Tuesday, March 26, 2013

published poems are more fun than depression

day 1 on 20 mg of citalopram. day 2 on 125 mg of trittico ret. not enjoying it. i sleep okay, but i am leaden and extremely tired and slow when i get up. nausea comes and goes, last night i thought i was going to throw up. the headaches, at least, seem to have stopped. dizziness comes and goes, too. the funny stuff with my eyes, however, is really starting to bother me. it's as if i were constantly aware of my eyes, especially - for some reason - the left one. my neurologist is away this week though, so i cannot ask him about that.

i saw my therapist today, described my symptoms ... and, of course, she says, of course you feel like that. what you describe so beautifully, is your depression. duh. seems the panic has already been replaced by that dullness. we discussed strategies that will help me deal with it. i find it helps me to talk to myself, saying out loud what i am doing (e.g. "now i'm going to fold this ... and put it in the closet ...). editing the 16 months old venice photos works well, too - i can focus on that, when concentrating on some other things is impossible. dancing does me good. i've put together a playlist of songs that always make me want to get up and dance. and i ought to remind myself to do challenging things only when they are things i enjoy doing, and it's okay to neglect the rest.

occasionally i feel bad, or guilty, because other people's lives are so much harder than mine - refugees, people with terminal illnesses, homeless people, the list goes on. but i guess it doesn't actually make me a worse person to have this affliction for the time being and to take care of myself.

for the poetically inclined: three of my poems have just been published in the always fabulous IthacaLit magazine. grab your drink of choice and spend some time with good poetry.

song of the day: z'lied vor freiheitsstatue by sophie hunger.

Friday, March 22, 2013

side effects

day 2 on 10 mg of citalopram. i know it's early days, but ... today i almost wished for my old sertralin back!

yesterday, a couple of hours after taking the first 10 mg, i started feeling dizzy, then nauseous, and then i had the strangest sensation of pressure behind my eyeballs for maybe 10-15 minutes. that was *really* unpleasant. nausea came and went for about 6 or 7 hours, dizzy spells for 2-3 hours. i had a couple of "headache attacks", which only lasted 5-10 minutes each. also, i didn't feel hungry most of the day.

today i've felt worse. i keep getting those 5-10 minute headaches, but they feel like mini migraines, make my eyes hurt, as if someone were squeezing really hard behind my eyeballs. i felt nauseous for a while, especially about 2 hours after taking the pill. and - something i didn't experience yesterday - i suddenly felt as if the weight of the world were on my shoulders. i felt leaden and depressed, and almost couldn't be bothered setting one foot in front of the other. at the same time, however, i felt restless. i didn't like that feeling at all. it lingered for maybe 20 minutes. that was enough, thanks.

i've got another two days of 10 mg before switching to 20 mg a day. we'll see how that goes. i guess it is a good thing that i am staying at home from work, because i expect the side effects to get worse when i double the dose. watch this space.

i have decided to record these things here for myself and also for others who might be in a similar situation or are looking for someone's experience with citalopram or trittico.

on a more pleasant note: i've had some poetry acceptances lately (most recently from the new Paris Lit Up magazine), and i have just made lovely sweet potato & tomato soup with coconut milk and served it with prawns. totally delicious! :)

sweet potato & tomato soup

song of the day: dancing in a minefield by plushgun.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

i have actually seen a neurologist!

and not only have i seen him, i have spoken to him! so - a) neurologists exist and b) appointments with them can be a reality. ;)

this one, dr. k., is actually the neurologist i saw in 2007/8 at the crisis intervention centre at vienna general hospital, and he made a very good impression then, because he always took my concerns seriously and tried to answer all my questions regarding medication and every drug's mechanism of action as well as regarding the processes happening in my brain.

it was a good session today - once again, my concerns were not brushed off, and this made me feel more comfortable. i voiced concerns regarding sertralin, which i took last time, and which had not so pleasant side effects (as mentioned before: zero creativity, rapid weight loss, weeks of nausea, anorgasmia over long periods). so we discussed alternatives. he ended up suggesting citalopram, which is also an SSRI, but slightly different from sertralin. the recommended dose is 20 mg.

