The Upside-downside to being Nutty(er than usual), or More Fun (Way!) with Math

I don’t know about you but I’m getting a bit bored with the whole anxiety/panic disorder topic.  Not to mention the whole anxiety/panic disorder thing (IT) itself.   Honestly, writing about IT has helped some.   Up until now, when IT has started to Thoroughly.  Piss. Me. Off.

Today’s status:  Still here, still have some of IT symptoms, dealing.  But I have a buttload of work to do before my vacation next week.  So the increase in my usually barely tolerable work stress is making life a bit more enjoyable.

Now, on to the Upside.  Which is a Downside.  But a good one, especially given the whole freaking point of this freaking year and this freaking blog.

Since August 1, I have lost

♦     18 pounds     ♦

(204 to 186 today).  My last published weight log showed my high point at 202 in March. That was not the eventual high point.

All of my not-so-hard work was paying off in the reverse.   Which was not the trend I wanted to publish, which is why I took down the weight log,  although I did continue doing and woe-is-me-ing weigh-ins March through July.

(Aside:  Rather than Outright Lie, I prefer to Withhold Comment.  Sort of like when a  friend asks me if they look (good or bad or smart or stupid) (doing or wearing or dating) (something or somebody).   I do not want to Lie but I do not want to tell the Truth, either.  So I WC, which is similar in concept to being PC,  but of course without the P.    Since I try not to do or say anything whatsoever that has the remotest chance of having the label P(olitical) attached to it)).  (I love parenthetical comments, as you know.  I think this wins the Most Parentheses Ever In One Paragraph In My Blog award.)  (But I am more in love with run-on sentences than anything, as you also know.)

And no, I do not think achieving the reverse of desired results had anything at all to do with  IT, the Thing I Am Tired Of  Writing About.  Being overweight does not cause me IT.   Being overweight  just Pisses. Me. Off.

Anyway, I told you I was feeling different and bits and pieces were rearranging and my underwear was getting large enough to hold both the Boob Section and the Other End.

I think that I get the biggest kick out of the fact that I have lost a good bit of weight while I am still on Paxil (holding at 10 mg, terrified to step down again until I get a better handle on things).

My formula appears to be:

<20 gr carbs (very little sugar/starch) +

>50 oz liquid +

(30 mins cardio 5-6 days/wk)

= – 18 (in 2 months).

Smug.  

Aiming for the gate Part 2

It has been a difficult week — persisting anxiety most days, a couple of severe panic episodes that had me testing the Emergency speed dial on my cell phone.

This is what panic attacks do — they trick you into thinking you are on your way Out and you need to start interviewing new parents for your children, or, as in my case, for my 13 or so four-legged vet bills.

Something terrible is about to happen.

If you were out walking in the woods and a grizzly bear suddenly jumps out from behind a tree, adrenaline will do lot of good things for you.  Your sympathetic nervous system springs into action.  Your heart races, breathing becomes more rapid, you break out in a sweat.  All of these are good if there is a bear, because your body is preparing for strenuous physical activity — either to stand and fight the bear, or run away from the bear.

With panic, there is usually no grizzly bear, but you get all of the physical symptoms of the same adrenaline rush, plus tingling or numbness, dizziness, a sense of unreality or disassociation.  These can be overwhelming and cause more fear, which naturally causes  more adrenaline.  It builds and builds, churning, strengthening, spiraling upward, your own personal tornado.  With flying cows and everything.

You really do think you are experiencing the onset of something terrible and deadly.

It just so happens that these are also the same symptoms one typically gets from riding a rollercoaster.  The thrill and excitement and fear and exhilaration — all of these things bring on the adrenaline and the effects are pretty much the same as the grizzly bear in the woods or a panic attack.

The difference with the rollercoaster ride is that you perceive the ride as fun.  Mostly.  Unless you ate too many corn dogs to squelch a bad case of the munchies.  Because you were smoking weed like we did in Santa Cruz in the 1970s.

The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk Big Dipper — ah, memories.  Or lingering hazes.  Whatever, man.

