Socially Phobic

June 5, 2007

It might be

Filed under: Drugs,Insomnia,Mood Swings,PMS — iambrave @ 3:23 am

a couch night tonight. I am actually supposed to go in to work tomorrow to make up hours that I didn’t complete this semester. I am not supposed to be there until 11 (late, right?) but it’s already 20 till 3 and I am awake. Well, I might not really be. Sometimes I have to go upstairs, lie in bed until I can’t take it anymore, come back downstairs, and then it finally hits me that my sleeping pills are starting to kick in. And then I can sleep. Or not. Who knows?

I used to sleep on the couch a lot last year. It wasn’t that we were having problems in our relationship; it was more that the couch was a safe place for me and I didn’t get anxious there the same way that I did when I was trying to fall asleep in bed. Psyching yourself out of insomnia is not easy, people. I should be better at it given my lifetime history. (Insert parental joke: “She didn’t sleep through the night until she was 10!” Ha ha. Joke’s on me. And all of the people whom I have bitterly harassed for being able to sleep so damn well or just being asleep at a given moment when I am AWAKE AWAKE AWAKE!!!)

I think I’ve maybe slept on the couch here once. Maybe it’s just not as comfortable as the old couch that we left behind. Or maybe I have just come to appreciate the presence of other warm creatures in the bed. You don’t need a human partner for this kind of comfort. A dog works just as well. Before I got my dog a couple of years ago and I was single, I have to say that the cats just weren’t that reliable as sleeping buddies. I think they do end up in the bed every night anyway but it’s sporadic and often irritating, what with the head-walking episodes and random EXTREMELY LOUD meowing (girl cat is 9 years old, has been fixed for the vast majority of that time, and yet still acts pretty much like she’s in heat on a daily basis. I think it’s getting worse, and actually was thinking that she might be losing it a little. She has always meowed for attention a LOT, but I don’t remember the waking up part from before. A former roommate once told me that she thought that I was the human version of this cat. I love my cat from the bottom of my heart, but I did not take this as a compliment. As far as I know, I do not act like I am in heat on a daily basis. At least not since I got married. Ba da bum!).

What was I talking about, anyway? How did this turn into a pet post? Moving on, the ironic part is that right when we got back from the honeymoon a couple of weeks ago I was experiencing a miraculous sleep revival. I was even mind-writing a post about the way that my bed had magically transformed itself into the most glorious, comfortable place in the universe. No more. But it was nice while it lasted.

Revisiting the psychiatrist appointment last week: this pertains to the way that he told me to get off of sleeping pills. I currently take Temazepam for sleep and I’m wanting off of it. His instructions: try going without one night. If you sleep without the pill, try not taking it again the next night. If you don’t sleep, take it the next night. This has all fallen by the wayside since last week’s Lithium fiasco and I’ve been taking it nightly again. It went all right for a couple of nights, but I’m taking things slow. In any case, I have no idea if this is good advice for going off of sleeping pills. Plus, I can’t get into this right now without bringing up other issues that I have with my doctor right now and I really just don’t want to go there. It’s coming, don’t worry.

On other fronts, I am feeling infinitely better physically. Thank god. I have had a couple search hits on “lithium withdrawal” and things of that nature, and while I can’t say for certain that what I was going through was caused by the Lithium I will say this: be careful. Maybe take it slower rather than faster. But I seem to have gotten through, at least the horrendous physical symptoms (mood swings: not so hot. A lot of tears. I think I have PMS, though, too).