apart from that, due to renewed difficulties falling asleep / sleeping through the night, dr k. also suggested changing my dose of trittico retard from 75 mg to 100 mg for now, and then eventually to 150 mg.

so here i am again - back on more meds as of tomorrow morning. i was told to expect nausea again, and perhaps some dizziness. but we'll just have to wait and see how it goes. i have another appointment after my holidays, on 15 april.

it's not easy for me to accept that i need to take that stuff again, i am finding it difficult to regard the pills as my friends - although part of me knows, of course, that they are supposed to help me. i know i'd be way less opposed to taking drugs if it were only for a few weeks, like antibiotics or something, but this is mid- to long-term. and i am already dreading withdrawal symptoms.

dr k. also told me it would be very wise to stay off work until my holiday, i.e. all of this and next week. once again, something that i don't find easy to comply with, because of my sense of duty and all that well-trained old stuff. the part of me that is learning to be different knows that he is right, of course. he is only repeating what my therapist and GP advised three weeks ago.

so i guess i'll just try to be good to myself while getting used to the new medication. watch some good films, go for walks - even though the weather hardly seems to cooperate, we are in for eternal winter, it appears, cook nice food (if i don't feel too nauseous), maybe write a little, and try to rest. and on the NOT TO DO list: worry about work, guilty conscience, checking work emails every other hour, stress.

here's a suitable pic, taken yesterday:

dangling shoes

... and this quote

Someone once told me
To hold on to what's me
But I must be too slippery

[listen on youtube]
is from my

song of the day: my two feet by ida gard.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

the monster

to blog or not to blog about it, that's the question i've been pondering since the monster returned a couple of months ago: the monster of psychological problems, the monster of burnout, the monster of me not quite being myself, the monster of control slipping out of my hands.

i've wanted to write about it here, but then i thought about how some people told me in the past that it might be stupid to do so, because someone who is "somebody" at work could stumble on it. but - i guess, if they have nothing better to do, so be it. and i remembered how people emailed/messaged me five years ago, saying that my blog posts helped them feel less isolated, and a little more "normal" or "understood". i know my problems are minimal compared to those of some people i know, but they are still real and they still make me struggle and they make life very hard at times. so, i guess i am already in the middle of it ...

i had hoped i would never have to deal with the emotions, the pain, the panic i experienced in 2007/8 again. and for a long time it looked like my wish had been granted. however, my world seemed to crumble again earlier this year: in my job i went from being blissfully happy with what i was doing, where i was doing it, with whom i was doing it, to a project that is utter chaos, where i feel i am being wasted, where i have to constantly lower my (high) standards in order not to burn out completely, where nothing is going to change in the foreseeable future. in my relationship, things weren't going too well either, because both of us have had too much on our plates for a while. there was so much aggression towards people at work, so much frustration (can't go into details here, but some not so pretty things happened). and - the biggest problem of all: me, my own worst enemy. me, as in - my expectations (of myself, mostly), my high standards, my extraordinary sense of responsibility (for basically everything), the way i tend to define/identify myself mostly based on performance, accomplishments, etc., how i always tend to give 120%, how i work myself too hard, my low self-esteem, my need to feel loved, the pressure that i put myself under, how unforgiving i can be towards myself. i make allowances for everyone, it seems, but not for myself.

i could see where i was headed, and yet, i didn't do much about it. then i slept less and less. i saw the signs, in neon, blinking like crazy. i had been there before. one week in february, i slept less than 4 hours each night, and those were not a few hours of blissful, deep sleep, but half an hour here, half an hour there, and each morning i felt as if somebody had dragged me halfway across the city in my sleep. the last night of that week was the worst: i slept from 10.30 pm to 00:30, and that was that. i went to work, feeling like a zombie. i came home, feeling like a zombie. i couldn't sleep. i had a massive breakdown around 08:30 pm, started to cry, and couldn't stop. i cried and cried and had panic attacks and got caught up in ever the same thoughts, until i couldn't even move anymore, until i honestly thought i was losing my mind, that something would just snap. at 00:15, when heinz was home and saw me through another panic attack, i finally took a xanax, which knocked me out for some hours.

