Monday, February 28, 2011

Just what the doctor ordered

After coming out of the medicinal fiasco that was my life for a week and a half, we took off late last week for a long weekend at the cabin.  In a word, it was perfect.




Wednesday, February 23, 2011

What happens when smart people do really stupid things

Lately, I have struggled when I sit down to write, thinking, Where do I begin?  I usually roll my eyes when I land at the obvious answer, which is to begin at the beginning.
The French, Commencer par le commencement, is so much nicer to the eye and ear and if only I could have Maria from the Sound of Music sing to me, Let's start at the very beginning.  It's a very good place to start.  Wait, I'm wandering.  This writing about the beginning has nothing at all to do with what I want to say here.  That's because I'm feeling sort of, I don't know, what's the word... high? Yes, I'm feeling sort of high at the moment.  So, my thoughts are all over the place, disconnected and roaming around on their own.

Where was I? 

A little over a week ago, I decided on my very own that I was going to stop taking the medication that I have been on for seven years.  Once a day, a single pill and a sip of water traveled into my body.  Off to work they went.  Their job? To keep anxiety at bay. I had my reasons to be on that medication, very real reasons.  But those reasons do not exist anymore.  Although I've recognized it for months and had plenty of opportunity to discuss my plans with my doctor, educated and mature woman that I am, I decided to quit when the last prescription was finished.  And so I did.  Just. like. that.

Then the unraveling began.

Monday morning I hallucinated purple feather wreaths on my walls.  And my thoughts at that were simply, purple really does not match the house. I admit, I'm mildly disappointed in my hallucinations.  Are purple feather wreaths all my unleashed mind could come up with? 

Almost immediately, I started experiencing the side effects of what I'd foolishly done.  I was a dizzy host to a monster of a headache, I couldn't sleep, had blurred vision, felt pain in my muscles and joints, had vertigo, had these weird, electric-feeling zaps in my neck and eyes whenever I turned my head or blinked, and had such vivid, such luscious and impossible dreams that it took me half the morning to realize that I was not remembering something that actually happened. 

The first couple days, the symptoms were occasional, mild, so I figured (again, foolishly) that they would all go away soon, that it was my job to march through them. I subscribed to an I'll give it one more day kind of thinking.  Surely I'll feel better tomorrow.  Tomorrow laughed in my face.  Well, maybe the day after tomorrow I'd feel better.  Ha Ha HA!  That day arrived with tar and feathers and a laugh track.  Sleep?  Yeah, maybe just maybe I'll wake up in the morning and I'll be back to normal. And I was! At least until I opened my eyes or moved a muscle.

I looked up what happens when you quit this medicine cold turkey.  I had all but two of the side effects.  But still, I thought I could be strong, tolerate what was happening, and just get through it.


Occasional and mild upgraded to all-the-time and horrible.  The pain in my muscles and joints moved to pain in my bones.  The veritgo had me afraid to get out of bed, afraid to turn my head, to stand up, walk down the stairs, walk up the stairs.  My appetite was either absent or voracious.  My body hurt from the simplest of movements, i.e., raising a glass of water to my lips.  I was a self-imposed prisoner in my own house because the vertigo was so bad that I stopped driving (about the only intelligent decision in all of this) and I was seeing purple feather wreaths across my walls.  Tuesday morning, I woke with a fever of 102.  Thirty minutes later, it was 102.5.  For goodness sake, when was I going to DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT?

For a fleeting moment, even though I knew what was going on with me, I looked at the thermomenter and thought, It's not side effects at all, you're getting the flu.

Unrealistic?  You bet.  But, understand, I was going out of my mind.

Turns out, I was going through withdrawals. I'm sure you have deduced that fact already, but I did not associate what I was experiencing as more than side-effects. And I mistakenly viewed them as temporary. I did not associate what was happening to my mind and body as actual withdrawal, and I just didn't know that my symptoms were so serious that my brain would be willing to fry itself with a fever in order to get what it needed.

After a week of this, I finally called my doctor Tuesday morning and begged him to get me out of this living hell told him what I had done and asked what I should do. It turns out that carrying on as if nothing was wrong was not the right thing to do, that I did not win any points for thinking I could soldier through. In fact, my actions (stopping the medication cold turkey and ignoring the resulting side effects of dong so) were not only foolish but dangerous. That's what my doctor said when I finally spoke with him.  Well he said more than that, there was the what in the world were you thinking, do you live under a rock, have you not heard what happens to some people when they stop their medications cold turkey? lecture. 

What was I thinking?  I was thinking that I didn't need to take that little pill anymore, so I would stop doing so.  And then I was thinking that I could be tougher, stronger, than the resulting side effects.  That's a joke.  It's not as if I could out wit them, or out bid them somehow at the auction for physical normalcy.

