Archive for the Chronicles of chrazy (sic) Category

The Damnable Joys of Manic-Depression

Posted in Chronicles of chrazy (sic) on August 10, 2014 by tom

There are different words today, different terms in the nomenclature: bi-polar disorder; bi-polar one; bi-polar two; bi-polar with caramel drizzle, you name it.

For me, it’s just been three years of soul-rending manic depression–that’s how it feels to me, so fuck the nomenclature. There’s mania, and there’s depression, and neither are pleasant.

Mania can almost be fun. Life is fast and furious, like Mrs. Howell after she ate the radioactive sugar beets on that Gilligan’s Island episode: she was running around with the film sped up to about eight-times normal. It was comedy.

The manic phase of the disorder is like driving downhill on a winding road. It’s fun for awhile, but soon, you wish for a straightaway, or for the road to level out, so you’re just not so unstoppably jittery. It’s like running and running and running, and you want to stop, but you have to keep running and running.

There’s a poem–I think it’s e.e. cummings–and that’s basically it: “running, running, fast, oh, fast.”

You can’t stop. You can’t sleep. You can’t shut off your mind. Your thoughts come so fast and furious, you can’t possibly consider them all, profundities and inanities contrapuntal. I’ve been up for three straight manic days before, driving when I was too amped to be driving, but there was nothing else to do. So I’d drive from St Pete to Sarasota or vice versa just for lunch. It’s a miracle I wasn’t killed, although the idea of dying wasn’t necessarily averse then, just so I could stop. Fucking. Running.

So you’re running or driving, and everything has a glow, a shimmer about it–but it’s too much of a glow or shimmer, something akin to glare, like looking at the Sun two hours before sunset as opposed to two minutes before sunset. Nothing mellow about it. And your skin vibrates. Not literally–most of the time, although I got tingles and twitches–but you feel electric charges running up and down your body.

Then you run–or drive into–the wall.

The wall is depression. You hit that, and your remains slide inexorably down into a pit, into The Abyss, as I’ve often called it. Your lowest point gets on a downward elevator, and you can’t stop. You don’t know how far down you’ve gone, or how far down you’re going to go. Only that it’s a dark place, and it’s claustrophobic as shit, and you just want to curl up in a ball and die. You want the darkness to go away, some how, some way–any way.

This is the part where you curl up in a ball, where you stay in bed for days at a time, if you can. I could. I’d order in food and take care of the cat, but the rest of the time, I was just trying to think of something positive in my life, some reason not to just give up. Suicide was never an option–I’m far too much of a coward to try that–but I’ve tried to eat and drink myself to death. I’m now losing a lot of weight, and I’ve been sober nine years and change, so those failed. This is the part of the disease where I thank God for the Internet, so I can spend my gray hours gazing unfocusedly at stale JFK Conspiracy or Hitler docs, or watch some movie I like okay but have seen a dozen times (Double Indemnity, e.g.).

The Internet is a double-edged sword, though. In addition to my black-and-white world, I might end up on Facebook, and see my friends or family and their perfect, brightly colored lives. “Had a great time cooking out by the pool with the kids! Can’t believe how BIG they’ve gotten!!!!!”

Their lives are exclamation point lives, full of promise and awesomeness. Where would my life be in the world of punctuation? Ellipses? “Tom was in radio, had his station changed so he was unemployed, then he tried another job, and now he’s depressed and doing nothing…” Maybe a dash would be more optimistic: “Tom had some bad stuff happen–and his head blew up for awhile–” That implies a resolution, a “but NOW Tom is doing ____”.

For nearly three years, I’ve been seeing one of the foremost psychologists in the field of depressive illnesses. We’ve been through more bottles of more pills that Big Pharma should buy us both Porsches.

We’re to a point now where the mania still happens, but it’s not as bad, nor does the Abyss seem as deep.

Don’t get me wrong–they both still suck ass–but there’s improvement. Also, when I’m between the two, I might have a normal day or two. I don’t even know what to do with a normal day.

Finally, I can sense when I’m slipping from one to the other, and I feel like I have the tools to protect myself. If depression is coming on, I’m not going to agree to go to somebody’s house where there are small children, for example. If mania is coming on, that might not be so bad.

Naturally, since my brain was starting to heal, something bad happened in my left upper leg. Nobody has been able to tell me what it is. I’ve had prescriptions, enough x-rays to  fuel a quasar, and just finished my fifth of six weeks of physical therapy. I now have an appointment with a new Orthopedist, whom my mother says is awesome. She’s a nurse she knows things. I got a scrip for Tramadol from my GP in St Pete on our “farewell, and let’s check your bloodwork” visit. I told him the problem. He wrote me for Tramadol twice a day with a refill. Okay. I don’t really take pain pills unless I’m in pain, so that was fine. Until one night when GOOD GOD ALMIGHTY, it felt like somebody had cut into my left thigh with a chainsaw, and did it again and again. I grabbed my Tramadol bottle–trying not to scream the whole time–and thought, “the dose is one, Tom, so–SWEET JESUS, CHEW UP FOUR OF THEM!”

I found that in certain positions, there was incredible pain, while in other positions,  there was nothing. Not a twinge or anything. This has continued for the past seven weeks, and it has gotten better, I admit. (aside: My St Pete GP is very laid back. His labeling instructions were “Take one tablet every eight hours as needed.” New GP? “Take one to two tablets BY MOUTH two to three times a day for serious pain.” (caps mine)).

How else would I take these pill? I’m not going to snort Tramadol. Jeesh.

While I was doing my PT on Friday, I saw these charts on the wall. There, on the right-hand chart, I saw my problem. Nobody had touched me or really asked me many question, but the patient seems to have discovered a problem with his left I-T band. I don’t know what that means, except that it radiates from where mine radiates, then up and down where mine goes up and down.  Poor Blue Cross/Blue Shield is paying  a shitload for something I saw on a chart.

Anyway, earlier this week I was so manic, I wrote 5000 or 6000 words in “Back to Casablanca.” I doubt anyone read them, or even if they make any sense. It was fun to do. Today, I couldn’t even come up with a rude t-shirt for Annie. It’ll come back. I just hope it’s soon: I was having a ball writing those Casablanca mash-ups and creating new people. (Seriously, how often do you get to smoosh together MacBeth, Casablanca, Harry Potter, Annie the Soapmaker (who is indeed real: find her awesome, tom used and endorsed wares here)

Plus some other friends, made-up people, and Brother Ray and ‘Trane, all jammin’ in Casablanca?

I was hurting earlier, so I took a few Tramadol as ordered by my control-freak new doc, and I’m turning into Jell-O.

The two harshest things my psychiatrist told me were A) that I will have issues–cognitive dissonance, et al–which will often require psychotherapy, and B) I will have Manic-Depression all my life. It’s just a matter of finding the right meds and the right behavior tools to control it. I think I’m on my way. I’m getting better sloooooooowly, incrementally.

I’m nowhere near done in my “comeback.”

