Out of the Scary Closet and into the fire

10 years ago I met a man and got involved.   Regrettably.  Poor judgment and denial on my part and an f-ing moron of an abusive alcoholic on his part made for an interesting six months.  Blog post on f-ing morons and surviving domestic violence forthcoming.

Back then at the ripe old age of 46, I decided I should probably try to do something about my singleness before I got so old and grizzled that the only men who would find me appealing would be older and grizzleder.  So I did some dating and eventually hooked up with the f-ing moron.  Who, although not much older or grizzleder than me at the time, was definitely meaner.  And stupider.

Now at the way riper age of 56, I am no longer so concerned about being single, staying single.  I fully accept and appreciate my freedom.  I am content on my own.  I have always been easily amused by me and a variety of interests that I can pursue and enjoy without many, or any, people around.

I have enjoyed relationships with good men over the years but I have never been the sort to just relax and enjoy companionship, or to define my happiness or self-worth in terms of whether or not I am in a relationship.  I have never “needed” to be with someone.  But I think now I would be happy to give it a go with a right person — thinking that I have finally reached that point where  I know who I  am and I can wear this skin,  if not completely proudly (40 or so pounds to go),  absolutely without apology.  So perhaps I am finally fit to be a willing and supportive partner to someone, and able to accept the same in return without feeling crowded or resentful of the obligation to care about someone else’s needs or worried that I will have to behave myself at all times or whatever it is that has kept me thinking that relationships are just too much trouble to bother with.

So I went on a blind date the other night, first date in over 10 years .  It went pretty well, all things considered.   All things being  —

[1]  I don’t know how to act on a date.  I don’t know what modern-day dating norms are.   I’m sure I don’t care.  Which can affect whether I give a good impression.  Which I don’t care about.

[2]  I was burnt out from a chaotically normal work day and had overshot my daily quota for polite social interaction some hours before.

[3]  I hadn’t gotten around to locating my fall/winter-going out in public wardrobe until just before I needed to dress and when I finally found it, in the Scary Closet, I couldn’t be absolutely sure that there weren’t any black widow spiders nesting comfortably in the folds of the cowl neck tunic thing I eventually settled on as worthy blind date attire.

[4]  I was a bit nervous.  Because of having to Go Somewhere and Be Social.  This is not to be confused with anxious.   Nervous is normal and I was thankful to be nervous rather than the Other Thing.  Because if it was the Other Thing, I would have remained at home, naturally, probably in or near the Scary Closet,  where I was safe and, spider possibility notwithstanding, where it was like Christmas morning tearing through piles of  favorite-season clothes I had completely forgotten I had.

Dressed in real (aka not-barn) clothes, hair cooperating, I showed up to meet the guy.  I’m pretty sure he was very nice, articulate, engaging, comfortable in life, and easy to talk with.  He didn’t bat an eye when I went for the prime rib.  A big treat I felt I deserved — after all, I showed up, to a restaurant, to meet a new person, after going to the trouble of putting on fall/winter-going-out-in-public clothes on that I had cowboyed up a trip into the Scary Closet to get.    That, by the way, fit way better than last year.  *Smug*

I had one margarita, which helped to take the edge off.   Or, finish the taking-the-edge-off process I had started before leaving home, when I had taken Another Thing to help take the edge off.  So, edges neatly smoothed obliterated, the only cause for alarm I experienced all evening  was horseradish.  I kept shoveling in too much horseradish and then regretting it and making the “yikes,  too much horseradish”  face.   And then doing it again, over and over.  I wonder what he thought of my incompetence at calculating the correct dose of horseradish.  Not to mention what he thought of the faces.

I confessed my anxiety problem.  He proved himself at least semi-normal with his inability to understand it.   Might have scared him off,  but even if so, I consider the evening a success.  I showed up.

Brownie points.

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).


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.

FFFF Hall of Fame – Jan

She tells me I can do anything I put my mind to.  She has been telling me this for many years.  Somewhere along the line I decided to believe her.

Jan is my mother.  She is middle-aged-plus some years.  She has spent most of her life on the fit end of the fat-fit continuum.  She shares not one of my bad habits.

my father, mom, sister Linda and me, 1957

I remember believing when I was little that my mom was a Movie Star on vacation.  I am not sure why, except she has always had this bit of star quality about her.  Her mother, my grandmother Dorothy, saw it first perhaps — getting my mom into voice, piano and dance lessons when she was a young girl growing up in Indianapolis.  Somewhere in the family archives there is a photograph of Darlyn (my mother’s middle name and the name she was known by) on stage in a short flouncy little dress and Shirley Temple ringlets.  If I had that photo you would see it here.  And I would probably be in Big Trouble and have to Go To My Room/Farm.

