Spiral

Despite having a great time at the Dixie Chicks last night, I’ve had a pretty rough day today. Even though I’ve been proactive in seeking out med optimization and all the other things that go along with taking charge or your own emotional health, I feel like I’m mostly faking it these days. It really sucks because most of the time, I’m not really feeling very present in my life, in spite of all my efforts. I see the doctor again this week and I think I’m going to ask to go up another level on my Effexor, even though I feel a little bit like a zombie as it is. A friend of mine referred to it as an “extended fuckover moment” which is a pretty apt description.

I heard this song when I was out running errands earlier. It’s a lesser known Alanis Morissette song – lesser known because it is not on Jagged Little Pill. It’s always spoken very strongly to me, and it kind of describes how I feel right now. Even though I keep saying to myself that I just want to be left alone, it’s more important now than ever for me to engage with people, even if there is a little bit of faking it.

 

I could be daydreaming but for a moment
And somehow they’re creeping back in
I could be sleeping awakened the torrent
Somehow I get caught in their grips again

And here I am in my shame spiral
I’m sucked in to it again
And I reach out for your benevolent opinion
And you bring the light back in, oh

Don’t leave me here with all these critical voices
Cause they do their best to bring me down, bring me down
When I’m alone with all these negative voices
I will need your help to turn them down, turn them round

I could be listening to waken the season
The story I’m not even in
These voices have their way when I am unguarded
Suddenly I step in quicksand again

Once again in my shame spiral
I am glad that you’ve weighed in, oh

Don’t leave me here with all these critical voices
Cause they do their best to bring me down
When I’m alone with all these negative voices
I will need your help to turn them down, turn them round

All these judgements, so incisive
Voices left to their devices
This moments narrate is a desperate plea
For slack to be cut to me
Cut to me, oh

Don’t leave me here with all these critical voices
‘Cause they do their best to bring me down, bring me down
When I’m alone with all these negative voices
I will need your help to turn them down, turn them round
Turn them round, turn them round

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Fifty percent

To no one’s great shock or surprise, I’ve been listening to a lot of Streisand ever since her new album came out – her 35th album! After attending the life-changing experience that was seeing her live, it’s been hard to tear me away from her music. At the concert, she sang a few songs from the deluxe version of the album that is only available at Target – “I Didn’t Know What Time It Was” and “Losing  My Mind.”  However, of the 4 bonus tracks, the one I was most looking forward to was the song “Fifty Percent.”

“Fifty Percent” is such a weird choice to record. It’s not like it’s a well known song from a well known show. And it’s a song that’s basically about cheating. There goes Barbra, making adultery glamorous again. (although I think that Celine Dion’s song “When The Wrong One Loves You Right” is the first song Heidi and I ever said that about.) Let’s listen to Barbra talk about the song and sing some of it. Cameo from Mr. Barbra Streisand himself, James Brolin.

I like Barbra’s take on the song, but for my money, my favorite version of “Fifty Percent” has got to be Helen Reddy’s version from her 1998 album Center Stage. I probably downloaded that back in the Audiogalaxy days when I was just grabbing everything I could like a looter during the zombie apocalypse. But it was definitely the first time I’d heard it and it’s been a favorite of mine ever since. It is also, to my great aggravation, nowhere on the Internet that I can find, so we’re going to have to settle for yet another version of “Fifty Percent” – Bea Arthur’s. Because Bea Arthur is always good in a pinch.

For those of you that will be the recipients of my Best of 2016 CD, you can pretty safely expect Barbra’s version of “Fifty Percent.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

To Stevie or not to Stevie

stevie.jpg

This is the worst Photoshop job ever.

So I found out last night while I was working overnights that Stevie Nicks is touring this at the end of 2016, starting at the end of October and finishing out before Christmas.

Here’s the thing – I’ve never been to a Stevie Nicks solo show. I’ve seen her live with Fleetwood Mac 3 times (1987, 1997 and 2015), but never solo. I want to go so bad, and almost as if on cue, my friend Kyl messaged me this morning and asked me if I wanted to go. My immediate response is YES YES YES SIGN ME UP. Ticket prices are not even that bad, starting at $49 and maxing out at $150. But (and there’s always a but), I’m waffling.