But now I can sleep. Every damn night

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From the Beginning…

Posted in Chronicles of chrazy (sic) on October 14, 2013 by tom

I have really let this blog go over the past six months or more. I’ve been reading like a mutha, and I’ve posted 147 book and film reviews over on the other blog  but here on the general mind romp blog, nada. I’m sorry about that. It’s sort of funny, because even though it’s been roughly five months since I’ve written here, I’m still getting hits. Teh permanent Interwebs are amazing, I guess. We never die, because our posts keep on getting hits.

There’s a great topic: we never die, because people still think about us.

Maybe I’ll write that someday.

I am going to attempt to write more starting in the near future. My book reading goal for 2013 is 150 books. I’m currently reading #147. I think I’ll be cutting back on the reading, and work more on writing. Kelly and I have an idea for a YA novel-from-hell, and I think I’m ready to start at least trying to write that. Yes, my brain is still majorly fucked-up after 16 months, and I never know what my chemicals will do. I can go from somewhat happy to massive rage spikes in the turn of a second. I’m imbalanced, and it off-pisses me greatly. I mean, how many drug regimens can one person go through without stasis? Answer: I’ll tell you if we ever find it.

Anyway, what I wanted to do was share my very first blog post ever. It was on the blog I didn’t know I still had, over at Blogspot . I may copy all my posts into that. I just don’t know. Social media is weird, and I’ve been dicking around with it the past week. We’ll see what happens when and if it happens.

Herewith, my very first blog post, from almost six years ago. It starts out rough, but smooths out a little by the end. I will never equal Lent in Casablanca’s Annie the Soapmaker’s Ingrid Bergman beatdown–that’s my favorite of all the ones I wrote, and (perhaps inappropriately) it makes me laugh aloud, probably because I know Annie, and she’d so totally talk to Ingrid Bergman that way, as well as drinking and smoking with Rick (fuck, this is a long parenthetical)–but I was trying to learn how to write sober again.

Without further apologetic disclaimers, and hoping I’d use this blog more-frequently anon…:

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Nice turns of phrase

 

My friend Ali said she wasn’t sure whether she was premenstrual or had cancer. I doubt she really wanted either, but I’m sure PMS would be her selection.

Uncle Pete had a hangover one time, and said he felt like a sack of smashed assholes. Of all the hangover descriptions I’ve heard, that one seems most fitting. I remember college, those days before I got used to being hungover. That was it: the morning after, I felt like somebody had broken into wherever it was that I passed out, filled my skull with heavy sharp industrial parts, eviscerated me, replaced my organs with a bunch of assholes, then smashed them with a ballbat. Amazing how I never awoke during this period. Amazing, too, how I didn’t get hangovers when I didn’t drink.

F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote, “In the real dark night of the soul, it’s always three o’clock in the morning.”

On many mornings after dark nights of the soul, I’ve felt like a sack of smashed assholes, although I’m unsure whether Uncle Pete ever read Fitzgerald.

T.S. Elliot: “I have heard the mermaids singing each to each; I do not think that they will sing for me.”

I have heard my neighbors screaming each to each; I really hope that they don’t scream at me.

Ever since Chynna died across the hall, I pay a bit more attention to screams. She was depressed and she told her boyfriend on the phone that she was sick of living. She hung up, turned her ringer off, removed the hidden key over her door, then od’d on heroin. Her boyfriend came over and pounded on the door, screaming her name. I didn’t hear him. I was having my own true dark night of the soul. I, too, was sick of life. I drank a bunch of whiskey, smoked myself hoarse, and blasted something loud and guitar-intensive through my headphones. Dark night of the soul or not, it was 3 o’clock in the morning. If I hadn’t had my headphones on, maybe I’d have heard the boyfriend screaming. Maybe I would’ve done something heroic and life-saving, like crash through her door and resuscitate her.

Probably, I’d have done nothing. Probably, I’d have put my headphones on and played something guitar-intensive really loud to drown out the screaming.

For awhile, I was afraid she’d haunt me. I wasn’t really worried that she’d go all poltergeist on me–I’d always gotten along with her quite nicely. Nonetheless, she did die really young across the hall from me, so maybe her soul would get trapped here in Building 33, destined only to walk up and down the concrete steps, watch the rather boring antics we the still-living perpetrated, and swat the ghosts of the mosquitoes and cone-nosed assassin bugs that also died.

That was like five years ago. Chynna was a 20 year-old club kid who worked at some chain fern-bar type restaurant. I’m supposedly well educated, well-read, intelligent, ad nauseam, but she knows the answers to the biggest questions there are: immortality, God, who wrote the book of love, etc.

Chris the Shrink calls suicide, “A permanent solution to a temporary problem.” He’s pretty sharp, in that shrink sort of way.

Whatever Chynna’s problems were in this world, they ended there, on the beige carpet of her living room. Along with those problems (PMS or cancer, eg) went all the opportunities for happiness. All the orgasms and cheesecake and giggles and hugs and sunsets and Thanksgiving Night leftover turkey sandwiches and meteor showers and hand-holding and hearing your favorite song on the radio while driving.

Maybe in the next world, the clock hands finally moved off of 3 o’clock in the morning. Maybe the mermaids sang for Chynna. Maybe, too, they’ll one day sing for me.

–30–

2012: A Remembrance

Posted in Chronicles of chrazy (sic) on January 1, 2013 by tom

The year 2012 will always bring to mind absolute, 100% suckage, the biggest piece-of-shit year ever to sully 366 days, a year where my high points were days that sucked a percentage point or two less than my usual Rogers Hornsby-like sucking average. (note: Rogers Hornsby had the second-highest batting average in baseball history, including one year when he hit .424; he did not suck. I was drawing the analogy that my 2012 sucking average was the equivalent of his 1924 batting average: he hit more than anyone else, and my life sucked at near-Hornsbyesque levels

To 2012, I offer this sentiment:

This one's for you, 2012!

This one’s for you, 2012!

We started 2012 with approximately 15 Republican Primary Debates per day. They were ubiquitous and annoying, much like the Republican Primary Candidates themselves. President Obama gets a pass for the first quarter, since he was running unopposed, thus meaning he could wait to piss me off till it became clear he was running against Mitt. And POTUS did end up pissing me off with an overabundance of ads. The only bi-partisan cooperation seemed to be in pissing me off with campaign ads.

On a happy, personal note, my peripheral neuropathy–affectionately called “stabbyfeet”–was going strong as we limped into 2012. This led to “stabbyfeet medcoma,” which led to me exhausting my year’s PTO before March. Fine. Nothing like really bad phantom nerve pain to ensuckify your life.

On April 4th, 2012, my dear friend and coworker, Lisa Olson, was killed instantly when a garbage truck ran a red light and t-boned her Lincoln. Everyone in our department was just destroyed. I don’t go to funerals or wakes or memorial services. They make me uncomfortable, because I don’t like to mourn for my loved ones. I want to celebrate their lives. So I wrote a tribute to Lisa.

