Adjustments, and the drug that ruined Stevie!

In an ongoing attempt to get my anxiety under control this summer, I finally, at Heidi’s behest, went to see a psychiatrist. Ever since I went on Effexor, my family doctor has been handling my anti-anxiety meds. They’ve consisted of Effexor XR 225mg and as needed Ativan. When I say as needed Ativan, I mean that a bottle of 20 tablets lasts me 6-8 months, so it’s not like I’m using it tons. However, it just didn’t feel like that was the most effective way to handle this moving forward. Something had to change.

I talked to a friend who sees someone in Des Moines and got a name. It was a name that I recognized from work so I called up and, amazingly, got an appointment for the next week. That was yesterday. It was an interesting experience to say the least. The doctor that I saw is about my age and he’s a dude. He talked to me a lot about what I was on already, what I had been on. He talked to me about my symptoms, asked me to rate my mood, made sure I wasn’t suicidal (I wasn’t and am not), and then thrilled to the fact that because I’m a pharmacist because he could talk in jargon with me and I’d understand it.

We had three options.

  1. Increase the med I was currently taking.
  2. Taper off the med I’m on and try something new.
  3. Add something else.

We had a lot of good conversation about what he thinks is effective and what he doesn’t think is effective.  What was especially cool is that he let me pick from those options by and large, nudging me along where he needed to. As a pharmacist, I’m very leery of the so-called “mood stabilizers” i.e., Zyprexa, Seroquel, Abilify. Those were all originally marketed for schizophrenic patients and, frankly, I think they are now being overprescribed for people without that. Not to say that they may not be effective, but it’s kind of like bringing a machine gun to a squirt gun fight

klonopin.jpgWe ended up settling on increasing my Effexor dose, combined with a short term run of clonazepam, also known as Klonopin. Look at how cute those brand name Klonopin tablets are, with a little “K” punched out of the middle. Sadly, I don’t remember the last time I saw an actual brand name Klonopin tablet.  In any event, we agreed that it might be a good idea to help get me through what’s been a very anxious summer while we wait for the increased dose of Effexor to kick in – likely to take 10-14 days.

Now I do not take the introduction of Klonopin lightly. It is, after all, the drug that ruined Stevie Nicks for 8 years. Fresh out of rehab and having kicked the cocaine habit in 1987, a psychiatrist prescribed her Klonopin to help calm her down and keep her from relapsing. What resulted was the loss of eight years of her life which, according to Stevie, could have resulted in her meeting someone, having a baby, and countless other things. She recorded Tango In The Night with Fleetwood Mac during that time, an album on which she barely appears and, according to Lindsey Buckingham, was only physically present for about 2 weeks of the 8 month recording time. Her next two solo albums, The Other Side of the Mirror and Street Angel, are subpar, sung in a flat voice with no real emotion. In 1993, she went into rehab again, this time to kick Klonopin, which took her 47 days and was worse than getting off cocaine.

Now, everyone’s experience is different.  From the sounds of it, she didn’t need it in the first place and she certainly didn’t need to be on it for 8 years. Because I’m a pharmacist, I’m suspicious of any drug, knowing full well that there are side effects and that the drugs don’t just work at the site they are supposed to.  That said, I’ve had 2 doses and I am sleeping better and I felt much more even (if a little tired) yesterday during a pretty busy day. Despite this, I’m already plotting how and when I can take myself off of this med.  I will continue with it until my follow up appointment in 2 weeks, but I am super cognizant of the habit forming qualities of it and I’m just not wanting to go there at all. In all my years as a pharmacist, I’ve found that those that are hyperaware of the habit forming properties of drugs are the ones least likely to ultimately abuse them.

So far, my experience with Klonopin has been different from Stevie’s. Granted, it’s been 2 days and not 8 years, but I have a good feeling that this will get me over the hump to a place where I can start managing my anxious thoughts and feelings a little bit more effectively. God knows 2016 has been a shit year, but there’s lots I can do to make it better for me. Being off social media has helped a lot, although I did go look at it during Clinton’s convention speech because I was feeling left out.

