Bye bye Klonopin

It’s not a secret that my anxiety has been bad this year. Yesterday’s news didn’t help at all, what with a sexual predator being installed on the Supreme Court. I was completely unable to focus on anything yesterday, and consequently, a lot of my job went undone. It wasn’t the end of the world – we all have our off days – but I’ve been having more and more of those lately. Part of it is I am constantly tired, always trying to shake off a fog that makes it so I can’t even see past my fingertips. Heidi told me the other day that I’m always telling her “I’m tired” – so much so that she wondered aloud if I was physically ok and if I shouldn’t see a doctor. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with me physically, and I always chalked up my constant fatigue to the stress of life and the world we live in now.

But I think there’s another culprit – and I think it’s Klonopin.

I take 1mg of Klonopin every night to treat my anxiety. I never thought too much about it, even though Stevie Nicks famously spoke out against the drug and how it sapped all her creative energy, turned her into a zombie, and then, when it came time to get off Klonopin, it was worse than getting off cocaine. At first, I didn’t believe that it could be Klonopin because I’ve been on it for a long time and haven’t really noticed anything untoward. But that’s when I realized that this constant state of tiredness had become my new normal. I was living in a fog that never lifted. I nap EVERY SINGLE DAY after work, no matter how busy it was at work or how much I have slept the night before. And the kicker was, I still felt anxious, sometimes to the point of paralysis.

Now I’m no fool, I know that anxiety is going to happen no matter what and that my job is to not fuse with it and just allow it to be a feeling that floats by. But it seemed this drug that was supposed to be helping my anxiety was not really doing much for my anxiety and was hurting me in other aspects of my life. I feel like I have been skating along at work, doing the bare minimum, because I am just so tired all the time. I can’t stress enough how much I feel like I’m in a fog – I keep coming back to the word “fog” because it’s so appropriate.

So last night, I cut my dose back to 0.5mg. I did this once before and the anxiety was so bad that I had to go back up. I’ll be honest, today I’m feeling pretty anxious, but again, it’s hard to separate that from current events, stressful encounters on social media, and having to chase a chipmunk out of the house AGAIN today despite thinking that I had sealed all the entry points into the house. So maybe it’s just that. I do think I’m going to have to find a non-pharmacological way to manage my anxiety because I can’t be on Klonopin – not to be dramatic, but it’s kind of wrecking my life. I don’t feel present for my own life. Just writing that makes me sad and anxious. But I guess I’m doing something about it so there’s that.

I need to try to meditate or something along those lines. I don’t know.  I just know that Klonopin can’t be part of the answer. I’m scared to go off of it because I know that the withdrawal can be pretty bad. Maybe I’ll get lucky and won’t have too bad of withdrawal symptoms, but I’m not going to hold my breath because I’ve been on it basically every day for at least 2 years. Maybe I need to switch to as needed Ativan or Xanax, although I hate drugs that are spelled the same forward and backward.

Anxiety is totally invited to fuck right off. We’ll see how it goes, but I believe it to be the only path forward or I’m not going to be able to do my job. Discovering this has had one silver lining – before I put two and two together, I figured the reason I couldn’t get anything done is because I was a lazy piece of shit. Maybe there’s a component of that too, but I really think it’s the drug.

Even though current events and other various things in my life make the following meme appropriate, I think I have to persevere and work to getting Klonopin out of my body for good and get my life back.


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Sunday night doubts

sundaySo the weekend is over once again. I managed to get some stuff done but it wasn’t as productive as the last few have been. I did get the motherlode of stuff we decided to give to Good Will actually delivered to Good Will today, and I cut down the tallest plants in the front yard so you can see the political signs in our yard again. Other than that, we’ve been watching a lot of My Hero Academia because we’re going to the movie of it on Wednesday night and no one but Heidi had actually watched the anime. It’s pretty good, but I have a hard time staying awake, which I think may be due to the fact that my CPAP might need to be turned up. But there’s no way to know that without doing another sleep study.