Again, this is my “grieving process.” I write something nice to remember my friend, then I make sure it ends up getting to his or her loved ones, if appropriate. I never know if they’re going to be deemed appropriate, so I give it to somebody close to the family, and leave it to their judgment. For Lisa’s tribute, I e-mailed the link to Lisa’s supervisor. As it happens, my friends Basher and Nicole both had links to my blog, and they checked to see if I’d written anything. From there, it got printed out and passed around. Somebody put together a giant poster-sized collage of Lisa photos, and they stuck a copy of my essay–in a fancy font on nice paper, no less–right smack in the middle. So everyone in our ginormous office who came to see the collage also read what I’d written. This is fine. Many of them complimented me on my work. Again, this is fine–a simple “Thank you” was all I had to say in reply. What ended up happening, though, was people who read this thing started coming over to my desk, and lamenting how sad they were; they were actually looking to me for some sort of comforting, as if writing 800 reasonably eloquent words gave me some sort of insight into their grief. Admittedly, I’m usually good at being Father Doctor Rabbi Tom when somebody needs to vent or needs advice, or whatever, but when my own guts had been kicked out, I didn’t have anything in my tank to give them.

Then a couple weeks later, my brain did this:

Actual photograph of my mind one day in April.

Actual photograph of my mind one day in April.

Something happened, and I was mentally depleted. This was beyond any Abyss visit I’d ever had. I’d been taking Prozac everyday, and when this thing happened, the Darkness laughed at my Prozac, which evaporated into wisps of nothingness. I started having crippling panic attacks, even in my own bed. I knew there was no way I could take care of myself, so Wind and I moved in with my parents for a few months. Thank God for my parents, too: they were there if I needed them, and they left me alone if I needed that. Also, they helped me pay bills when my disability checks were slow in coming, which was about 200% of the time. Thanks Mom & Dad.

I took a Medical Leave of Absence from work–it ended up being nearly five months. Early on, I found an excellent therapist, who referred me to a godsend of a psychiatrist. In the 8.5 months since this happened, I bet I’ve been on 30 different permutations of meds, just trying to get back to “functional.” “Normal” may have waved b-bye forever. Some of the meds worked well from the start. Others had side-effects like I could never imagine (one gave me massive rage spikes, where, for example,  I’d get mega-pissed at the refrigerator, and violently shove the poor appliance till it rocked back and nearly crashed through the wall behind it; another gave me diabetes insipidus, which made me have to, um, micturate every 12-25 minutes (“micturate”=”pee” (and yes, I kept track, just in case the doc needed numbers))).

I’ve written enough about this battle, and thank you for being supportive.

The good parts were rediscovering Sarasota’s beaches, sending care packages of tacky touristy stuff & sea creature parts to various people, and finding therapeutic value in writing letters by hand (Christina ❤ and I were exchanging a couple a week for months).

I don’t have a lot of friends in real life. For some reason, I choose not to. I can charm the shit out of people, and make them laugh–skills honed by my radio years–but most of the time, I’d just rather be by myself. If I feel like going out, I can call somebody, and go out. (They’re called “prostitutes” (I’m kidding (I mean, they ARE called prostitutes, but I don’t use them for any purposes (i.e., neither escorting nor mounting))))

Nested parentheticals aside, my point is that I found amazing support from you, my online friends. I could not have survived this without you.

I returned to work in September (I think). I’ve had some great weeks, where I’ve worked every second I was scheduled to, and I had a recent three week spell where I had agoraphobia so bad, I couldn’t leave my house. It took every nanojoule of energy I had to walk downstairs, get in the USS Nimitz, and drive the 50 miles to see Dr Borgia. I definitely popped a couple Xanax en route both ways.

The Darkness sucked, no doubt. What was more insidious was that I couldn’t blog my illness. I just couldn’t do it. For months, I would watch a pretty damned eclectic bunch of films, and I’d write reviews of them. On some level, this is just instinct for me, with my English major and Film Theory and Criticism minor. But film reviews were the only “serious” things I could write. It’s curious that I had little trouble writing letters by hand. I guess that was so simple and basic, that it was soothing. Like prune juice or magnesium citrate (I’m joking about the latter: the space shuttle’s solid rocket boosters didn’t equal the thrust with which mag-citrate will make you evacuate your bowels–some people actually fly up and hit their ceilings).

Nor could I read books. Over four months, I think I read 13 books, if that. I’d set my Goodreads 2012 Reading Challenge goal at 100 books. I was ahead of my pace until this meltdown occurred. Then, by October, when I was finally able to read again, I was waythehell behind. It sounds stupid, but this was something horribly important to me. The Darkness had taken away so much of my 2012–it had so thoroughly beat the shit out of me–that I wanted this one little victory. “Franny and Zooey” was my 100th–I finished it on December 17th, with two whole weeks to spare. I felt a sense of accomplishment.

Since “Franny and Zooey,” I’ve read 15 more, so I finished the year at 115% of my goal. SUCK IT, DARKNESS!!!

I say that was my lone accomplishment, but it wasn’t. At no point during The Darkness did I get drunk (I’d be dead now if I had). At no point did I seriously contemplate suicide. At no point did I OD on my meds, or fail to keep a doctor’s appointment–with four doctors & therapists over a four-county area, that’s not bad.

Most of all, the greatest victory I had is one of the simplest. Five years ago tonight, I was in St. Anthony’s Hospital, fighting Fournier’s Gangrene. I was hooked up to IV’s all day, had horribly painful dressing changes, blah-blah-blah.

But what’s easy for me to lose when The Darkness is just bashing my soul in, is one simple thing I used to say back then: ten fingers, ten toes, one belly button, and a steady pulse.

No matter how dark things got, those simple basics were almost always true (Panic attacks, natch, cause a little poundy-heartedness).

I had to concede 2012 to The Darkness. It fucked me up good, and I can accept that. But I’ve battled back these past 8.75 months. My goal for 2013 is not to let The Darkness take away one damn thing: not work, not reading or writing, not health, nothing. I can handle being depressed–I’ve battled depression nonstop for 20 years–but this year, I’m not going to let The Darkness screw around with anything else.

To paraphrase Indigo Girls, “I will not be a pawn for The frackin’ Darkness any longer.”

So 2012? You can just blow me. 2013? I’m going to swat you like Babe Ruth with a badly placed fastball.

Happy New Year, y’all. And thanks for getting me through.

Thanks, Y’all

Posted in Chronicles of chrazy (sic) on November 22, 2012 by tom

Me…sorta

This year has been…well, let’s just say I’ve had better years than 2012. When it started, I was still dealing with what I unaffectionately called “stabbyfeet,” more commonly known as “peripheral neuropathy.” Some days, I’d wake up and it would feel like I had somebody stabbing me in the feet with a Garden Weasel. No problem: just take a bunch of Neurontin, and it would go away. This relieved the pain, and knocked me so loopy, that I couldn’t possibly go to work. Some days I was fine–no stabbyfeet; no medcoma. Other times, I’d miss a day of work, or even a week of work. To make this worse, of course, is that I’ve always danced with depression. The year or two of being fogged-up from the meds left me frustrated, and that frustration didn’t exactly help my depression. I felt largely worthless. I don’t know if I worked every day of a pay period from January till March. Then came April.

Oh, dear God, April.

I’ve written enough about the struggles I’ve dealt with from my major depressive meltdown–the brain kablooey, as I call it–and I’m not going to blather on about it this morning. You know what happened, and all the crap I’ve been through trying to get back to some semblance of being me…

And THAT is what I choose to dwell on this morning: those who have helped me as I try to climb out of the black hole.