I get the same “good” adrenalin rush from riding my horse.  In all rides I get a physical work out and some adrenalin pumping around, and in some rides Mo offers some Extra Added Attractions very very similar to a rollercoaster that cause more adrenaline.  This does not cause me to panic.  It just causes me to want some Gatorade.

If the only real difference between a panic attack and a rollercoaster ride is perception of fun, and if panic gains power from fear, then it makes sense to me to aim for the gate.  Aiming for the gate means that when I get the initial “OH NO!” feeling of panic coming on, I run toward it instead of trying to hide from it.  I call it by its name and embrace it.  I let all of the physical symptoms just happen.   And ask for more.

I buy the rollercoaster ticket, buckle in, and hang on for the ride.  Delight in the thrills.   Laugh while screaming.

Sounds a little nutty.  Therefore, I must try it.

Hell Hath Another No Fury* …

… like a claustro-socio-group hug-execuspeak-“now pick a person seated at your table as your partner for the next activity”-phobe trapped in a gigantic Hyatt Regency ballroom with no windows, seated smack dab in the middle of 600 other Company Conference lemmings all shouting at the same time at the tops of their lungs because they can’t be heard over recorded Adele belting out “Rolling in the Deep”  at concert-mega-decibel-belt, this choice of music I have no doubt chosen to elevate the Hip factor of the event, the chooser oblivious to the fact that Hip Company Conference has been, by the laws of physics or something, long ago rendered inexorably an Oxymoron of the Highest Order.

there are no words

Don’t get me wrong.  Adele is one of very few contemporary artists that I enjoy listening to. In fact, next to Bonnie Raitt she is my favorite female singer.  Not just because she can sing.  But also because she pulls off gorgeous-with-pudge so very beautifully.

TURN IT UP.

awesome performance.

How.  Ever. I know what you are up to, Company.   Don’t treat me like a moron and try to snake-charm me with Adele.   The message of this two day Leadership Conference is what the message always is:   Do More With Less.  You can call it New Company Culture, Agile and Nimble, Trusted and Trusting, WTFed and WTFing, whatever the F  you want to call it.  You didn’t need two days of me held captive in a hotel next to a freeway with sirens and too many people and too much noise and too much talking and not enough air and not getting my real work done and counting and recounting and splitting and resplitting my few remaining Xanax doses¹, that Safeway won’t auto-refill, because my nurse practitioner, who put zero refills on the Rx even though she wrote the Rx as “1/2 to 1 pill twice daily as needed”  and who “wants to see me” before she oks what she already f-ing prescribed, and who is getting fired btw, for that.

All you need to do, Company,  is say “Carol, Do More With Less.”   And I will try, since you are the Company and you hired me to work for you.

But working for you does not include attending conferences at which I cannot actually do my real work.  Particularly since I stepped down to 10 mg Paxil, where the roller tends to be on the downhill side of the coaster when I am not getting the peace and comfort I get from being stressed out by my real work.

The nutshell, which I know normal people usually do first:  I rendered myself inexorably AWOL for all but 90-stuck-in-ballroom-basket-case-minutes of the two-day conference.  I worked in my hotel room.  Or parked myself and my laptop inconspicuously in an out of the way sports bar with windows one floor above the gigantic ballroom and therefore out of clear view of the Conference Attendees Police, and worked there.  Also successfully AWOLed myself from the Dinner and Party-to-Follow segments of the Agenda, via Room Service.   Which was pretty good.

I thought I had Gotten Away With It too.  Until they unloaded us from the Company-provided bus after the ride home.  My luggage was not on the bus.  Because I didn’t put it on the bus.  I assumed that since there were courteous and friendly Luggage Dudes who took my luggage from me, carefully tagged it and carefully stored it in the Awaiting Bus Departure luggage area, there was an implied commitment on the part of the Luggage Dudes  that they would also carefully stow it on the bus for the trip home.  But, because I was AWOL, I missed an announcement during the Closing Ceremonies or whatever that had something to do with attendees putting their own luggage on the bus.

