I find myself weirdly cheerful tonight. The depression is still there, a disturbingly real/unreal physical presence–instead of a phantom limb, I’ve got a phantom anvil–but I’m sort of freakishly cheery under it.

It is a complex emotion, and I don’t want to examine it too closely for fear of spooking it off.

Still, I had a Baptist missionary try to convert me this morning, (and derailed him with my fictional Catholicism and a joke about the Virgin Mary appearing in a waffle) went to the webcomics coffee clatch for lunch, had dinner with friends, and bought a fabulous Barong hanging–looks like a big demonic figure with a barong face, carrying a woman under one arm. I saw it in a weird headshop in Greensboro and said “I MUST OWN THAT!”  So it was a strange but good day, all around.

Most of the side-effects have faded. I’m still a little faint/queasy in the mornings, but other than that, I’m pretty well back to normal. The exception is appetite–I’m starting to wonder if I’ll be one of these people who never get hungry again on Effexor.  I literally haven’t felt hungry in a week. It’s…not  as fun as you’d think, actually. I mean, sure, you think “Yay! Way to lose weight!” but I actually had no idea how much hunger relates to enjoyment of food. At this point, meals are only marginally better than cardboard. Very little appeal at all. It’s not unlike being just slightly queasy ALL THE TIME.

Thank god Deb keeps reminding me “You should be hungry now!”  Once I move out, if this turns out to be permanent, I’ll have to set a timer on my computer or something.

It’s worth it if it fixes t’ol brain chemistry back to normal again, mind you, but it’s a weird experience.  Still, I’m feeling rather okay tonight, and I can live like this for six months if it gets me over this bad patch.

Still alive here.

The meds still have me feeling faint more or less all the time, and I’m still not hungry, and pretty queasy in the mornings. Other than that, though, I feel fairly normal–no weird detachment, no sense of the flu. No movement on the depression front, but I’ve still got another two weeks before it’s really supposed to kick in. The Effexor dosage doubles next week.  I’m hoping that won’t kick me back into the flu-like symptoms.

It’s been up and down–Thursday night was pretty bad, with personal crazymaking. Not even the anti-anxiety drugs make much of a dent when the insecurities really get flowing. Last night was pretty okay, though. For a brief weird stretch on the edge of waking, I felt strangely cheerful, while simultaneously having the weight of the depression heavy on my chest. It was a deeply odd experience. I wish it had lasted longer–being cheerful and miserable beats the heck outta being miserable alone!–but hey, at least that’s some improvement, however bizarre and temporary.

Today is fairly neutral–got some work done, at least, which is a good thing. My publisher called me up Friday to say that whoops, miscalculation, they need the cover art for Nurk Monday night, or at least a rough color version of it, so that they can print the catalog. I can do it–I could have done the final cover if they REALLY needed it–speedy covers were the one thing I had serious chops in. So that’s a little over half done, and well on schedule to being done.

This is a hard stretch, all things considered. No immediate improvements are gonna be forthcoming, and you know it.  All you can do is wait and hope. You’ve whined everything there is to whine, and you’re starting to repeat yourself. You just put your head down and try to get things done and hope tomorrow is better, or at least, no worse.

Next week I’m gonna go looking for an apartment–I think having my own place again will help. I’m hoping for an October first move in–hopefully it’s not too late. That’ll also correspond to the three week point on my drugs, so hopefully I’ll be doin’ pretty good by then.

Until then…err…keepin’ the faith.*

*You know, for a atheistic-with-fondness-for-Ganesh-but-nominally-Catholic-for-the-weekend value of faith.

Not feeling too bad today. Still annoyingly faint, still no sense of hunger, but not quite as badly detached from reality. No serious impact on my mood yet, but since returning to Raleigh, I haven’t felt the need to collapse into a weeping heap, so overall, could be a lot worse.

Deb’s parents and brother are coming to visit. It is a marker of how great a friend Deb is that she would allow me to stay with her during a stretch when her family is dropping in. It is a marker of the sardonic humor that the gods seem to be displaying lately that Deb’s parents are Baptist missionaries.

“Are they gonna try and convert me?” I asked.

“Of course,” said Deb, as if surprised I even had to ask.

“Ah.”  I considered this. One does not belligerently proclaim one’s skepticism in such cases–it’d be desperately rude to one’s host to so disrupt the tenuous family harmony. Neither does one mention one’s passing fondness for Ganesh to missionaries who worked in Thailand. “Okay, then I’m Catholic.”

“You are not.”

“I am so. I was baptized, I was just never confirmed.”

“Eh, that’ll work.” (Oddly enough, claiming Catholicism does seem to work for me whenever people get the evangelical gleam. You become No Longer Their Problem. You’re still going to hell, but a more respectable one.)