I wouldn’t wish my April meltdown on anyone. It sucked, and I was isolated. Literally. I moved in with my parents for awhile, because I couldn’t really trust myself to be alone. I wasn’t going to kill myself, but I could see myself also not getting out of bed for days at a time, never bathing, diving even deeper down.

So, I’m grateful for my parents, who were supportive and encouraging, but knew enough not to push me. They understood that they really COULDN’T understand what had happened to their elder son, only that it was some really, really dark hell, and that there was absolutely nothing they could do to make it go away. They helped me with medical bills, didn’t question why I’d sometimes go for drives and come home amped-up on Monster Rehab Energy Beverage and smelling of Newports and salt water. They mailed packages for me to people they’d never heard of, and put up with my sometimes alarming mood swings, as the docs and I tried yet another in a seemingly endless series of psych med permutations. They didn’t complain when I would hole-up in my cool dark room at the other end of the house. I couldn’t stand to be around myself, so I can only imagine how hard it was for them to tolerate me.

I’m grateful for my doctor. Dr Borgia is, quite simply, the most brilliant doctor I’ve ever met, and I’m glad he chose to devote his brilliance to Psychiatry. Every time he prescribed a medication, I researched the shit out of it online, and his choices were always spot-on. They didn’t always work for me–no psych med works the same for everybody–but it was clear he knew what he was doing. When I had real problems with side-effects, or something wasn’t working, I would call his number, regardless of office hours or day of the week. His answering service always contacted him, and he called me back pretty quickly. He never tried to rush me off the phone, and he was willing to change a course of meds, even at 9 o’clock on a Saturday night. One night, I was having a horrible time with rage-spikes on one particular med. He told me how to start weaning off of it, and called in a prescription for something new. He doesn’t take any insurance, and he ain’t cheap, but I don’t begrudge him one cent. He’s worth it. And finally, we seem to have hit on a phab pharmacological phour (sic). It’s a shitload of pills–some of which, if the cops ever checked my pockets, would trigger phone calls to pharmacies to make sure I had legal prescriptions–but it’s a small price to pay for feeling better. Thanks, doc.

My “shrink,” as I call him, is actually Rick, my therapist. He runs a faith-based counseling center in Sarasota. Although he is an ordained minister, he never preaches to me. He’s simply an awesome therapist. I’ve been to too many therapists who can’t play in my ballpark. I don’t mean to sound like an arrogant dickbag, but I’m not an easy patient for a therapist. I’m more intelligent and a better bullshitter than the average human, and when a therapist can’t keep up, I lose all respect, and I don’t take them seriously. If I don’t take you seriously, I will play you so slickly, that you won’t even know how badly I’m fucking with you. I’ll be out the door and halfway home before you realize I talked the whole session, and never answered your question. Sure, I’m the one who’s not getting any benefit, but for Jung’s sake, at least recognize when I’m snowing you; act like you know what you’re doing, and get my ass back on track.

Rick is an ace. I respect his intelligence. He doesn’t shy away from tough questions, and he’s like a border collie: when I start to stray from the topic, he gets me back on point. He’s also sharp enough to read my moods, and to adapt our session’s focus based on that. Some days, I’ve gone in there feeling good, almost like I’m cured. Other days, I’m a mumbling, dark cloud of a human. He’s stuck with me through a hell of a ride these past seven months, and I’m thankful for Rick. If he weren’t something special, I wouldn’t drive the 110 mile round trip every Thursday afternoon for our 3pm appointments.

I’m thankful for my Michelle, whom I met in that secret club I’m in. She was a sobbing, raw nerve the first time I met her, in a Sunday night meeting almost seven years ago. I made it my mission to make her laugh. I did. We became friends, far more than friends. I’m godfather to her son, and my parents love her. More Fridays than not during my dark months, she’d drive down from St Pete to Sarasota, and we’d go to breakfast. She’s been in her own Abyss, where no light can reach. No matter how bad my week was, we always ended up laughing like loons. I could laugh with her, because she knew what it was like to be where I was. I felt safe. We had fun, and I’m sure the Shell Girl misses our weekly visits.

I don’t have a lot of friends, in the traditional sense. I’m good around people when I have to be, but other humans can leave me weary and stressed. I like to fulfill my mission with them–working ten hours shifts alongside them, buying stuff from them, or visiting friends or family as required–then get back to my solitary cave as quickly as possible. I never really feel lonely. I have people I could do things with, friendships I could cultivate more thoroughly, but I feel like I still have too much heavy lifting to do, too much healing left, too many callouses to develop. I’m getting really good at making it to work most of the time, and I don’t freak out too much most days. (There are a number of Xanaxes secreted about my desk and in my pocket, lest one of those anxiety attacks sneak up on me) Work and other inevitable social situations pretty much exhaust all my “being around other people” energy. I’ve gotten better, and I hope that will continue, but I’m not going to push it unnecessarily.

Last but not least, I am thankful for you, my Interweb People. I got cards, letters, hand-crocheted zombie-vampires, books–you name it–from all over the continent (even Lego people from the U.K.!). Thanks to everyone who dropped something in the mail–especially Christina ❤ for crocheting and sending me Vlad, the zombie-vampire doll, with whom I had much fun. Also, so many of you were quick with e-mails or Vox comments–SHIT, I mean, “Word Press” comments–or DM’s, texts, Facebook messages–the list goes on. I may or may not have met you in person, but you are a very real part of my life, far moreso than most of my “flesh and blood” friends and relatives. You’ll never understand how much a sentence or two on a Facebook post or blog entry meant to me. You were my lifeline, and I am grateful.

Vlad on the bow of the USS Nimitz

Ah, yes. And I’m thankful for the USS Nimitz (aka, my truck) for getting me where I needed to go, as well as places I didn’t actually NEED to go, but just sort of wandered into.

Well, it’s after 10am Thanksgiving morning. Dinner at my parents’ house is at 2pm, so maybe I should try and sleep an hour or two. I’m scheduled to work OT tonight from 1800 to 0200. I can always cancel. Maybe I will. Maybe this will just be a really long day, and I’ll have to power through on Monster Rehab and Adderall. (NOT a recommended combination for amateurs. 😉 )

One of the bright spots during the early, darkest part of my journey back, was this little shell shop out on Siesta Key. I’m not sure of its name, but the girl who ran it was cute as a bug, always sweet and smiling and happy to see me. She loved Led Zeppelin, and had a great laugh. My Michelle and I always visited her on Fridays, and I dropped a few bucks there on multiple occasions (Lord knows, I mailed out enough sharks teeth and starfish to populate a small bay).  Shell Girl’s name? What else: Michelle.

Here’s a picture from around the midpoint of my adventure. I was waaay slouched down so she and I could be in the same frame, and I’m still sporting lovely eye-bags and a general manic, lithiumish look.

Shell Girl and me (I’m on the left, if you were wondering)

Smiles were rare this past summer. When I had them, it was likely one or more of you were responsible (or my darling little Shell Girl).

The image at the very top of this post is a still from Fellini’s “Armacord,” and it pretty well shows how I’m feeling recently. Things aren’t all bright and springy inside my head–there are neither bright flowers nor verdant lawns–but there is light enough to see, and the promise of more light to come. And there, through the snow and gray murk, I can see this grandiose blue thing, so long invisible in the dark; that hopeful blue thing that is my soul.