Thankfully, the bell captain found my forlorn forgotten bag in the Awaiting Bus Departure area and the concierge is shipping it to me.  At my expense.

The moral of this story:  If you go AWOL, you will have to do without your favorite moisturizer for a few days.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

* previous Fury

¹  ala  Raiders of the Lost Ark, Marian Ravenwood (trapped with Indiana Jones in the Well of Souls, surrounded by thousands of poisonous snakes kept at bay only by a single torch on its last remaining sputters):  “Indy …  the fire is going …. OUT …”

the toolbox

first, there is some movement on the fat front.  movement away from me, which is good.  but i’m not allowed to know how much movement until end of this month.  In the meantime, it is very interesting to feel parts of me shifting around and not being there anymore, or not being as big as before.  I can tell this because i am able to pull up the waistband of my underwear to just below my bustline.   When I can get the waistband up and over the boobs, real progress.   And a trip to Walmart for different underwear, I suppose.

For now, though, I wanted to go through my disorder repair toolbox — I need to cowboy it up a bit, I think, given the Paxil withdrawal experience and learning how to live life with GAD  in new and fun ways.    I’m thinking about what stuff needs to be added, but here is the list of the most frequently used items:

1.  Mo:  The best and biggest tool.  He can be the best person on my planet one day, and then the biggest moron the next day.  Heart pounding cardio and hypnotic rhythm.  Self-confidence and humility.  Fresh air and dirt.   Cuddles and nods.  Physical strength and wimping out.  Powerade Zero and peppermints.  Slender legs and helmet hair.  The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.  or deseat.  which is on the way to de ground.

2.  Deep breathing exercises:  These are for anxiety and they work.  I am learning pranayam from my co-worker.   It is a set of peaceful, meditative breathing exercises that improve the flow of oxygen and reorder my chakras or something.  I suppose.  I am not 100% convinced of chakras but I do feel more reordered somehow after I do deep breathing.  I also feel more anxiety from doing deep breathing.  This is another Murphy’s Law, or maybe a Catch-22.  When I do deep breathing I feel like I am doing something good for myself.  But the fact that I need to do deep breathing means there is Something Wrong, which the Heebie Jeebies read as a Welcome mat.  I think I just need more practice.  And perhaps a half hit of # 9.

3.  Cigarettes:   These work well.  They are especially effective at counteracting both the benefits and the stresses caused by #2.  And Yeah Yeah, I KNOW.  I am just not going there until [1]  significant fat loss, to make room for what I am going to gain back when I quit and  [2] the  100%-off-Paxil date plus a yet-to-be-calculated probationary period.   In other words, not in the very near term.  Get over it.

4a.  Music.  Old skool R&B, classic rock, blues, Latin and classical.   Stuck in the 70s mostly.  Except for Chopin, who wrote Nocturnes while he was stuck in the 1800s.  The Nocturnes were my favorite pieces to play when I studied piano.  This was before my planet invented horses.

4b.  Old Movies.  1930s-50s.  Film noir, crime/mystery, Hitchcock, Bogie, gangsters, westerns.  Roy Rogers and Trigger.  Another sickness of mine — I have collected 88 of the total 90 movies that Roy Rogers made.  Also have CDs of all of his early radio performances and releases with the Sons of the Pioneers, before he became Roy Rogers and got Trigger.  Don’t get me started on this topic, btw.

5.  Knitting needles and yarn.   To keep my hands moving — moving my glasses from my nose to the top of my head and back, back and forth until the glasses get Put Down Somewhere and then … you know this part already (see headaches).

6.  Chopsticks:  These are sticks like knitting needles, except they are prettier and fun to eat salad with.   So, good for both mental and physical well-being.

7.   Lily, Lulu, Rainy, Stormy, Ody, Roushone, Dudie, Tinkie, Pootie, Phooey, Babalooey and Izzyboo.  Having furry ones at home to care for helps focus me on other things besides mild vertigo, brain zaps, housework, and my newly developing anxiety about doing deep breathing.  (see #2).

home

8.  Job:   On a good day, a good anxiety fix.  On a bad day, still a good anxiety fix due to throwing things and screaming expletives.  Although sometimes, rarely, throwing things and screaming can sometimes make me feel a wee bit out of control, which can cause an Episode, most times throwing things and screaming make me feel utterly normal and happy about life.

