Wednesday, April 28, 2010


so it has happened. the thing i'd been dreading since i went off the SSRIs. i had a panic attack.

i felt better each day, but yesterday i just wasn't myself at all: felt like crying half the day, and i managed to fight off attacks several times throughout the afternoon, but i was so touchy and moody and tense by the time heinz came home that some silly misunderstanding just sent me over the edge. and that triggered the first panic attack in quite a while. i just couldn't breathe, and the fact that i was crying hysterically didn't exactly help. my hands and arms went numb, and breathing into a paper bag didn't help for ages. so i decided to take a xanax. which, of course, put me to sleep in no time. the sound of the rain outside helped me relax, too. heinz, as usual, was a star.

this episode really scared me. i guess part of me had been anticipating a panic attack, and perhaps that was what actually brought it on. yesterday afternoon i kept wondering whether i could "do it". stay off the SSRIs, that is. whether i'd be "strong enough" - to cope with anything. once the attack began, it was all "see? i knew it! i knew i couldn't do it ... i will never get through this ... it'll always be like this!" and of course that scared me even more, so it spiralled out of control. i just felt like a total loser. when i sit down and calmly think about it all, i know this isn't true, but yesterday evening it was.

my only hope is that this was the one dreaded panic attack and that i just had to get it over with, and that's the end of it.

thanks to my lovely friends who have been concerned about me since i went off the SSRIs - you rock.

song of the day: mama leone by laibach.

Friday, April 23, 2010


i went off my SSRIs (sertralin) on tuesday. so this is day five off the pills - for the first time since late october 2007. i am still taking 25mg of trittico (for sleeping / as a mild anti-depressant), but would like to get off those in a few months' time as well.

i'd reduced the dosage of sertralin twice - from 75mg to 50 and then 25, and both times my stomach was a little upset, and i was a little moody for a couple of days, but that was that. once i'd decided that now was the right time to quit (doctor had given okay months ago, said when i felt ready, i should just go ahead), i did. lately i had nearly forgotten to take the pills on some days, and i didn't really expect this to be a big deal. but it's not as easy as i thought it would be. now that i've decided to quit, all i seem to be thinking about is my little white helpers. not a big surprise, though, is it, when i've just not been myself these past five days?

at first i did not even make the connection - i thought i was so exhausted because of the pollen bothering me, or that i'd caught a cold. i didn't think that the effect would be that immediate. but after two days i did some research, asked around a little, and well ... they do have a name for this: SSRI discontinuation syndrome. doesn't that just sound marvellous? long list of symptoms, some of them sounding very familiar: exhaustion - check. occasional headaches - check. stomach problems - check. occasional dizziness - check. occasional sweating - check. temperature - check. and also what they describe as "brain shivers" - check. i have these minor black-outs, it's like arriving at the end of a very short period - of a second or a few seconds or even a split second - and not quite knowing how i got there. i find that sometimes my feet or hands or my brain won't do what i want them to do, at least not immediately - very disconcerting, that. i find it hard to concentrate. i don't sleep well. during the day i sometimes have the feeling i might just fall asleep standing up. i dream a lot, even more than i usually do. i am moody, feel on the verge of tears much of the time. and all this because my brain is trying to find some sort of balance again. i've tried to sleep as much as i can, i try to relax and let myself be distracted without doing too much, and i have my lovely man who supports me and puts up with my moods. i'll see how the weekend goes, and if things don't change, i'll consult my doctor. i just don't want to go back on the pills anymore. i can do what i want to do without them. enough, i say.

on friday, one student felt a panic attack coming on, and when i said "oh i know about those" in the process of helping her, people were surprised, i think. i've often had that reaction: "depressed? panic disorder? you?" but one thing i have learned is that you really cannot tell who has experienced these nasty things. the most outgoing, fun, confident people might tell you that they are being treated for these things, or have been through them in the past. there's just no telling. turned out that some people in my class - and there were only 9 of them on friday - know from their own experience or second-hand (daughters, friends, colleagues, ...). so for a while i abandoned what we'd been doing, answered questions, listened to others' accounts, and it was the right thing to do. i've always been open about this, and i think it does help to show people that they are not the only ones, and to raise awareness. one student wanted to know what to do if anybody around him had a panic attack - he actually seemed pretty scared that he might not know how to react, and he obviously had not realised how common such things are. so, here i am, blogging about this once again. who knows, it might help somebody out there, as it has done in the past.