Happy Thanksgiving. (And thanks be to you as well)

The Tipping Point

Posted in Chronicles of chrazy (sic) on November 16, 2012 by tom

Last night, somewhere during my long drive to nowhere and back, I felt like I’ve reached the tipping point in this particular Abyss journey. Since April, I’ve felt like a massive depressive meltdown carrying around a Tom. Now, I feel like I’m Tom, and I’m carrying around a depressive meltdown. The difference is in the semantics, I suppose: I feel like maybe I’m getting my legs under me a little.

My therapist asked me today (well, Thursday) about the Fournier’s adventure. I mentioned one session that I’d had this horrible, potentially lethal bacterial infection in…well, in a most inconvenient place; that I’d been about thisfuckingclose to dying, had two surgeries, and spent five weeks in the hospital.

And that I’d happily choose an encore of Fournier’s Gangrene over my 2012 meltdown ten times out of ten. Without a doubt.

He asked me how I could say that, when I almost died. I told him that I wasn’t at all afraid of dying. I was totally at peace: if they put me under anesthesia, and I never woke up, I’d be perfectly fine with that. The entire thing was out of my hands. As far as why Fournier’s is preferable to a massive depressive breakdown,  I think it’s because there were metrics involved with the Fournier’s. They could test my blood, and see that my kidneys were once again filtering out bad stuff. They could do cultures, and see that the bacterial infestation was waning. They could measure the wound, check for healthy epithelialization and that all the necrotic tissue was gone. They administered my IV antibiotics according to a precise schedule. They noted my performance in physical therapy–how far I could walk, how many reps with the resistance bands. Hell, they kept track of how much urine I produced (I blew their minds, too: I had friends sneak in 12-packs of Diet Mountain Dew. It was Urination Domination in Room 142! 😉 ) Finally, there came a point where the empiric data showed clearly that I could safely come home.

With the Depression, it’s impossible to quantify improvement, simply because the only thing capable of assessing whether I’m being repaired is the thing that’s broken in the first place. Yesterday, I felt like I reached the tipping point, where I’ve crested the hill, or whatever metaphor you want to use. That’s just a feeling, though: how much credence does that really hold? I could be completely cratered tomorrow, so what then?

I think what led me to believe I’d reached the tipping point was that I’ve been waking up reasonably optimistic that I’ll survive the day. The past week or two, I’ve been able to do those “normal” things that have been hit-or-miss the past seven months. I can wake up to my alarm, shower, brush my teeth, and go to work. I take my breaks when I’m scheduled to, go to lunch on time, and do my job well. It’s become the norm, not the exception.

And I think Dr. Borgia was dead right: the more I’m able to do “normal” things, the easier it will be to get back to normal.

The one thing that bothers me is the sheer number of different psychotropic meds I take. I have a little pill compact I carry with me everywhere. I have, oxcarbazapine, Xanax, Adderall, and a couple of lithium, in case I get over-Adderalled. I take those multiple times throughout the day. There’s another med I take when I wake up then at bedtime, and two more that I only take at bedtime.

I’m feeling–to quote Indigo Girls–closer to fine, but how much of that “fine” is my brain healing, and how much of it is straight pharmacology? Am I beginning to emerge from this depression? Or could you take all my meds, toss them out the window, and have one of the oleander bushes downstairs start doing laundry and going to work regularly?

A good friend of mine has had her own bouts with depression, et al. A few times since I’ve known her, she’s just stopped taking her meds. I promptly yell at her until she takes them again. I mean, there’s nothing stupider than quitting all your psych meds, especially all at once. I asked her why she did it, and she said it’s because she didn’t want to keep taking pills: she couldn’t tell how she really felt anymore.

I now understand what she means. I’m doing okay this week, but is it because I’m okay? Or is it that the various handfuls of pills I swallow have propped me up? To what degree have I improved? And am I going to be on these meds forever?

All I can do right now is take them when I’m supposed to, and hope for the best. Yes, it was a bit odd taking a giant dextroamphetamine pill at two o’clock in the morning, but that’s where it was scheduled.

When I had the Fournier’s, I quickly accepted that my doctors knew far better than I how to treat this thing. If they wanted to put me on 15 hours a day of IV antibiotics, then I was fine with that. If they decided it should be 10 or 24 or 3, then I’d have been fine with that, too. If they said I needed debridement? Knock yourself out. If they’d told me to sing George Jones songs at the top of every hour, I’d be wearing out “He Stopped Loving Her Today.”

Mental illness is different. I told my therapist that he could have asked me a question in late April, when I first started seeing him, and ask me the same question today, and he could get two completely different answers. And both of them would have been the absolute truth.

Hell,  if nothing else, I think it’s progress that I’m asking myself these questions. Maybe I’m still healing slowly. Maybe I’m propped up on a kabillion different chemicals. All I know is that I have to be at work in 16.75 hours, and I’ll be there.

By no means am I all shiny and new, but I can see I’ve come a long way since April. I don’t care if I’m on these meds the rest of my life, as long as they work. If the balanced regimen Dr Borgia and I have come up with continues to work, I’ll take it. It’s gotten me to the tipping point, and that is a big step. As long as I can remember how bad it was in April or May, I can appreciate being here. The election is behind us–except for Ohio, which Carl Rove insists the GOP won–and life is reasonably tolerable.

I can work with that.

Happy Friday.

 

Amy, Emily, and Me

Posted in Chronicles of chrazy (sic) on November 15, 2012 by tom

Way back in 1990, I was Production Director at The Wave, 102.5, here in the Tampa-St. Petersburg market. Our Promotions Director, Rina Becker, gave me a pair of tickets to see Indigo Girls that night at Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall in Sarasota. I knew one song–“Closer to Fine”–but it was a good one.

My brother, Marky, was home from FSU, and he’d just had some sort of surgery. He was ambulatory and full of hydrocodone, so he figured it would be fun. We went to the show.

Van Wezel seats maybe 1200, and it is acoustically perfect.  Our seats were seventh row, dead center. God bless you, Rina Becker!

There were maybe 500 people there that night, a huge proportion of whom were Lesbians. At one point, little brother pointed out–quite loudly–that the “Hot, Michelle Pfeiffer-looking girl” in the front row was making out with the girl beside her. He was really high on pain meds. I was a little scared. Then the lights dimmed, and two young women came out on stage.

And thus began my love for Amy Ray and Emily Saliers. I’d see them three more times over the next five years. That first night, I’d only heard “Closer to Fine.” By the second time I saw them–an outdoor show at Jannus Landing here in St Pete–I knew every word to every song they sang, and by God, I sang along with them, and my 1000 or so fellow audience members.

That was a time in my life–my mid-twenties–where I was unsure of my path in life. I didn’t know where I was going to end up, but I worked for a hip radio station, made enough money to get drunk a lot, and got free tickets to shows like Indigo Girls.

