Whoops, Wrong Drug: Part 2

A downside to ‘your brain doesn’t work in the same vein as the majority’ is that things that affect the majority one way just might not be the same for you!

Some over the counter drugs, like DayQuil or Sudafed, will make your anxiety worse. I personally can’t take DayQuil at all; it worsened my anxiety on a bad day to the point where I was almost hospitalized. I was unaware of the possibility of such a severe reaction; my therapist at the time asked about any medications taken on the day, and mentioned it. So now I suffer through it with home remedies and the occasional nasal spray.

Speaking of home remedies, I always lacked belief that herbal supplements did much. My mother insisted I try St. John’s Wort for my depression. I didn’t think it was going to have much of an effect, if any.

I was wrong. I apparently entered a manic state-my memory is none too clear-babbling like a toddler on speed until I started getting dizzy, and curled up in bed and remained there until the next day, depressed and out of focus.

(My mother then purchased a ‘happy tea’ without checking the ingredients. Luckily, I read them myself, and, of course, St. John’s Wort was among them. I generally avoid my mother’s homeopathic gifts now.)

I’m not knocking therapeutic effects of things that aren’t medications. I do enjoy things like scented candles, bath bombs, scented lotions; when I need to relax, a bath bomb and a podcast can do wonders, or maybe some jazz music. When I feel stiff and uncomfortable in my body, a few yoga poses or a walk outside can help. And sometimes there’s nothing better than cuddling with my furry friend.

(I do recommend a furry friend for depressed or anxious people if you can fit one into your life.)

Baby Axel

Said furry friend as a baby, he’s a big boy now, but he’s harder to get cute photos of!

So, no cold medicine, and I don’t take anything that hasn’t been approved by the FDA that isn’t straight up melatonin.

(Try it if you have a hard time falling and staying asleep, it’s been doctor recommended and non habit forming, our bodies make it, and if you don’t make enough of it, you can have a hard time falling asleep, as I gather.)

And when people insist that I take too many pills and I should just be more natural and drink some form of tea that their cousin makes, I make a non committal noise, take my pills that night, and go to bed content in the knowledge that at least I know what I’m in for in the morning.

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Whoops, Wrong Drug, Part 1

With mental illness, prescribing medication to treat the symptoms isn’t like treating an infection. There is a lot of trial and error involved, and I’ve experienced it personally.

11997

There are approximately fifty million* times this many kinds of pills to choose from!

*Random Number, do not cite

For the sake of not influencing anyone towards or away from a certain medication, I won’t name names, but one of my first prescribed drugs made me so agitated and irritable I felt like I was in the early stages of a demonic possession horror movie. The second made my appetite increase while dragging my energy level down, leading me to put on fifty or so pounds-the resulting depression from the weight gain lead to fifteen more pounds.

An acquaintance mentioned a medication that dulled their senses to the point that they found themselves sunk into their couch for days at a time, forgetting to eat and subsisting on crackers and cigarettes. Coming off the medication, they said, was like being reanimated.

That story set off a round of reminiscing and comparing medication experiences (as well as longing for nicotine); everyone had at least one horror story. I was in quiet denial about how fat I was until someone else shared the same issue-apparently their doctor hadn’t warned them about the increased appetite and dragging energy levels either. I had to wonder if our respective doctors thought we would refuse to take the medication if we knew the possible symptoms. I would have preferred an informed refusal; the medication didn’t even work very well.


I currently take four medications for my mental illnesses, the newest addition intended to help deal with my lack of sleep, flashbacks, nightmares, and mood stabilization. It is also meant to help with migraines. I have only been on this exact combination for…

*checks calendar*

A little less than two weeks. I have been fiddling with my other medications for about a year and a half, after not being satisfied but being wary of trading my rocky fishing boat for a sinking dinghy.

These two weeks have been pretty decent, mental health-wise. But I just knocked on wood, because for all I know two weeks from now I may develop some other symptom.

Maybe I’ll grow wings!

 

Burning Out

What might not be appreciated, by the average person, is how much energy an illness can take.

Everything that you do, from getting up in the morning, to going to work, to eating, to engaging with other people, to bathing, to remembering to buy groceries, doing the laundry-all that takes energy, mental and physical.

If anyone is familiar with ‘spoon theory’, it’s a good general starting point.

But another way of thinking of it is akin to the battery on an iPhone.

Now, you start the day fully charged.

Sometimes.

There are days that you can start with less than 100%.

Poor sleep, no sleep, nightmares-all of these can start you lower, so let’s say, 70-85%.

But there’s also a lack of consistency on how much energy a task can take.

Normally, getting up, getting dressed, eating breakfast? It doesn’t drain the battery at all.

But sometimes it’s as if the phone is trying to load an update and you spend twenty minutes staring at a pan because you can’t collect yourself enough to remember how to cook an egg and suddenly you have 20% battery and have to go into power saving mode just so you can eat something, and end up with a bowl of cereal and a blank expression.