Well, this may be a crappy post but at least I am writing again. I will leave you with this, because if this doesn’t make you want to go to sleep right now, I don’t know what will:

sleep2.jpg

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April 10, 2007

I can’t

Filed under: Drugs,Good Days,Insomnia,Life in General — iambrave @ 2:29 am

sleep. Now, there’s a surprise. Not! (I watched Borat this weekend.) I had been doing better for the past couple of nights because I have gone up again to 2 mg of my Xanax XR. This time, I think it’s because I’m sunburned. Can you call it “sun”burned if it came from a tanning bed? Talk about cognitive dissonance – the concept in social psychology that states that you feel intense mental discomfort when you do things that are in opposition to your beliefs. The relief from cognitive dissonance comes from either 1. changing your beliefs to match your behaviors or I guess 2. stopping doing whatever it is that’s making you feel bad. The point is that I have always thought that tanning was bad, am now going tanning to look better in my wedding gown (never thought I’d wear a wedding gown either, for that matter), and am frankly not changing my mind about it given that 1 minute longer in the tanning machine than the previous time had a massive impact on how much my skin burned. Please don’t lecture me, if that’s your inclination. There’s nothing that you can tell me about tanning that I haven’t thought a million times already. The plan was to quit smoking when I started tanning so that I wouldn’t be engaging in two blatantly carcinogenic activities at the same time, but, well. Not to mention the fact that I have eaten McDonalds and Papa Johns and…gross.

4 more weeks, just 4 more weeks. Although the hot tub won’t be much fun with a sunburn.

At least I have gotten enough done over the past couple of days so that I don’t have to feel too guilty if I sleep in a little tomorrow. I’ve been making lists and crossing things off of lists. In actuality, I have only crossed one thing off of my list so far, but one is better than none. Actually, I think that going to work and going to class should count as massive accomplishments so cross those off of the list too. I would have been able to cross a second thing off of my list if I hadn’t put each and every stamp on the wrong side of the envelopes that I was sending out…you know, where the return address is supposed to go. Duh. ehow.com has informed me that it is, in fact possible to unstick a stamp from an envelope but I have made the executive decision that the $10 or so spent on wasted stamps and the 20 minutes it will take to readdress envelopes is a small price to pay for Getting Things Done.

Anyway, the drug update is that I have not started the Effexor, though the irritability that I have felt all day has made me start questioning my mood state again. I hate questioning myself. I want to be able to make a decision and trust myself. I guess that part of that is learning to be adaptable and trust that I can make new decisions as circumstances change. But I also know that there is a distinct possibility that the mood issues are related to my upping the Xanax XR. It’s an interesting drug. Apparently I am the only person in the world that takes it, because any pharmacy where I go to fill it has yet to have it in stock. My psychiatrist told me that it is rare because they don’t even stock it on the psych ward where he works. It is also the most ridiculously expensive generic medication that I have ever purchased. Unromantic reason to want to get married #612: the glory that is health insurance and a drug plan. I like the XR because it keeps me from wanting to pop pills in stressful situations – guess that cuts back on the issue of psychological dependence. And I have been feeling less anxious in the two days that I upped it. I had cut back because I thought it was making me depressed – it makes me sleep 10 hour nights and want to sleep a whole lot of the rest of the time. And now I’m wondering if it’s the reason that I’m so irritable, too, though that could be stress, I suppose. Negative thought – is my entire life going to involve developing a strategy to use one medication (an antidepressant) to offset the side effects of another (the benzo)?

So, the entire front of my body is bright red (should be wearing a bra, perhaps, ’cause those puppies have never seen a UV ray before) and prickly and itchy (doesn’t itching mean that it’s healing?). I put some lotion on, and it helped a little, but…my goodness, this is a ridiculous discussion.

In general, I’m doing all right. I just keep telling myself this quote, over and over again in my head, when I am worried about how things are going to go when I get somewhere:

“90% of life is just showing up”. – Woody Allen

It really helps me, for some reason.