Probably my biggest accomplishment was finishing up the back cover of my year-end CD. I don’t know that it’s completely finished, but it’s definitely on its way to finished. It is definitely going to be a double CD and there will be 32 songs on it, five of which have yet to be determined. That gives me space for Marina and Madonna (at least) if they get their act together and get something new out this year. I was nervous that I wouldn’t be able to get all the song titles and artists in the space allotted. I found a great template online that worked in Photoshop so that I had a definite guide for how to construct it vs. me just trying to create a document of the correct dimensions. So much of me doing things in Photoshop is me Googling “how to do ‘x’ in Photoshop” but hey, it works most of the time. I need to get to work on the cover but I’m waiting until I get a haircut, not that I’m sure it will matter much.

The thing that has me in a doubt spiral tonight is I put all this time and effort into it and I’m not even sure that people listen to them. I know that some do, but I imagine some just sit on a shelf gathering dust. On my most depressed days, I don’t even want to do it – one year, I almost didn’t – but then I know that it gives me a lot of joy putting it together and really, if people don’t listen, who gives a rip? I have them all saved as iTunes playlists – all the way back to my very first year-end list in 2006. Of course, there was no fanfare back then, no CDs, no altered album covers, but the TLC that goes into selecting the songs was still there.

I know it’s a silly thing to be worked up in this day and age, but it was getting to me tonight, especially with me dithering over song choices and single vs. double CD and what not, but it was on my mind. So I decided to blog about it instead of tweet or Facebook about it. Although the ironic thing is that a link to this post will likely go to both of those.

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Too much of a good thing

cds.jpgAs most everyone knows, every year I make a CD for close friends of my favorite songs of the year. Since 2012, it has been 20 songs and just a little less than 80 minutes. The hard parameters set in place by a CD, plus the chance to do a Photoshopped album cover, force me to make sometimes heartbreaking cuts. I will never forget having to cut Cher’s “Woman’s World” or Christina Aguilera’s “Your Body.”  I think I cried a little bit when I did it. Each year has had cuts like that. In the long run, they are good because it really makes me choose the cream of the crop.

But this year is fucking brutal.

It is September 12th in the year of our Lord 2018 and I already have 20 songs. 75 minutes. So even if I wanted to fill the CD to 80 minutes I can add AT MOST one more song. And 21 songs? Forget that noise. It has to be a round number.  I have made some cuts already, but looking at this list of 20 songs I cannot see where I can cut and still feel good about it.  I have three artists that are double represented, and that will be where I start cutting next, but it will hurt so much. Heidi keeps telling me to make it a double CD, but damn, I’m not sure that I can do that without sacrificing quality – that is to say, there may be a lot of good music out there, but I’m not sure I can get to 40 songs.  However, the year is young and Madonna has not released new music, and neither has Marina & the Diamonds – both of which are supposed to have new albums out before year’s end.  The plus side is I could add back in all the songs I wanted to cut and perhaps three-peat a few of the artists that really deserve it.

I know that there are more pressing things in the world than my year-end best-of CD (which is going to have a killer cover this year.) But I really enjoy doing this and I’m always so proud of it when I’m done. I do worry that if I did a double CD, no one would listen to all of it. Hell, I have no idea if people listen to it now, but would it be way too much of a good thing?

I have no idea what I will do. But I will carry on, just as I always do. And for those wanting a hint of what’s on it or whaat the cover is – you’ll just have to wait for the grand reveal in December.

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No Cher-ing for me


So Cher announced tour dates late this week and this is notable because I attended her Farewell Tour in 2002, as well as her Dressed To Kill Tour in 2014, both times anticipating that I would never see Cher live again. But like the phoenix from the flame, she’s back again, this time with the Here We Go Again Tour, a play on both “Mamma Mia,” which is included on her ABBA covers album Dancing Queen, and on her seemingly unstoppable nature.  When I saw that the tour was stopping in Omaha on May 14th, it was a no brainer, I was going. I texted a friend and he was on board instantly.