The first thing is that by the time I see Loreena McKennitt in October with Heidi, I will have been to ten (10!) live shows this year. This is ridiculous. No one needs to go to this many shows. Now granted, many were cheap (Debbie Gibson and Des Moines Pride being the cheapest), but Barbra Streisand was a mint and a half, and most of the shows I’ve seen this year were $50-$100 per ticket affairs.  So it’s expensive. And as I’ve been saying in many posts before this, money is tight around here, so how dare I go gallivanting up to Minneapolis to see Stevie Nicks in what will be my 11th live show of the year? It is kind of appalling.

But then there’s the fact that Stevie is 68. And if we learned any lesson from 2016, it’s “if you get a chance to see your favorite act live, buy the goddamn ticket because they might just end up dead before you get another chance.” As I always say, the fact that we still have Stevie Nicks to kick around at the age of 68 is a miracle in and of itself due to the amount of drugs she consumed during the 70s and the 80s. I honestly don’t think she’s ever been in better health and in finer vocal form. She was pretty amazing at the last Fleetwood Mac show I saw, and to get a chance to hear her sing a bunch of her solo hits that she does not get to perform when she’s with Fleetwood Mac is almost too good of a deal to pass up.

The other thing holding me back is that the show is in Minneapolis in December. Anyone who knows anything about anything knows that there’s a high likelihood that any concert in Minneapolis in December will be accompanied by a blizzard. I drove to Mayer Hawthorne in a semi-blizzard and vowed I would never go to a show in the winter in Minneapolis again. Leave it to Stevie to tempt me to eat my words. I would hate to plunk down the money for a ticket and then not be able to go. I mean, if it were in Des Moines, I’d just drive real slow and get there. But Minneapolis is a whole other story.

So I’m torn. I want to go, but I feel like this is a good opportunity to practice saying “no” and not just do everything that I want to do. The American Express pre-sale is tomorrow and I’m not sure what I will do.  I could say to people that I want it as a Christmas present, but that seems dumb.

I guess we’ll see what I decide.  In the meantime, here’s Stevie singing “Edge of Seventeen” in 2011.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Nothing dumber than the end of summer

I’m really not sure how it got to be September 1st, but here we are. Technically, we have 22 more days until the autumnal equinox, but something about September seems to signal a shift from summer to fall. Despite the title of this post, I am glad for it. School has started, which brings about as much normalcy to our house as you can get with my rotating schedule, which is a good thing. It does seem like there is a lot more going on than in previous years, but I guess that’s what high school is all about.

I read this post by Wil Wheaton last night in which he brought us up to date on a series of goals he set for himself about a year ago. Among them, were “resolutions” to drink less, read more, write more, exercise more, watch more movies, eat better food and get better sleep. It’s interesting to see his progress. I remember being really inspired by his initial post in which he laid out these goals.  Obviously not inspired enough to adopt them all for myself at the time, but inspired nonetheless. Wheaton is almost exactly my age (I’m about 6 weeks older) and since he is the patron saint of nerds, I enjoy reading his blog posts and following him on Twitter. He also is shamelessly vocal about his experiences with both depression and anxiety, something that endears him tremendously to me. He removes the stigma that surrounds both conditions, a stigma that is doubly present if you’re a man.

A lot of his goals are my goals as well, although much less formally. I feel like he’s doing better than me on pretty much all counts. The one area that I have really improved this year is to drink less. On that count, I’ve been amazingly successful. I had no idea just how much I was using alcohol to medicate my own anxiety and depression until I just stopped having it around the house as an option. Like Wheaton, I make a conscious decision every day to not drink – helped immensely by the fact that we just don’t have any alcohol around. I have gone from drinking a glass or two of wine 3-4 nights a week to having a drink 2-3 times per month. I reserve those drinks for social occasions with friends – primarily jumbo margaritas at El Azteca. In so doing, I have taken liver function tests that were steadily creeping up and normalized all of them. It’s also a lot of extra calories that I don’t need.

