I know I haven’t been writing as much lately.
I’d like to say there’s a good reason for that…but actually, there’s been NO reason. Life has been tooling along steadily and uneventfully. After the last eighteen months, the calmer pace of “normal” is a blessing. (Although I’m writing this from 30,000 feet and I literally JUST saw another plane hurtling through the sky in the opposite direction uncomfortably close to the right wing. So maybe chaos hasn’t left, but is lurking around the corner, waiting to pull the ultimate “Gotcha!”)
The hubs and I were going through what one might say is a “rough patch.” (These are probably the same people who say that childbirth is “uncomfortable.”)
By some miracle, things are actually better. MUCH better.
What’s changed? He’s toned down the hate speech. He’s told me every day how much he loves me, that he sincerely appreciates me, that he’s thankful to be married to me. He gives me the space I need.
And we talk. Truly COMMUNICATE. Where he says a thing, and I respond, and there’s a sharing of ideas and thoughts and opinions that’s respectful and intelligent. When we disagree, we do it with love. We seek to understand. And we hold hands.
I’ve been working on myself, as well. Because I firmly believe that when a marriage fractures, you have to cast both bones. You cannot dance as a couple and only blame one person for the fall. If you want long-term healing, you absolutely have to be able to step back and understand your role in ending up where you landed, or you’re doomed to repeat the injury when you tango with someone else.
To be fair, the blame split isn’t usually 50/50: My ex was abusive. Or she cheated. In no way am I saying that people who have affairs or personality disorders can shift the blame…but it’s worth analyzing the events that lead up to falling in the pit.
I mean, most spouses don’t go seeking an affair because the relationship at home is amazeballs, right?
NOT THAT THIS MAKES IT EVEN REMOTELY OK OR IN ANY WAY EXCUSES THE BEHAVIOR.
But we can learn from pain, even if all we gain is a better awareness of how to spot the beginnings of cracks in the dam.
An example: In my first marriage, my ex was mentally abusive. Clearly NOT my fault. But it did me quite a bit of good to study the vulnerabilities in myself that drew me to this person. It enabled me to shore myself up so I’d better identify the warning signs and avoid falling back down the rabbit hole. I practiced standing up for myself a little more often. Slowly, tentatively at first, I found my voice and a spare backbone.
In other words: you need to master the difference between a surprise treat and a baited trap. Or you’re doomed to wonder how you YET AGAIN got stuck in this cold, metal cage.
I’d been trying to do some healing through this blog, and occasionally I’d take a swing at therapy. But in the spirit of really fixing myself and my marriage, I thought perhaps it was time to get more aggressive with the Care and Feeding of Kate.
So I went to the doctor and asked to try medication again.
Now, I’ve tried prescriptions in the past. Zoloft. Wellbutrin. Great antidepressants for many people. However, my issue really is more anxiety. Depression meds may or may not work when it comes to treating anxiety, and finding the right cocktail can feel as randomly impossible as picking the winning Powerball numbers.
And then there was the Lorazapam Incident. Yes…”incident.” Which SHOULD be a great story, but unfortunately, I cannot remember ANY of it. What I do know is that sometime within the first week of taking this drug, I suddenly found myself home completely confused about how I had gotten there at 1 PM on a work day. The next morning, when I went to the office, I got a ton of concerned looks and questions: “Are you OK? No, really…are you?” No one would tell me what I did or what I said, other than, “you just didn’t look…right.” I also have NO CLUE HOW I DROVE HOME. Yikes. (And thanks, everyone, for letting me operate heavy machinery. Love you all.) Suffice it to say I got rid of that Rx in a hurry, and it’s notated in my medical chart as an “allergy”, right next to penicillin. (I’m also allergic to cockroaches. But they won’t add that in there, for some reason, even though I think it’s super interesting and a GREAT icebreaker for those awkward silences at parties. I guess it’s a good indicator that they won’t be using cockroaches in medicine in the foreseeable future, right? Because yuck.)
I’ve also tried sleeping aids, thinking that if I could get quality rest, it’d help. On some nights, plain old melatonin helped a little, but melatonin is like a Band-aid – fine for minor cuts, not so good for gaping sleep wounds.
So, a few years ago, I tried to find something stronger. Ambien, anyone? All of my friends* swore by it: “It’s a miracle drug. Best shuteye I’ve had in years. You might eat the entire contents of your fridge at 3 AM, but you’ll sleep right through it.”
*Yes, all. Why does it seem like most people I know are on some type of medication? Is this true in your circle, too? Maybe we all send off invisible signals to one another, an unlisted side effect attracting us together like magnets.
What did Ambien – the miracle siesta drug – do for me?
Nada, zip, zero.
No drowsiness, no restorative REMs, no sleepdriving across town at 2AM to buy donuts at the 7-11. It was like all my buddies were ripping open presents while Sandman Santa had missed my house completely.
I switched over to Trazodone, which actually unwound me enough to help me sleep. Problem was, I wanted to KEEP sleeping. Since my job expected me to show up before the socially accepted lunch hour, I had to give it up. Plus, when you sleep until noon, it’s impossible to fall BACK asleep anytime before 2 AM. It’s like getting jet lag without the tropical vacation and enviable tan.
So I gave up.
It had been about ten years since I attempted medication. Honestly, I wasn’t terribly optimistic that there was an appropriate cocktail* out there that would help. But in the spirit of shoring up myself so I could better focus on my marriage, about six weeks ago I put on my adulting shoes and headed to the doctor and asked for help.
*Yeah…wine helps too. But that’s not a crutch I want to depend on. Because addiction. And calories.
I wasn’t sure there was much left that I hadn’t tried. But there was. “It shows here that we prescribed you Effexor a few years ago, but you never filled the script because it was too expensive.” (They wrote THAT in my chart, but not the part about cockroaches?) “There’s a generic available now. Let’s give that a whirl.”
So off to the pharmacy I went.
I got my caplets, took them as instructed, and waited.
The good news? They worked. THEY ACTUALLY WORKED. I started to sleep. The racing thoughts subsided.
The biggest change?
I no longer felt compelled to weigh and measure my food.
Lemme let that sink in for a sec.
After spending years of my life counting olives and weighing salsa, I put my food scale away.
This. Was. Huge. Miraculous. Life-changing. I stole bites of whatever treat the hubs was enjoying. If I wanted ketchup and mustard on my burger, I just slopped it on willy-nilly without really caring whether I had 1.5 tablespoons or two.
I was more relaxed everywhere, including the dinner table.
But….now the bad news: the side effects.
First, there were the headaches. Constant, nagging, aching. Half my daily caloric intake was analgesics. I rapidly depleted my Costco-sized bottle of ibuprofen, which didn’t do anything positive for the other problematic issue: nausea.
Have you ever dealt with chronic nausea? It’s debilitating. Exhausting. You feel awful all the time. You’d think this would be an absolute dream for someone with an eating disorder, wouldn’t you? But it’s not. It’s the kind of nausea that can only be relieved (ironically) by eating. It was a cruel need for constant calories, and I was too ill to care. From the couch, I kept up with a steady stream of carbs (mostly tortilla chips and pizza*) and focused on trying to function.
*No matter how sick I am, I can pretty much always eat pizza. This was also the case when I was pregnancy-puking. Most people gravitate towards ginger ale and saltines. Me? If I’m refusing pizza, take me to the hospital STAT.
It was maddening. I’d found something that relieved the constant barrage of negativity in my head – yet made me as sick as my bulimic cat. I debated toughing it out, but after missing two days of work, I decided it was far too high a price to pay for relative mental stability. Reluctantly, I messaged my doctor. Thankfully, there was a different formulation I could try – a fast-acting, smaller dose, taken twice a day.
What did I have to lose?
I picked up my prescription and I held my breath.
And, in a few days, I was able to step outside of myself and enjoy the view.
Am I 100% cured? Of course not. But someone’s come and cleaned the film from my internal windows. The voices in my head are quieter. More subtle. Suggestions, not commands. I can diagnose irrational thoughts and tamp them down with reassurances that my brain is attempting to mislead me.
And there are still some side effects – namely, REALLY detailed and vivid dreams. (Which I should totally write about. Except for the one that starred Will Smith. Hubba hubba.)
The queasiness is minor and fleeting. I’m getting some headaches, but they’re manageable and treatable. And I’m a bit tired, so it’s not exactly easy to get out of bed. (Not that it ever was. Mornings and I aren’t exactly BFFs.)
So I have a slightly longer climb most days. But so far, it’s been worth it to enjoy the view.
What’s worked for you? What didn’t help at all? Medication? Therapy? A combination? Share your triumphs and tribulations in the comments!