“And thank you for looking less goth than usual today,” she added, eyeing me. (Because I am living out of a suitcase, my wardrobe at the moment consists of jeans and unrelieved black. And one brown t-shirt, which I was wearing.) “My mom’s already going to say something about the tattoo…”

“Best investment I ever made.” I swear, this thing starts more conversations. Not always conversations I wish to have, apparently, but still…

Wish me luck.

Another day, another side-effect!

I didn’t feel as generally lousy today as yesterday. What I did feel was faint. As a sensation, it was pretty much identical to when you haven’t eaten in long enough that you’re weak and shaky.  Lots of faint muscular tremors, mild queasiness, vague desire to put back of wrist to forehead and swoon. (Alas, while I have never fainted in my life, I suspect that I would not swoon delicately, but would rather go down like a felled ox, just because…y’know. Some of us were not Born to Swoon.)

Had the standard nausea for part of the day, but it passed off by dinner. Unfortunately, my poor innards have been so turned around by the side-effects that now I can’t tell if I’m hungry or not. (Deb: “Are you hungry?” Ursula: “Hmmm…that’s an interesting question…”) I ate as much as possible anyway, just on principle.

Whether as a side-effect of the faintness or something unrelated, I spent much of today feeling sort of detached. It’s still kind of like being sick in that regard, the sensation of being at one step removed from reality. The English language lacks sufficient vocabulary to encompass altered states, unfortunately, so I can’t describe it much better than that. I take refuge again in my misspent youth–I feel a LOT like the day after an acid trip, which is a peculiar vague full-body hangover, often with moping.

Sadly, the physical detachment does not include emotional detachment, so I’m still lugging around the lead weight  under my sternum. Still, hopefully in a few weeks, that’ll get dealt with too. Got my copy edits mailed off, and tomorrow the computer should arrive, so hopefully I’ll get back to at least running off prints here soon. 

Psychopharmacology — Day Two

It’s funny. I am a pretty damn intelligent woman, by most measures–sure, I’m Captain Oblivious, sure, my friends seem oddly fixated on not letting me walk into traffic, sure I take a hint about as well as a charging rhinoceros, but still!

And yet, sometimes…

Now, as I’ve said, for the longest time–weeks, going on a month–food was making me queasy. I ate out of a sense of duty, and because occasionally I’d get hungry AND queasy, a truly vile combination.

But I got over that. I took the anti-nausea meds for a few days, then had to stop because it was giving me dreadful esophagus-eating heartburn. But I was okay. In fact, once I got back to Raleigh, suddenly I was voracious.  I was eating to make up for a month on starvation rations.  I was plowing through food with…not enthusiasm, exactly, but dedication, anyway. And in a weird way, I was proud of this–I mean, it doesn’t seem like much, but when you’ve spent a month looking at meals like you’d look at a root canal, it makes a huge difference. And since I wasn’t on the anti-nausea drugs, I felt like…like I’d gotten a little bit better. I’d clawed my way up a few inches, and I did it without serious medical intervention, and I did it mostly on my own. It was sort’ve like “Okay, I can get better. The drugs will help enormously, and thank god for them, but I’d be capable of surviving on my own, goddamnit.”

Stuff like this is important to me. I’m kinda stupidly independant at times, emphasis on the stupid.

Yesterday evening, despite spending a lovely evening with my buddy Ari,* I was suddenly queasy again. And it felt like backsliding, like I’d lost that little bit of ground I’d clawed out on my own. “Good god,” I thought glumly, “Am I this unhealthy and obsessive? Are we right back here again?”

This was discouraging. And the night of long, fitful dreams–you know the sort, where you’re thinking of something, and you fall asleep and it runs in a thread through your dreams, and you wake up still thinking, and you aren’t sure if you’ve slept at all, except that the clock says it’s four AM, and you’re completely unrested–didn’t help at all.  I dragged myself down to breakfast, feeling like the Hindenberg about forty seconds after the spark.

“How’re you?” asked Deb.

“Queasy,” I muttered, staring at my re-heated pizza with deep dislike.

“Well, that’s the drugs, right?”

I blinked at her. Several times. “Oh….right….”

Because of course it was a side-effect of the Effexor. I’d been warned about it specifically and in no uncertain terms–“Your stomach’s gonna feel fluttery for a couple of days,”–and here I am, engaging in some serious self-flagellation over it. Same with the dreams. And I knew better. But nausea’s such an oddly specific thing–you get only limited shades of it, there isn’t quite the range of variation that you get with pain, say–that I was fooled by the familiarity of it all.  If it felt like the original queasiness, it must be the same thing, it must have the same cause, I must be at fault for lack of mental discipline and wallowing in misery.