Jan and her brood, c. 1963

My mom has always loved music and is a fabulous singer although we don’t get to hear it much.  Somewhere also in the family archives are recordings she made as a teenager.  She is a fan of all types of music, Dixieland Jazz a favorite.  She is also an accomplished ballroom dancer and for years she made a point to be out dancing a couple nights a week.

out dancing … 1990’s

I don’t favor my mom physically.  Her heritage is Mediterranean French.  I favor my father’s side, Anglo/Scot/Irish/German.  She is small boned, slender, and has a light olive complexion.  I am larger-boned, slender only from the hip down (thanks to Mo), and have my father’s ruddy complexion.  Although lucky for me, I got her Good Skin gene.

I did not get her genes of Self-Discipline, Healthy Eating, Good Housekeeping, or Pretty Hands.  But I did get her Mystery Fiction gene, Coffee gene, Jewelry gene, and Lancome gene.  From her, I also got my love for music and my desire to study piano  (the desire that disappeared in a flash when I discovered there was a thing called Horse, and sold my beautiful baby grand to be able to afford my first horse mistake).

The reason my mom is one of my favorite sources of inspiration is that she is a survivor. For most of my childhood and adolescence, she was a single working mom, mostly on her own raising four kids — who all turned out to be reasonably productive and responsible people, btw.  If not, each in their own right, just a tad bit wackadoo.

She survived bumps in the road — maybe stumbled a bit here and there, but she  always landed on her feet.  She survived difficult marriages and divorces.   When financial times got tough, she worked second jobs.  We kids always had plenty, and her abiding example that we could have a good life in spite of difficulties if we were willing to work for it.

She survived going back to college during her 40’s and earned her AA degree, all the while working and raising four teenagers.

daughter Susan’s wedding 1986, with daughters Linda and me.

She survived the long illness and passing of my sister, her youngest daughter and the mother of her only grandchildren  — this with grace and strength that awes and uplifts me to this day.

Jan, daughter Susan, granddaughter Stephanie, daughter Linda

She survives still.  She manages her life and her health and her home, on her own.  She loves reading good mystery novels, taking walks, tending my little sister’s resting place.

Like me, she cherishes her independence and enjoys her privacy as well as her freedom.  She gets my sense of humor.  She gets my contentment with solitude.  We share passions for old movies and mystery fiction.  She encourages me in my  writing, and she will be my Number One reader and critic when I have a mystery baked well enough for her to read.

on a trip to Italy with her favorite ex-husband – 2007

I know she is my Number One Fan.  I hope she knows I am her Number One Fan.  I am so very proud of her.

Love you Mom!

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.


Grace and flashlights

“Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and pain of it, no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it, because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.”[1] 

I am a Christian, your run-of- the-mill nondenominational Protestant.  Not a religious fundamentalist.  My settling on this particular flavor years ago was greatly influenced by the writings of C.S. Lewis, an atheist who, in later life, converted  to Christianity.

The bottom line to my faith is that I believe I am a created being.

Some of my very best friends are also Christians of various flavors — Catholics, Protestants of various denominations, Mormons.   Some are Hindi, some Muslim.  Some are agnostics, some are atheists.  I don’t have any Buddhists on my planet that I know of but I would like some.  Because they put on really cool festivals with Taiko drumming.

My friends and I talk about our various beliefs or lack of, or we don’t.  It is not a big deal.  I do have very strong opinions about what Christianity is and what it is not, but I stay off my soapbox unless someone invites me to step on it.

I don’t like organized religion.  I don’t go to church very often.  I would like to find a church home, but every time I think I have found one and start to go regularly, something about the church pisses me off.  Which, I’m pretty sure, is not what God has in mind.

Church people can get too churchy for me.  Like being members of a special club.  If you are not in the club, or you don’t conform to the general mold, it is hard to get connected.  Like with any group, if you don’t fit within some of the traditions, or if you believe you have been charged with a special mission to Question Authority, as I do, then you tend to stay on the fringe. I sort of prefer the fringe.  Like high school — when I had friends in the Popular Crowd, but the thought of becoming a card-carrying member myself gave me the heebie jeebies.

I bring this up because I am in closer contact with God these days because of My Great Adventure into improving my mental and physical health.  It has been getting pretty rough at times, and I am not wired to depend on or seek comfort from people.  This is because [1]  people can’t usually do much to help solve these sorts of things;  and [2] some people, although super well-meaning, can be Morons.

I don’t feel better when people say things to try and make me feel better.  I feel better when the thing is solved or when I know I am on track for the solution.   I feel better when I have my own toolbox and know how to stock it and use the tools inside.  Words don’t help but action does.

