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Cymbalta note

today took Cymbalta in AM instead of PM. Either it's a placebo effect or this is definitely helping, except it works off and on. It's like I'll be going about my day, noticing that I'm not depressed and wow isn't that neat, until... Boom. The world is a deep, dark, black, sucking wound of hopelessness, filled with the sooty charred remains from a million broken dreams, wrapped in a blanket of death and choked by the twisted cord of unbearable despair. This will pass after a while though and I'll feel normal again. No manic symptoms to counterbalance the rapid but deep downswings, so FFS I hope that's not rapid cycling cause I don't want to deal with that. Feel super tired, which is cool since hopefully won't need anything to sleep.

Ralph

Ralph

 

Still sober, I think

New personal all time record of 31 days sober. It came at a cost though. This weekend has been weird. More family drama. I'm alternating between feeling perfectly calm and moderate anxiety. Behaviorally I've been off kilter. Haven't got much of anything done this whole weekend and not prepared for tomorrow. Didn't cook ahead or do the ironing like I planned. Slept normally on Friday night but Saturday night I could tell it wasn't happening and took Ambien. Wanted to find a meetup or some social activity, but barely managed to go shopping. In that sense I wonder if I'm really sober if I haven't changed anything in my life except not drinking. I went back to old habits of putting everything off even if I didn't crack open a bottle. At least it's harm reduction. Nothing's perfect. It just seems like whether I'm getting anything crossed off my to-do list is strongly correlated with whether I've taken Klonopin or Xanax recently. It would have been easier to drink but would it have been easier in the long run? The jury is still out on that one. So sick of being anxious - it's not just garden variety worry! Although I do that way too much as well. I think I need to get back into therapy.

Ralph

Ralph

 

Day 30

Finally made it, provided I don't drink tonight. Original goal achieved. Much harder than I thought it would be. Ambivalent about staying sober. Kind of want to take a break, but unsure where that would lead. Also want to see how long I can stretch this out. Can I make it 35 days? 40? 60? It feels good to accomplish a feat of self discipline. OTOH it is hard to have a social life and avoid those environments where others are drinking and where I used to drink. During the day it's better, but at night it gets difficult. Yet if I give in now how long will that "break" be? I don't think I'm capable of moderating. I don't drink to drink moderately. I drink to get blasted. I guess I could always take a break later. Using my procrastination to fight addiction. It could be worse :cool:

Ralph

Ralph

 

getting better again

Last night I got to sleep without any sedatives:). First time in almost a year so that's very satisfying to me. I sort of figured out a way to relax and push myself deeper into relaxation until I fell asleep. I woke up in the middle of the night and did the same thing to get back to bed after a snack. Both times I noticed 3 stages between fully awake and fully asleep. I say "sort of" because I'm going to try it some more and see if this is repeatable. Also I was physically exhausted and I think I am fighting off a cold. Then today I felt pretty normal. I was stressed at work, but not the kind of anxiety where the boundaries of reality blur and threaten to shatter entirely. Today is my second day off benzos, have been taking cymbalta for 3 of the past 4 days. I didn't take it last night and that was when I slept the best. I don't know if it's too soon for the cymbalta to be working but I definitely feel better for whatever reason. since I've been cycling up and down over weeks, I'm tempted to say this is a normal mood cycle; anyone is going to have ups and downs over time. At the same time I feel more confident that I know crazy when I experience it. I've had enough experience with garden variety sadness, fear, anger, etc. to sense a qualitative difference between these and the experiences I label depression, anxiety, or freaking the heck out.

Ralph

Ralph

 

Oscillating amidst the vastness of unknowing

Take that, required title! If I have to write something, it might as well sound like lyrics from an emo band. I am oscillating though. Sometimes everything's fine then next minute it feels like it would be so much easier to finally.. give.. up. I realized if I quit taking my meds I'd probably be back in that place of feeling suicidal again. This is not without its charms. Oblivion. It's what I wanted out of alcohol, after all. So attractive to me but I know it would hurt others. Instead I'm trying to push myself to get better and making progress but in the bad times it feels like such a damned chore. Yeah I'm not in a concentration camp or famine-struck, civil war routed, godforsaken desert so I should count my blessings, shut up and be responsible. Whatever that means. I'm not being sarcastic; I genuinely feel guilty that I've basically got all I need, but am a different person on meds than off and I don't want to deal with that. I've asked other people not to give up so I guess this is my opportunity to learn what I was really suggesting. I am not sure I'm going to make any more suggestions for a while.