It was interesting, and it sort of brought home to me how I really AM an unreliable narrator at the moment. Definitely got to avoid any major decisions until after the meds have had a chance to work.

So that was interesting. At the moment, I feel like I’ve got the flu–sweating, tremor, nausea, slight detachment from reality. It’s not terrible, but it’s not fun. I may spend most of today napping, just to try to get through it–I can probably expect three to four days of this before it settles down, and I’m thinking I’ll just treat it like I really AM sick, ‘cos at least I know how to deal with that.

*Who, like many of my friends, sees in me a baby seal wandering the beach and looking hopefully up at the nice men with clubs.

Psychopharmacology I

Hello from the lands of the medicated!

Following a visit to the doctor, I am now on something called Effexor XR.* Side effects include everything. Likeiy side effects of this class of drugs, however, are weight gain (awww) and loss of libido (arguably a mixed blessing at this point) but she hastened to point out that neither effect was as pronounced in this generation of drugs as it was with the golden oldies like Prozac, and I might escape unscathed. Good ’nuff.

The doctor tells me that we’re lookin’ at four to six months worth of treatment, with a bit of flex time depending on how long it takes us to find me the correct drug and dosage, and made the usual plea to not give up on treatment if I didn’t immediately feel better (or alternately not to stop after a month if I DID feel better, going “I’m cured!”)  Hopefully won’t be a problem. I know more or less what to expect–or delude myself that I do!–and I know that it may A) take awhile to figure out what I need to get on and B) I’m in it for the long haul until the ‘ol seratonin levels get readjusted and I get in the habit of being happy again.

The interesting thing is that I can definitely tell I’ve taken a mind-altering drug.  (All those wild psychedlic adventures in college did have a use!) I’m not high, by any stretch, but I’ve got the dry mouth and mild sweats, and of course, the faint, familiar tremor I recall from many an acid trip. And something’s definitely goin’ on in there–I’m just a smidge off from normal functioning. To use the acid analogy, I’d compare thesensation to about fifteen or twenty minutes after having put the little tab of white blotter paper on your tongue–nothing is happening quite yet, but you’re definitely examining the backs of your hands to see if the colors are doin’ anything, and waiting for the walls to start breathing. At any moment, your roommate will nudge you and go “Dude, are you feelin’ it yet?” and you’ll say “I dunno…I’m feeling something…”

(Sadly, for people who share this experience, this is actually a surprisingly specific point in the timeline. )

(Mind you, this could be entirely the placebo effect at work, too. I freely admit that I am an unreliable observer in this case. )

Since the side-effects of anti-depressants are front-loaded, I can apparently look forward to a couple of days of this, headaches, mild nausea, tremor and sweats. (The headache I already met, but Advil knocked it down nicely.)  None of it’s too bad so far, and it’s supposed to go away after the first week or so. I’ve still got the anti-anxiety drug to take as-needed, and I’ll head back to the doctor in a month to see how things are treating me, whether I’m feeling better, need a different dosage, or if the side-effects are persistant or excessive.

A friend of mine pointed out last night that I had had an astonishing efficient (and entirely typical of me) nervous breakdown. In retrospect, she was quite correct–I hit rock bottom, got the shit kicked out of me, recognized that I was utterly screwed, and held up a sign saying “SEND HELP,” all in about three days.  (Three desperately horrid days, but three days nonetheless.) Time from hysterical break to complete re-re-location and picking up of meds–about a week and a half.

Now, sure, I’d been sliding for about two months prior, but as such things go, it could’ve been a LOT worse. I was feeling dumb for taking months to recognize the signs, but hell, it could have been years. So I think I did okay there, but more importantly, I’m grateful to everybody who posted about depression and made me feel like this was a normal thing that happens all the time and just needed to be dealt with, in much the same manner as a sore throat or a broken leg–yeah, it happens, here’s the process, take it away. That helped. Thanks, gang.

*Please, please, don’t write to tell me how your cousin took Effexor and weasels ate his eyelids….I’m tryin’ to think positive here…

I’m not going to say everything happens for a reason, or everything works out for the best. I am much too cold and logical and skeptical and even if I wasn’t, saying things like that is just asking for the fates to smack you upside the head. Sometimes that which does not kill us leaves us a shredded heap on the pavement, sometimes the only reason something happens is that somebody did something dumb.  Such is the nature of a random cosmos.

However.

It was at least conveniently timed that I be living in the house of an old hand at the writing game when my copyedited manuscript  arrived via Fed-Ex, because if I had recieved this beast on my own, I would have stood staring at it in profound bafflement for hours on end, and eventually keeled over in my tracks.