apart from going off my SSRIs, the birch pollen have been extremely annoying, and i am very much looking forward to the day when i can breathe normally again. and go for a walk outside in the lovely spring weather.

i've been offered more work for five weeks in may and june, which is very good news. this means that i've allowed myself to go away for a few days in may, most likely croatia, just like last year.

song of the day: across the universe (live) by sean lennon, rufus wainwright & moby.

Saturday, April 17, 2010


remember the singer/songwriter i mentioned last time i blogged? lisa lindal. well - i was fortunate enough to see/hear her live on thursday. after a very, very weird estonian movie - the temptation of st tony - that opened the nordic film festival at urania, there was a reception sponsored by the estonian embassy, and the delightful miss lindal flew in from sweden especially for the occasion. both heinz and i had enjoyed some of her songs on the internet, and lisa's performance certainly did not disappoint.

i'd dropped her a note on facebook, and she'd written back and added me as a friend, and i bumped into her a few minutes after the movie, and i said hello. i was surprised at how small she is! petite. but so full of energy - she seemed taller once she was playing the piano and singing.

she opened with moon river, went on to sing a few other classics and cover versions (somewhere over the rainbow - very, very beautiful! - as well as a tom waits song and the terrific cover version of crazy) as well as her own songs (among them my current favourites light in the tunnel and boyfriends make you lazy). unfortunately, as it was a reception in one large room, there was a lot of talking, and i wished people would pay more attention. many of those standing or sitting near the front, however, were drawn in more and more as the performance went on.

the gig confirmed that the girl really can sing. and she can write lovely songs. some of her lyrics are wonderfully quirky. i'd love to talk to her about her influences and the creative process some day. maybe, maybe.

heinz and i had a chance to talk to her after the performance, which was nice. we contemplated going to bratislava for her gig yesterday evening, but it would have been rather stressful for heinz, and we might not have made it on time, so we didn't go after all. lisa seems to be stuck in vienna now, what with the volcano coughing up ash in faraway iceland, so who knows, she might give some spontaneous concerts. ;)

if you haven't done so yet, do check her out. she is well worth it. her album's due out in autumn.

apart from this my latest obsession: i am enjoying time with my current english students, they are fun, motivated, interested. we had almost a week of rain, which pissed most people off, but meant pollen relief for people like me. iceland's been sending volcanic greetings to much of europe, thanks. i feel like writing much of the time, but can't seem to be able to string three lines together - aargh. i received the very beautiful and enjoyable press 1 anthology The Red Room - one of my poems, equinox, is in very good company there. thanks to arlene ang, valerie fox and jordan schilling for their great work at press 1!

song of the day: the light in the tunnel by lisa lindal.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

music and more music

heinz and i went to see the delightful holly cole at konzerthaus in march. i'd never seen her live, but had heard people raving about her performances. it was an evening of almost exclusively tom waits songs - and if i can't have tom waits performing tom waits, then i'll very happily listen to holly performing his work. she is good on recordings, but she is simply amazing live. she just makes each song totally unique, and her band's a perfect match for her. the highlight was perhaps a children's song that her father used to sing to his kids: holly and the percussionist sat down on the floor, using heels, hands, chairs as instruments. all the more charming and touching because her father was in the audience. she's also charming, funny, and chatty, which i love. great night out in a beautiful concert hall - and for half the money they charge for most pop concerts these days.

very recently i discovered swedish singer lisa lindal. i came across her by coincidence, read that she would be performing live on the opening night of the scandinavian film festival here in vienna on 15 april and had to check her out online. absolutely worth it. visit youtube for videos of her performing a terrific cover version of gnarls barkley's "crazy" (accompanied by piano and violin!) and a few of her songs, stop by her myspace page or her website, where you can listen to several of her songs. (and yes, there are similarities between her and tori amos, but they're certainly not identical twins.) she rocks. and you heard it from me. ;)

song of the day: boyfriends make you lazy by lisa lindal.