Ralph

Ralph

 

learning to manage

realizing that I've just made some mistakes along the way and learning from them. Not taking enough time to take care of myself. Sounds selfish but I can cause problems for others when I don't have my own head on straight. So it's almost a duty to get my act together. If only I knew what my act was supposed to be :confused: I have to keep experimenting. It took hundreds of tries to make a light bulb. Need to have that kind of attitude to solve this.

Ralph

Ralph

 

A new machine

Hurting, waiting for it to pass. Struggling with suicidal thoughts again. Nothing like any drama in my life, just plain depression. I want to kill myself like I want a drink. I know I shouldn't. I know that it will only hurt the people I care for the most, and that's why I resist the urge. The urge is there, though, nonetheless. Do you ever get tired of the waiting?

Ralph

Ralph

 

Our lady of perpetual confusion

Some things are clicking for me. Setting goals finally. Scary because I don't know what getting old will be like after having been on all these various meds. I guess it doesn't help to worry about it though; what happens happens. This is big progress because I couldn't even think about this before. Now it's like pieces fall into place in my brain where as before they were spinning too fast for me to put any two thoughts together, like an engine at high RPMs but stuck in neutral - you don't want to shift into gear until the RPMs go down. I'm having a confidence problem at work. I overloaded myself and now I'm disappointing everybody who has given me a deadline so far. It's Friday though, so next week I'll dust myself off and try again. Hopefully this weekend I'll figure out how to reset expectations and come up with something that can be delivered on.

Ralph

Ralph

 

Weird

Very strange thoughts tonight. Paranoia. Taking everything personally. Making connections that don't really connect. Scared to death of cops for no reason. Full of guilt although there are people who have done much worse than me sleeping soundly. Guilt is more around what I didn't do or maybe it's something I did do that was the lesser of two evils at the time. I didn't know any better, but that is no excuse as I know better now and make the same mistakes again. Looking forward to Halloween. It's the one time of year it's normal to see demons in random places. The better Halloween props are strangely comforting to me.

Ralph

Ralph

 

Time distortion

I went to see pdoc today. Feel guilty about it. What do I deserve when I've hardly done any good. I've tried like hell to not do any bad, and all I ended up was inert. I guess that's what I'm really mad at myself over.

Ralph

Ralph

 

Oxymoron

I realized today that I have yet to discover how to have fun without intoxication. Fun being defined as the times when you take a break from inhibitions and formalities. Doing stuff you probably shouldn't do but it makes for great stories precisely because it was a dumb idea. I can relax in terms of deep breathing or using exercise to beat stress, but I can't seem to turn off my internal self conscious awkwardness to blow off any steam. Maybe that's the next goal. "Sober fun" sounds like an oxymoron, but unfortunately drinking ain't fun anymore either since I got full blown panic attacks. My other chemical friends are coming out of the woodwork now too. Remembering feeling cosmic oneness with the world by taking large doses of painkillers.. Ack. I'm obsessing. This is not good. Going to my greatest strength, distraction. I am eminently distractible.

Ralph

Ralph

 

It's alright

Results of a few experiments: Going back on meds - felt better. (Shocker, right?) Facing some stuff I'd been procrastinating - not good. Depression came back. Normal though. Feels good to be making progress, still waiting to see if feeling good for being responsible outweighs the initial discomfort of getting started. Probably will, since competence is a personal value of mine. Have to keep reminding myself it won't happen overnight. I'm still making progress but I want to be perfect tomorrow. I'd never really challenged myself before so I'm learning responsibility and consequences later than I should. Better late than never though. Can't seem to shake the desire to escape though. I'm good at that. Had some cravings to drink today but not bad. Now I'd rather have root beer. Bunch of calories and sugar but at least it's not alcohol. Ate an actual meal today with protein and carbohydrates and a little vegetables. Don't much care for cooking in the summer because it heats up the house and AC bill already insanely high. So I moved from beer and pretzels and frozen food to fruits and cereal. Now experimenting with chicken. Not easy and really slow progress, but I got more done today than last Saturday, and I didn't drink.

Ralph

Ralph

 

Ouch.

Thought I was cool and didn't need to take my Anti-Anxiety meds until I was in a panic attack. Then the darkness came back. That's the best way I can describe it. It's the nameless fear that lingers just after waking up in the middle of a nightmare. You don't remember what it was, but your body tells you something utterly terrifying may still be stalking you. It's not panic but a distorted frame of mind nonetheless. The prescription says to take as needed. I guess I'm learning the boundaries between need and desire. I don't really need anything, except oxygen and water, occasionally food. Sometimes, however, it is wise to take care of something before it reaches life or death proportions. You don't wait until the house is engulfed in flames to use the fire extinguisher. Problem is, I've got a leaky valve somewhere and little fires keep popping up all over the place. Oh well. As long as I've got something that works I am going to use it to enjoy what normal time I have. It's a hidden blessing of depression that I've learned to really appreciate every moment above ground that comes. So it's back to taking care of myself rather than seeing how much pain I can endure before I break down. I might have been unconsciously setting myself up for a relapse by trying to be more sober. Need to redefine sobriety as a stable state of mind, rather than a simple refusal to ingest drugs of any kind. That should work for now.