9.  Xanax.  Duh.

10.  My Bible.  Ditto.

11.  My Book.  This is actually just My Storyboard at this point.  But it is a real storyboard taped on my real wall with real things on it that contain the whispers and nudges and glimmers of possibilities of a real mystery novel.   If ever I learn to write like a real writer.

If Living Well = Best Revenge, I’m going to need a bigger car

What prompted me to write yesterday’s post was a fairly severe episode of anxiety/panic yesterday morning.  Got through it of course, but sheesh.

Then a major meltdown during my riding lesson tonight.  The  lesson itself was nothing really out of the ordinary — I’m trying to get back some lost time learning how to jump and jumping for me is scary but I had been doing pretty well with my comeback.   Tonight a few canter strides over poles on the ground went a little rough, I pulled back in fear,  Mo got a little amped in response, and I lost it — I didn’t fall or get hurt or anything,  just got scared and broke down.  Eventually, with my trainer Alejandro’s  patience and encouragement, I composed myself, worked on something else, did okay with it, and finished the lesson. A few weeks ago, I would have just talked with him about what went wrong, and tried again, perhaps still a bit fearful but ammoed-up by his coaching  for the next attempt.

When I was first diagnosed with panic syndrome in the late 80s, then general anxiety disorder in the early 90s, I did not recognize any specific causes, such as triggering events or difficult circumstances or what-not.   Still don’t — definitive causes have remained a mystery.   The shrinks I have seen over the years theorize that I am a type of a Type A personality that needs to be continually building something to be happy and feel productive, needs a lot going on at once, and can handle all that cheerfully with ease, then get even more overloaded and still keep on truckin’.    The disorders are my chemistry’s rebellion when the all-that  finally gets to be too much.   What the shrinks have not been able to tell me is what the too-much point of the all-that is.  And after all-that-money I have indirectly invested in La-Z-Boy (Live Life Comfortably) to upscale the leather factor of my shrinks’ offices.  That I could have just spent directly on new leather sofas for my own living room so that my dogs can turn them into upscaled dog beds so that they can Live Life even more Comfortably than what the present ultra-shabby-crappy-ragged-cat-shredded-dog-smashed-chic decor can offer.

For years I have been telling people that Paxil saved my life.  Its symptom fix absolutely did make my living so very much better.   Of course, with my steps down in dosage, the symptoms are back with a vengeance.  And with each step down, they are more frequent and more determined in their quest for vengeance.

Is this what life off meds is just going to be like?  I am just going to be This Way from now on?

If that’s the case, ok, I say Bring It (I say that from the relative safety and peace and good coffee and dogs sleeping at my feet of my home office).    I am getting off Paxil and not going back on.

I have to find a good life without it,  in spite of  This.  Maybe I just have  to accept This as my constant companion.   Sort of like a nervous and jerky backseat driver who is always in my car, unleashing a continual screaming barrage of warnings and gasps and “Turn-HERE!”s and “Don’t-turn-THERE!”s and “Slow DOWN!”s and “Go FASTER!”s and  “LOOK-OUT!!“s … who refuses to get out the car even though they think I am such a bad driver, and won’t shut the fuck up and just let me drive.  And who may be pointing a gun at the back of my head besides.   If I could just stuff them in the trunk.  Or have a very large vehicle with many rows of back seats, sort of like a limo-cum-movie theater, and stick them way back in the farthest-back row so their shrieking can barely be heard.

Drawing this image of the unwanted screaming meemie lethal-weapon-toting passenger has given me some ideas …  Time to get out the toolbox and check the inventory …

10 is Not Enough

… 10 mg of Paxil, I mean.