April 4, 2007

My fiance

Filed under: Good Days,Insomnia,Life in General,PMS — iambrave @ 3:51 am

(There’s that obnoxious word again, but, knock on wood, I will never have to use it again in 38 days. I’m sorry, that’s 37 days. 37 days! Can you believe that I am getting married in 37 days? And can you imagine the anxiety-related implications of a reasonably large wedding for a person with social phobia?) and I are on very different schedules. Which is why he needs to be asleep right now and, while it is perhaps not overly respectable behavior for a 28-year-old woman, I am reverting to the sleeping schedules of my college years (well, I am in college again, to be fair), or perhaps the sleep schedule that my body intends for me to have. That is, staying up until the later hours of the night and sleeping until the later hours of the morning, if not the early afternoon. I’m a night person. It’s slightly torturous to him, I know, given that he has to get up at 6:30 so that he can take the dog to daycare and still get to work on time and I keep him up way later than he should be kept up simply for the selfish reason that I want to hang out with him. Even if our hanging out consists of me forcing him to watch American Idol and us staring at the screens of our respective laptops. I don’t know what he’s doing exactly; I suppose that he’s checking out the latest happenings on the internet and spending countless hours organizing our digital music collection. (I do know what I’m doing: writing here, reading random other blogs on assorted topics which when I’m relatively cheerful include large amounts of celebrity gossip, and obsessively playing the latest version of Diner Dash to obtain an expert score on all of the levels to unlock the new, secret levels.)

Anyway, it’s 3:08:19 right now according to the WordPress clock and yes, I’m still awake. I have tried to go to bed twice already and then gotten up again, which is also disruptive to his sleeping process, I’m sure. I freaked out a second ago because I looked at my cell phone and it said that it was 4 a.m. but now I realize that it erroneously updated itself for the old Daylight Savings this past weekend and I haven’t bothered to fix it yet so it’s really just 3 (like that’s so much better).

So, yeah, I’m feeling a lot better. I am probably going to hell, or at least to Jewish hell (which luckily may not be as bad as the hell of other religions and may not even exist because I went to a Jewish elementary school and they never once, to my recollection, mentioned hell to me), because I told my professor that I was missing class for the Passover holiday and then proceeded to spend the evening not only doing what I described above but also eating [non-matzah] ravioli for dinner which is SO not kosher for Passover. But, eternal damnation notwithstanding, I am in fact feeling quite cheerful right now and also quite confident that I will be able to 1) leave the house tomorrow; 2) take an exam; and 3) complete a homework assignment that I have been putting off for a couple of weeks now.

How to explain the recent bout of cheerfulness? Who knows? I should really just stop speculating on the root causes of my mood swings because it really seems to be an unanswerable question. I do have one speculation: that contrary to the PRE-menstrual disorder (I can’t believe that I am forgetting what PMS actually stands for, but I am) that seems to be described as the worst time of the month for many women I actually get most depressed immediately following the start of my cycle. Maybe this is, in fact, common. I haven’t done the research.

Now that I am in a good mood, I am experiencing a bit of a blogging dilemma. I started this blog approximately one week ago and I stated a specific purpose related to the fact that I want to talk specifically about mental illness and stigma and related issues but the truth is that I do think about other things too and have the desire to ramble on about other things as well such as the fact that I have other hobbies which include watching reality television, reading celebrity gossip and playing video games and sometimes I do other smart stuff real good too.

However, I suppose that I REALLY started this blog as a personal journal so I can talk about whatever I want. I am, of course, worried about alienating the few readers that I seem to have managed to pick up over the past week so this is totally relevant because worrying about the opinions of other people is a symptom of social phobia. See, it’s all related.

And I think it’s good anyway, because I think that it’s important to put it out there that I am a person above and beyond my health issues and that it is possible for me to have a life beyond these issues (although the intellectual quality of that life, given the interests mentioned above, is questionable at times). So, that’s how I’m rationalizing it. If you are reading, keep reading or don’t. It’s up to you. I just may need to change the tagline: “a journal of mental illness, and other random stuff too”. Changing the tagline right now requires me to do a little design work, and I’m not feeling that right this second. But, the point is, maybe what that “random stuff” all adds up to is mental health. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still one million percent devoted to the cause. Just to make things clear, when I refer to “the cause” I am speaking about the issue of the stigmatization of mental illness in society. But, if I spend all of my waking hours obsessing on the cause, I don’t think that I will ever get better. I am multi-faceted, and so are all of the other mental health bloggers out there. Therefore, it’s all totally relevant.