The copyedited manuscript is a sea of colored pencil marks and post-it notes on the margins.  These are proofreader marks. There is no key to them, you are expected to know that, for example, if you want a change not to be made, you will make three small dots under the mark, and write “STET” over the top, which means “Let it stand.”  (It may not stand. However, at least this registers that you WANT it to stand.)

How anyone on earth is supposed to know this is a great bafflement to me. Of equal bafflement was the half-dozen pages of someone else’s manuscript shoved in the middle of mine–do all those prospective writers who obsess over the meaning of every word from an editor’s desk realize how disorganized these people are? (Seriously. If any of you do that, save yourselves. Abandon hopes of editormancy now. Stop trying to read rejection letters like the entrails of the black goat. These people are organized like the rest of us humans–badly, frantically, and doin’ the best they can.)

So anyway, Deb walked me through it, and thank god. I’ve got about half my manuscript  gone over, which isn’t bad, and gave me something productive to do today.

Tomorrow–doctor! Drugs! And hopefully soon sanity! Apartment! Life-as-I-know-it!

The Wombat Has Landed

Whew.

A restless night, a blessedly uneventful flight, and I am back in Raleigh again.

I can’t say that I had an urge to break into song as soon as we touched the tarmac, but there was a definite loosening in my chest. I don’t know if it felt like coming home exactly–I’ve moved too much and too often to have an image of home as anything but a vague hazy wall on which to hang my masks–but it felt…good. Less bad. One knot drawn a little less agonizingly tight. There are other knots that are still tight, other wounds that haven’t quite bled dry–some self-inflicted, some not, when it comes to love, we’re all children with knives–but at least and at last, I’m on familiar ground.

I have a vague urge to go mark my territory at the bottom of an off-ramp, but they’d probably frown on that. This isn’t Texas, damnit. Still.

“Good grief,” said Deb, dragging my suitcases into the back of her minivan, “you look like a drowned rat.”

I can’t say she’s wrong, but I’m a drowned rat that feels a little better tonight.

More Weight!

A long day today. The car got shipped, and I had nothing much to fill the day. I didn’t realize that driving was so much a balm until I wasn’t doing it. Instead I slept a good bit, read part of “Lisey’s Story” by Stephen King (and why, god, was this the one book I left unpacked? There are times one doesn’t want to read about a lonely woman living alone pondering the memories of her marriage, and this is damn sure one of those times. Still, King’s just so readable….)

The anti-anxiety drugs take the very worst edge off, but not much, and they–hmm–work only with permission, if that makes sense.  If I really wanted to be miserable, if I insisted on brooding, I could override them easily. It’s a soft blanket, not an iron wall. They allow me the option of mental quiet, they don’t enforce it, and I have to keep catching myself lest I undo the good effects by wallowing. It’s kind of interesting. Sort of like the way Vicodin works–you call still see all the pain, it’s just on the other side of that vague grey wall there. It doesn’t fix it, exactly, it just puts it at a distance so you can turn your head and say “No, no, we’re not going to look at that…”  and go on about the day. It cures no pain, it just slaps a restraining order on pain’s ass.

The heavy weight across my chest is still there. This is another interesting tidbit. I wonder if that bit, right there, that lead ball under the sternum, is the depression, per se, and if the endless rambling arguments are the anxiety. Can you divide something down that far? Can poor emotional health be chopped so neatly apart? Doesn’t seem like you should be able to. And yet, my doctor asked whether it was more depression or anxiety, and I realized I had no idea what to tell her. What’s the difference? Either way I begin to feel a serious sympathy with Giles Corey, that tough old bird.

I am coming to realize that the most insidious part of the problem isn’t so much that stifling weight as the glum fear that it will never, ever go away. If I really and truly believed that I’d feel better in six weeks or six months, this would be a great deal easier to bear. As it is, despite knowing that this will get better, it has to get better, I will allow for no world in which this does not get better…well, there’s a difference between knowing and believing.  The difference, maybe, between Purgatory and Hell–hurts just the same, but at least Purgatory will end some day, and they’ll fish you out of the fireplace and hand you your harp.  There is an element of fear that I will never not feel like this again, that this is a permanent condition, the old joys amputated by a freak cerebral accident, God lying in a puddle of vomit across the tiles of heaven.

On the bright side, my gift for melodramatic metaphor has pulled through in fine style. (Thank god! You hate to lose that!)

Well, it’ll pass. There is no choice but that it will pass. I really have to get back to work, I think. That’s what really killed me–I stopped working. My computer and gear should arrive middle of next week in Raleigh, I have an appointment Monday for the Good Drugs, and if I can get that all set up and start selling prints again, I suspect sanity will start to re-exert itself in a few weeks. Then I can get an apartment, and slither back into Life As I Know It.

This, too, shall pass.