About calories – well, that’s been kind of a different story. I lost about 20 pounds earlier this year. This was a huge achievement for me, and part of what I was trying to do to improve not only my liver health but my general health overall. I was super proud of how I had done, limiting my caloric intake, training my brain to not eat the shitty food in the hospital cafeteria and eat the stuff that was better for you. It was thrilling to watch the pounds fall off. The 20 pounds came off in about 3 months, but no matter how hard I tried, I could not get below 220 pounds – my goal of being less than 100 kg just out of reach. Then life happened. Work got super stressful, money got extremely challenging, and I reverted to comfort food. Rather than being proud of my progress, the pounds started to creep back on. As of today, I’ve regained about 17 of those 20 pounds that I lost. I’m trying again, but the stress of my life has not abated much, nor do I expect it to. Yesterday, as I made shitty food choice after shitty food choice, I decided that I just couldn’t do this anymore. So often, I think I’m hungry when what I really am is bored or stressed or nervous or just generally down on myself. My goal is to recognize those times and not medicate with food in the way that I used to medicate with wine every night after work. I have no idea how successful I’ll be, but I know that I did it once, so I should be able to do it again.

The summer has been hard, but nothing has suffered more than my walking to work. I have never enjoyed exercise or physical activity, so I really have to force myself to exercise. Walking to work has been the one physical activity that not only do I enjoy but I also can be counted on to do rather regularly. The only problem is that in the dog days of summer, walking a mile even at 7:30AM results in me being a sweaty mess and in need of a shower by the time I get to work. I guess my body is just SUPER efficient at cooling itself off.  I’m hoping with the cooling of the weather I will be much more religious about that. I have a friend who is a runner and I admire his resolve and determination so much. Every Saturday, he does a “long run” – something I’m sure I would not be able to do, nor am I certain I will ever do. I’m not in terrible shape as I can walk a mile or two without getting crushing chest pain, which I count as a positive. I’m hoping as the weather cools off, I am more inspired to resume my walks to and from work.

The year continues to be a bit of a bear – emotionally, physically, financially, you-name-it-ly, but I feel like I’m calmer than I was even a month ago. A lot of that has to do with being on the right meds. I’ve completely ditched the morning Klonopin dose as I’ve found I just don’t need it. And I’ve hit my out-of-pocket maximum for the year which means free therapy for the rest of the year so yay.

To those that continue to read these words, I salute you and for those who have supported me in person in ways big and small, please come collect a hug sometime.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Hey brother

The other day on the way down to the barn we were listening to Anna’s music and the Avicii song “Hey Brother” came on. She got that song from me – I think it made the best-of 2013 CD – but Heidi doesn’t really like it very much because we had a farrier who, while trimming the horse’s feet would always say “hey brother” and “ok brother” and it just reminds her of him. But Anna and I enjoy it quite a bit. Mostly I love that it’s Dan Tyminski of O Brother Where Art Thou fame singing to EDM. It’s like my musical worlds colliding.

I love the video but it always reduces me to a puddle because of the story it tells. Two brothers growing up in the 60s, doing the things that brothers do and then, inevitably, the older brother ends up in Vietnam and he doesn’t come home. Oh let’s just watch it.

The video always makes me think about my own brother, who lives thousands of miles away in Arizona. Despite the distance, we keep in touch and while we are brothers, we don’t see eye to eye on everything (especially during this highly divisive political season), but who in the hell does? The one thing I know for sure is that I can count on him for anything. Once I posted a political post on Facebook and someone replied with a nasty remark, prompting me to take the whole post down rather than have to get into it with people.  He instantly texted me and said “I’m sorry that you took that post down, I was going to rip him to shreds for you. Those guys fold faster than Superman on laundry day.” I don’t think I say it enough, but I really am glad that he’s my brother. We’re definitely not the same, but I think at this point in our lives, we have a quiet understanding of each other. He’s my brother and I love him and well, what can you say?