Meanwhile, here’s Stevie reacting to my being on Klonopin.

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When a major key is scarier than a minor key

A quick post this morning since I’m really getting into this blogging thing again. Most of the time, when you think of music to go along with scary stuff, you think of music in a minor key. Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor springs immediately to mind. The minor key of the music helps to create a spooky atmosphere and the tension you associate with scary stuff.

But what happens when you shift something familiar from a minor key to a major key? The results can be, well, more disturbing than you might imagine.

I saw this on Reddit last night and I couldn’t stop playing it. I sent it to Anna and she was “OMG WAT.” As the fine folks on Reddit said, it’s like something you’d hear when playing Wii Sports or something. Heidi says she’s waiting for Link to appear.

I find this to be more disturbing and unsettling than the original X-Files theme song. But maybe it’s just me.

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I got 99 problems and none of the things I think are my problems actually are one…

Apologies to Jay-Z for destroying his song in my paraphrase, but sometimes I need to actually hear that.

I woke up today with a really sore lower back. It’s unusual for me because I don’t normally have aches and pains of the bodily nature – Heidi has more than enough for the both of us – but goddamn, it really hurt.  I stood under the hot water in the shower for a longer time than usual this morning. It didn’t work. So by the time I got to work, I decided I better drug up and went straight for the ibuprofen. Those of you who know me know that I do not medicate lightly. Every time I complain about a headache or any kind of pain, Heidi always asks me “did you take something for it?” and my answer is, inevitably, always “no.” But I was hurting pretty bad, so desperate times, desperate measures, etc., etc.

The ibuprofen really didn’t touch it, and it started to get worse. I was feeling it in my leg, in my hip. And this was when I did what I do best. I always say that pharmacists have just enough diagnostic ability to concoct the worst case scenario.  I was convinced at various points during the day today that I had one of these four things:

  1. Metastatic cancer to my spine
  2. Renal cancer
  3. Appendicitis
  4. A mesenteric deep vein thrombosis, which, if I did in fact have, probably means I have cancer.

It ain’t easy being me. Or at least having my brain and the sliver of diagnostic ability that I have.

It kind of waxed and waned as the day went on, and now, it’s just kind of a dull ache in my left lower back. I took one of Heidi’s muscle relaxers (bad pharmacist) and that seemed to help quite a bit, lending quite a bit of credence to the pulled muscle theory or the “I slept on my back wrong” theory – both of which are much more likely than any of the 4 things I came up with in the rush of anxiety that accompanied an ache or pain that had the gall to last more than 2 minutes.

If there was any doubt that my anxiety was out of control lately, today removed those doubts utterly and completely.  I am sure I will live to concoct another worst case scenario another day. It doesn’t help that one of my deepest fears is dying young (not the movie, although that was pretty scary too) from some unseen illness. It also does not help that a high school classmate of mine shuffled off the mortal coil this week six months after a cancer diagnosis. But just because it happened to someone does not mean it will happen to me.

I remember talking in a recent blog post that I am always worried about time these days, and not having enough of it. That’s probably why I do this. Exactly why I insist on spending the time that I do have inventing unlikely diagnoses for myself I may never understand. Perhaps that’s the thing I need to work on first.

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We’re on a break

Just putting a quick post here to let folks know that if you notice a decreased Facebook and Twitter presence from me in the next few weeks, it’s intentional. I have to do it for my sanity’s sake. The political stuff is making me very anxious and I’m just not in the best shape. Don’t worry – I’m taking care of myself and not letting the turkeys get me down to the best of my ability, but I am going to have to unplug for a little while, at least until I get my head back on.

I’ll probably do some blogging, and those links will autopost to FB and Twitter, but that’s it. I’ve taken both FB and Twitter off my phone, deleted the bookmark for FB on my computer and am closing Tweetdeck for a while. If you need to find me, e-mail me or text me.

I’ll miss the gifs and cute cat pics while I’m gone, but sometimes, self-care trumps even cat pics.