But I hadn’t gone that second time just because I’d been given free tickets. Hell, I’d earned them this time–the spot I produced helped sell out two nights worth of shows for them. At that point, I worked during the day, went to happy hour, came home, got even more buzzed, and wrote ridiculously long letters to my best friend, John. Some of these ended up being 50,000 words or more. It was more journaling than anything, my slogging through life, looking for answers. Many nights, Indigo Girls provided the soundtrack for my soul-searching.

Their lyrics are perfect for that activity, too. Even little swatches: “I’m kneeling down with broken prayers”; “Darkness has a hunger that’s insatiable, and lightness has a call that’s hard to hear.” Or my theme,

“I stopped by the bar at 3 a.m.
To seek solace in a bottle or possibly a friend
I woke up with a headache like my head against a board
Twice as cloudy as I’d been the night before
I went in seeking clarity.”

Or, the one that summed up what I was doing those drunken nights:

“There I am in younger days, star-gazing,
Painting picture perfect maps of how my life and love would be
Not counting the unmarked paths of misdirection
My compass, faith in love’s perfection
I missed ten million miles of road I should have seen.”

Ain’t that the truth. How many tens of millions of miles of road did I miss from sitting there, trying to figure out what was wrong with my life, rather than embracing what was right?

Things happened, and I stopped listening to Indigo Girls as much. I embraced certain other albums–Van Morrison’s awesome “A Night in San Francisco,” for example–then I got to the point where I was so burned out on music, I pretty much stopped listening. In my final drunken spiral, I had a playlist of mostly rock and blues I’d listen to as I chugged my bourbon, but it was more about the noise, not about the message.

I’ve had three brain explosions since those halcyon days with Amy and Emily. The first was in 1997, where I had a serious depressive meltdown. It was bad at the time, but Prozac pulled me out of it, and I didn’t miss any work. Seriously, my job was to sit in a dark, cool room by myself, playing jazz music–it’s not like there were lots of stressors there. In 2005, my years of constant drinking (and occasional pill abuse) got me to a point where my soul was dead. If I hadn’t put myself in…um, that “special resort” for 30 days, you wouldn’t be reading these words. Then, this past April, my brain went kablooey. This one was worse than the other two combined.

I don’t know what happened. I don’t know why it happened. But holy shit, did it happen.

My brain: April, 2012

 

I’m healing. Slowly. Very slowly, sometimes.

When I first went kablooey, I couldn’t stand music. The only way I could go to sleep was with a movie playing, usually “Judgment at Nuremberg” for some reason.

Incidentally, I came up with a great analogy for how “Judgment at Nuremberg” relates to depressive meltdowns. When you have a breakdown, your conscious self–the little you inside of you–is like Montgomery Clift in “Nuremberg.” Even at his best, he’s jittery and nervous. Then you have the disease–Maximillian Schell–pounding away at you, pointing out every flaw you’ve ever had, from how you were a shitty student who failed sixth grade to how you were declared mentally feeble and had a state-mandated de-nardment. The meds are like Richard Widmark and Spencer Tracy–they do what they can to protect Montgomery Clift, but their hands are largely tied. In the end, it’s just Max vs Monty, day after day.

As time has passed–it’s been over seven months I’ve been fighting this thing–Monty gets stronger, and Max slacks off a bit. I’m on a handful of various Widmarks and Tracys, and most days, we can get by.

Slowly, music came back into my life. I created a little playlist I’d fire up at bedtime: “Breathe (2 a.m.),” by Anna Nalick; “Drops of Jupiter,” by Train; “Sweet Sweet Baby,” by Lone Justice; “Dream Hotel,” by Texas, and The Sundays, “Here’s Where the Story Ends.”

 

One night, that brought to mind an Indigo Girls song. I downloaded it. Then another. Then another.  I found their songs comforting, but I was missing context. I wasn’t hearing “Prince of Darkness,” “Secure Yourself,” or “Love’s Recovery” in context of their eponymous cd. Also, somehow my life felt out of context, like I haven’t been a Tom walking around with a shattered brain, but a shattered brain walking around with a Tom. Context. I had to go buy groceries on my Wednesday night. Instead of turning left toward The Infernal Store, I turned right up 4th St. In 20 seconds or so, I shifted into fifth gear. I headed north on 275, exited past Tampa International, then up the Veterans Expressway and Suncoast Parkway. It was exactly 65 miles, and I didn’t have to shift out of fifth, not even blasting through the SunPass toll plaza lanes. I turned around where the Parkway ends at US 98, and came back to Gomorrah.

Back when I was listening to Indigo Girls every night, drinking too much, and brooding about life, that drive would have taken two hours each way, and getting past the airport and highway 60 would have been a snarling nightmare. God only knows how many red lights I’d have cursed, or how many idiots pulling out in front of me. Twenty years later, the roads have been rebuilt, the way cleared. I could still have gotten to US 98 back then, but the journey would have been far rougher, more taxing.

I think that’s where I am now. I can get where I need to go (at least most of the time), but the roads are slow and bumpy, with stop-and-go traffic. Gradually, a new stretch of improved road will open, and the journey will get a little easier. In time, hopefully, it will be all smooth, and I can stay in overdrive and enjoy the scenery.

I bought Indigo Girls’ eponymous album this evening. I’m back working through these songs in their context, where Amy and Emily put them, and where they saw me through those boozy, broody nights. Difficult though it may be, I’m trying to put my life in context, too. When your brain goes kablooey, you can’t really trust your thoughts.

I think I’m starting to get a little trust back.

In context, I’ve had a hell of a ride, and I’m glad to be here, scars, pains, and all. The journey has been waaaay the fuck different than I imagined 20 years when I listened to this album.

When I was about 40 miles past Tampa, in the middle of a dark Hernando County nowhere, I was thinking about this album and where life has gone. I suddenly had to laugh.

Way back in the Vox days, I somehow ended up having two remarkable high school girls in metro-Seattle join my neighborhood. They were and are best friends, and over the last five years, we’ve become really close. We joke that I’m like their imaginary mentor. I’ve watched them go from high school sophomores to college sophomores. Through the Interwebs, I’ve become good friends with two young women who were born around the time Marky and I were sitting in the Van Wezel that night. The beauty of Indigo Girls is that they are two very different, yet magically compatible souls.

When I laughed, somewhere around midnight, going 80 mph on a smooth, deserted road, it’s because it finally dawned on me. Amy Ray and Emily Saliers, Indigo Girls. My two imaginary mentorees?

An Amy and an Emily.

The Universe has a wicked sense of humor sometimes.

Postcard from The Abyss: Ahhh. That’s Much Better

Posted in Chronicles of chrazy (sic) on September 27, 2012 by tom

Life is weird. Life with mental illness is a couple factors of ten weirder.

If you’re mentally okay, and you break your arm–and I hope you don’t break your arm. For gods’ sakes, I’m using this as a damned example. Stop being so literal-minded! 😉

Anyway, you feel the pain. You can reason out, “Golly. I think that in the process of _______________, I broke my arm.” You can go to your local emergency room. They can shoot x-rays of your bum arm, and a radiologist can show you the film, and say, “Yup! Right there is the fracture, almost all the way through your radius, and half way through your ulna.” Then an orthopædic surgeon will look at the film, and he’ll immediately start planning the best way to fix your broken arm–either with a cast, inserting wires, maybe surgery–all as he debates what color BMW M6 to order with what he’s fitna bill you. Over time, you can see the swelling go down, have the cast replaced after a few weeks, see the updated X-rays, showing your new bone growth. There’s progress, too, as you get the wires removed. You’ll get a new cast, once the swelling abates. Maybe, if you’re really healing quickly, a soft cast. Bottom line–barring osteoporosis, osteomyelitis, or some other skeletal malady–a broken arm is a broken arm. Some are far worse than others, but they’re broken arms, and fixing them is pretty routine.

