Destination San Fran – The Anti-Climax

There was exactly one flight out before the storm – the next morning, Monday, at 6:30 a.m. – with enough seats for us. The rest of the flights – particularly Wednesday – were already booked.

So, our trip cut short – the shortest trip I’ve ever taken to California – we missed our tour of Alcatraz (already purchased tickets and paid for) and never rode the trolley, never got close to the Golden Gate Bridge. I really, really wanted to walk the GG, since the steel for the bridge came from my hometown in PA. Those 3 activities topped my list for our trip, and I missed all three of them to fly home again at the crack of dawn to beat an effin snowstorm that should’ve happened two months ago. PSA #1 : Never, ever, plan the best stuff for last.

The cab we ordered to pick us up at the hotel arrived quite timely – and we later learned he hijacked us from the cab that was ordered. Todd and I decided to grab some breakfast at the terminal – this place was the bomb with made-to-order omelets – though I was in no position to eat anything but a bagel and a coffee. PSA #2 : Never, ever, eat Mexican the night before a 6-hour flight.

Todd ordered a hot chocolate with NO whipped cream. When he picked it up at the end of the line, it had whipped cream on it. See what I’m talking about? And what’s worse – he ordered a cinnamon roll and the girl bagged him a cinnamon muffin, which everyone knows are two entirely different things. So, while it happened to him again, I have to add that I ordered a blueberry muffin for later, and I didn’t open it up until we were airborne somewhere over Colorado and it was definitely not a blueberry muffin. I still don’t know what it was, but I ate it anyway.

We couldn’t get a direct flight so we had to fly into LA and catch another plane, and when we arrived we learned there was another flight leaving for Baltimore RIGHT NOW with 3 seats left if we wanted it. We took it. And of course it was a pain in the ass finding seats, and absolutely no overhead storage left so we had to check our carry-ons. I sat between a sweet elderly lady from Connecticut, and the young guy on my right kindly helped me pick up my pile of shit I spilled on the floor, and kept himself busy with games on his iPad. All appearances were it was going to be a nice easy flight.

And then Todd came up and invited me to switch with the woman seated next to him who’d offered. So I found myself sandwiched between my husband and this guy on the window seat who wasn’t much bigger than me but you’d think he was an NFL linebacker by the way he commandeered both armrests and sat with his knees further apart than a hooker in Alphabet City. He encroached on my personal space for nearly 5 hours and I haven’t wanted to punch somebody that bad since – two days ago.

We arrived in Baltimore in the afternoon, and had to wait for our carry-ons to come to the baggage carousel, which is like waiting for the dog to poo on a winter walk. And then we were directed to the wrong carousel, watching the same poor bags circling (which is positively maddening), until Todd looked over his shoulder and just happened to spot my carry-on on the carousel behind us. PSA #3 : Always use carry-on, and if you can’t – buy a really colorful bag that stands out.

The drive home wasn’t horrendous, but since Ex was sick with the flu, I had to drive all the way to his house to pick up Veruca, praying to beat the snow. Which, for those unfamiliar, is roughly two hours from BWI. So, after 13 and a half hours of traveling, I finally had V in the car and we drove home in the first flurries of winter storm Stella.



Detox City

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Definitely #notPMS.

I’m not sure how to begin, so I’m just going to jump right in. Today’s Public Service Announcement: Never, never, never, evvvver, stop a medication cold turkey. ***

I did. And I’m paying for it, in spades.

Why quit? Why was I taking it in the first place? What drug is it?

I quit because a) I don’t like taking “drugs,” b) it no longer felt effective, c) it was causing me dangerous drowsiness, and d) I forgot to take the tablet two nights in a row.

I started this particular drug after finding another drug useless and I felt like I personally didn’t fit the labeling. My NP at the time suggested Paxil, which I started on the tails of the other drug (which, by the way, was a much milder medication, it turns out). I took the meds to “take the edge off” of something I can’t quite explain. I think it boils down to “unspecified anxiety,” which – along with my thighs – is also a hand-me-down from my grandmother.

The NP never discussed my reasons for taking such a drug, never asked if I sought alternatives (like counseling), never mentioned side effects, or withdrawal effects. To be fair, I never asked any questions. However, I do think it’s a practitioner’s duty to not just prescribe a drug like they’re giving out candy. I had no idea what kind of dependence is created by a drug on the body.

I have noticed, for a long time, that Paxil was making me extremely drowsy at certain times of the day. It was a low-dose, extended-release tablet. I was taking it with my morning coffee, because no one – not the NP, nor the pharmacist who slapped the label on it – mentioned that it’s best to take before bed.  I figured that one out on my own. Still, I drive the kids twice a week an hour away to their dad’s, and I was having difficulty keeping my eyes open during these trips. I mean, falling asleep at the wheel difficulty. And, I really couldn’t see how Paxil was improving the quality of my life – or relieving perceived anxieties (especially since I noticed I was still feeling anxiety). I planned to talk to my new NP about it.