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30 Years Blue

I didn’t realize that today was the 30th anniversary of the release of Madonna’s third album, True Blue, until I started reading about it all over the blogosphere. So I guess I’m kind of late to the party, but I couldn’t let this day go by without saying something about this record.

The thing I always say about True Blue is how it’s the first Madonna album I experienced in real-time. Having been a fan since roughly the point of “Material Girl,” my fledgling Madonna fandom had yet to explode into the all-consuming fire that it is now. But in spring of 1986, “Live To Tell” hit and it was, in retrospect, the first time when Madonna really leveled up. Gone were the chirpy vocals and dance beats and in their place was a ballad sung in the deeper part of Madonna’s register. I remember it not making a terrible impact on me right away, but it eventually wormed its way into my brain and it’s been there ever since.

But even that could not prepare us for the onslaught that was “Papa Don’t Preach.” I’ll admit, when I first heard the title of the song, I thought it was going to be a song about how Madonna’s father was not a minister. But this ode to teenage pregnancy (that has not aged as well for me as it has for other fans) became inescapable that summer, on the radio and on MTV, where they world premiered the video at the top of every hour for 24 hours one Saturday in June. I probably watched it at least 12 of those times.

True Blue was probably released shortly after that – the date of the world premiere of the video is lost to my memory – but it wasn’t until the end of July that I finally picked up the album. During my hometown’s Ridiculous Days, a day when the downtown stores moved merchandise out into the streets at “ridiculous prices” – I was shopping inside the record department of the local department store and was going to buy both the “Live To Tell” and “Papa Don’t Preach” singles, when my brother showed me that they had the True Blue album. It was $9.49, a price I found exorbitant, but I bought it anyway. Clearly, True Blue was not included in the Ridiculous Days sale.

It quickly went on to define the summer of 1986. It was a magical summer for me because it was the first time in my life that I really paid attention to popular music and the charts. I would listen to the radio, recording songs from countdown shows and writing down the top ten every week, eventually transitioning it to a word processing document by the spring of 1987. It wasn’t until many years later that I discovered that I was not alone in this effort. Music nerds everywhere were doing the same thing – we just didn’t have the internet to find each other like we do now. It was during that summer that I learned to really love music because it brought me so much joy.  It still does to this very day.

I never did get the “Live To Tell” and “Papa Don’t Preach” 45s, although I bought the rest of the singles as they were released. I did manage to acquire them a year or two ago via a friend who shares my passion for both Madonna and vinyl.

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My original True Blue album is still around, with scratches and scuffs from years of play. In 2014, I found this 100% unofficial but 100% cool clear vinyl pressing of True Blue.

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And then who can forget when I Photoshopped my face into the True Blue album cover for my annual year-end best-of CD?

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Last but not least, Madonna included “True Blue” in her Rebel Hear Tour last year, marking the song’s first live performance in 28 years. It was worth the wait.

Happy birthday, True Blue. There’s a lot of memory packed into your 9 songs.

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7 Songs: Can’t Spotify This

In the day and age of streaming, I always feel a little bad for the songs I’ve actually purchased that take up space on my hard drive. It seems they get neglected in favor of the all-you-can-eat smorgasbord of Spotify or Amazon Music. Well, not so recently. There are still songs that, for whatever reason, are not on Spotify or other streaming services, and it’s one of the reasons that I will never completely abandon iTunes and actual song files. Recently, I’ve been really hooked on my “Dan’s Favorites” playlist which happens to feature a lot of songs that you won’t find streaming anywhere. So I thought I’d put together a little playlist of seven of these songs. Normally, for posts like these, I embed a Spotify playlist at the end of the post, but well, see the title of the post.:-)

1. “Handy Man” / Mayer Hawthorne

“Handy Man” is a cast off from the How Do You Do album that was released, most bizarrely, as an mp3 in Mayer Hawthorne’s store on a 1 GB flash drive shaped like a hammer. No other way to get it, and only 250 were made. I didn’t buy the flash drive since I was not fast enough, but I did make a YouTube rip of it.