The only way to meet my goal of stopping these pills is to taper myself off them over the next six to eight weeks, under my doctor's monitoring.  Early yesterday afternoon, I took that first step which, to no one's surprise I'm sure, began with getting back on the medication.  Then I slept for four hours. When I woke, my headache was still lingering and my entire body felt as if I had been dropped from a bridge onto a thick slab of concrete, but the vertigo was only slight and I didn't feel that I would hit the ground if I stood up. I stayed awake long enough to realize that I wanted to go back to bed.  And then I slept for almost 12 hours.

And now tomorrow is finally here.  When I woke this morning, I cautiously opened my eyes.  No electric zapping!  Then I slowly moved my arms, then my legs.  No pain.  My headache has gone the way of the purple wreaths and I do not recall a single dream I had last night.  I suspect though that I did not dream.  I suspect that my brain got what it needed and finally got some rest as well.

It's an odd feeling to be sitting here on the other side of this completely avoidable nightmare I put myself through.  Some of what I wrote in this post was earlier this week (the ramblings and feelings of being high in the first paragraph) and I decided to leave that here because when I read that first paragraph now I want to ask the self that wrote it, Who ARE you, and what the heck did you do with ME?  That begin at the beginning translation into French?  I did not know that.  Somewhere inside my withdrawal, a little opening in my mind allowed my highschool French to bubble up.  I'm amazed at how the brain works when we cease one low-dose external element it has become accustomed to receiving.  It turns into a screaming, demanding, temper-tantrum-throwing 2-year old, one that WILL NOT STOP UNTIL IT GETS WHAT IT WANTS.

I have now experienced a bit of what it's like to have your world turned upside down because of a medication, or stopping that medication.  In my case, the medication was for anxiety.  But what if it had been for something more serious?  What if it had been for depression or for skitzophrenia? I've read enough articles about the Catch-22 of prescriptions for psychological disorders working so well that the individual, feeling perfectly normal again because the medicine is working, believes the drug is no longer needed and quits.  The results have led to horrific actions including harming others and suicide.  Thankfully, that did not happen to me.  Thankfully, the reasons for the anxiety I felt when getting on this medicine and, with professional assistance, deciding to continue on two different occasions were personal and family-based.  Situational Anxiety, as the reasons are classified.  Those reasons are gone now to death and time and it is time to get off this medicine, this much is true. But I've learned that going off medicines such as these should be thoroughly considered and not without the guidance of a medical professional.   

My side effects gave me severe pain, horrible vertigo, hallucinations, headaches and a bit of the French language. They stole a week of my life.  It was very frightening and completely avoidable.  What can I conclude from this?  Always talk to your doctor if you want to stop a medication he has prescribed.  A simple lesson but, Oh God, it was painfully difficult for me to truly gain that knowledge.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Have you missed her?

A sunny afternoon together at the park.  Now, that is a nice piece of normal.



Thursday, February 17, 2011


It has taken me a couple weeks to find the words to express what was so beyond my expectations about my recent trip to Cozumel, but I have found them.  And here they are:

My first visit to Mexico was when I was a mere two years old.  I do not remember that trip but my Mother assured me that I had a grand time.  Twenty-eight years later, my friend took me to Cancun for my birthday.  I remember a lot of that trip, the first swim-up bar I'd ever experienced, the whitest sand I'd ever seen, and a sweet moment of running for shelter in a warm afternoon rain. 

For years, my father maneuvered his boat across the Gulf of Mexico to Cozumel for the winter months. The fishing in the Caribbean waters between Cozumel and the Mexico mainland is outstanding for Blue and White Marlin, Sailfish and Tuna. The sun and sand and relaxed, friendly mood of Cozumel was outstanding for business deals.  Dad loved Cozumel.  He loved the marina and he loved the people.  He loved the restaurants and he loved the sunsets.  He loved the blue and turquoise waters of the Caribbean sea.

In 1994, my father booked a Christmas trip to Mexico for our family in a small town I'd never heard of on the Pacific side, in the state of Oaxaca.  Again, the draw was the waters and the fishing for him. The minute I walked down the stairs of the plane and onto the tarmac I fell in love with the place. It was simply wonderfully imperfect, it was wild and it was the most beautiful place I had ever seen.  That was just the area around the landing strip.  The next two weeks sealed it for me. The town was Puerto Escondido, a sleepy fishing village sitting at the base of the Sierra Madre mountains.

Two years later I would move to that sleepy fishing village and spend six months there.  Before that, I visited numerous times. I drove through the country more than once, ultimately visiting or at least driving through every state.  (Not something I would be able to safely do today which makes me cherish the memories all the more.)  I simply could not get enough of the country and her people.

So, I grew to share my father's love for Mexico, from Mexico City to Mazatlan, Ixtapa to Cabo San Lucas, Monterrey to Veracruz.  And Cozumel.  Together with the family, we would visit Cozumel three times before he died. One particularly sweet time was for my parents' 50th wedding anniversary.  He was so happy there, so very happy and carefree.  He loved showing us around his Cozumel and we loved his doing so. We fished, we snorkeled, we drank beer. 