Okay, I feel a little better now that I have explained myself. On other topics, I plan on slapping on that nicotine patch tomorrow even if it’s a fairly ridiculous plan because a) I really may not need the added stress of trying to quit smoking again over the next month; b) I am fully aware that there is a large likelihood that I will start smoking again the week of the wedding if not before thus requiring me to quit YET AGAIN after the wedding and go through the hell that is nicotine withdrawal; and c) I’m not really doing it for health reasons (even though the little anxious, or in this case incredibly smart, part of my brain is reminded of the reality of death every time I light another cigarette). I am doing it because I can’t seem to bring myself to work out while I am smoking and while I am naturally concerned with the mental and physical health benefits associated with working out the real reason that I want to work out over the next month is because I want my arms to look less flabby in my strapless wedding dress.

And now I must try to go to bed again, because it really is approaching 4:00 now and I need to get up and study prior to the aforementioned exam and also try to complete my incredibly late assignment.

March 31, 2007

This blog is

Filed under: Drugs,Good Days,Insomnia,Life in General,PMS,Social Phobia — iambrave @ 2:36 am

keeping me up at night. Okay, I am up at night a lot anyway. But, I was so tired around 40 minutes ago that I thought for sure that I would fall right asleep. Not so. As soon as I laid down, I started thinking of things to write about. Ultimately, I needed to just get up and write. Here I am.

We ended up coming to a compromise tonight about what to do. We didn’t end up going to the concert, but I was told that I needed to get out of the house anyway and avoid getting stuck in my little bubble of safety. The things that we did were not scary at all. Actually, we had a lovely night out. A perfect little date of dinner and a movie. It was fun, and I was happy and not anxious. We saw Blades of Glory and it was ridiculous and it made me laugh. I even felt like I could’ve gone to the concert (maybe) but we didn’t push it. It seems to me that there are surprisingly few movie theaters close to where we live, only having lived in this city for around eight months now, but we found one and I thought it was just perfect. It was old and rundown and although that I am assuming that the movie we saw probably opened fairly largely tonight given the crap that’s out right now there were only maybe ten people in the theater. I am all for stadium seating and digital what have you but I am more than happy to trade not having to share an armrest with a stranger for a dirty little place with a hole in the middle of the screen. And afterwards we got our pictures taken in a photo booth and played arcade-style video games and it was totally silly and I had a great time. The only thing that’s missing right now is my dog – we have to board him when we go out because of his mental health problems (one of the reasons that we have barely left the house together in months) and so he’s not here tonight to sleep under the covers with me.

So, we didn’t go to the show. We also didn’t go to a concert back in September that we had bought tickets for. Note to self: stop buying concert tickets for the time being. But, I’m going to frame this in a positive way. We went out, and this is such a vast improvement over a couple of incredibly low times last year when I couldn’t leave the house at all. I was doing straight-up CBT (cognitive-behavioral therapy) early in 2006 and one of the things that the therapist had me do was construct my hierarchy of fear. I remember that the first thing that I was supposed to work on, i.e. the thing that I was least afraid of, was taking the dog out, not even for extended walks, but just to let him out in the apartment complex that we lived in at the time because I was terrified of even seeing one of my neighbors. It’s progress. MAJOR progress. I have neighbors that I actively dislike right now for various reasons but I am able to leave the house and risk running into them. In California, I didn’t even know any of these people. Here, I have legitimate issues with people that I could very well see on the street at any time and I am still able to leave my house. It’s a big deal.

My period started today in the very light way that it starts and I do feel significantly different than I did yesterday in that, even though I had trouble falling asleep a few minutes ago, I am not feeling totally wired. I am specifically trying to document my cycle right now because I am looking for patterns that will hopefully prove helpful. For example, if I come to the realization that when I have PMS I will not be able to sleep, I will have this knowledge ahead of time and, when it comes to being able to deal with the ways that your brain may be playing tricks on you, this knowledge is key. If I can establish that this insomnia is a monthly pattern I will be able to anticipate it and plan around it and not descend into the downward spiral of “I don’t know what the hell is happening to me, therefore this must be a sign of my final descent into madness”. The same thing applies if I can realize that I do get more anxious when I have PMS. I had been very physically depressed prior to the past week, and needing to sleep 10 or so hours a night, and then the insomnia hit.