I’ve been really good this year and have gone to no concerts except for my daughters band concerts. I would have made it through the year with no concerts at all if Lisa Stansfield hadn’t decided to make a rare U.S. appearance (and even rarer Minneapolis appearance.) Honestly, I’m really excited for Lisa Stansfield because I have 7th row seats and I know that it’ll be mostly people my age so it won’t be full of young people wanting to stand the entire time. It may make me old, but I paid for my seat, I’d like to have my butt in it at least some of the time.

I went to look at my calendar to see which day of the week May 14th landed on, hoping it wasn’t a weekend that I worked, and that’s when I realized it. I wasn’t going to Cher. Heidi will be at Booklovers Con in New Orleans on May 14th, leaving me as a single parent that week. Now, I know that my daughter is 16, will be 17 then, but I just don’t feel comfortable leaving her alone on what will undoubtedly be a very late night. Truth be told, she probably doesn’t want me to be gone either. If it were Des Moines, I’d just buy her a ticket too and we’d be done with it. But I don’t want her to have to miss school to go see Cher which I’m not sure she even wants to do anyway.

I told my friend who was understanding, and we are just hoping that, given her history of extending tours (see Never Can Say Goodbye Tour), she will add some more dates and end up back in the Midwest. Time will tell, but for now, I’ll just have to deal with the fact that this concert will be a missed opportunity.

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6 months between posts

I haven’t blogged in a long time. I debated never blogging again but it’s Sunday and I haven’t accomplished a single thing today so I thought why not?

It’s been quite a year. Well, not really, but you know. I had a completely negative colonoscopy last week which is exciting news but not entirely unexpected. I’m having some trouble keeping weight that I lose off, which is also not entirely unexpected. Maybe I need to do the colonoscopy prep weekly? Is that a bit too Karen Carpenter? I think it probably is.

Work is work. Life is life. We went on a nice vacation a couple weeks back through South Dakota and Colorado (with a brief little sojourn through Wyoming.) We saw some big mountains and some extremely winding roads. I stopped at the Continental Divide and snapped a selfie.


Apparently, that wasn’t even the highest point in the drive, but it’s still the Continental Divide. When we were kids, we took a westward vacation and crossed the Continental Divide in a Ford Fairmont station wagon that overheated on the Divide. Fortunately, our Camry Hybrid did not do that.

But summer is nearly over now that it’s August. E-mails from the school have started and my daughter will be a junior this year and how did that even happen? Time marches on I guess. I turned 46 this summer and I don’t feel 46 but I guess the calendar doesn’t lie.

Hopefully this won’t be my last blog post for another 6 months.

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Mix CD Redux: There and back again – A 21st Century Hobbit’s Tale

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about a trip I took back in 2003 to Cincinnati, Ohio. I’m not sure why it’s been on my mind so much these days, but it has been. The trip was a Christmas gift from my wife to see a friend who lived there – a friend who, at the time, I knew only from online interactions and phone conversations. A friend I met on a men’s e-mail list (and it wasn’t one of those awful men’s rights activists lists either) who helped me soldier through a really bad spat with depression. I went by Amtrak, from Mt. Pleasant, Iowa to Chicago and then overnight from Chicago to Cincinnati. Me being me, I had to a make a mix CD just for the trip, and it had to have a theme.  Here’s the cover of the mix CD that I made for the trip.


Important to know is that this was the first solo trip I had ever made in my adult life. I was 30 years old and had never spent a night away from home without Heidi. I did feel a bit like Frodo carrying the One Ring to Mt. Doom, although the analogy breaks down because Cincinnati and seeing my friend were certainly not analogous to Mordor. Anyway, it was a Big Deal™ for me to be going away. I also had a just over a year-old daughter I was leaving behind for that short period of time. I was nervous, but also excited to be doing something completely on my own. I’d taken Amtrak before so that was fine but going to visit a friend – especially one that I had never actually met in person before – was a big step outside of my comfort zone.