Meanwhile, I forgot to take it one night. And then again the following night, after a long work shift. By Saturday morning, I decided, why bother? I don’t want to be on it anyway. And, sometime last weekend, I wrote about a reminiscence with Todd that left me teary. I figured it was PMS residuals. Wrong.

A day or so later, I woke up with muscle aches and all over soreness that defied logic. It felt like the flu. Then the dizziness started. REALLY dizzy. It’s now a week since my last dose and, after four days of debilitating vertigo and dizzy spells, I can now stand up and not feel the room spinning. At least not all the time. Still, it’s dangerous to make sudden movements of my eyes and head. It’s totally bizarre. I liken it to taking that small dose of Valium before a minor procedure – relaxation aside – your head just feels kinda fuzzy like drunk-fuzzy, but without the drunkenness, kinda floating-on-a-cloud fuzzy, and gait is unsteady.

I haven’t been able to drive all week, except short distances. And yesterday, against my better judgement, I drove down to the city for a 3-hour lunch/business meeting. They each had a glass of wine, which looked lovely, but I bowed out. Even alcohol tastes bad. Really bad. And I didn’t need the added challenge to my stability anyway.

I tried to run two days ago and my legs from ankle to knee felt like there were electric currents running through them, shocking my muscles as I ran a solid mile without stopping. That’s the one part that makes no sense at all. I could run without fatigue, which made me very excited, but the electricity in my legs and the swimming brains inside my head alarmed me enough to stop after a mile.

And the nausea. I am nauseous on and off all day long, I have aversions to just about everything and rarely hungry. I eat what sounds good, and I feel better for a bit before I feel sick on what I ate. I can liken this to morning sickness. I remember it well, and this is exactly like that. (Side note: yes, many of the side effects closely mirror early pregnancy and NO – I am NOT pregnant.)

I Googled “withdrawal from Paxil” and found a dedicated website founded by a fellow sufferer who is not a professional. Withdrawal symptoms can be brutal, as testified by numerous other people on the site, and I have many of those listed including the not-so-common ones. I finally have the words to describe the sound in my ears – it’s a scratching noise that has become maddeningly constant over the last few days. It sounds like that sound a percussionist makes with a brush on the drum.

And the crying. Oh. Em. GEE. The crying is the worst. The kind that makes your kids look at you like deer in the headlights, your husband constantly asking what’s wrong (as IF he can’t remember you’re withdrawing), and everyone else kind of tip-toeing around you like you’re a survivor of some terrible disaster no one wants to talk about. Except for Bree – who hugged me tightly at work on Friday in a show of solidarity.

I looked at Opac the other day and – being mom – he just took my breath away. And then I started to cry. I have no idea why. And this, my friends, is what really pisses me off. The ridiculous overflow of emotions, like my cup is full and runneth over, and everyone in my path is gonna get wet.

It’s now been 11 days. Most of the side effects have faded away. The nausea lingers at the peripheral, but the biggest relief is that today the dizziness is gone. It was certainly nothing I ever expected. I was warned before about weaning off medications (under medical supervision too), but – like most people – I thought I could do it my way. I was in the eye of the storm when I read the side effects of withdrawal. Probably wouldn’t have deterred me anyway. However, I will never, ever do it again.

**Based solely on personal experience, and not intended to be professional advice. I am not a doctor or a health practitioner. Please consult your physician before considering altering or stopping any medications.**

