolerated fairly well. Again, I had side effects - and this time, they were worse. I asked to try something else after only a week. The third drug, Lamictal, lasted one day. Immediately after taking my third dose, I had a panic attack. At work, at my desk. Lovely.

I'd decided to go back on the meds as a preemptive measure. I know that depression is something I will deal with the rest of my life, so even though I was doing well, I wanted the meds to help me stay at that level. After experiencing such severe side effects, I'd had enough. I decided that I would go without the meds and take my chances. I was doing well, and I know my own body and mind well enough to see it coming before the depression really takes over. For the last two years, I've taken no medication, and I've done very well.

However. This morning, I had to admit to myself (and to J.) that I'm not ok. It's back.

I've always experienced two or three days of anxiety and moodiness each month. Since I'm on the pill, it was easy to see that these days were always at the same general point in my cycle. The feelings were not severe, and always passed quickly. About three months ago, I noticed that the anxiety and moodiness were happening at different times during the month, and they weren't passing as quickly. I began to see that I was more stressed, even though my life was stable. I started to get irritated with J. more easily, and I snapped at him several times (which I had never done before). Around the first of April, my mood began to swing. I felt out-of-sorts and just generally not myself. I chalked that up to my approaching 35th birthday. At about the same time, allergy season kicked into high gear. I was not feeling well physically; I felt tired. I took a sick day from work because the thought of getting dressed and driving to work was so exhausting that I cried.

J. and I had a nice weekend. I got a lot of things done, which always feels good. But yesterday afternoon, the melancholy came back. And this morning, in the shower, the tears flowed again. I can't keep telling myself that I'm just run-down, or feeling lousy because of allergies, or tired from my long commute. I am sliding downhill again. I know this disease is going to be with me forever, and I know it can be stabilized. I can (and will) feel normal again. But it's still frustrating to be where I am right now.

I made an appointment with my doctor for this afternoon. He has been my doctor for about 14 years, and I love him. I think he's the best doctor in the world, and I don't know what I'll do when he retires. I know we'll make a plan together, and I will get better. And at least I'm taking the first step now, instead of waiting until it gets worse.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Grammar Police Are Watching You

This post will make me sound like a snotty bitch. I don't intend it that way, but I can't see a way to discuss this topic without that happening.

According to my mother, I began reading at approximately 2 1/2 years old. I learned to read by my parents reading to me - no "Your Baby Can Read" program. Since then, I've been a voracious reader and (sometimes) writer. I am fascinated by the nuances of language. I have been known to read the dictionary.

As you might expect, correct spelling and grammar has always come naturally to me. There are words that give me pause - does "recommend" have one "c" or two? - but in general, I don't have to think about how to spell a particular word. I realize that makes it really easy for me to say the following, but people who don't correct spelling and grammatical errors make me batshit crazy.

Please note that I did not say "people who MAKE spelling and grammatical errors." I realize that language does not come as easily to everyone as it does to me. There is nothing wrong with that; it does not mean a person is stupid if they can't spell. However, not correcting those mistakes makes them LOOK stupid (or lazy, which is equally bad). There is simply no excuse for not proofreading and/or using spell-check programs.

Of course, there are varying degrees of irritation caused by people who can't spell. I can deal with my friends who make typos when updating their status on Facebook. Yes, the "your" instead of "you're" makes me twitch, but it's Facebook. It's not a big deal. Errors on marquee-type signs at businesses raise my blood pressure, but I've been told that some will deliberately misspell words. People who come in to tell the manager about the typo inevitably buy something, so it can be a good marketing practice. However, professionally printed advertising that contains errors will cause me to not do business with a company - ever. I figure that no less than three people had to review the item before it was printed. If none of them caught the error, or thought it was important to correct it, that company is not detail-oriented enough to get my money.