When it’s your brain that has been injured–either physically or through some sort of psychic trauma–the treatment options are never quite so straightforward. I’m not talking about garden-variety depression, for which your GP can write you scrips for Prozac (an aside: who the fuck grows depression in his or her garden?? Try squash and pole beans, or maybe tomatoes. Sheesh!)

Part of the problem is that you have to try and see your progress through a broken brain. It’s difficult to analyze and assess how you’re doing if the six-pound goo loaf that analyzes and assesses is operating like a Yugo in need of a tune-up. Sometimes, you feel bad, but you can’t explain the badness. You know you’re sick, but you can’t explain the sickness. With the broken arm, it’s easy to pinpoint: here’s where it hurts; the x-rays bear that out, and treatment is simple.

What leads me circumlocutiously to where I am today. In April, or thereabouts (I have blocks of memory loss), my brain went kablooey. I went from functioning okay to not functioning at all. I was referred to a doctor who was recommended as, “The best psychiatrist in the business.” For once, this wasn’t hyperbole. He is awesome.

So, the first thing he did back in April was throw out the Prozac. “You are broken beyond Prozac. You’ve had the mental trauma equivalent of a major heart attack.”

Gulp.

This doctor–we’ll call him Dr. Borgia–inspires complete trust. In the past, I’ve been to psychiatrists who were complete turds. They wrote prescriptions for whatever the drug reps told them to, whether or not it was appropriate for me, as a patient. These psychiatrists will suffer greatly when my expatriate Vox friends and I take over the world. Oh, boy-howdy, will  they be punished.

Sorry. The Crayzee took over for a moment.

Dr Borgia listens carefully. He explains what he thinks is going on in my fucked-up brain, and when needed, he uses charts and pictures to illustrate his points. He asks questions, and when he sees that he’s asked me something I can’t answer easily–something that requires too much thinking from my broken thinker–he’ll rephrase until he gets the answer.

I’m a very curious patient. When I’m sick, I want to know everything about my illness, and I’ll read pages upon pages about any medications I’m prescribed. When I had the Fournier’s, I was researching every one of the antibiotics they were pumping into me 16 hours a day, and I grilled the Infectious Disease doc about what sorts of bacteria were holding this little orgy in my nardsack. One day, he came in smiling, and said “Peptostreptococcus! The latest cultures I ran found that Peptostreptococcus is your main bacterium. There are still anaerobics in there…” I immediately changed my Vox banner to a stained Peptostreptococcus slide.” (Lauri noticed the change, and commented, “Ooh! Buggies!!” (She has harrowing bacteria stories of her own, although to my knowledge, she’s never had anything eating away at her nardsack. Well, or a nardsack upon which the Peptostreptococcus could engage in dirty dancing and feasting, like a white trash wedding reception dance floor))

Seriously, every med Dr Borgia has put me on–and we’ve been through a bunch–has an excellent track record as a maximum efficacy med with few side-effects. His dosages haven’t always been conventional according to “the literature.” One medication, he started me at 45mg at bedtime each night. The various websites, FDA prescribing guidelines, etc, said that the normal starting dosage should be 15mg. I asked him today, “Isn’t the normal starting dosage 15mg? Why did you start me at 45mg?” I wasn’t questioning his judgment–if he’d started me on 90mg, I’d have trusted him and taken it as ordered–I was just curious.

“Tom, it’s because–as counterintuitive as it may sound–15mg is more sedating than 45mg. The way they researched and marketed this drug (mirtazapine (Remeron)) was wrong. They approached it from the wrong angle. This could have been a huge drug for them, and it never was, simply because they misunderstood how the medication reacted in a sick patient’s mind. 45mg was more therapeutic and had fewer side-effects than 15mg.”

First off, he got bonus points for using “counterintuitive.” His explanation made sense to me–the brain needed more of the chemical to be less sedating, even though that sounds backwards. This drug (mirtazapine) is also described on crazymeds.us (my favorite source for “tell it like it really is” psych-med info (written by a Pharm D and an MD)) as being the psych-med equivalent of  “really good weed,” and that our brain should be “swimming in serotonin,” which is brain juice that makes you feel calm and content. Also, we’d sleep all day, and crave doughnuts by the dozen.

In me, it didn’t work (other than some increased ice cream consumption). I developed very un-Tom-like behavior. Like I’d go from zero to Dennis Hopper in “Blue Velvet” in the snap of a finger. An half empty soda bottle I’d taken out of the fridge fell onto the floor–I hadn’t set it all the way on the counter. I slammed the fridge door so hard that all my magnets fell off, then I threw the bottle completely across my apartment, like young Peyton Manning (I dented the wall, and just missed a lamp). The next day, somebody from my newly merged prescription insurance provider called me. She was reading from a script. Badly.

I work as a supervisor in a call center, where we have sometimes a thousand reps on the phones. I would have slain one of  my reps for being this bad. She explained that there’d been a merger. I informed her I was aware of this, since they’ve sent me about 15 different mailings announcing the merger. She then switched to a script informing me of the benefits in ordering a 90 day supply of my meds via mail-order. “You just got stabbyfeet meds refilled at your store, and your co-pay was $25. Through mail-order, you could have gotten–” I interrupted her. “I am aware that I could have gotten a 90 day supply via mail-order for that same $25, but A) I needed it NOW, and B) this thirty day supply will last me five months.” “But you could still save–” “I’M NOT INTERESTED.” “Okay, Mr. S. I see you just got a prescription for mirtazapine. Your co-pay was $17, but if you got a 90 day supply th–”

*tom goes from zero to pissed in .09 seconds*

(sfx: James Earl Jones/King Mufasa/Evil Boom Voice):  YOU ARE NOT LISTENING TO ME!! I KNOW ABOUT THE 90 DAY MAIL SUPPLY THING. I AM NOT AN IDIOT! I HAVE BEEN ON THIS MIRTAZAPINE FOR FIVE DAYS!! IT’S A BIT PREMATURE TO MENTION A 90 DAY SUPPLY!!! STOP TALKING ABOUT IT, OR I WILL HANG UP THIS CALL.

(pause) “Well, Mr S, I need to tell you about how you can save–”

YOU ARE APPARENTLY INCAPABLE OF LISTENING TO MY ANSWERS!! NEVER EVER EVER EVER FUCKING CALL ME AGAIN!!! I AM BLOCKING THIS FUCKING NUMBER, AND I AM HANGING UP THE PHONE…NOW!!!!!!!!!!

And I did.

Two things occurred to me. First off, hanging up on a cellphone is anticlimactic. I have to take the phone away from my ear, shake it to reactivate the display, then slide the red “end call” icon to the right. Lame.

