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Feeling Good

March 9, 2013

In the past I have blogged about having Major Depressive Disorder (Moderate) as well as ADHD.  I am currently taking Cymbalta, which is an SNRI that is a serotonin, norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor.  This means that this drug keeps these two chemicals in my brain in the synapse longer, making me feel less depressed and less anxious.  I have recently dropped my “add on” medication that I had been taking called Abilify.  I was only taking half of a regular dose of Abilify (which is 2mg) so I was only on 1mg and I experienced a wicked withdrawal.  Abilify is a dopamine reuptake inhibitor, and it keeps dopamine in the synapse longer.  Dopamine is another chemical that helps with depression.  I am also taking Adderall for my ADHD.

That all being said, I was talking with my therapist and he suggested that it might be time to come off of the anti depressants.  I was a little hesitant at first, but realized that my life has changed and that I have changed also, and that made me brave enough to get on with life without medication.  

My first stop was the Abilify.  I had no idea what a potent and wicked drug this was.  Even at it’s lowest dose it kicked my butt for a couple of days after coming off of it.  I experienced muscle and joint pain so severe that when I woke up on the third day of not taking it, I couldn’t walk without considerable pain.  I also had muscle spasms that were very painful and I was very weak physically.  My head felt so fuzzy, it was hard to think clearly and I wouldn’t have been able to drive a car (and didn’t even consider it) I also found it hard to type or to call my Doctor.  Thankfully my Doc is a great guy as well as a top-notch doctor, and he called me right away to tell me that the symptoms that I was experiencing were very unlikely in most people, but he believed me after much bafflement and told me to take 50mg of Benedryl every 4 hours and that would help counteract the symptoms.  Low and behold!  It worked and after about 2 hours my muscle and joint pain started to subside, the spasms calmed and my head even felt a little better.  The Doc told me to cut the Abilify tablets into quarters and take a quarter a day for a week then stop.  I did as I was told and that was the end of taking Abilify!  I have no awareness that I am no longer taking this drug.  My Dopamine levels must be back to normal and functioning well because I now feel the same as when I was on it.

This episode scared me though.  Here I was, on the lowest posable dose of Abilify (without a pill cutter) and I felt so terrible from the withdrawal symptoms!  I suddenly realized that taking these drugs was no small matter.  I’m not blaming anyone, these drugs did help me but I wanted out.  And the Cymbalta was next to go.

I did some research on Cymbalta and of course I found out that it is one of the hardest anti depressants to come off of without experiencing some pretty severe side effects.  However, I am not afraid.  I have a new resolve to get these drugs out of my brain for good.  I am now taking what is considered a “normal” dose of 30mg of Cymbalta, and per my Doc’s instructions I have begun taking it every other day.  We will wait and see how that goes before moving to the next step and I have no idea what the next step is yet.

I didn’t fully understand just how these drugs were really affecting me.  I have been very tired for the last 2 years because of the Cymbalta.  I had no idea that an anti depressant can make you sleepy.  I took Cymbalta at night, before bed and it still made me want to take a nap all the time during the day.  So, I am looking forward to having more energy, not only from being completely off Cymbalta, but also from the diet and exercise changes that I have been steadily making in my life.

I will still be on the Adderall for ADHD.  I am 42 years old and my Doc has explained that maybe when I hit Menopause things will change and perhaps then I can stop taking it.  Until that time comes, I am comfortable with taking this drug, as it has been extremely helpful to me to slowly get myself more focused.  Having been diagnosed with this diorder so late in life has had me playing catch-up.  I’ve had to reexamine certain aspects of my life, choices I made, things I tried, my reactions etc. While also learning how it feels to be in the moment, to be focused and have less white noise in the background of my life.  To think more logically and less emotionally.  To not have my emotions make the decisions anymore.  After a long life of that way of thinking, it takes some time to adjust.  And I am adjusting quite well, I think and so does my Doc and the people closest to me.  I only see my Doc every 6 months now and all is well.  Life is always happening and I am so very ready to meet it almost medication free. 

My only regret is that things weren’t explained to me more completely when I was put on these medications.  I wish my Doc would have told me what might happen when it’s time to stop taking them.  As I said before, my Doc did the right thing in putting me on them, they have helped me tremendously for the last 2 years and I have made great strides in coming to terms with things about myself and my life.  I don’t think my Doc did the right thing when he didn’t give me full disclosure.  That’s part of being an adult though.  I have to take responsibility for myself.  I should have done the research, perhaps asked if a different medication would be better, and the like.  But now I know.