It Comes In Many Forms

Last Sunday night I was driving north to pick up the kids from their dad’s and listening to Sirius. There was a commercial for another station having a “Town Hall” with Kerry Washington (Olivia Pope, Scandal) so, being a sort-of fan, I tuned in. Among other things, she mentioned her involvement in the Allstate Foundation’s Purple Purse. I’d never heard of it, and I soon learned that each year a purple purse is designed and sold to raise money for the purpose of not only raising awareness but also to help financially empower victims of domestic violence.
I live under a rock most of the time, and so I didn’t realize that this month was an awareness month for domestic violence. I stumbled on this by way of a blog I follow by Ned Hickson, his post titled: Even If Abuse Doesn’t Leave a Bruise It Still Leaves a Mark. Nevertheless, I was working on my own blog post about the issue addressed by Kerry Washington… of financial abuse.  Haven’t heard of it? I never, ever thought of it. It was like being suddenly rear-ended, and it had a very real emotional impact on me.
There are many forms of abuse, not just the violent beatings that the general public associates with domestic violence. The United States Department of Justice defines abuse in many forms – not just physical but also sexual, emotional, economical, and psychological. The Purple Purse addresses the economical abuse, whereby financial dependence is created by control over access to money and restricting one’s ability to work. This is huge. Victims under these circumstances are crippled by this and it does, in turn, keep them right where they are. Imagine the fear and anxiety JUST in the “how am I going to support myself and my kids?” “How are we going to eat? Where are we going to live?”
I experienced a very controlling man who didn’t want me working outside the home, never let me go anywhere without the kids, and would question my request for $20. He didn’t like other men around me, and so alienated me from all of them. He made it very difficult for family to come over to visit – they always had to call first. He was verbally abusive – the list of names he called me (and in front of the children) was endless. I was always anxious about getting home when I knew he was there waiting.
And then the day came when he punched me in the mouth. I suppose it wasn’t too hard, since I know he could’ve knocked my teeth out and I “only” had a fat lip – but I was holding our 3-year-old daughter at the time and that was the beginning of the end for me. There were many times he’d say, “I wanna punch you in the mouth,” though the number of times he actually hit me I can count on one hand.  Hitting wasn’t really his thing. He preferred to pinch me, or pinch my nose, dump a whole pot of freshly made soup onto the floor or smash a pie I’d made, throw things at me, dump out the contents of my dresser drawers, shred my journals, and call me a stupid bitch. The point is, I knew well enough that this was not going to get better, had the potential to get worse, and I needed to find a way to get out.
I don’t consider myself a victim of “anything.” I, myself – having always believed that domestic abuse was what The Burning Bedtaught me – never considered that I might be a victim of anything like “that.” I just thought my ex was an asshole, and deep in my heart I knew I deserved better. By the time I decided enough was enough, I started planning how to pay my credit cards off and start socking money away. I, however, have something that maybe some victims don’t have (or don’t realize they have) – I have the best, most supporting parents I could ever hope for. YET – I never once told them anything, never asked for anything – until I’d reached that point of no return. And guess what? They bent over backwards to give me a safe place to stay, and even a little bit of financial support when I couldn’t make ends meet on my own. I am eternally grateful for them, and I thank God every day.
And that points to another piece of the awareness puzzle. Even with the right support waiting in the wings, many victims still have a difficult time walking out, or even reaching out for help. And I’m not referring to those victims who feel like they’re in mortal danger if they do.
I feel I’d be remiss not to mention that I also had something else that most victims don’t have, I had someone – who loved me beyond measure, beyond the confines of time, who provided me with the necessary tools for independence during the months I waited on the divorce decree (and stupidly agreed to live under the same roof as soon-to-be-ex), the very same items my ex sought to control even as his control was slipping away – a cell phone, a car, an old laptop for taking my online course. I’m sure the so-called experts would have more than a fair share of criticism over this relationship I rekindled in the midst of a war, but I am UNAPOLOGETIC.  I know how lucky I am, and that I am luckier than most. And, the love of my life and I are still standing strong today – our 5th year back together and we could not be happier. I don’t think this paragraph supports the awareness campaign; in fact, it may do quite the opposite. However, I am honest. And if I’m going to be honest, I have to clearly state that I am an extreme exception. Certainly not the rule. And certainly NOT in favor of finding someone to rescue you (which is not what I did, btw).
Domestic Violence Awareness is so important because even the victims don’t always know what defines abuse, and all of us need to understand how prevalent these forms of abuse are – especially those that don’t leave visible bruises. According to the Allstate Foundation, one in FOUR women has experienced some form of domestic violence. It does not discriminate, and can be found across all social classes, all races, all genders. The #1 thing that determines whether a victim will leave or stay, or go back to, an abusive relationship? Money. Financial independence.
You may already know someone who is affected by domestic abuse.
In other news…
October is also Rett Syndrome awareness month. This is a debilitating neurological disease and the leading cause of severe disability in girls, rendering them unable to speak, use their hands, or walk – though they do mentally function at a high level. It can affect mood and sensory sensations, and can also cause problems with breathing, chewing and swallowing, and digestion, as well as cardiac issues. Girls are born normal but begin to regress in acquired skills between the ages of 1 and 3. They are often initially misdiagnosed as autistic, or as having cerebral palsy, or some other developmental disability. Research is ongoing and showing promise, but there is currently no cure. To learn more, please visit Girl Power 2 Cure.
And, of course, today is Friday – or, as we call it in the T1 community – Blue FridayWe wear blue to raise awareness and share information about Type 1 and the desperate need for a Cure. I had planned to use this day on my blog to promote Blue Friday and educate… but obviously, today’s post seemed infinitely more important.  Maybe tomorrow will be Blue Saturday. Just this once.
Thank you so much for reading today. I appreciate you all. And if you have the time, please check out the link to Purple Purse. The purse is out of my financial budget right now, but they do sell inexpensive charms to hang from your purse to support awareness. There is also an interactive part of the site that allows you to experience the questions, the dilemmas, and roadblocks faced by victims. It’s very sobering.