Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Well, I did it

I made it through the first 72 hours without smoking. Since the physical addiction only lasts for that long I figure I'm mostly in the clear. Within the next couple of weeks the psychological addiction should be waining. It really hasn't been as hard as I thought it would be but I have experienced some of the normal side effects - headache, nausea, crabbiness. But in my defense, I think I've done pretty well.

Last night we had dinner with some of David's old friends who were in town visiting from Austin. It was pretty much like a therapy session for me. We were discussing politics and the political process and they pretty much sucked me into what I have been actively trying to avoid over the past few months. After all that research I did on human rights abuses and specifically genocide in the 20th century, coupled with my one-on-one daily work and relationships with refugees from Burundi and Myanmar, I was totally burned out. I'm pretty convinced at this point that that's why I got so sick. After I quit my job in January and took a break from the research (which I need to start again soon if I hope to get that genocide paper published before I graduate) I sort of sank into the abyss that is my mind, otherwise known as My Cave.

My Cave is a very safe place that revolves around me. It is made up of pretty much nothing but "me time" and offers the opportunity for solitude and retrospection. I've spent the last six months in this Cave and have learned a lot about myself, where I am in life, and where I want to be. Thank goodness I have a wonderful husband who let me go to this quiet place to recuperate from what has been a very emotionally, mentally, and physically draining couple of years.

My body is healing. My brain and heart are fine. My kidney functions seem to be getting back to normal, as there is no longer blood in my urine. The bowel incontinence I was experiencing is completely gone, and I just generally feel better. I took the dog for a nice long sweat-inducing walk this morning for the first time in months.

Last Wednesday I had a very painful procedure done to both of my feet. I have been diagnosed with plantar fasciitis in both feet and needed steroid shots in both of my heels. The needles were 1 1/2 inches long and it was quite painful but didn't even come close to the pain suffered in child birth (which is apparently my gauge for all pain now.) I was off my feet for a good two days after the procedure and then it took a couple more days to be able to walk without limping. I'm still experiencing pain, especially in my left foot, but the steroids weren't a magic cure. At some point I might have to have surgery to correct the problems but I'm hoping that with my continued weight loss and overall attempt at taking much better care of myself both mentally and physically, I'll be able to overcome the foot thing without surgery.

My knees and hips are still giving me problems and the medication I need to take to help those issues makes me very confused and forgetful. Last weekend I had a slight mental breakdown because I was so not myself. I am a wonderful and caring person who occasionally (read: most of the time) allows things to exit my mouth without a lot of forethought. But despite my inability to hold my tongue, I am still a beautiful and great individual. But lately I've been feeling more like a zombie who has become a slave to various medications. I've lowered the dosage of the Lyrica and Relafin myself (after leaving a message for my rheumatologist telling him I was doing so) and the confusion and short-term memory loss seems to have begun correcting themselves naturally. My goal is to be completely drug free within a year.

One unfortunate side-effect of several of the drugs I'm on is tinnitus. If you have ever suffered from this then you know how it slowly drives you insane. I can't hear out of my left ear and what I do hear sounds like it's coming from miles away and is very "tinny." I know that's not really a word or a way to describe a sound but I don't know how else to describe it. My primary care physician (PCP) has changed some of my medications, but quite frankly, I'm getting really sick of her treatment plans for me. I finally asked to be referred to a psychiatrist in order to have a complete pharmacological work up done of my medications. I want to know in extreme detail exactly what I'm taking and the side effects of each drug. I'm sick of medicine but when I try to stop taking them I get really sick. It amuses me that in the various physicians attempts to keep me from becoming addicted to pain medication they have now made me become an addict to several of the other drugs they've prescribed.

So all in all, I'm doing well. I've lost seven pounds in the last week and am attempting to get back into a regular exercise regimen that includes the low impact activities of walking and yoga. Yoga does more for me than any other exercise, both mentally and physically. I usually wake up earlier than the boys so I figure I can get the hour long yoga session in every morning before going for my walk with the dog. Once I have some of my strength and balance back I'd also like to go back to Tai Chi, which is one of the most beautiful and relaxing ways to work the body and the mind equally.

My house is in disarray and so that's another goal for myself. Jack is leaving town for a little over two weeks and I'm looking forward to getting a lot of work done around the house while he's away. It is almost impossible to get a house in order when there's a complaining 12-year-old at every turn. One of my greatest weaknesses right now is in dealing with him and his pre-teen issues. My mother was so great during my pre-teen years and I wish I had even half of the patience she displayed. There are days when he drives me so crazy that I used to just put myself in time out and go outside and smoke. That's not an option anymore, just like eating Nerds is out. So I've got to find new ways of dealing with him that don't involve those vices or popping a Xanax everytime he's being a shithead.

The discussion last night with really intelligent and well-informed people took me aback. I wasn't expecting to get inspired to start getting re-involved in the political process. I was seriously so burnt out six months ago that I literally dropped out of everything. I figured I'd let the primary play itself out, I'd vote for who the people I trust were voting for, and I justified it by saying I needed a little vacation from it and therefore would trust that those who are smarter than me would eventually help me figure it all out. Now that I'm learning more about the candidates, I'm really glad that Obama won the primaries. I'm sure as the election season heats up I'll have more to say but for right now Obama still freaks me out just enough that I'm not really ready to discuss in detail why I'm voting for him. Hopefully I'll figure it all out soon so that I can share it with everyone.