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Volunteering With Homeless Youth

March 8, 2013

I recently had the privilege to be of service to others when I started volunteering with homeless youth down in the University District of Seattle. This was an outreach program through the Presbyterian Church and was attached to the church itself. The youth could come during Drop-In hours and get some food, clothes, take a shower, obtain any array of things from socks and underwear to toothbrushes, toothpaste, chap stick, deodorant, shower items such as soap and razors to shave with as well as larger items that they would have to do chores for like bus tickets, sleeping bags and backpacks.

The people that I met that work there full-time with the youth were absolutely amazing people. They were warm, welcoming and really knew their shit when dealing with the youth. They were trusted and held in very high esteem by the youth and were given the respect that they deserved. The staff was simply awe-inspiring. I was very lucky to have met these people.

I had trouble after about a month. I could no longer intellectualize that these young, homeless people always had a choice, they could enter into the system, however flawed it may be, via the caseworker, Kate, and try to start a new life off of drugs and away from the street. A better life with a job and a place to stay and to become productive, independent adults. Intellectualizing this fact, that they had a choice, became less and less easy to sustain and my emotions quickly creeped in around the edges of my rational though and began to slowly break my heart.

Hopelessness began replacing my usually optimistic nature and coming from a place of hopelessness is a huge disservice to anyone especially young adults who are living a terrifying life and numbing themselves with drugs and alcohol to get through their every day lives. The sights and smells and stories of abuse were slowly driving me to despair for them and the long road they would have ahead of them to come back from whatever darkness they were now living through as well as the darkness that put them on the street in the first place.

I had a brief stint, 16 years ago with street drugs that lasted a couple of years. It was brief but intense and I did my fair share of Ecstasy, Special K (ketamine) and Crystal Meth in that 2 year span. I was luck though, I had a bank job that I worked at night and I have always been able to keep a roof over my head since I was 19 years old and moved out of my Mom’s house. My clubbing was reserved for the weekends, but that life and the drugs steadily made their way into my “regular” life and when I turned around, I was doing a bump of crystal before work to get a little high, and on and on until I knew that I hated the life I had created and I moved to San Francisco.

I had help though, and people who cared about me to help me along the way. Unlike these homeless young people who were so lost.  And then a story of sexual abuse by someone’s own mother along with witnessing a young woman tweeking out quite hard on Crystal along with other things all started to bring the past back up for me in ways that I wasn’t prepared for. I though that I was stronger, that I was prepared for the darkness and that I could face it head on with very few ill effects. I was wrong. I learned that truly knowing yourself is knowing what you aren’t or are no longer capable of as well as what you are capable of. I’ve been away from that darkness for too long and I started to see my son, Gabe in all these young faces with eyes too old. My heart was too fragile and my resolve was then broken.

I regret that I had to quit volunteering at Street Youth Ministries or SYM and I don’t deny that darkness exists I only know that I can’t live near it any more. I will volunteer again but I will find a better fit next time.  My hope is that those young people can have a life one day full of promise and great joy.  They deserve it.  We all do.

Personal Trainer Time

January 21, 2013

I’ve written about it before, several times and I’m going to write about it again. I’ve hired a personal trainer at my gym for 4 weeks, 3 times a week. I’ll do cardio on my own and concentrate on circuit training with my trainer.

I asked for this as my 42nd birthday present from my husband. I need some extra help getting jump started and to be held accountable. My weight problem must be dealt with and 2013 is my year.

I’m super excited and feel less anxious about beginning yet again to lose this weight. I’m happy!

Gym Culture

November 12, 2012

Ok, so I belong to this really BIG, BEHEMOTH of a gym called The Pro Club in Bellevue, WA.  It has everything.  3 cardio rooms, a private woman’s gym in case you don’t want to be seen by men, 2 full gymnasiums, 4 tennis courts, 2 restaurants, a pro shop, a florist, a salon for hair and nails, a spa for facials and massages, a medical spa for more intensive procedures like laser hair removal, chemical peels etc. It’s got a lap pool, a family pool, a physical therapy pool with a treadmill in it (I used it when I broke my foot) a lesson pool and a training pool.  

This place has 2 different locker rooms for men and women.  One is for families and the other is only for people 16 and older.  The fancy one has a steam room, dry sauna, and 2 whirlpools with 3 different shower rooms.  They have hairdryers and nice soap for your convenience as well as deodorant, hairspray and mouthwash.  They give you as many towels as you want at the door.

Also, they have car detailing for you if you so desire.  Their free weight room is immense and when I first joined 6 years ago I frequently got lost.  They have an amazing daycare available that also serves as a pre-school.  They have rooms for classes too.  This place is crazy.  The top floors are for the weight loss specialists and Doctors who can help with sports injuries, a podiatrist, nutritionists and the like.  Then there are the personal trainers.  The fit elite there to guide you to your fitness goals.