little wonder that i left the door wide open for all sorts of nasty little viruses, and i was really ill by monday morning. even then i still contemplated going to work! and even during my time off i felt responsible for everything - i checked assessment tests, i was online via the remote desktop half the day, i started looking for a place to stay, and generally didn't allow myself the rest i needed so badly. i had to take antibiotics for the first time in 20+ years.

my GP wanted to put me back on the same medication as in 2007/8. i accepted the trittico retard pills so i could sleep better. but i refused to go back on the sertralin (SSRI). last time it wreaked havoc with my digestive system, put an end to all creative processes for almost as long as i took the stuff, it also had a major negative influence on sexual pleasure, and i lost way too much weight in a really short time. and when i went off them ... ugh. for a week i went through every withdrawal symptom in the book. not pretty. i asked my doctor to refer me to a neurologist. a month later, i still haven't had an appointment - they must be the busiest people in the world. but, the day after tomorrow i am going to see the neurologist who treated me in 2007. perhaps we can find a better solution. i think i need to come to terms with the fact that medication might be it for me - at least for now.

i was off work for a full two weeks. my GP was reluctant to let me go back. my therapist didn't exactly call me crazy for going back to work in my state, but she very nicely asked me to go straight to my GP and go back on sick leave. which i didn't do. one reason was that things were looking good for a two-week class with motivated high level english students, a pleasant change from the normal fare. so i wanted to give that a go in order to have some pleasant experience at work and to get some of the energy back that i invested all the time.

the last 5-6 weeks have been really, really tough. sleeplessness, doubt, worry, moving out temporarily to a friend's studio, the sense of not belonging anywhere, not having a home (because, what home was i to myself?), anxiety, panic attacks, crying fits, and on more than one occasion i started hurting myself (digging my nails into my arms or hands, scratching myself till i bled), getting used to the pills ...

i am working very hard on myself these days. i think i have finally understood that if i don't change some of my faithful old patterns, i'm in real danger. it has never been as palpable as now. for my own sake, for MY own sake, i need to learn to love myself, not for the things i do, but for who i am. i need to learn to say no. i need to accept that i make mistakes and that that is okay. i need to treat myself with kindness. i need to be good to myself. i find it much, much easier to behave like that towards others. it's going to be a long, long road, but i am happy and proud to say that i have already managed to say no a few times lately, that i have allowed myself to do prep work in ten minutes (and it was still a very good day for myself and the students!), that i have allowed myself to stay at home because i was feeling awful, because i needed to look after myself and not others. i have allowed myself to say "i'll take care of it later" instead of doing everything at once. i have allowed myself to do absolutely nothing. i have allowed myself to make mistakes. i am taking it one step at a time, as best i can, and taking it one step at a time really isn't all that easy for me. i have also asked for help. i have just sent off an application for what they call rehab/a stay at a health resort. i have been diagnosed with burnout (and not one of the early stages), stress-induced depression, mental overload, anxiety and panic disorder. treatment at a health centre can help me become fit for work - and, basically, life - again. i would never have dreamed of asking for something like that even two or three months ago. perhaps all this sounds like nothing to some of you out there. to me they are giant steps in the right direction.

of course it all takes a lot of energy, and i have good and not so good days. last week was really good. my students were nice, and teaching was - once again, finally! - fun. heinz and i seemed to be on the same wavelength. i had no panic attacks, just a few incidents of feeling anxious. but it seems that even the good times take a lot of energy out of me, and perhaps that week also put me under some kind of pressure ... i.e. that this week would have to be just as good. it didn't start well, though. another fairly sleepless night. anxiety, panic. i couldn't go to work, i was exhausted. i try to see it as a small detour rather than a setback. i try to tell myself that it's okay. that i can't function perfectly at the moment. i know i am doing the best i can most of the time, and the rest of the time i am just trying not to sink.

this blog post is probably as much for me as for anybody else, or even more for myself than for anybody else. it's an addition to the many entries in my diary, an addition to my "good things that have happened this year" box, which - despite my difficult time - is filling up nicely. perhaps this will reach someone out there. perhaps it will fill my friends in on a few things i didn't post on facebook. and if someone who is "somebody" from work reads it - you can thank me for coming to work despite the shit hitting the fan so many times.

song of the day: the tower by vienna teng.