I needn’t have worried because the trip was very good. I harbor some regrets that I was not in tip-top health either physically or mentally when I was there so that colored the experience in ways I’d rather not remember. When I got home, it turned out I had a full-blown ear infection. But it was a good chance to see someone who had become very important to me – a Sam to my Frodo in many ways (we always used to say that) – and to do something on my own for once. We’ve drifted in and out of each others lives over the years, but if there is anything I can say with certainty, it’s that I would not be the man I am today if not for his influence. He was the one who taught me that finding friends is a numbers game, and the more you try, the more you are likely to make a connection. That always used to piss me off, but as I’ve grown older, I’ve realized that it is gospel truth and following that advice has netted me some exceptional friends.

But about the music…

  • This was clearly a CD that I didn’t put a terrible amount of thought into. I can tell by looking at the track listing that it was merely a collection of some of my favorite songs at the time.
  • Naturally, I bookended the mix with songs that reference Ohio. The theme to “WKRP in Cincinnati” is actually a very catchy earworm, so much so that it’s been stuck in my head all day today. It was actually a minor chart hit back in the early 80s and the version on here is the full single version, not just the 1 minute theme from the TV show. “Love Rollercoaster” by the Ohio Players proved to be a less inspired choice, but served the purpose.
  • “Xanadu (2000 Remix)” is a track lost to time. It is not in my iTunes library and when I went to pull the CD out to rip the track so I could truly replicate the CD as an iTunes playlist, it was not there! So instead, I just put the regular version of “Xanadu” in the playlist. It was probably a shitty fan remix anyway.
  • A couple Cher songs on here – a classic Metro Mix of “Song For the Lonely” and a deep cut off her album, “Fit To Fly.”  Both of these are tracks I had nearly completely forgotten about so I’m glad I dug this out.
  • No mix CD I made ever would be complete without a Madonna track, and this one is a fan remix of “Deeper and Deeper.” Unlike most fan remixes, this one actually is does not suck. Quite the opposite, it’s almost better than most of the official “Deeper and Deeper” remixes. I don’t quite remember how I stumbled across it, probably via Audioscrobbler or something, because by 2002, Napster was a thing of the past.
  • Whitney was probably an incurable coke head when she sang “Love That Man,” but there’s no denying that it is A JAM.

I think the Shania Twain song on here sums up my feelings on this mix – it don’t impress me much. I can’t imagine listening to it a whole lot. But last night when I was listening to it on my iPod in bed, I had little twinges of memory of trying to sleep on a train to Cincinnati just over 15 years ago, so I guess the mix did it’s job and preserved some of the feel of the time in which it was assembled. And that’s all it really needed to do.

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What might tempt me

I’ve made a pretty big deal about not going to any live shows this year. As we speak, Bananarama are in San Francisco. I have a friend going to the Toronto show and a couple of friends going to the New York show. I really have no regrets over not going, mostly because 1) I really don’t have the money, 2) the weather has been shit and flying in the winter makes me anxious and 3) the mere thought of organizing myself for a trip to a major city right now makes me want to be ill. So it’s best that I didn’t go. I passed on Diana Krall and I am pretty sure that there won’t be any temptation.

Unless Mary Chapin Carpenter comes to Des Moines.


I’ve been listening to a ton of Mary Chapin Carpenter these days. It is not surprising. The cloud of depression is really lifting lately, I’ve had three really good days in a row at work and it’s a four day week for me so if I can put every day in the win column I will be so happy. I don’t know what it is about her music and my mood, but she is kind of a go to when I am feeling down and depressed, not because her music is depressing in general (there are some songs, though), but because the act of listening to them can be so cathartic.  She has a new record, Sometimes Just The Sky, coming out at the end of March which consists of rerecordings of one song from each of her 12 studio albums plus one new song. And she’s touring, of course, to support it. A few dates have been announced, but more are sure to be scheduled in the weeks to come.

