Wednesday, November 22, 2006


Saturday, November 18, 2006

Neurons Are Not To Be Messed With

In 2001 I went to my doctor for depression. I was given prozac samples, but after a month I was a stumbling, slurring, uncoordinated wreck. Prozac, it seemed, affected me like a stroke. So I was put on Effexor XR (venlafaxine), which I stayed on for about two years with no problem. I finally ended up seeing an actual psychiatrist, who weaned me off of Effexor and put me on a mood stabilizer instead. That worked great until I lost my job and of course, my insurance.
But lately, I have been back to my regular MD, and I have, sort of, chronicled my stints with Straterra and then Effexor again. Well, Effexor ended up giving me a new side-effect this time, one I decided real quick was a deal-breaker. So I again called my doctor, after only a month of taking 75 milligrams a day, and asked to be switched. He put me on Wellbutrin and told me I could switch right over from the Effexor with no tapering off. I specifically asked him and that's what he said. All was well for two days. The side-effect from Hell even went away on the second night without Effexor. But the next day...

It was Friday, and Jame came over like she does most Fridays. (It just works out that she's in town those days so we have our girl-time then.) But after about three hours of trying to understand our men and our children and the sock-kleptomania of most major brands of dryers, I started to feel odd. I had already spent a good fifteen minutes relating to her a dream I'd had the night before that just wouldn't leave me once I'd woke up, and I had decided too that perhaps three cans of Mt Dew were too much as I could NOT sit still and felt incredibly jittery and anxious. And she had also commented that during a brief visit the day before, I had become violently angry while retelling a petty argument I'd had with Tom, an over-reaction I hadn't even been aware of. But now, I felt like I was having a heart attack. I was nauseous, but only when I moved. (Imagine motion sickness from walking.) And I had the most distressing feeling I have ever had. I felt like my heart and possibly my lungs were vibrating. Jame took my pulse and it was fine, but I felt this sensation of having nervous organs. I later described it as having restless leg syndrome behind my sternum. I was laying on the couch motionless and trying to describe to Jame how I felt (not so much sick as just weird) when for no reason I burst into tears. Horrible sobbing for maybe three minutes, and then done, like driving into and then out of a torrential storm. But I didn't feel sad at all. My emotions didn't cry, just my head.

I tried to call the doctor's office, after Jame googled "Effexor withdrawal" and found hundreds of horror stories, but I kept getting a busy signal. So Jame drove me to the clinic and demanded I see a nurse. The nurse had never even heard of Effexor withdrawal (I told her to just google it someday) and looked it up in her PDR: not much mentioned there but dizziness and nausea. I told her of all of my symptoms, some of which, like the dream, I would never have linked to medicine if I hadn't read about it online. Seems dopamine floods can cause incredibly intense and vivid dreams and nightmares. So now, I have orders to spend the next five weeks tapering off of the effexor, almost as long as I was on it in the first place.

The moral to this story? Don't take Effexor. There are dozens of anti-depressant and anti-anxiety meds out there; you don't have to take this one. And research online before you fill any psychiatric prescription. I have read in the last 24 hours that Cymbalta and Paxil withdrawal can be just as bad. Regular MDs aren't trained very much in the use of these drugs, and the drug companies aren't all that eager to share the details of how awful their drugs can be, so these doctors don't even know about all the risks. They are almost as much a victim as the patients are.

One bright side, though. Uncontrollable nausea makes it easy to quit drinking, a task I've undertaken for the sake of my marriage.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

What is sexy?

When I got married, I thought I would settle happily into a life of contentment, security, and structure. I thought marriage would remove the pursuit of a soul-mate from my life and leave me the time to live my life with less pressure. No need to impress other people, no need to attempt to turn heads, just the freedom to be me, and the confidence of knowing that someone loved me and the great search was over. Leave all of that primping and polishing to the single girls. Let them worry about finding the one outfit that will strategically hide flaws while spotlighting attributes. I would be sexy in a Jill Taylor (Home Improvement) sort of way.

But I was naive. While it's true that I no longer strive to attract attention from strangers, that I don't scan the room anymore when I enter a bar, I have discovered what so many wives before me have learned. Keeping attention may be more difficult than attracting it. Once a man has seen you face down in the toilet, once he has watched you climb into bed in ratty period panties (You girls know what I'm talking about), once he's seen the goop you put on your face, it's hard to imagine him forgetting it all, no matter how much make-up you put on to go out.

I know it's possible; it's how I see Tom. He walks around the house in his boxers, expelling air from every orifice as though he were an untied balloon, but when he puts on those tight jeans, or that black t-shirt that's just a bit too tight in the shoulders, or when he grows his beard just because I like it, all of the farting and belching and genital-scratching is forgotten: he is the sexiest man alive.

So I try. I try to do all the little things you read about in women's magazines. Wearing nothing but his white suit shirt with the sleeves rolled up? Did it. Yawn without baring any teeth? Did it. Wear perfume to bed? Did it. But none of these generalized strategies worked. In fact, the suit shirt thing was so cliche it made him laugh. What an ego boost that was! The fact is, I didn't marry any of the guys who answer Cosmo's "What Is Sexy?" surveys. I married a Nebraska farmboy turned trucker, with his own fantasies. And finding out what they are has, and no doubt will continue to be, a long and surprising process.

I wear contacts. I have for ten years now. But my eye doctor told me that because my prescription is so strong I need to have a back-up pair of glasses. The basic gist of it is that if I were to get an infection and be unable to wear my contacts, I would be too blind to do anything unless I had a pair of glasses. So I went and spent the $200 and then, in some pathetic attempt to justify the price, wore them for about a week. When Tom came home unexpectedly and found me in a pair of square black plastic frames, with my hair piled on my head in a clip because it wouldn't do anything else that day, I was mortified. I looked like crap and I knew it. But he grabbed me and kissed me, and then looked down at me and said "Hello Teacher." For a full decade I'd been wearing contacts because glasses hid my cheekbones, and striving for long thick Cindy Crawford hair, and this was what turned him on? I filed it under "Men make no sense" and went back to reading articles on how to keep a man's interest.

So yesterday, when I went to pick Tom up at the truck, I deliberately wore a blue blouse (the color he says I look best in) and my tightest pair of jeans. (The magazines do say to pay attention to what your man compliments you on, and Tom is an ass-man.) But I was a little surprised when Tom told me he had a shirt he wanted to see me in, and tossed me something from his backpack; his old high school football jersey. It must be some teenage fantasy to see his girl in his jersey (he never really had a high school girlfriend: too shy). The funny thing is, I'd never dated an athlete back in school; I'd never even wanted to. But part of me must have been jealous of the cheerleaders in their boyfriends' huge letterman jackets, because wearing Tom's football jersey almost made me feel like a schoolgirl dating the football star.

I'm not going to stop reading the articles and I'm not going to stop trying to replace images of flu-ridden me with ones of sexy me. But maybe someday I will finally figure out what makes Tom tick, and then I can stop wasting money on thongs ("They always seem to come up too high") and low-rider jeans ("They make everyone's ass look short and wide") and start buying things that work for him. Until then, does anyone know where I can find a schoolgirl outfit that won't expose a thirty year old too-soft belly?