2. “Gang Bang (Bit Error Remix)” / Madonna

Fan remixes sure have gotten a lot better since the late 90s/early 00s when they mostly consisted of someone throwing a generic back beat over the album version of the song. Don’t get me wrong – there are still plenty of shitty ones out there, but the wheat is starting to outnumber the chaff, with fan remixes sometimes being better than the official remixes. “Gang Bang”, from Madonna’s 2012 album MDNA, did not get any official remixes, and I do have a soft spot for it even though there’s no way that Madonna could get away with this song and especially her gun-heavy live performance of it.

3. “I’ve Been Everywhere (Live at the Grand Ole Opry)” / Kacey Musgraves

Kacey Musgraves did this at her concert that I saw back in May and it was just fantastic. Last week I got to wondering if there was a half-way decent video of it on YouTube that I could rip to an mp3 and lo and behold, there was a fantastic live video from the Grand Ole Opry. Perfect sound and an on-point vocal performance from Kacey. As Anna and I say, “that song has too many words!”

4. “Thief of Hearts” / Melissa Manchester

I remember hearing this song for the first time on Entertainment Tonight, playing over the end of the show. Naturally, I was hooked. I am pretty sure I downloaded this during the Napster days, and it’s still not available digitally anywhere.

5. “How Will I Know” / Tides

Easily my favorite Whitney Houston cover, and it beats the shit out of Sam Smith’s dire remake of “How Will I Know”, I have Paul Reynolds to thank for this. It captures the unbridled joy of the original while also bringing a little something new to the table. It also reminds me of how the bridge in this song, followed by the key change is one of my favorite moments in pop music.  Sadly, this was never officially released and the YouTube rip I made of it is of middling quality, but beggars can’t be choosers.

6. Simply Irresistible (Live) / Brandon Flowers

Full disclosure: I have always hated “Simply Irresistible.” I felt it a lame attempt to copy the success of “Addicted To Love” with zero of the that song and video’s originality. Leave it to Brandon Flowers to change my mind. He performed this at his concert that I saw in Minneapolis and it instantly went from the trash pile to a song on my karaoke bucket list. I still don’t care for Robert Palmer’s version much, but I’m glad that “Simply Irresistible” could be redeemed.

7. Buy The Stars / Marina & The Diamonds

OK so this one is a bit of a cheat because if you live outside the U.S., this is probably streaming on Spotify. “Buy The Stars” is one of the bonus tracks on the U.K. version of Electra Heart, but by the time the album got a U.S. release, it was nowhere to be found. That’s too bad because I have been seriously stuck on this song lately.

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Portrait of a young man at mid-life

A friend of mine on Twitter this morning posted that 2016 is officially the Year of the Fiasco. I’m sure he was talking about politics (who isn’t?) but his sentiment rang true for me personally. This year has been such a fiasco – nothing has gone as planned. I’m kind of ready for it to be over. It’s tempting for me to wallow in this feeling as it’s a familiar place to be and, in its own fucked-up way, it’s comfortable. I try to tell myself that it’s just life and this is the stuff that makes a life and while sometimes that works, it’s mostly frustrating and makes me feel like a huge failure. I know that what happens to a man does not define his success, but it’s been something that’s harder and harder to believe.

We started off the year with a gigantic tax bill that I thought I had under control but is looking more and more like I will need to sell my body on the street corner to pay for. My wife’s income is down this year for lots of reasons so that’s made it hard as well. So as you can imagine, the way we thought things were going to shake out financially are now very, very different. If I had known that, I would have cut back on the concerts. I would have said “don’t buy me a birthday present.” The choices I made would have looked a lot different than the ones I ended up making with only part of the information. We’re setting up Heidi’s business as an LLC to hopefully mitigate some of this, but in that are lawyer’s expenses and accountant’s fees because, just like me, neither of them work for free. So I’m not sure what the way out is at this point, and I don’t expect anyone to help me fix it.