Let’s begin with a review of the Paxil withdrawal symptoms I posted a while back — in Blue are the ones that I am currently experiencing off and on:

  1. intense insomnia
  2. extraordinarily vivid dreams.   This confuses me, given #1 above.  Unless this is extraordinarily vivid daydreams.  Which I have always had.  So, normal.   
  3. extreme confusion during waking hours.  This one also confuses me.  WebMD or whoever you are — what other hours are there beside waking?  (see #1).   
  4. intense fear of losing your sanity.  Fear, not so much.  Let’s call it Intense Acceptance.
  5. steady feeling of existing outside of reality as you know it (referred to as depersonalization at times).  This is the one of the main things for me.  It would be the worst thing if there was no panic.  
  6. memory and concentration problems.  I take this to mean lack of memory and/or concentration.  I have the opposite.   Over-memory and over-concentration.  Which are problems.  So which is it?  Again I am confused.  thinking about making #3 Blue too.
  7. Panic Attacks (even if you never had one before).   This is the worst thing.
  8. severe mood swings, esp. heightened irritability / anger.  This is the most annoying thing.  
  9. suicidal thoughts (in extreme cases).  Not a chance.
  10. an unconventional dizziness/ vertigo.  Yes. Like what you might feel when you are experiencing an earthquake.  A brief warning — something’s up — and then imbalance, rocking and rolling.  Very strange.   I am getting used to it.  And I can make it look like my normal penguin walking so people don’t think anything of it, except perhaps to wonder why I walk like a penguin.  See #12.
  11. the feeling of shocks, similar to mild electric one, running the length of your body.  This goes with the above.  It is what they call the Paxil brain zaps and these come immediately before onset of the earthquakes. 
  12. an unsteady gait.  This I have but I do not attribute it to withdrawal.  I attribute it to my walking like a penguin.    I walk like a penguin because the share of the medical community that I have available to me for treating my bad ankle is not actually treating the bad ankle, and is therefore a moron.
  13. slurred speech.  Not Paxil withdrawal, but work-related due to conference call overload.  
  14. headaches.  These I have always had.   I do not attribute headaches to withdrawal.  I attribute headaches to wearing my glasses on the top of my head instead of on the part of my head that contains my eyes.  Or wearing the wrong pair of glasses for the task at hand — short vision for reading, medium for computer, long for driving/riding.   Sometimes I choose wrong.  Because of the Murphy’s law of glasses.  The pair you need you cannot find when you need them.  You need them because you cannot see.   Therefore, in order to find them, you have to see them, and in order to do that you have to have already found them.  This and being left-handed are the two primary reasons why my actuarial life span is about 9 years shorter than average.      
  15. profuse sweating, esp. at night.  Nope.  just profuse #1, esp. at night.
  16. muscle cramps.  Yes but I think due more to penguin walking.  Or due to Mo when he decides to be taking a nap while I am trying to get a big canter from him.  This causes me to work my legs extra hard to floor Mo’s accelerator pedal, which causes my muscles to overwork and later cramp.  Or this could also be due to Mo when he decides to spook after he has gotten into the big canter, which usually ends up with me overworking my muscles by trying to hang on for dear life,  or by trying to get up after landing on my butt.  
  17. blurred vision.  Yes but not withdrawal.  See #14.
  18. breaking out in tears.  yes.  this is new since the step down to 10 mg.  
  19. hypersensitivity to motion, sounds, smells.   Nope.
  20. loss of appetite.  absolutely, significantly.  not entirely a bad thing because of my other goal.  
  21. nausea.  especially in the morning.  
  22. abdominal cramping, diarrhea.  Nope.
  23. chills/ hot flashes.  I have noticed some brief chills.  But I think they come  from when I stand for long periods in front of my fridge with the freezer door open, staring inside and not deciding what to make for dinner, because of #20.  Otherwise I am and always have been too hot.  I am thinking this will change when I am no longer carrying extra heat-retaining blubber, like that of whales, the beached group of which I am an honorary member of  when I wear my dressage whites.    

The past week, since my step down to 10 mg, some of these have become more noticeable or frequent – breaking out it tears,  loss of appetite, brain zaps,  anxiety/panic episodes.