The real issue with being the Grammar Police is in my personal life. There is a woman who participates in two online forums of which I am a member. She is a very nice young woman, from all I can tell. She offers good advice and ideas to other participants in the forum, and she's always very supportive of those who are struggling. She is also an atrocious writer. Inevitably, she uses the wrong "your." She also adds apostrophes where they shouldn't be, such as in "birthdays." And she capitalizes words for no apparent reason. Recently this woman asked for input because she's starting a business and trying to set up a website, etc. I seriously considered sending her a private email explaining my concerns about her writing. I genuinely like her, and I'd hate for her to lose business if she writes the content on her website and doesn't have it edited carefully. After all, I would judge her, and I know I'm not the only member of the Grammar Police.

In the end, I decided not to say anything. I could not think of a way to truly make the email sound the way I intended it, and I was horrified at the thought that I would hurt her feelings or embarrass her. Surely someone close to her will proof her written business documents and tell her if there's a problem. At least that's what I keep telling myself.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

April 29 is a Holiday (Why? Because I Said So!)

I'm starting to see backlash about the upcoming Royal Wedding. I understand it - when we were nine days from the Super Bowl in Dallas, I think I would've poked out an eye if it would have stopped the coverage. If you're not interested in William and Kate's marriage, you're probably ready to poke out your own eyes.

Luckily for me, I'm interested. I'm so interested, in fact, that I established April 29 as a holiday (vacation day from work, plans to wake up early, etc.) way back in December. I've steadily gotten more and more excited - then I started hearing my friends grumbling about all the wedding coverage, and I realized that not everyone cares about this.

And it got me wondering: why do *I* care about this?

When Charles and Diana married on July 29, 1981, I was five years old - barely. I remember seeing coverage of the wedding on tv, but I don't remember if my mom woke up early to watch or if we just saw it on the news later that day. I remember thinking that Diana's dress must have been so heavy. And even though it was a very 1981 dress, I never thought it was pretty. And when she and Charles left St. Paul's, Diana looked shell-shocked. She had to be thinking, "What the hell have I gotten myself into?"

And I think that's what fascinates me so much about the British royals: the dichotomy of (relatively regular) people who bear the weight of history. Kate is just a young woman, not so different from me. She wakes up with bad breath. She gets cranky for no good reason. There are foods she loves and foods she detests. She loves her fiance and is excited to be his wife (presumably). Yet in nine days, she will also be Her Royal Highness Princess William of Wales.

How strange must that be???

My high school World History teacher called me Queen Bess, in honor of Elizabeth I. I've been fascinated by the British monarchy ever since. The long, long history and the pageantry associated with the royals are beautiful things. So yes, I'll be awake at 3 am next Friday, and I'll love every second of minutia.

Not every little girl daydreams about her wedding. I didn't. But there can be no more fairy-tale a wedding than a royal one. Even a non-girly girl (like me) has to be impressed; Kate's going to be a *princess* !!!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Oh, Tuesday...

Warning: I'm going to whine. Feel free to skip this post if you wish.

I don't feel good. I've felt lousy for most of the last two weeks, and I'm over it. A big part of the problem is allergies, so I take the meds every day. Yesterday morning, I felt good, and that continued for most of the day. I thought I was on the mend. But right after dinner, my body decided to start kicking my ass again.

I stayed home sick last Thursday, so there was no way I could do it again. But I don't feel good. Which makes me cranky. I want to be home, curled up on my couch, with my family. But that's not happening. And neither is all the stuff I planned to do at lunch and after work today. Which means I'll have more to do later in the week, or on the weekend (which I hate - I get as much as possible done during the week).

I wish I was actually sick. You know...really, really sick. Because then it would be obvious to everyone that I don't feel well, and they would leave me alone. Plus, I could just get it over with. This general not-feeling-well for this long is awful!

So my body is grumpy, which makes my mind grumpy. I'm overly sensitive, and even though I'm conscious of it, I can't help reacting to things I shouldn't be. I read between the lines of every email, or everything anyone says to me. A simple "hello" is a personal affront right now. Factor in that today is Tuesday, and it's pretty much guaranteed that I will cry at some point today. Not sad tears...frustrated / grumpy / I'm-tired-of-feeling-like-shit tears.

