Old Woes

Heh. Well, that’s interesting….

I’ve been on half-doses of Effexor for…mmm….six days now, and I hadn’t been noticing anything. My productivity may be marginally up, but then again, it may not be, and I still nap rather a lot, although it seems a smidge easier to get out of bed (but again, could be the placebo effect.)

And I certainly haven’t felt depressed, or anything like that–life is, in fact, goin’ fabulously on all fronts at the moment, and if it continues at even 50% of current coolness, I will count myself exceedingly fortunate and leave much candy for Ganesh.

This evening, though, I found myself…mmm…brooding, I suppose. Not badly. It’s the sort of vague feeling, somewhere between dissatisfaction and irritability, that I’d normally associate with a case of PMS. It can be shaken off with any number of distractions–good music, good book, good company, good game…whatever. As such things go, really quite minor.

Still, I find myself brooding over specific incidents in my past, which I shall not tax you with–nothing too terrible has ever happened to me, but nobody gets out of life alive, after all, and we’ve probably all got a few bleak memories that we roll around in our heads until they get smooth and polished inside our skulls.

The funny thing is that these–mmm–persistent woes, let us say–are the ones that I found myself brooding over when I first started to get really starkly depressed last summer, the stories that I told over and over, in great variation, to a non-existent audience.

And this evening, as I found myself idly running my mental hands over these old woes (I see them like white rocks, stamped with black sigils that look like they should mean something but probably don’t) I suddenly thought “Heeeeeyyy now….wait a minute…this specific shit only comes up in my brain when my seratonin levels are goin’ wonky!”

Well. Be damned.

Writing it out like this, it sounds terribly banal and obvious, but…err…it’s kinda not.  See, on some level I think I expect depression to be oddly…oh…nonspecific, does that make sense? Vague. I should feel generalized badness. I should be unhappy, or irritable, or unable to concentrate, or sleep twenty hours a day, or whatever. You know. I should be depressed. A broad overarching condition!

This, though…this is so weirdly specific. That my seratonin levels sink and in response, my brain immediately leaps on these old specific woes and starts polishing up the old specific stories, and nudging it in under my consciousness. It’s…it’s almost TOO weirdly precise, you know? It’d be like if I started reciting “The Raven” over and over again inside my head, and only “The Raven,” and I was forced to conclude that for some reason, the lowering of the levels of a particular neurotransmitter causes me to obsess mildly over pallid busts of Pallas, and shit, now I sound REALLY crazy, but that’s how specific we’re talking.

To put it another way, here’s a broad general condition–lowering of one neurotransmitter–and instead of having an apparently broad general effect, it is throwing up this insanely specific result which, being memory, feels like it should be, y’know, important somehow, or sacrosanct, or at least MEANINGFUL, and not just the result of a random chemical firing. I feel like I put my brain in the microwave and nuked it for five seconds, and instead of getting a generally hot sizzle, one hemisphere erected a small scale model of the Eiffel Tower on top of the cortex and started humming the Ave Maria. The part of myself that likes to think of itself as a rational observer* goes “Wait…what?”

All of which is a roundabout way of saying “Shit, brain chemistry’s some weird stuff, huh? Amazing!”

This is actually highly useful for me though, because now I’ve got a genuine dyed-in-the-wool indicator. If I start brooding over Specific Old Woe X, I am getting depressed.

Remember that, future self. That there’s a warning sign, and perhaps we could pay attention to it, instead of working ourselves into a  nice deep hole, hmmm?

Now, I hasten to add that this is not an automatic sign that I should not go off the meds–this is almost certainly a symptom of withdrawal, I was warned that I’d have a week or so like this, while my brain readjusts to the fact that the neurotransmitter levels are wonky, and ideally it’s supposed to kick up production to compensate. The doctor’s exact description was “You’ll notice a slight difference at first, and then at about two days of none in your system, you’ll DEFINITELY notice. You’ll probably be tense and anxious for four or five days after that, but if you can give it a chance and get through that stretch, everything should settle down. If there’s any problem, call me.” As she has been spot-on so far, and my reaction to Effexor is beautifully textbook, I shall stick to this plan unless it becomes notably unpleasant, or if I don’t bounce back immediately.

(And yes, yes, I suppose I should probably see a therapist or something, but dude, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I’m happy, I’m productive,  and I really don’t need to overcome every last trauma and personal eccentricity before I die. If I expire without having bitten my fingernails for a year, I’ll still be dead. So far as I know, there is no prize for being the sanest person in heaven…)

*Being a fairly good skeptic, I must now admit that I am not a reliable observer at the moment, owing to the psychotropic meds, and must further point out that being prone to sleep paralysis and accompanying hypnogogic hallucinations, as well as having taken all those psychedelics in my youth, my testimony should definitely be taken with a grain of salt at the best of times.

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