I have so much to say right now and I am feeling sleepy but I would like to continue for just a little bit further and talk about the ways that picking up writing again is changing my life for the better. I have never really been consistent with pen-and-paper diaries throughout my life and I have been known to destroy my written words (regrettably) in the past because it made me sick to see what I had been writing about. I started my other blog in December, and I like that one too, to some extent, but the more that I wrote on that one I felt a need to entertain and try maybe a little too hard and conceal too much and ultimately came to the realization this week that these things were the things that I really needed to express. I can’t believe that I went for so much time without writing at all. I believe that I was born to write and I don’t mean that in an arrogant way because the amazing (and intimidating) thing that I am finding out as I learn more and more about the world of blogging is that there are probably literally millions of wonderful writers in the world and there is so much reading that I need to do and so much that I can learn from the stories of other people. I wish that I had figured out what a blog was sooner – I was one of those people that didn’t know even know what the term meant until it was used in the popular media regarding the immense influence that bloggers were starting to have on society, politics, etc. I can’t remember when exactly that was – if it was during a time not so long ago when I spent all of my waking hours getting stoned all the time it may not have been personally helpful. The excessive self-medication that I used as a coping mechanism for several years – as a side note, thank god I was just smoking weed and, while intensely psychologically addicted and perhaps even physically as it related to my sleep cycle and maybe even my depression and anxiety it could’ve turned out way worse – was not conducive to coherent writing. I will talk more about my views on my drug use at another time. And although I am currently using drugs which, I believe, are potentially a lot more dangerous given their physically addictive profiles, they are not inhibiting my writing. So, that’s something at least.

I feel like I am becoming more and more incoherent right now – that’s a GOOD sign, given that it’s 2:30 a.m. – so I believe that I will attempt to sleep again. Believe it or not, I am actually looking forward to the horrendous day 2 of my menstrual cycle that should come tomorrow in all of its crampy agony because I am physically exhausted and I hope that the ability to sleep will return to me.

So, good night internet. Good night to my dog as well – I wish that I could go break you out of captivity to come snuggle with me. I am sure that I will see you both tomorrow.

March 29, 2007

Feeling a little better

Filed under: Insomnia,Social Phobia — iambrave @ 3:46 pm

today. On Tuesday, I sent an email to my adviser telling her that I wasn’t planning on taking any classes this summer and she responded very nicely – telling me that she had a feeling that I might tell her that. Apparently, it’s a bit obvious to the outside world that I’m overwhelmed right now. But more than that, it was validating and it made me feel it was a choice within the reasonable boundaries of healthy human behavior, and that other people can see that there are actual, physical reasons for me to feel stressed right now. I wish that I didn’t need so much external validation and that I could trust my own emotions when it comes to making decisions. But, I’ll take good feelings where I can get them for the time being.

I called in sick to work today. My sleep cycle has been all whacked out – Tuesday night, I guess, I ended up not being able to fall asleep until 7 a.m. and then I slept in fits until about 1 p.m. I think that it’s because I took a Tramadol for a headache and despite the fact that narcotics or faux-narcotics or whatever the hell kind of drug it is are supposed to make you sleepy those little babies can keep me up all night. It’s funny. Not funny ha ha, but a little scary that I can take my Xanax XR, my Restoril, my beta blocker which I can’t spell, another regular Xanax on top of that, and STILL NOT SLEEP. My brain is not super healthy, and I’m on too many drugs.

After I got up yesterday, I did my best to function. But I had a raging headache which abated for a while with yet another Tramadol and then got progressively worse until I had to just walk out of my second class of the day at around 8:00 p.m. I ended up going to bed at around 10:30-11:00, but was wide awake at 5:00 this morning. I was feeling sort of okay – my stomach has been messed up, very nauseous, but at least that headache was gone, thanks to the Tylenol/Aleve combo recommended by a neurologist a couple years back (IMPORTANT NOTE: Despite how this reads, I am in no way affiliated with any drug companies. I might, in fact, hate drug companies. I guess that it’s a love/hate thing. But when it comes to the drugs that I take, I’m just telling it like it is.). But then I ended up going back to sleep at 8:00 or so this morning (having to be at work at noon) and when the alarm went off I just couldn’t get out of bed. I told my boss it was a stomach bug, because I have been really nauseous. Maybe I was just groggy and I should have tried to make it through. Those guilty thoughts are always there when I skip something because of my lifetime record of poor attendance. But I’m not going to dwell on that. I can’t dwell on guilt.