Because Tuesday is the worst day of the week. You're laughing, right? You think I'm wrong? Here's my proof:

Mondays suck but they go by quickly because everyone is back at work and trying to get things done.

Wednesday is hump day. Get through lunch and you're on the downhill slide to Friday.

Thursday is the day before Friday.

Friday is Friday.

But Tuesday...there is absolutely nothing redeeming about Tuesday. At all. There's not even anything good on tv tonight!

Oh, did I mention that it's going to be 94 degrees this afternoon? 94 degrees. In Texas. On April 19. What hell will I be living in come August?

I hate you, Tuesday.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Beasts That Rule My Life

If you follow the Itty Bitty Kitty Committee, you probably believe that cats are sweet and loving and fun.

If you actually share your home with cats, you know that this is the furthest thing from the truth. The truth is that they will kill you in your sleep just as soon as they figure out how to open the cans of food themselves.

In the interest of spreading truth, I present to you...

Keke - a tortie terror. She firmly believes herself to be J's first wife, and endlessly plots ways to get me out of the way so they can be together. AKA: B.O.B., George, and Satan.


Monkey - the sweetest boy ever. He's a typical middle child, and tries his best to keep his sisters happy (although it never really works out for him). AKA: Herman, Guillermo, Sir Monks a Lot.


Monkey is not known for modesty. But if Playcat ever comes calling, we'll be a very wealthy family.


Bo Peep - a tortie baby who found her way into our lives because she looks just like Keke. She's still technically available for adoption, but I'm pretty sure she's in her forever home. AKA: Bo Bo, the Tazmanian Devil, and Hey You Get Out of My Dinner.


J. and I are dog people. I still do not understand how we came to live with three cats. I'm allergic to cats! And I don't really like cats! Except...maybe these three aren't quite so bad...

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Blessings

On Saturday, I had dinner with friends for my birthday. It had already been a wonderful day, but as I looked around the table, I was humbled by what I saw. There were two women who have been my friends for ten years, who were with me when I met my first husband, got engaged, got married, and got divorced. I have been through so much with these women - and still, here they are. Also in attendance were my wonderful sister-in-law and her husband. This is the first time we've done anything with them socially (family holidays excluded), and I hope it was the first of many. Sitting across from me was a new friend, one I hope will be a close, long-term friend.

And right next to me, where he is always, was J. I simply cannot fathom what I did to deserve the gift of *this* husband. And I don't really even know how to put into words how I feel about him. There aren't words for emotions like this.

My husband protects me. He puts my interests above his own. He calms me, down to the deepest part of my soul. He makes me laugh. He is loyal, faithful, devoted. He loves me unconditionally.

I've never felt that I could truly be myself, all the time, with another person. J. changed that. Even when I'm bitter, or grumpy, or just plain nasty and ugly...he loves me. I can tell him anything, and it will not change the way he sees me. J. and I were talking last night, and I shared something I'd been afraid to: that I still have sadness about my divorce. I would not trade anything for J. If it took going through all I did to get here, then it was absolutely worth it. But still...there is sadness. I was afraid it would make J. wonder if I really loved him, or doubt my commitment to him, or make him wonder if I only chose him because he was available. But it didn't. He likes that I took my first marriage so seriously. After all, if I was capable of not caring that my first marriage failed, how seriously could I possibly take this marriage?

The thing is, I didn't choose J. And he didn't choose me. We were always meant to be here, now, together. I know that as surely as I know anything. We are not perfect. We argue, and we make mistakes, and we have bad days. But we are both completely committed to each other; this marriage is not taken lightly or for granted, ever. And that makes us perfect for each other.

I see people who think that *things* are valuable, that it matters even the tiniest bit to have a fancy car or house, or expensive handbags and jewelry. And sure, those things are nice. But they don't matter. I would trade every material possession I have to keep these people in my life always.