I saw Mary Chapin Carpenter in concert in Minneapolis in 2015 and honestly, I left a little disappointed. Most of that was not her fault, although it was an acoustic set so it was, by nature, a somber affair. I knew all the songs, but most of them were slow and even songs that had been upbeat in their original arrangements were slowed down. What REALLY ruined the experience for me was the guy sitting next to me that insisted on vocalizing how disappointed he was in her performance. Song after song, he said things like “that’s not how you originally did it” and “pick up the speed a little, will ya?”  Here I was, finally getting to see this performer that defined so many of the experiences of my early 20s and I was, frankly, not having a very good time. I tried to focus on the positive, but between my own disappointment in the performance and the asshat sitting next to me, it was easily the least enjoyable concert of the year. Not “I’m sorry I went” level of unenjoyable, but probably “I’m sorry I traveled to Minneapolis for this” level of unenjoyable.

So why would I want to go again? I’m not really sure. Maybe it’s because I’m a few years older and so is she and I know she won’t be around forever and I want to try to erase the bad memories of that show. So I decided tonight while I was doing the dishes (all of my best ideas come when I’m doing dishes), that if she came to Des Moines, I would go. I won’t travel to Minneapolis or Kansas City for it, but I will go to Des Moines. She’s played Hoyt Sherman twice in the last few years – one time being an add-on date for the show that I went to Minneapolis to see. The last time, I really wish I had gone because it was a full band show and it sounded much more upbeat than the one I saw.

So we’ll see. Even if I have to go by myself, I will go if she comes to Des Moines – or maybe even Iowa City because that’s not really traveling for a show either. I just really want another shot at seeing this artist who shaped so much of my young adulthood and continues to speak to me on a spiritual level. I don’t think that’s too much to ask and I’m willing to eat a little bit of crow if I get that chance.

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Alone With You / Revolution

I’ve kind of been wanting to blog about these songs for a while now, but never could really make a significant post about them. On my 50 song Loved Tracks playlist in iTunes, they are the only two Madonna songs right now. You’d think that someone who is as big of a fan as I am would have more, but no. These are it.

Rebel Heart was plagued with problems. The entire album leaked months prior to its actual release, and what was worse, demos of songs that didn’t make the album were also leaked. When the final product was officially released in March of 2015, most of the fans had already been listening to it for months and also had better ideas than Madonna about what songs should have been included on the album. It made the entire release a bit underwhelming, to say the least.

For what it’s worth, I would have included both of these songs – “Alone With You” and “Revolution” – on the album and jettisoned both “S-E-X” and probably “Inside Out” or even (sacrilege) “Bitch I’m Madonna.”  I think she could rerecord both of these and release them as a digital one-off single and even though it would probably not shake the sales chart much, it would placate fans and also pave the way for some kind of small tour without having to do a full proper album. “Revolution” would even be appropriate for how she is likely feeling about events in the U.S. right now, although she always talks about her revolution being a revolution of love, which makes me happier than it should.

But knowing that Madonna is not one to look backward, only ahead, this is unlikely to happen. And really, the fans will want new music and she does owe Interscope one more album. They probably want her to put it out, get her ass back on the road and then be done with her since she is, even by this Madonna fans admission, way past her prime. She will never sell like she did ever again, and as long as she insists on trying to keep up with the kids, she’ll continue to tarnish her rather impressive legacy. Both of these songs sound more “Madonna” than much of what was on Rebel Heart.

We all armchair quarterback Madonna, and we know she doesn’t give a shit. And we love her anyway – sometimes because of it, sometimes in spite of it.

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The sine wave

sine wave.png

I went to see my psych doctor the other day – it was time and considering how I had been not coping very well with life lately, it was timely indeed. I went into it convinced that he was going to swap my antidepressant for something else, after having been on Effexor for as long as I can remember. I had read that some people just “burn out” on their antidepressant and have to try something different. The pharmacist in me did not really believe that, but the person on antidepressants that was struggling with depression wanted to believe that was the answer.