Ralph

Ralph

 

Crutch?

I have been doing some soul searching on whether I am merely replacing alcohol with Xanax, or if it could be (dare I hope?) medication that truly helps me. I think the answer is in what I'm getting done. I used to sit on the couch and stare at the TV all night. Without turning the TV on. Now I am cleaning up the house, cooking healthier food instead of takeout 2x/day - nothing phenomenal but for the first time in approx two years I have no urge to commit suicide. The intrusive thoughts are just... gone. I still have some problems with disorientation and they tend to turn up the most when I try to skip doses in the hope that I won't become addicted to this. I'm not okay with this. I don't like the fact that I'm a normal person on powerful psychotropic prescriptions and a morose, moping, self-hating mound of a man-like thing in my natural state. There is also the nasty tendency of these meds to change over time; even my stalwart alcohol turned against me in the end. If the xanax stops working or my pdoc doesn't want to refill it, it will be very difficult for me to avoid things that go boom. I can't control that though. In the mean time, it is extremely nice to be able to simply fold my laundry without having to go cry because of flashbacks, nor space out for 20 minutes because I'm drugged into zombieland. My hand-wringing about all the problems of the world never helped anyone, nor did any of my resentment gain me revenge against the man who terrified me well past the time when I was big enough to fight back. So, what can I do? I can clean my bathroom, and make that corner of the world a better place. I can smile and say hello to people in the hallways at work (even when I feel down), and at least for those two seconds, I was a decent person. If I fail, so did a lot of people. Picture time:

Ralph

Ralph

 

gradual improvement

Right now it feels like main cause of past problems was anxiety created by procrastination created by perfectionism. Relaxing perfectionist tendencies has made me less anxious, which in turn reduces the craving to drink. Working on clearing the procrastination backlog. Anxiety usually goes up right before I get started but there is a bit of relief once it's off the list. Focusing on mindfulness during a task to make sure I start and finish it. This is very hard. Most of the time I will start a task but not finish it. That's where my perfectionist tendency says it's hopeless. Instead I've been checking on my breath when I feel anxiety and every time I've stopped breathing. Making a conscious decision to check whether I am doing better than I did yesterday (did I get more done, have I made fewer mistakes, have I met my commitments, etc.). This helps relax the perfectionism part and strangely I get more done when I relax than when I am all balled up with having to do everything perfectly. Current experiment is whether keeping up spiritual practice can reduce the desire to self destruct. So far, so good, but I am still assisted by Xanax, so who knows. Getting stuff done on Xanax, though, is noticeably better than staring at the walls on Seroquel.

Ralph

Ralph

 

Mental health strategy

Short version: The problem is that I don't know how to take care of myself. Drinking is one manifestation of this problem, but if I treat it as only a sobriety issue, further damage will be done because I will still not be learning how to meet the needs I am currently numbing out with alcohol. Therefore: 1. Find pdoc who will look at problem as opposed to only symptoms. 2. Cultivate better habits 3. Accept imperfection. Improvement is enough. Harm reduction is better than giving up. 4. Achieve some short term goals before trying to set longer term ones. 5. Excessive drama is a signal to step back and re-examine. Unchecked this makes self destructive behavior more appealing as an escape. Thought process: I grateful to be finally on meds that help me think clearly. I attribute getting better to the meds because I am better than before meds, and I am feeling more hopeful, which leads me to take action on my own behalf. It's a virtuous cycle, as long as I do my part. The advantage of a virtuous cycle is that it is self reinforcing. The disadvantage is that every phase of the cycle is a single point of failure. A break in any step can turn the cycle downward into self destruction instead of upward into improvement. Helplessness is a very dangerous place for me to be in, need to take action even if it might not be the wisest action when feeling paralyzed. With that I am trying to create a plan now, in preparation for the point when I will slide downward again. Better to be prepared and not need it than for the reverse to be the case. Although I am getting better I still have a long way to go. Part of this will include meds and must see a pdoc before current meds run out. In the short term: stabilize by establishing healthy routines. Goals center around clearing out the damage that has accrued in past years of unhealthy, self destructive lifestyle. Will need pdoc that sees me as more than a single diagnosis, regardless of what that diag. is. Don't know how to do this except by truth and error. Lessons learned from past experience is don't tell whole story until they are listening. Giving too much information initially has led to pdoc discounting my contribution to my own progress. Replacing self medication with relaxation techniques: Yoga, meditation, moderate physical activity. This is prevention not correction. Whereas I drank to relieve feeling overwhelmed and helpless, healthy routine is a success if it prevents these states. I suspect mistake in the past has been to treat these as direct substitutes, trying to find healthy coping methods to employ against pain that has already occurred. I was waiting until the flood came to build a boat, and then wondering why I couldn't get the boat together. Easier to build before the storm comes. After cleaning up the current mess, I hope that deeper values will emerge that will allow me to make longer term plans. I seem to lack a goal or direction in life, in light of which it is unsurprising I find little reward in expending the effort to keep body and soul together. I am not going to worry about this for now. Got to clean up after the storm before planning to move to an area less prone to flooding.

Ralph

Ralph

 

I feel normal today

Today I experienced an appetite for the first time in a while. Thirst too. I didn't realize I had lost them until they came back. I regret that I lost no weight with my appetite being gone since I was still eating because I knew I needed nutrition (plus you can take in a lot of calories through alcohol), but the difference is that I wanted to eat vs. thinking I should eat. Same with thirst, wanting to drink water is a different experience than being able to tell you're dehydrated and better do something about that. Think my meds are finally together. I don't feel crazy nor do I feel drugged up. So that's nice. I can still feel the crazy in the background but that's okay because it's in the background. I can put it aside and function, which is quite exciting because it's such a sense of relief.

Ralph

Ralph

 

more on panic

Not much of an update today. Had some problems with anxiety that started to develop into a panic attack, but I stepped back and found out what the trigger was. I addressed the trigger, it went better than expected, and I calmed down. Until later when I started to freak out again. That's when I resorted to taking more Xanax. I feel ashamed of doing that when I should be using meditation or yoga or exercise or some other hippie type activity. At least I didn't drink. 7 days no drinking but does it really count as sober if I'm taking xanax? I guess it's the lesser of two evils though as at least I am still alive and when I was on seroquel I was going so far as to shop for suicide supplies even though I was exercising and performing good self care activities. Luckily my boyfriend understands me or at least accepts me unconditionally and that has made a big difference. It's only about 9 more weeks till I get to see him but I think I should put it out of my mind so don't I get too impatient. I dunno if it's even a good idea to write about this as it might be focusing my attention on something that I don't want to give more energy to. OTOH I have a feeling I might want to come back to this later for reference.

Ralph

Ralph

 

Yoga > Xanax

Yep. That's what I learned today. Relaxing yoga does more than drugs, which is the holy grail for me - something that does the trick without being a drug. I'm ridiculously tight though. Instructor came over to help me with one of the hamstring stretches and was surprised that I couldn't even get a normal range of motion. Guess I really need a lot of yoga then. It's kind of embarrassing to see myself in the mirror and how ungraceful I am, but can only start where I am. I keep starting and flaking out though. Need to learn how to stick with it. Yoga is really expensive (even more than meds but maybe about even if I price in pdoc visits) and inconvenient in the time commitment, driving, and keeping track of a mat. Still I'd rather suffer the inconvenience in the short run than worry about my IQ dropping over time. The other thing is there seem to be memories stored in my muscles. I started getting really vivid flashbacks during one of the back stretches about a certain time where it was the first full on beating I got after the divorce. I had done a good job of blocking that out up to now. Or I pretended it happened to my brother. I know there is more back there too and it scares the crap out of me which is why it seams easier to run away and deny it by denying everything. Maybe it's coming up because I'm finally feeling strong enough to deal with it. Maybe I'm just trying to find an excuse to drink. If I drink I will get away from it, but it will still be there waiting for me. Then I will be older, weaker, and dumber but the problem will still be chasing me down. Yet I'm still wondering why even try. It's back to that word faith, trusting that I do have something to accomplish in the long run even though right now it seems like I'm just making myself old trying to work through my own pain which I didn't deserve. I've heard something like 90% of us come from dysfunctional homes so I don't think I'm unique. How come I can't get over it?

Ralph

Ralph

 

OK today

I can feel some bad times coming on. This could be a signal that I'm going to relapse again but for the moment I can see that certain things I'm doing are designed to put me back in that space. Last time I tried to white knuckle my way through it, didn't work. This time I am going to try making sure I take care of my physical well being and see if the rest doesn't flow from there. The need to focus is that there is so much to do and I will get overwhelmed if I try to keep track of it all. Yet I'm doing much better now than a week ago. Trying to stay out of the drama but right now I'm seeing myself very irritable. I've been able to counter that so far by focusing on the positives. For example I was pissed about getting stuck in traffic, but at least I wasn't in the accident that was backing things up. Also I was on my way home so I wasn't in trouble for being late to work. When I look at the things that are working compared to what's a mess, life is pretty good. Punk Rawk:

Ralph

Ralph

 

change the script

I am starting to see more of my own cognitive distortions. For a while I've been resisting getting better, but I think I'm finally growing up. I don't want to be 50 years old and still pulling this needy, "I'm broken" act. As an adult it's my job to get my act together and there are no excuses because there is no authority. There is cause and effect. If I sit around feeling sorry for myself I can get the result of that, or I can look for solutions. Hopefully this time I can hold on to this insight. It's funny how life seems to keep throwing the same lesson at me until I learn it. The answer is there, but I tend to miss it if it isn't the answer I expect (confirmation bias). Meditation is one way to become conscious of habits that have become so normal I no longer even notice I'm doing them.

Ralph

Ralph

 

managing

I made it through a panic attack today without alcohol or my prescribed meds. It looks like there are two conditions that tend to precede a panic attack. One that builds up over time, like not eating right for a couple days, and then a sharply uncomfortable circumstance that sets it off. What fixes it is to get out of my own head and engage with someone else. Long term get better at nutrition. I know the what but terrible at the how. I didn't drink today. My motivation right now is physical fitness. Currently taking a break from the drama. I think.

Ralph

Ralph

 

Ambien

Wow. Sleep like real sleep is a new experience. I know Ambien is a drug but I felt refreshed when I woke up, as opposed to hung over from seroquel and dragging myself through the day. But damn I slept so, so, good and was able to just get up and go. I'm guessing sleep is about the second most boring topic possible (after accounting), but this is so rare. It's the kind of sleep I used to have as a kid after running around and riding bikes all day, before I had any idea what the word anxiety even meant. Not kidding myself though I don't expect this to be long term. I am guessing the effects are only good cause it's new to me, and I have no desire to be dependent on yet another sedative. My goal is to someday go to sleep without taking anything and stay asleep for at least 5 hours. I used to be able to do that up to about my second year of grad school and then that all changed. Wonder why my pdoc didn't put me on Ambien at the beginning or at least try it when I said Seroquel made me catatonic. Lesson learned here I would guess is to find a new doc if they keep you on a med for months after you say it's doing more harm than good. One month, maybe it just needs to build up in the system, but if it still sucks beyond that and she keeps giving refills, time to move on. Second, it's okay to look for a new doc if the current one isn't working out. Regardless, this is too complicated. I want to be off everything but coffee and the occasional Tylenol. Too risky with all the side effects. On an unrelated but nice note, I've been getting compliments from guys lately. Guys who don't look so bad themselves. Personally I'd put myself at a 6/10 on a good day but I'm okay with a little ego boost. One of the guys I met is super dominant, which turns out to be my number one ultra favorite turn on, ever. So that was nice.

Ralph

Ralph

 

better

I didn't get much done today but I have felt a lot better. I think what happened is trying to quit drinking made me more sensitive to anxiety. Panic attacks are a double edged sword. The upside is you really get to see what is important in life. You know how people have these revelations after a near death experience? Well with a panic attack you really think you're going to die - and I see the stuff that I regret and would like to do better. So it's kind of like getting a NDE over and over and over again. The downside is thinking you are going to die, over and over and over again. This is very stressful in itself and got me thinking about suicide again. Imagine being on death row and they keep walking you to the electric chair and strapping you in, and as you're bracing for the pain from the current, the guards go - "ha ha just kidding you live for now." That gets old fast. After a few times you wish they would quit yanking your chain and get it over with already. I sort of just want to get my affairs in order, in other words resolve those regrets, and then if the crap is still there I will end it. However I am hoping that along the way I will move into a more optimistic frame of mind. The obstacle is that I don't think I should die before my mother. I mean she made her mistakes and I don't want to be around her just because of the bad memories, but still I don't think she deserves to attend any of her kids' funeral. That's too harsh. I know that's really morbid but in a way I feel less depressed to start feeling more comfortable with death. To live is to die. Every moment we live, we are getting older, moving closer to our last breath. Coming to peace with one's own mortality should save a lot of angst in the long run, shouldn't it?

Ralph

Ralph

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