As you might expect, all this has taken a huge toll on my mental health. My baseline anxiety is up which makes my sleep poor, which makes me anxious and on and on it goes. My bad sleep makes it much more likely that I’ll make bad food choices and all the weight I’ve lost this year is slowly finding its way back, which is what it wanted all along. I second guess everything, ruminate about the decisions I’ve made going forward this year. My inclination is to sell the tickets to every remaining concert that I am going to and stay home and do nothing, but it’s not like that will solve anything. It’s a short term, knee-jerk reaction.  I also don’t want to wreck the experience that I’ve already paid for – smart decision or not. I worry what people will think when I am anxious and nervous about finances and then in the same breath hear that I have $500 tickets to Barbra Streisand.  Inevitably, this makes me not want to share anything with anyone for fear of judgment. So I withdraw and don’t share things with people.

This leaves me feeling isolated and lonely. Even surrounded by people, I feel lonely and isolated. This is not a new feeling. It’s one that I’ve struggled with most of my life. I’ve had varying degrees of success with just coming to terms with it. Right now, I’m struggling with it a lot.  I am disengaged from people I work with – not because I don’t like them but because I don’t have the energy to be engaged. Besides, I’m very much a guy that would rather live a life of four quarters vs. 100 pennies. Trying to maintain a million different superficial relationships is like trying to juggle – and anyone who has ever seen me juggle knows how bad I am at it. Also, for all my talk of taking chances and putting yourself out there, lately it seems like that ends up hurting me more than paying off, so it’s not surprising to me that I am becoming less engaged with people in general. I eat by myself every day at work, which is ok really, but there’s still 19 year old Dan in there, wondering if that makes him a loser. Every Tuesday morning, I see a men’s group that meets in the cafeteria and even though they are there for Bible study or something like that, I can’t help but be jealous of the connection. Yet I lack the gumption to do anything about it.

I started seeing a new therapist about 6 weeks ago. It’s been fine but it costs money, and frankly, I was so spoiled by my therapist Maura that I’m not sure anyone will ever work again. I talk myself into thinking that I don’t need it when really, I need it now more than ever. So much is changing and although it is so cliche, I cannot help but think that I am almost certainly half way done with my life.  The thing I think so much about now is time. Will there be enough of it? Or will I be like my grandfather who retired and then was dead within the year? What will the second half of my life look like? Will I ever feel any differently than I do right now? Or will I die feeling anxious and worried about finances and disasters that will never happen?

I did not think I would be 44 and feeling this out of sync. But it is what it is and I guess the only thing to do is go forward.  Last night I got a haircut and Jill (the only person I trust to cut my hair) noticed that I was tense and unsettled and asked if I wanted a beer. I shouldn’t have due to my liver stuff, but I did anyway. The last time I had PBR was at Mike’s in Iowa City when Heidi was in her pool shark phase. I don’t want to just medicate myself out of feeling anything. I want to live (and live now as Barbra would say) but 2016 has really managed to make life challenging.

My grandfather (my  mom’s dad) once said “life is great if you don’t weaken.” It’s so true. But like most things, it’s easier said than done.  I hesitate to even put this post out there, but I don’t feel like many people read what I write here and I certainly don’t post with enough regularity that people would be waiting with bated breath for my next post. It mostly sounds like the whining of a privileged white male, which just pisses me off most of the time.

I took this selfie last night and I kinda like how it turned out. It’s me past the midpoint of my life, still not sure what the hell is going on and not sure what the way forward is. I see my teenage and college self in there, the new dad that I was 15 years ago, the pharmacist that I chose to make my life’s work. There are years on that face, but they’re not hanging there by any stretch. Mostly, I’m still trying to figure this out. I know a lot of people feel like this and to think this is unique to me is completely folly. I don’t know what I hoped to accomplish by writing this and sharing it the world other than to calm the storm of anxiety that I feel about my life these days – this whole year actually, even though to many my life looks like a blue calm sea. Looks can be deceiving, but I think writing this worked at least a little bit. Things may be crazy and I may be struggling a lot, but at least I have a cute haircut.

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