So I asked him if he thought that people could “burn out” on an antidepressant – be on it so long that it’s no longer effective. His answer was a categorical NO. His exact words were “people don’t become immune to them.” This surprised me because, as I said, I was really prepared for him to say that it was time to try something different. Personally, I was dreading the Effexor taper, full of head shocks and dizziness, but thankfully, I don’t have to go through that.

What he did mention was the interesting dichotomy of people that come in and don’t want to go on meds because they don’t want to be a robot. They eventually acquiesce and go on meds and then are surprised when they still have the ups and downs, i.e. they don’t turn into a robot. It was something I’d forgotten about the medication side of the of depression and anxiety. The drugs work, but they only do so much. Life is a sine wave of ups and downs, and the best drugs can do is hopefully flatten the sine wave out a little bit.  To make it a straight line is unrealistic and also not a desirable outcome. Really, the best you can expect of any mental health treatment is to make the lows not quite so low, because the lows are still going to happen, much like they have been happening to me lately.

I walked out of the office with no med changes at all. I felt really good about it, too. But I was also a little bit bummed out by it. Even though I knew better, I was kind of hoping for a magic bullet to stop me from feeling like I’ve been feeling the last few weeks. The only real answer is to do the damn work that you have to do. Control what you can, let go of what you can’t. Take care of yourself. Be good to yourself. All things that sound easy but when you’re mired in depressive and anxious thoughts and feelings, it’s anything but easy.

So I feel pretty empowered right now, remembering that life is a rollercoaster and, as a former therapist once told me, we can either ride it or watch it from a distance and say “wow, isn’t that interesting?”  Feelings aren’t facts and fusing with them is almost always a mistake. This time of year is also hard – everything is cold and wet and dirty. Vehicles are filthy and you rub up against them and get dirt on your pants and there you go. And that’s just in the first five minutes of leaving the house.

Here’s to better days ahead!

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Sixteen years

student loan.pngTonight, while looking into seeing how much better of a rate SoFi could give me on my student loans than what I’m currently getting, I found out that my student loans will be paid off – at my current interest rate and rate of payment – on March 7, 2034. That seems like a ridiculously long time, but I suppose I have been paying on them for around 15 years now and they are a lot like a 30-year mortgage, but still.

For some reason, that makes me feel like a failure. Granted, that’s kind of been my general state of emotion the last few weeks, but that hit me harder than I expected. What could I have done differently? There is the matter of the years 2004 and 2005 when, for 18 months, I deferred my student loans because I was paying two house payments due to my inability to unload my old house in small-town Iowa after moving to where we live now. We’re far enough removed from that situation now that I don’t feel like we can blame things on that situation any longer, but as you can see, we still feel the ripples.

I don’t regret borrowing the money to fund my education, nor do I regret the money Heidi had to borrow for hers. We never would have survived me getting my PharmD without it. But I am a little embarrassed that I’m still paying on my loans. I don’t owe even half as much as some of my fellow pharmacists, but it still seems like something I should have had made history a long time ago.

I also don’t expect someone to wave a pen and magically make them disappear. I signed on the line, I’m responsible for them. It would make life a lot simpler, to be sure, but it wouldn’t be fair to the millions who HAVE paid their loans in full.

Money is such a trigger for me -it’s why I’m not going to concerts this year (well, that and I am over crowds of people bumping into me.) I did get a new phone which I don’t regret at all – I just will back off on buying records. I get to have a few nice things, regardless of what people say. But finding that out tonight makes me want to put every spare dime onto my student loans so that I’m not 62 when I get them paid off.

Incidentally SoFi was able to beat the interest rate by 1.6% for a 10 year payback.  Granted, it raises our payment. A 15 year payback would lower our payment and if we kept paying the same payment we are making now, we’d pay it off quicker than we would through the government. I’ll probably refinance them, but certainly not at 9:20pm on a Tuesday night when my brain is shot.

But it’s reinforced one thing in my mind – my daughter is going to graduate from college debt free.

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