I am blessed beyond all measure.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Facing My Mortality

T minus 4 days and 34 minutes until I'm officially 35 years old.

The idea that I'm turning 35 has been nagging at me.

I couldn't figure out why; I believe that age is just a number. I thought I'd get over it. Turning 29 bothered me a great deal, but by the time I turned 30, I was fine. But this time, the feeling only got worse, and last night I figured it out. I'm twice the age I was when I met J. And if I live to be twice the age I am now, I'll be 70.

70!

But...I was just 17!!!

And THAT is what's been bothering me - time is passing way, way too fast. I touched on it
here, but I didn't fully understand then how much the idea was affecting me. It's not that I'm afraid to get old, or afraid to die (although I'm sure those fears will start coming up before too many more birthdays pass). I'm afraid of running out of time. There's so much I want to do! In the last 17 years, I crossed very few things off the list. Life got in the way. And I'm terrified that in another 17 years, I'll look back and say exactly the same thing. I'll be 52 then, which is still young, if you're in good health. But I've never taken care of myself, so I may not be in good health then. Hell, I may get hit by a bus next week. I need to figure out what is important to me and make it happen. Now.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Opening Day

April through October is the best season of the year: baseball season.

No other sports happen - at least none that matter. In high school, I watched football (college and some NFL), basketball (college only), and NASCAR. I hated baseball; I thought it was boring.

Then, when I was 18, I watched Ken Burns' "Baseball." And I was hooked. I've been a New York Yankees fan since then. I love my Texas Rangers, too. I root for both teams, and when they play each other, I'm happy for whichever team wins. The only exception to that was the 2010 ALCS, when I rooted full-force for the Rangers. They deserved that win (and the World Series win as well).

Throughout the long, long season, I root for - and against - other teams.

Now that the 2011 baseball season has officially opened, I'm excited. So what makes a perfect day in baseball?

Yankees win.

Rangers win.

Red Sox lose.

Braves lose.

Cubs win.

Cardinals lose.

I love this game, and I love people (especially other women) who love this game. No matter which team is yours, I hope it will be a great season. Unless you're a Red Sox fan, in which case I wish you a 0-162 record.

Happy baseball season, friends.

I'm Not the April Fool

I hate today.

I don't like pranks. A prank is something you pull on someone you hate, not on a friend. Because really, what is a prank? It's making your friend look foolish so you (and other people) can laugh. It's shitty, and I have been known to stop talking to people - permanently - who pull pranks on me even though they know how I feel about them.

Maybe I'm a stick in the mud. Maybe I just don't get it. But you know what?

I DON'T get it.

And I don't WANT to get it.

Don't prank me, "friend."

Friday Happy Hour

From Mental Floss: "Every Friday, I post a series of unrelated questions meant to spark conversation in the comments. Answer one, answer all, respond to someone else's reply, whatever you want. On to this week's topics of discussion..."

1. You've just been appointed to a school-renaming committee, and the task is simple—rename your school for a favorite teacher. What did he or she do to deserve this honor?

~ Wilkinson Middle School in Mesquite, TX should be renamed Beverly Sanders Middle School. Bev was my English teacher in 7th and 8th grade (which was 20 years ago, if we're counting). She taught me so much more than grammar and interpretation of literature, and today I don't just call her my former teacher, I call her my friend.

2. Many enjoyable magazines have folded in recent years. If you could see one magazine revived, which one would you choose?

~ I don't know that any magazine I love has folded, at least so far. I love magazines, and currently subscribe to Redbook, Glamour, O, and Everyday with Rachael Ray. On my subscription wish list are: Games, D Magazine, Mental Floss, and The Bark.

3. What’s the best movie you’ve seen so far this year? It need not be a 2011 release.

~ J. and I went to the movies together for the first time this year. (I hadn't been to a movie theater since summer 2007. Yes, there's a backstory. No, I won't tell it now.) We saw "127 Hours," which we both loved. It reminded me how much I love going to the theater, so hopefully it won't be summer 2014 before we go again.