Payphones were the best, followed by those old 1970’s indestructible Bakelite phones that weighed like 10lbs. THOSE could get your point across with a good receiver slam.

The second thing was this: I don’t get violently angry, bellow Mufasaically at some moronic rep, then hang up on her. Ever. I theater voice-project in an unfriendly tone when I’m speaking to automated answering systems, because they understand this better than my oversedated, slurring Cracker drawl, but I never snap on people that way.

Hand to God, though: that last bellowed sentence to the ignorant twatwaffle was echoing through my apartment for like ten minutes.

Today, I was having new tires put on the USS Nimitz, and I realized I couldn’t wait another week to see Dr. Borgia. What sealed it was this: I was sitting quietly outside, under an umbrella, and this lady was walking quickly in different circuitous routes as she talked on her cellphone. Around the time I wanted to shove the umbrella up her ass, I called Dr. Borgia’s office, asking if there was any way I could get in to see him today. Collette–who’s Mexican, which is counterintuitive for a “Collette”–said Dr. Borgia was completely booked. She heard something in my slurring ramble. “Is this urgent, Tom?”

“Yes, Collette. It really is.”

“Okay. Come in at 330, and we can probably squeeze you in somewhere. You might have to wait, but we’ll get you in.”

“Thank you, Collette.”

I got there at 325. At 335, Dr Borgia was taking me back to his office, which has expensive Salvador Dalí prints on the wall, and a leather sofa that doubtless cost more than my truck. I explained that my problems were twofold. First, this drug we started last week, which was supposed to enhance my sense of well-being had actually turned me into Russell Crowe on PCP, and second, that I otherwise had absolutely no spark inside me. I was all thick, dark gray fog. I wasn’t participating in life. Life was elsewhere. I was just a benign, gray cloud incapable of either a drizzle or a flurry. I explained that I was on four different meds that were supposed to be un-depressing me, but that each one of them had as primary side-effects “drowsiness, dizziness,” etc. “They may be working to heal my brain, but I’m so oblivious that I can’t tell. I HAVE to have some kind of spark, so that I can get out of bed and do things. Like, say, go to work, so that I can make money and not be fired for missing work because I’m too fogged-in to leave my bedroom. I need something that increases alertness, so that I can at least get my brain back to 75 or 80%, which would enable me to both shower AND work on the same day.”

First thing he did was grill me about the mirtazapine. “It really did that to you? And before we gave you that, you hadn’t had the rage issues since the Pristiq, right? When you scared your father?” “Right.”

“Okay. Stop the mirtazapine immediately. Your reaction is very unusual–I’ve used it with dozens of patients with only good effects–but we’ve established a good baseline with drug A three times a day, the rhombus pill once a day, and four 1mg Xanax a day, so it’s clear this drug reacted badly with your system. Let’s stay with drug A, the rhombus, and the Xanax.”

“I agree: I think we have something that’s working on the deep-down depression, but I need something to get me through the day. Four migs of Xanax in a day would knock most people out for a month, and I’m taking that every day.”

“I think you’re right. I would like to try adding a  stimulant, just to see if that can be a beacon through your fog, as you put it. It’s used regularly to assist with depression, and to counterbalance the sedating side-effects of anticonvulsants, which is what drug A is.”

He pulled out his pad. As he wrote the prescription, he gave me instructions on how to take the new med. “Day one, break one in half and take it, then take the other half four hours later. Day two, take a whole one, then another whole one four hours later. Day three, take one and a half first thing, then another one and a half in four hours. If you have any problems or reactions, call my service, and they will get your message to me day or night. Come back in one week, and we’ll see how you’re faring with that. We’ll probably titrate it up to 1.5 tabs three times a day, or maybe even two tabs three times a day. If it’s working–and I think it will help–you should feel some improvement pretty quickly.”

I took one in the Sarasota Walgreen’s parking lot at 727pm. When I hit the Sunshine Skyway around 805pm, I already felt like some of the weight had been lifted off of my shoulders. I sat up straighter; my mind felt like it was banging on at least eight of my twelve cylinders again, and I had to be careful to keep the USS Nimitz below 85mph.

During our five month doctor-patient relationship, I’ve left messages, and Dr Borgia has called me back on weekends, in the evenings, between patients–whenever I’ve needed him.

Tomorrow, I will wake up and take my new, little, baby-aspirin-orange-colored buddy, and head off to the therapist. I imagine it will be a more pleasant session than I’ve had in awhile. Next Thursday, I see Dr Borgia at 2pm, and the therapist at 3pm. Normally, this would seem daunting. Now, I feel like I can function. The new med is a pain-in-the-ass to get. It has to be a paper prescription, and there are no refills. They control this med tightly, as if it were an amphetamine. Well, that’s what Adderall really is, so it makes sense.

For so long, I’ve felt like I was caught up in that damned “Wizard of Oz” twister. I may not be over the rainbow, nor may I ever be, but at least I can see the rainbow, know what it is, understand how it’s made, name the colors (ROY G BIV), and most of all, see just how fucking beautiful a rainbow is after the past six months of  sepia-toned dust.

Beats the shit out of the sepia toned Kansas dust.

(And I don’t begrudge Dr Borgia his Metallic Black Sapphire Twin-Turbo V-8 BMW X6 X-Drive 50i one damned bit!)

This is a long and tedious post, and I’m sorry for that. I queried my “Films in 2012” category, and found that I’ve written 51 film reviews this year. There are five or ten films I’ve watched and not reviewed (yet, anyway), but 51 seems like a lot. To me, blogging is supposed to be about life, and how we live it, how we make fun of it, what makes us *snerk* and what makes us tear-up. Maybe I should set up a film review blog, so people who give a crap about my film opinions can go there. Here, in Dispatches from the Tom Zone, I like to blog about the quirky things–like my grocery store having a shelf of discounted Saint candles for just $2 each (vs $6 or $7 for non-saint candles). Discounted saints. I’m not Catholic, but it just seems oddly appropriate that I have discounted saint candles  burning next to my cucumber mint and cinnamon apple candles. To quote Kevin Costner in “Field of Dreams,” “Hey, I need all the good karma I can get right now.” (And if I ever form a band, it would be called “Discount Saints.”)

The film reviews were (and are) a way to exercise my brain. I love film, and I like analyzing them. Even when I was at my most mentally depleted, I could still review a movie. It’s what I’ve done so often–in school, for independent papers, blogging, etc–that it’s an automatic.

It was never meant to be a substitute for real bloggery, but it was really all I could write at the time.  Let me put this amphetamine-fueled 2900 word p.o.s. to bed, and we’ll wake up and face tomorrow head-on.

Thanks for being my friend, and for helping me through this effed the effing eff up last six months. It means a lot, and I’m grateful.

Not “BMW Z4 Roadsters for everybody” grateful, of course…but just thanks.

And in the name of काली the Destroyer, do NOT TELL ME HOW MUCH I CAN SAVE BY ORDERING PRESCRIPTIONS BY MAIL!! I’m not fixed enough for that argument again. Not quite yet. And you don’t want to hear the “Evil Boom Voice,” especially first thing in the morning.

Happy Thursday.

Besos,
t

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