Now I’m sure  you already know what the drug Paxil and others in the SSRI class are believed to do … which is increase the extracellular level of the neurotransmitter serotonin by inhibiting its reuptake into the presynaptic cell, increasing the level of serotonin in the synaptic cleft available to bind to the postsynaptic receptor.   Withdrawing the SSRI decreases the extracellular level of serotonin.   Translation:  Both the SSRI itself and the withdrawal from it are f-ing with my head.

Which is really pissing off my brain.   So it is throwing all these temper tantrums, thinking it can wear me down and make me come off my high horse and just go back on the drug already.

Well, I don’t respond to temper tantrums.    If you think throwing a tantrum is going to have the effect of getting what you want from me, Brain, think again.

The Cosmos has nodded

Or, perhaps, the Atlas on my personal planet has indeed Shrugged.

(Aside begin:  I was very amused by the interest in/hysteria about Ayn Rand’s philosophy as reported in the media of late.  And, perhaps more cosmic timing, the movie The Fountainhead starring Gary Cooper and Patricia Neal was on the other night.  Enjoyable, but over the top in many ways.  Just like Ayn Rand.  Aside end.)

Because, finally, after 238 days of mostly wishing sprinkled with some tiny flecks of actual hard work, one of my horse peeps Paula said to me the other day  “Carol!  You have lost weight, haven’t you?  You look fantastic!”  Paula is in her late 50s-early 60s, an engaging stick-person of a woman who rides second level dressage on her adorable 19 year old Leopard Appaloosa named Riot.  (If you are not a horse person, I don’t expect you to get much of that last part, just know that Paula is to be admired, and she and Riot are friendlies.)

Ok, so don’t go getting all excited.   I have not lost all that much yet and I know I do not look all that fantastic, really.  I am guessing 7-10 lbs.  I am guessing that range because of the way some of my clothes are fitting.  I am guessing, period, because I am not allowed to weigh myself until I have passed the first 8 weeks of the particular diet plan I am following.  I am guessing I am not allowed to weigh myself because I am one of those morons who gets discouraged and quits the plan and makes a big pot of rice when I don’t drop 5 pounds each day.

And on this particular day,  I was wearing this assymetrical-hemmed sweater thing that makes my belly disappear like magic.   I’m guessing it is made out of the same fabric that covered the fusilage of the now-retired F117a Stealth Fighter.  It is partly because of this fabric, and partly because of the angularity of the fusilage itself, that rendered the airplane invisible to the Bad Guys’ Radar.  At least while it was flying around.   (Another aside:  I do not know how good the Bad Guys’  radar is — could figure into it. )   (Another aside:  Years ago when I was still connected to the US Air Force,  I had the privilege of visiting one of these airplanes at a secret base somewhere in the Nevadan desert.   The fabric did not hide the airplane when it was just sitting in the hangar.  I discovered that because I was able to see it well enough to locate the cockpit and climb inside and pretend I was a fighter pilot until the Crew Chief who was showing me the plane started getting nervous.)

And yes, there really was a secret base in the Nevadan desert.  The coolest thing about that, for me at the time, was that it was completely overrun by wild horses.

Back to …. So, yes,  I do feel like the latest approach is working.  This latest approach has two key features:

[1]  Significant step down in my Paxil intake.  I think my body decided it was okay to start shedding fat when I got to the 20 mg point in my step-down (I started at 40 mg in June.  I got down to 20 mg a few weeks ago and just stepped down again to 10 mg a few days ago); and

[2]  NO SUGAR.  Less than 20 grams of carbs per day, total, and I do mean less than 20 grams.  Roughly equivalent to less than 5 tsp of sugar per day.  Or 1/4 cup of rice. Oh, come ON.  Which is roughly equivalent to no rice at all.

…both of which are keeping me pretty cranky about life in general … until of course I got the Nod.  That was pretty cool.  So today, when I made flan and key lime pie for my friend Alejandro’s birthday, I celebrated a little and ate a slice of flan. Oh well.  Back at it mañana.

(*shrug*)