They’ve got it all and I still hate it.  Gym culture is just not my thing.  I try to stay away during the lunch hour, because everybody is there trying to fit in their workout and will mow you down if you walk too slow.  The locker room is a madhouse of frenetic energy as women shower and apply makeup, ready to jump back into the fray of their work day.  No matter how hard I try to stay out of the way, invariably I fail.  SO, it’s a bit better during off-peak times for slower moving humans trying to catch their breath before hitting the  showers.

Thankfully, the place is so huge, you never wait for a machine and there is a spray bottle of cleanser and a wipe towel at EVERY SINGLE MACHINE that they have.  Every last one.  Frequently, during my workout, as I’m trying not to breath too hard as not to alram others around me of my impending heart attack, a man or woman with a basket of small fresh towels will smile at me while they take away the old wipe-down towel and replace it with a fresh one.  Very nice, thank you very much.  My music is blaring in my ears to drown out the rapid and loud pounding of my heart and the terrible music they have piped in and the conversation between the 2, 20-something gals behind me, prattling away, hardly breaking a sweat on the stair climbers. I’m drenched, of course, and my face glows bright red, further alarming others around me as they grow more and more concerned about the lady in black on the elliptical.  By the time I get off the thing I’m a mess and I have to walk slowly around the room drinking more water to cool down.  My earphones are soaked and my small towel is completely damp.  I finally gather myself enough to grab a mat from the pile and begin stretching on the floor.  Then I resist the temptation to just lay there and begin my crunches.  

Again, I am spent and it takes all my might to get up off my mat and drag it back to the pile, spray it with citrusy cleanser and wipe it down with the allotted towel.  I barely make it up the stairs without falling and I make it back to the locker room very dazed and out of breath with my bright red sweaty face.  My pony tail is soaked and my hair is plastered to my glowing forehead.  Then, as I sit down on the bench in front of my locker, some lady wrapped in a towel rounds the corner and her locker is either right next to mine or right over it or under it.  Always happens.  We smile awkwardly at one another and I move down the bench averting my eyes so she won’t think I’m a perv staring at her getting dressed.  Finally, she moves and I can begin peeling my clothes off.  I don’t even give a shit at this point about what I look like naked.  I just want to be under some cool water.  I emerge clean, my face still glowing an alarming shade of red and I can barely get my clothes on before I start sweating again.  No hair dryer for me.  With my sweaty clothes tucked away, I sweep my wet hair into a pony tail and I exit the locker room as deftly as I can.  I take the stairs down, holding onto the handrail and I make the precarious walk from the stairs to the exit.  People are almost bowling me over to get to their workout or wherever, maybe some squash?  I finally step outside after returning the staffs’ cheery hellos and I walk slowly to my car, still dodging the influx of people coming into the Pro Club.  I breathe deep and have a coughing fit.  I make it to my car and melt into the driver’s seat only to get honked at by someone who wants my parking space.  So I start my car and back out, weaving through the parking garage and then I’m on the road, with the windows down no matter that it’s raining, and my head feels like it’s expanding and contracting in time with my pulse.  I get home and lie down on my bed until I feel somewhat normal again.

That’s the gym experience for me.  For now.  

I Don’t Like Vlogging

November 5, 2012

I’ve decided to stop the vlogging and just write down what I’ve been doing and going through as I go to the gym, eat healthier and handle every day life.  I think the videos are bringing me down.

I’m a writer at heart and this is just more natural to me.  Last week, I went to the gym 3 times and did cardio for 20 minutes on an elliptical machine.  I find the elliptical allows me to go faster because there’s no impact on my knees and ankles.  I can get my heart rate up and break a sweat but I haven’t yet built up an endurance.  I also did crunches.  I showered and left.  That was my first week.  I tried to stop smoking, and I’ve cut back considerably, but I have not stopped altogether yet.

Today, I went to the gym after doing some cleaning.  I did 30 minutes on the elliptical machine and more crunches.  My Aunt and Uncle are coming for a visit on Wednesday.  They are on a cross-country trip seeing things they’ve always wanted to see.  I will be able to fit in my 3 days at the gym and still be available to take them to Seattle to see the Chihuly glass exhibit and the Space Needle as well as Pike Place Market.  I look forward to their visit, as it also lights a fire under my ass to clean.  I hate to clean, I do it because I can’t stand a dirty house, but I hate it.

I decided 3 days a week at the gym, gradually working up to 50 minutes on the elliptical and crunches are enough for this month.  I must be diligent in quitting smoking, the less I smoke, the better I do at my cardio. I can already breathe more deeply.  Baby steps.  I think I can be completely cigarette-free by Thanksgiving.

Happy voting everyone!  Please vote, you do make a difference!

Day 2 of Doing It Anyway

October 30, 2012

Project Me Revisited Through Video

October 29, 2012