One of the things that has always been super important to me in my life is to cultivate friendships with other men, but wow, is that a hard thing to do. I’ve always connected well with women – most of my friends in high school were girls and in college, I always hung out with the female members of my class, having a harder time connecting with the guys. For so long, it’s felt like this big empty spot in me that, no matter how hard I try, I cannot fill. The answer to that question is that it cannot be filled by anyone but yourself – a particularly annoying answer but the truth nonetheless. Through the Internet and mostly via blogging, I’ve found tons of like-minded men to bond with, but they are scattered throughout the world and well, that doesn’t make it easy to meet for coffee. One of my “favorite” things to do was to sit and rue (McClanahan) the fact that I had “no close male friends that are local.” But when you really look at my life, I have not only one, but in fact, I have three. I will not call them out by name because I don’t want to embarrass them (although I did get their permission to write about them), but I want to recognize them for the difference they have all made in my life. They are brothers in many ways, blood being the only way they are not.

The first person has been in my life for as long as I can remember. We grew up in the same town, went to the same elementary school where he allegedly hated my guts for winning the student council presidency by virtue of being the only 5th grader to run, thereby locking up the entire 5th grade vote. The first time we ever really connected was in high school in a class we both dreaded – P.E. When most of the other people were participating in whatever passed as physical “education” in those days, we were talking about Madonna, specifically the “La Isla Bonita” video. We didn’t hang out much until college, but bonded by our love for all things Madonna, we kept in touch even after I left for Iowa City, after spending two years in Ames at Iowa State. I remember buying Erotica in the fall of 1992 and not being able to wait to call him to deconstruct its tracks. (“Secret Garden” is a good song!) Somehow throughout our lives, we’ve always managed to live in relatively close proximity to each other and since 2001, we’ve been to every Madonna tour. It’s not a matter of if we go to the show, it’s a matter of where we will see it. Our friendship is buoyed by the jokes and stories we tell over and over again like they are the first time we have ever told them and our deep thoughts conversations every time we are on a road trip to a concert. Honestly, I can’t imagine my life without him in it, even though we are always pretending to secretly hate each other. He’s a friend to our family, the godfather to my daughter, and the reason that Heidi and I even know each other in the first place.

The second person is someone who I probably never would have become friends with had I not stepped outside my comfort zone. My normal modus operandi is to wait for people to come to me – not always the most successful strategy. But one Sunday almost 10 years ago now, I had a fun interaction with him at a church we had joined (and have since left), so I went through my old e-mails and found his e-mail in a  group e-mail from when we were both in a Unitarian Universalist history class. I e-mailed him and initiated contact and through that initial interaction, we discovered we had a mutual Fleetwood Mac obsession. Trouble was, his was much more Lindsey Buckingham centered where I was all Stevie, all the time. Not that we were going to let a little thing like that stop us. Our friendship began with a flurry of e-mails and trading of songs and progressed to grabbing coffee a few times. Through that, we discovered that we both had a fondness for horror films and neither of our wives did. We hit more cheesy horror films at the now defunct North Grand Dollar Theater than I care to think about. Thirty Days of Night has the distinction of being the coldest movie we ever saw – the movie we saw in the dead of winter that took place in Alaska after the sun goes down for a month. I don’t know that we ever saw anything truly awful there – although we were traumatized by the ending of The Mist – but there were a lot of movies we were glad that we didn’t pay any more than a dollar to see. Our movie-going days are fewer and further between these days as paying full price to see a movie takes commitment. So now it’s mostly jumbo margaritas and fast, cheap Mexican food at El Azteca. Because of the jumbo margaritas and since neither of us can hold our liquor, we are usually stuck there for a good hour after we finish our food, which lets us catch up on everything. We both have busy lives – teenage daughters and demanding jobs – so we probably see each other roughly quarterly, but I never doubt his friendship ever – not even a little bit. We text a lot and I can’t count the number of political freak-outs he’s had to talk me out of. For that, I will be forever grateful.