(Do you know how paranoid writing this is making me right now? Despite its anonymity? I feel like my boss is totally going to find this and read this and be mad at me. What can I say about it? I’m either going to post it or I’m not, and I am, so screw it, I guess.)

I’ve never been a good sleeper, even as a baby. And I just never outgrew it. My dad has a theory that it’s because I had fairly major surgery right after I was born and that the first things babies learn is the difference between sleep/wake and that somehow that anesthesia through off my sleep/wake cycle for the next…28 years now? I don’t know if that’s true. Show me a clinical study. But it is true that I have always been an insomniac. And I’m not some powerhouse that can get by on 4 hours. I need me some sleep to feel all right and not get migraines and stuff. Well, I don’t need a clinical study right in front of me to understand the links between insomnia and depression and anxiety and migraines, not to mention PMS. It doesn’t help that I think that stress has been throwing off my menstrual cycle so who even knows what state my hormones are in right now. Either that or it has to do with my theory that my body is conspiring to make me get my period on my wedding day. (That’s a joke. Sort of. But see, I can make jokes. Sometimes.)

Anyway, I don’t currently have any plans for the summer. Well, I have one that I haven’t shared with anyone yet. My plan is to try to go off all of my medications and see what happens. Lord knows that will be a process that requires a sabbatical. But I have a reason, other than the fact that I don’t like the idea of dependence. And it is this: we want to have a baby. Not necessarily this summer, but sometime in the relatively near future. Honestly, we can’t do it on the one income that we have right now. But in order to do that at any time, I will need to not be on any drugs. And I need to see if I can do it. I don’t even think I’ve talked about this plan with the fiance yet (the going off drugs this summer, that is, not the baby part). I canceled my psychiatrist appointment yesterday, because it occurred during the time that I was needing to sleep in the morning daylight hours. But I’m going to tell him as soon as I get in to see him. I have an appointment with my therapist in about an hour, and I’m going to tell him then.

I also want to talk to my therapist about my current fears about the field of psychology as a whole. This is also related to my summer plans. One thing that I could do is try to find an entry-level human services job. But I’m scared – I don’t know if (a) all of that negative priming that I talked about before is really good for me – I was reminded that my issues are legit when I read this post yesterday – and if (b) I can really handle being in charge of other people’s lives. That scares me a whole lot, too. I couldn’t even really handle tech support at the time that I was doing it, specifically the fact that other people were depending on me to solve their problems and I was terrified of letting them down. So, what if it’s not someone’s computer that’s broken? What if I’m a therapist and my client is suicidal or a child is being abused and I’m the one who needs to deal with it? That’s way worse than a crashing computer or lost data or a server that’s down. Shit. I’m starting to feel like I’m repeating myself over and over again in this blog, which I guess is okay because it’s kinda sorta my personal diary and I think about the same things over and over again. In any case, I think I need career counseling. Maybe I need to work from home or something. Maybe I need to train dogs. I’m not joking about that, either. I believe that you can rank types of job pressure. At certain points, I haven’t been able to handle any pressure at all. Well, serving is definitely pressure. But what I really couldn’t handle at my last restaurant job were the ever-pervasive thoughts about how all of my coworkers hated me (they might have, but I think that’s not really the point. The obsession is the problem.). What kind of job can you do where there’s absolutely no pressure, you do it on your own time frame, and if you can’t get out of bed on some days it’s no big deal? So far, all that I can think of are (a) becoming an heiress and (b) winning the lottery. (That’s ANOTHER joke – I must be in a better mood today.)

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