When I was considering the trip to Cozumel my nephew and I took couple weeks ago, I chose the dates because I wanted to be there for the anniversary of my father's death.  This year marked six years to the date and day, Super Bowl Sunday. I didn't want to be here for that, so traveling to a place he loved was a perfect solution.  I brought some of my father's ashes with us and decided that we would rent wave runners that Sunday and scatter my father's ashes in the sea that he so loved.  I admit that I do have some of my father's ashes.  It might be odd to you but it's very comforting to me, as it allows me to return him to and make him part of the special places that he adored.

When my nephew and I set out on our wave runners, we played for about ten minutes, jumping our own wake, doing donuts, etc., and then I motioned him over to me and we headed out a bit to the deeper blue water. I said some words about the blues of the sky, the water and my father's eyes, and then we put his ashes to the wind and water.  As I watched them disappear from view, as bittersweet as it was, I knew, I just knew that these were the waters and this was the country, where he should be. We paused a moment to reflect on what we had just done and what it meant to us, and then we tore off like the wave runner banshees that we were on that trip.

Five minutes later, I was surrounded.  By dolphins.  About 15 of them, swimming with me, jumping alongside me.  Big, graceful, amazing dolphins.  In the wild.  Right there.  I could have reached out and touched them.  I motioned my nephew over and when he got there, they were playing with him as well.  We'd stop the wave runners and the dolphins would swim back and forth beneath us, circling.  We'd get moving and they were right beside us, racing us and jumping in the air. We counted two mothers and calves and they were all right there with us.  All of them seemingly without fear.

Eddie and I were stunned.  And delighted.  We used the words awesome and amazing more than a couple times.  We stayed with the dolphins, or they stayed with us, for about 20 minutes, until it was time to return the wave runners.  As we rode back to our hotel's dive shop, we noticed the restaurant, pool and beach crowds were on their feet watching us. They were smiling, we were smiling.  Some were clapping with delight and some simply were grasping their hands.  The man from the dive shop was standing on the beach, guiding me in, as he excitedly expressed he had not seen that before, farther out with the cruise ships, yes, but not where we were.  Eddie and I could not believe what we'd just experienced together. 

As we walked through the sand, smiling and still a bit stunned, I felt something in my heart, something familiar and warm.  It was my father.  And then I understood. My father sent the dolphins to us.  I believe that these were the waters he's wanted to be part of all along, and I believe the dolphins were the means to his saying, I love you too.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A young family


This beauty is Faith's mother.  She's a natural at motherhood, instinctual, gentle, protective and loving. Faith literally lights up when she says, Hey Booger!

Faith turned three months old a week ago.  Three months already?  How did that happen?  Where did that time run off to?  It's amazing how much she has grown and changed in such a relatively short amount of time.  Her smile, and the recent discovery of her hands are such a delight to witness.  And her head smells like heaven.


Faith already has her Father wrapped around her little finger.  He's a good Dad, my nephew is.  It makes me happy to watch him with his daughter.


Proud parents.


Sleeping beauty.

I love this little family.  So very much.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

About Cozumel

I've been back from vacation for a little over 24 hours now and one would think that I could wrap up the five-day experience into a pretty bow of words and arrange those ribbons into a succint story to tell you.  But guess what?  I can't.  Not yet.

I went to Cozumel for a reason.  While I was there, that reason expanded into something else, something brighter, different, deeper.  Something other than my nephew and me.  Something we haven't stopped talking about since.

Our Sunday took a form of its own, a form I never would have anticipated or even wished for.  And yet it happened.

I can't tell you about it yet because I can't find the words.  But I will, I know I will.

In the meantime, I give you these:





Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Off the top of my head, a few things that are making me happy

1.  I'm less than a day away from a Caribbean vacation with my nephew.

2.  Packing for a Caribbean vacation when it's 27 degrees outside where I live is an amusing mental exercise. While I'm folding shorts and t-shirts and placing them in my suitcase, a part of me is tapping her prissy librarian shoes, thinking, Well we're not very smart are we?  Shorts?  You're going to freeze your butt off.  Even though I know it will be 81 degrees at our destination, it's hard to grasp that when it's so darned cold right here, right now. 

3.  Speaking of cold, this new house of mine has a fireplace.  I've always wanted a fireplace but since I live in Houston, I've viewed them as more decorative than useful.  Until this Winter, that is. There's been a fire in the fireplace more days than not in the past month and I have loved every minute of its warmth and light.

4.  This afternoon, I'm treating myself to a manicure and pedicure.  I love the indulgence of getting a pedicure in the dead of winter. 

5.  Yesterday my nephew told me that it kinda sucks that we won't be here when it snows in Houston on Friday.  I replied that it doesn't at all suck that on Friday, when it's snowing in Houston, we'll be sitting on a beach drinking Dos XX.  He liked my perspective on the day a bit better than his own.