The third of these guys is someone I’ve known for quite a while, but with whom I have only recently became social. Our paths crossed only tangentially most of the time, but when my daughter started babysitting for his son, our lives started intersecting a little more frequently. He was always someone that I thought was a cool guy and really good at his job, but even though we lived in the same neighborhood, we were just never social. I guess that’s the way it goes for men a lot of the time – if you don’t have a shared project or something, there’s no reason to get to know each other. A crisis in his life which he shared with me proved to be the impetus for us to get to know each other. We met for coffee and supper a lot, sometimes at his house, sometimes out and about. When my wife needed a wall built for her office, it was with a little trepidation that I approached him to see if he could help. I knew he was handy and could build things, but it felt like an awful lot to ask from someone who I was just getting to know. The two days we spent building the wall were two great days because not only did I learn a shit-ton, I got to spend it with a guy who has become a close friend. Much like the other two, we don’t see each other tons, although I would say I see him more than the other two only because he lives so close to me whereas the other two guys live out of town. Our interactions are always equal parts serious and hilarious, which, for me, makes the best kinds of friends.

People float in and out of our lives all the time – if there’s anything I’ve learned in my life, it’s that. Sometimes they are there for a long time, other times for a few fleeting moments. But I can’t imagine my life without these three guys in it. I view them as brothers and that’s important to me because it’s relationships like that that my life needs most. I don’t think it’s possible to have too many of these. Different people meet different needs in us, and to expect one person to meet all those needs is grossly unfair to them and completely unrealistic.

But back to Avicii’s “Hey Brother.” The song will always mean a lot to me, and my message to these men I talked about in this post comes straight from the song – “Oh, if the sky comes falling down for you/There’s nothing in this world I wouldn’t do.”

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Revelations during mowing

I was out mowing the yard tonight after dinner – it was completely overgrown and a total embarrassment. This is nothing new as by the time August rolls around, I’m mowing about every other week at best. Tonight the grass was so long that I had to raise the blade to the second highest position, otherwise I would have been stopping to clean out the mower every 2 minutes. Even with that, it was a wet, sticky, messy job.

But it wasn’t all bad. We had gone to see the remake of Pete’s Dragon this afternoon and it had gotten me all in the mood to listen to Helen Reddy. The original Pete’s Dragon, which stars Reddy, is one of my favorite Disney movies and one I saw a million times growing up. I even had the soundtrack on 8-track! So I pulled up a Helen Reddy greatest hits compilation on Spotify and went to work. If listening to Helen Reddy while mowing is not one of the most Dan things ever, I don’t know what is.

Anyway, I’m super familiar with about 15 Helen Reddy songs, and one came up that I had not heard before, and frankly, I needed to hear it. The song that shuffled up was “Best Friend.”

Would you take better care of yourself
Would you be kinder to yourself
Would you be more forgiving of your human imperfections
If you realized your best friend was yourself

Who is always with you everywhere
Who is on your side when others are unfair
And tell me, who will never let you down in any situation
Who will always see you get your share

And that’s why I am a best friend to myself
And I take me out whenever I feel low
And I make my life as happy as a best friend would
I’m as nice to me as anyone I know

The lyrics really hit home because despite my med changes, I’m still struggling a lot. I feel like I’m marginally better, although I am ready to dump Klonopin completely because I’m thinking it might be doing more harm than good. I am still my own worst enemy. I am plagued by negative self talk.“If only you were a better husband, father, friend, pharmacist…” It’s so hard to turn off – impossible even. The trick is not giving it control, which is harder than it sounds sometimes but at my best I can swat it away like an annoying fly. On my worst days, the fly crawls into my ear a la Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan and then your mind is under its control. I guess it boils down to talking to yourself the way you would talk to your best friend – you wouldn’t undermine them at every turn and tell them that they’re a piece of shit and nothing but garbage so why would you ever talk to yourself that way.

This weekend has been hard on a lot of levels, but I think I’m ready to take on the week.

Of course, I had no idea that this song was in Airport 1975. Check out that posh airplane!

And of course, that only made me think of the analogous scene in Airplane!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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.

giphy.gif

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment