Monday, November 26, 2012

Trying to understand why I feel a little crazy sometimes

Sup.  Rough Day.

So, I’ve had a bit of a problem lately dealing with anxiety and depression.  Some prettymajor ones: inability to work, random unexplained crying fits, no sleep for days on end, strep, the flu and other infections FAR more often than prior.  While it’s true that all of this can probably be attributed to big life changes (getting married, moving, buying a house, changing jobs), I had only felt sad or maybe a little apprehension at times of big change in my younger years, and the feeling now is completely different.  The hole that gets dug between my anxiety and depression (whichever is in charge that day) is so incredibly deep that to ‘think happy thoughts’ becomes a fool’s errand, as there is no such thing as ‘happy’ to begin with when I’m in these states.

So how did this start?  How did I go from happy-go-lucky guy to the most depressed kid on your net-block? 
If I’m feeling conspiratorial, I think it all started about a month before I was married (not what your chuckling about - go ahead and get it out, then continue when you're ready).  As a bonding experience, my father-in-law and I went canoeing on the Duck River in Tennessee with a couple of folks more familiar with the waterway.  Near the beginning of the trip, our canoe capsized (that seems to be my superpower) and my shin struck a log or rock under the water, causing a small (less than half an inch) cut, that was decently deep, but not a big bleeder.  Unluckily for me, we had left the first aid kit in the truck, and had miles either way to get to it.  So I dressed the wound as well as I could, using my shirt as a bandage and a wet wipe to ‘disinfect’ what I could.  And so we finished the day without much hassle.  When we reached the trucks, my leg felt fine and I dressed it with the first aid kit, being sure the alcohol hurt plenty good.

About a week later, my shin began to ache, and my knee would hurt whenever I bent it.  That and the wound hadn’t completely healed and I had discovered a small amount of pus.  Off to the local walk-in clinic to be prescribed a regimen of Bactrim.  Awesome.  That was easy, right?

Well, that weekend happened to be Labor Day weekend and my father wanted to take me to Gatlinburg for one last weekend together as bachelors.  That weekend is when the problems started.  I literally got no sleep the entire weekend.  We were in a small, one room cabin and Dad’s oxygen machine would beep throughout the night, waking me.  At least, that’s what I thought it was.  During the day I was shakey, unsteady and the world seemed surreal.  I figured with was a side effect of the Bactrim.  Sh*t was I wrong.

When we got home, I went to work like usual on Tuesday morning.  Very very quickly, my day started to fall apart.  First my friend Hollee mentioned that was looking a little flushed and feverish.  I could barely focus at this point.  Making the decision to get back to the walk-in clinic at speed, I rocketed away and quickly realized that I was dying.  Don’t ask me how, I just knew (or thought I knew) – this was my first true panic attack.  So what was making feel so off?  Anxiety?  Well, not on it's own - and I wouldn’t know it for at least two more days.  

The clinic asked me to calm down after they took my resting pulse as 140 bpm – but I couldn’t.  There was something happening that I couldn’t control.  The world ‘blood poisoning’ was tossed about between the nurses.  “Get him an Ativan and call his emergency contact.  He’s not going to be able to drive home.”

Shortly thereafter, my wife arrived, looking worried.  They took some blood to culture and sent me home.  The Ativan helped to sleep that night and feel almost normal as the evening progressed, but I was asked to take off the rest of the week, pending blood results.  And so I slept.  Wednesday, the panic returned in the early evening but the test results weren’t back yet.  Off for my first trip to the ER with my amazing wife – I was x-rayed, peed, CT’d and listened to.  After four hours, the ER doctor confidently told me that I had a viral infection mixed with stress.  He gave me Cipro, Ativan, Meclizine and sent me home.  I called my mom and dad to tell them the news – I finally had a diagnosis and was going to be getting better!  Imagine how great I felt!

That night, as soon as we got home, I popped one of each of my new pills and went to blissful sleep… Only to awake the next day in the same panicked state with my phone ringing off the hook.  I had multiple missed calls, and finally picked a call from my dad.  “You need to get the Doctor’s – they called me and they have your blood work.  You have blood poisoning.”  Off, again, to the clinic (which was in the same building as the ER) with my wife to get a MASSIVE shot in my rear (I could literally TASTE the medicine within a minute) and a MONTH’S worth of antibiotic treatments – to be completed the day before my wedding.

The 'real' me, on the left.
And so, there it was.  I had blood poisoning.  But I survived.  Then I got married.  Honeymooned.  Really, truly had an amazing remainder of 2010.  When the clock struck midnight, something changed.  Something in my head.  Okay, it probably wasn’t at the stroke of midnight, but I distinctly remember descending into the deepest depression of my life in January 2011.  I could cry all day about just feeling sad.  There was no rhyme or reason.   Only the absence of happiness, hope.   My doctor saw me (after a breakdown in his office) and quickly put me on some samples of Lexapro, which seemed to really do the job at first.  As he ran out of samples, we switched to Zoloft, 50mg as my problems seemed specific to anxiety instead of depression.

As the year dragged into the spring and summer, I had my ups and downs.  By about July, things were becoming incredibly rough again.  I was having panic attacks at night that lasted through the next day.  I was put on Xanax and took a weeklong vacation to try and settle down a bit.  By early September the anxiety had become such a front seat driver in my life, that I visited the ER three times within two weeks with symptoms of a heart attack.  It was nothing but panic.  Complete, total chaos in my head.  The week of the 20th, I saw Doc again and he upped my Zoloft dosage to 100mg and renewed my Xanax prescription.  That week I had two very tough conversations with my direct supervisors about my anxiety and they assured me that of all of the people in the company, my job was the safest, and they were concerned about my well-being.

One week later, I was laid off due to ‘restructuring.’  So was one of the aforementioned supervisors, as I understand.

Me, two days post layoff.  Literally.
For a few weeks, my anxiety got much, much better.  By the time my one –month follow visit to Doc had come about, I was feeling great.  My heart rate had lowered from 120 at rest to around 80.  I was smiling, laughing.  As 2011 became 2012, and the job prospects remained grim, my anxiety waxed and waned into deep bouts of depression and what one would probably label a ‘nervous breakdown’ a time or two.  The worst of which came over my wife cleaning the toilet.  Yeah, I wasn’t right in the head.  At. All.

The problem became that I didn’t have insurance, and couldn’t afford the full dosage of my medication each month (100mg/day) so I started half-dosing (50mg/day).  This wasn’t my best idea.  While I never contemplated committing suicide, if the images washed through my head I just didn’t automatically reject them as I had my entire life.  I allowed them to play out, but only to a point before I would break down in tears again at my ridiculous desperation.  Then someone I greatly admired lost his long battle with depression and took the hard way out.  That’s when I realized that no matter how often I allowed those images to grace my mind, that I could never let them win.  There were too many people depending on me.

Around August, a breakthrough came about as I had discovered the Tennessee Democratic Party was hiring folks for what sounded like my dream job.  Talking to fellow liberals about politics.  Yes!  I did this for free already!  I can get paid?  Well, the short story (as somewhat detailed here) is that I was never hired, as I had to work for a day knocking on doors and asking for money.  If I didn’t raise $150 in 4 hours, I simply wasn’t hired.  Well, I raised $110 and was informed that I was not going to be hired on.  This meant my unemployment benefits were going to be sent into disarray, since the state felt I had been employed, then discharged.  It took over six weeks to get this settled and to receive over $1400 in benefits I had the right too.

In the midst of this, I got a job!  I had applied for a tech support position at a local company, which I am currently working for.  After four weeks of training, I started on second shift and things fell apart quite quickly.  No longer able to see my wife or father (or any family/friends) during the week, I had no one to vent to – no one that unload my day with, unpacking all of the victories and defeats.  Just me.  In the darkness of my house with my terror-filled thoughts.  By the end of the week, I was sleeping 3-4 hours max a night and going to work in a panicked mess.  By the time I woke up Friday, I couldn’t bring myself to even leave my bedroom, much less my house.  The next week (last week) was Thanksgiving, which I again did not sleep the entire week until Friday night.  I had strep throat, major depression and was prescribed a zpack, Pristiq instead of Zoloft and some Lunesta to help me sleep. 

So now, I sit a complete depressed, anxious mess.  The Pristiq hasn’t kicked in (and likely won’t for another week or two) and I’m off of Zoloft.  I’m back at work, but concentrating is nearly impossible and since it’s an inbound call center, I can’t just work on a different project (something monotonous, for example) to bring me back to baseline.  I just have to sit.  Waiting.  Then go home to a quiet, dark house and sit.  With my thoughts.

All over again.

But then, I do get home, and I can tell her goodnight - and for a moment things are amazing.  Things aren't always so dire, to be sure - and I know that things will get better. It's just tough to see it sometimes.

Here's to hoping Pristiq is awesome! :b


  1. I'm sorry about what you're going through. I've been on Zoloft before and it was so hard to come off of and sometimes I wonder if I need it again but I'm trying to deal with my stress/anxiety/depression without it. Call centers don't help. No matter how much they pay me it drives me nuts to be glued to a desk and a headset strapped to my head for 8 hours. Especially when I have things to do around the house and a 5 yr old I wish I could help with his homework and barely get to see during the week. It's not the same situation, but I can definitely relate. I figured something was wrong when I noticed your passionate posts this political season where almost nonexistent;) I hope things get better for you soon because you are such a smart charming person who deserves to be happy. It also takes a real genuine person to put all those personal feelings out there.

  2. Jonathan, I have been through many things such as this, and I know that no matter what I say and how much I care about you, it's still a very lonely tough road to go. I know how intelligent you are though. I actually miss our discussions. I actually love you very much. Help always comes when you least expect it. Faith in that is a hard road. But I have faith in you as a young man. I believe in you. Tim Garner