Suffice to say that I'm feeling much more mentally and physically stable and centered than I have in a very long time. Hopefully this will translate itself into much more trivia played with friends, being able to go off the drugs so I can get back to my normal margarita lifestyle, and more happiness and contentment displayed by me so that I can take the burden of my health and well-being off the shoulders of my family. Out of all three of us, I think it's been harder on them than it has been on me. And let me say that without David there's no way I could've done this. I've come to a point in my life where I've hit rock bottom and have been able to see that I am quite capable of clawing my way back to the top. Depression and OCD are very dangerous things to suffer from and if you've never had the experience of either condition, I would suggest that you be very patient with those around you that are suffering from them. I've seen darkness, I've seen suicide as an option, I've seen my family and friends rally around me, and now I'm starting to see the hope that I prayed still existed.

The last year has been huge for me. I've gone through so many life changes that I honestly think I was just too overwhelmed. I totally freaked out and had my mental and physical breakdown. I think the final straw was my grandmother's death in January. Even though for me her funeral was a joyous occasion because I know she wouldn't have wanted to live with Alzheimer's for as long as she did, it was still very difficult to deal with my insane extended family for an entire weekend. But I do think I've grown from the experience. I've only experienced this level of depression and craziness one other time in my life and it was after my divorce. But I think this time might've been a little different. It's lasted longer and I've had to rely solely on myself to find my way out of that dark place.

It's been a struggle and I've fought some of the battles that come with depression and I've let others roll over me and consume me. It has not been easy. I hope to never have to go through it again. But I'm taking charge of my life now and am trying to make myself a better person because of what I've just experienced. I hope that I am now more compassionate and level-headed because of it, but I hope I haven't lost my fiery spirit and sharp tongue because of it. Please bear with me if I seem socially awkward or unable to hold my tongue for awhile. I've noticed that I've been saying even more lately than usual. I don't know if that's because of my new-found self-esteem or if it's just another manifestation of the depression and OCD that hasn't yet gone away.

Either way, I love you all. You've supported me in ways I wasn't expecting. You've been there for me, whether it's getting coffee or having lunch or talking to me on the phone for hours. You are the family I have chosen and I hope that our bonds only grow stronger because of this.

Mindy, I know you might not read this because you stay away from the internet, but you have provided me with solace, comfort, and advice that no one else could've given me. You are my best friend and you know what you mean to me. You have been my shoulder to cry on and my strength and inspiration to keep going and fighting for myself.

Renee, Erica, and Sharon - I literally owe you my life. You are very strong women in very different ways and I admire and trust each and every one of you.

Harold and Brad, you've supported me in ways you might not ever truly understand. Your inner strength has spoken volumes to me and I've watched you and learned from you over these months.

Becky, what can I say? You're my other best friend and I love you. The murder mystery party wouldn't have happened without you and your patience with my insanity has been amazing. I don't think I would've made my way out of this without you and your humor. "Or maybe midgets. Except we need to be careful about getting them all riled up so they don't start a revolution that escalates into a midget uprising. My knees are bad enough already."

David, there are no words to express what you have done for me. You are my favorite and always will be. On the cusp of our first wedding anniversary I can only say that the support you have shown for me over the past six months will hopefully translate into a beautiful and exciting future for the both of us and our family. You are my life and I wouldn't be where I am if it weren't for you.

And to my internet friends. The blogs I read and the friendships that have been cultivated because of that. As cheesy as it sounds, your support in the form of emails, comments, etc. has had an immeasurable effect upon my mental health. The world is a very big and isolating place but our connections here seem to make it a bit smaller and more friendly.

This blog entry has turned into this whole thing that I hadn't really planned. I mostly just wanted to let you know that I've quit smoking and have lost seven pounds. But there's been so much going on with me for so long now that I guess I just felt it was time to share what I'm able to share right now. Hopefully as I get further away from this situation I've found myself in I'll gain a new perspective and will be able to share more with you. Thanks for listening (reading) and for sticking by me.


UnrulyDuckling said...

I am so glad and thankful to hear that you're on the upswing. Don't ever hesitate to ask if you need anything.

Anonymous said...

we love you :)


Talley Images said...

and here I was going to try to chasten you to a new post and you beat me to it.... and really, really good post at that...

it is good to read that the fog is finally starting to lift a bit so you can really see where you are and where you want to be...

congrats on the smoking and the weight loss... dude, thats stinking awesome....

thanks for keeping us all a part of your life.... :)

fictionfiend said...

Welcome back, Holly.
I love you. :)

Lisa J said...

I am glad you are doing better, and so happy that you have such a loving, supportive husband. I check up on you through your blog and did not realize you were going through so much. I wish you a strong recovery and a quick one at that. SO GLAD TO HEAR YOU QUIT SMOKING. That is probably one of the best gifts you can give your son, husband and yourself. Live long, live happy, and love much.