God knows that when things are going pretty smoothly, I am too busy for him.  Like when you have a new boyfriend and you are too busy to respond to your ever faithful friend’s invites to lunch.  You are happy and life is good and you’d rather be with the boyfriend than the friend.   Nevertheless, this loyal friend remains always on stand by and ready for deployment to your side just when you need them.  So when the boyfriend turns out to be a Moron or, as in my most recent boyfriend episode, an abusive and violent drunk, the first thing you do is call your friend and see if they want to go to lunch.  And that good friend is of course always available, to rescue, or give advice or lend an ear.   Or just go shopping for earrings.

God is mostly that sort of friend to me.  (Except for the earrings part.  I don’t think He approves of my earring thing.  Or my handbag thing.  And many other things.)  He is always there, waiting to respond to my SOS.   That’s His job.  After all, He wired me in the first place and then put me here.  He is obligated to help me out and I challenge Him to that.

His answers always come.  They do not come with trumpets or choirs.  They come quietly, in whispers — yes, I know what you are going through … no, there is no avoiding this lesson … but nothing is impossible … just keep pedaling … live in this moment …don’t worry about a single, solitary thing … be joyful in spite of the circumstances … be thankful in all circumstances

His answers also come in little sparkling bits of grace that get sprinkled around for me to see and experience.  These are tiny blessings and gifts He places in my path without me doing anything to earn them or deserve them  … encouraging words, beautiful sights, shared kindnesses …

…. A good sleep is grace and so are good dreams. Most tears are grace. The smell of rain is grace. Somebody loving you is grace. Loving somebody is grace.”[2]

And the darker it gets, the more grace He puts out there.  The trick is to be able to catch sight of the little sparkling bits in the midst of the dark.  So this adventure of mine seems to be a lot about how well I keep my toolbox stocked with flashlights.

[1] Frederick Buechner, Now and Then:  A Memoir of Vocation

[2] Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking

Circle your wagons, Cosmos, someone is on the warpath

I am Not Very Nice these days.  with Good Reason.  Day 22 on the no-sugar (20 grams or less net carbs per day) regime with a few days break here and there for special occasions.  Still treading water at 20 mg Paxil, which is half the dose that I had been maintaining for several years.  Over that time, my personality weather pattern had been Mostly Sunny, with a few clouds and some meteor showers of anxiety/panic now and then to keep things interesting.

The past few weeks I am very different.  I can get to the Mostly Sunny state frequently but I have to work at it.  There are more clouds and they come with thunder boomers.  Meteor showers are frequent but my tool box is keeping up.  I am way more excitable, on edge, aware.  Like there is danger around but I am not afraid.  I just need to be ready to pounce, or run.

At work, it is a real struggle to control my temper.  This is because of the morons.  I am noticing there are more morons than there were a few months ago.

Usually morons mostly just amuse me.  Now when I am on my multiple back to back conference calls all day, and the morons begin to speak , I smash the mute button on my phone so I can talk back to them with lots of insults and F words, a la “You just said that same f-ing  thing for the third f-ing time inside of 10 f-ing minutes, you f-ing mo-ron.”

These muted discussions I have with myself I try only to do when I am working from home.  When I am in the office, I put Scotch Magic brand tape over my mouth and a Post It note on my forehead that reads “Just Shoot Me.”.  I would put “Just F-ing Shoot Me” on the Post It posted on my forehead if I had a private office.  Which I don’t because all of the Mid-Level Manager offices are already occupied.  By Mid-Level Mo-rons.

But even in the privacy of my home office, my temper tantrums could be hazardous, since frequently I can have two conference calls going at the same time — I have one call going on the cell and the other on the land line.  My pretentious little blue tooth thing goes in my ear for the cell calls, and my land goes on speaker.  The hazardous duty part is when I forget which phone goes with which meeting, which phone I should speak into when I need to speak, and which one needs to be muted when I launch one of the shrieking tirades in homage  to the morons.

So is this the real me?  Is this how I was before I got disordered?  I don’t like this person much.  Except for the part that I have actually lost some pounds.  I am not allowed to weigh myself until 2 Oct, 8 weeks into the no-sugar thing.  Not a huge amount, somewhere between 5-10 is my guess, but I can tell from my clothes, and from the decreasing aches in my back and knees and from my increasing stamina for riding Mo.

I will go into the eating plan next time.

I’m sticking with it, the diet and the drug withdrawal, pissy attitude or not.  I figure this is how I learn to use the toolbox and become a regular person.  I want to take my next step down to 10 mg this weekend.

You can say a few prayers for the Morons if you like.