Or you can spend fifteen minutes trying to shake off a nightmare, and by the time you’re out the door your battery is at 50-65%.

Then you have to get to wherever you’re going. Let’s assume work.

If you’re driving, you have to use energy to watch the road, the other drivers-keep yourself safe and on time from home to work. If you’re on public transportation, you try to get a seat, but that’s not always possible, so the crowding wears down on you.

So by the time you get to work you have less than 50% battery.

And the work day hasn’t even started.

But you have to work. You have to endure. You have to get home again. Eat dinner. Go to sleep.

But sleep doesn’t fill your battery all the way.

And you get up. Endure another day. Go home. Get up again.

Until the day you wake up, and there’s nothing. You can’t get up, and that realization makes you cry silently with exhaustion, until even that is too much, and all you can do is stare silently at the wall.

And wonder what the hell you are supposed to do.

Peace and Fidget Toys

I am a happy new owner of a fidget spinner and a fidget cube. (I’d post pictures, but I think we all know what they look like at this point, they’re everywhere right now.)

The two sometimes allow me to sit and watch TV or Youtube without incorporating another activity. Coming from me, the Queen of multiple sources of stimulation, this is quite a marvel.

(It really is a problem. I’ll have the TV, music, my laptop, and my cell phone all engaged in different things simultaneously, muting the TV when it gets to commercials and playing music or a Youtube video to cover until the show returns.)

Sometimes they don’t fully distract me, but the quiet whirls of my little green toys are still quite calming. They also seem to have granted me the ability to have long conversations without nerves or boredom sending me off into babbling tangents.

Something that is especially detrimental about living with anxiety (and C-PTSD) is that being comfortable is very difficult.

Humans can go into a state of hyper awareness in the face of danger. Senses sharper, adrenaline pumping, heartbeat always in your ears. but I can be that way almost constantly.

This, to put it mildly, is exhausting. We are not meant to have our senses on high alert at all times. It puts a massive amount of stress on our bodies.

So I am usually hyper aware or restless, which makes even things that are meant to be relaxing difficult to enjoy.

It seems that many neurotypical people find them distracting, or don’t know what to do with them, or think that kids are going to start throwing them at each other, or not paying attention because of them.

First off, if a child is using it to distract themselves, I’d bet that said child was already not paying much attention, it’s just another way.

Second, if they are using it as a focus tool, fidget toys are easily used one handed, and you can keep it in your non-dominant hand and take notes with the other. I’ve done it, it’s not hard. And for listening to, say, a lecture? It’s like magic.

Third, a neurotypical person might have to pay more attention to a fidget toy-I don’t know. For me personally, it’s like bleeding off the constantly flurries of my brain ricocheting around, and giving that something to play with while the rest of me actually gets things done. So I’m hoping that schools don’t ban their use, because I would have benefited immensely from having one in elementary, middle, and high school, as well as college.


And if some neurotypical kids want to play too? Sure, why not?

Let’s normalize them, more fun and relief for everyone! My mother has one so that she doesn’t doodle during meetings, kids fiddle with them as they walk-hey, less cell phone use while crossing the street

They’re great desk toys too!

Let’s have them for use during interviews!

Pay no attention to the fidget cube in my hands, listen to the coherent and clever answers coming from my mouth!

Wanting to Be Normal

There is no neurotypical ‘me’, as I believe I’ve said before.  Would your clone be you, raised in a different time and situation? They might be remarkably similar, in the way that identical twins raised separately can be, but I wouldn’t agree that they are the same person?

Someone genetically identical to me, but without my various ‘quirks’ wouldn’t be me. No abuse, different family, no assault, no anxiety, no being on the spectrum-that wouldn’t be me.

Now, the question is-would I want to be that other person? Do I want to live their existence?

Yes and no. There are things about being me that are irritating, frustrating, and infuriating. I don’t think I would miss them. But I feel like parts of myself are wonderful-and I’m not sure being able to fit in more with other people would be worth giving up those things.


It’s also because I’m not entirely sure how different I am. I know that plenty of people love the beach-it’s a pretty common thing to like.

But do other people feel the beach the way I do?

Does it cleanse their mind and silence their worries and ease their weary souls? Do they hear the same almost-music in their minds in the sound of the waves and the light of the sun and the taste of salt in their mouths?

Can they feel the universe’s energy in the flowers budding on a tree branch?

Is that part of the human experience, or is it just me? Do they feel it differently?

Part of me thinks they must- for me the world is completely overwhelming at times, and it seems that they don’t hear anything at all.

I don’t think I want to see the world that way-even if my way sometimes makes me suffer and rubs me raw.

Because when it isn’t harsh and loud and dragging on my skin, the world is beautiful. I would worry about not seeing it that way anymore.

The Caffeine Dilemma

Coffee! The smell. The first dates, good and bad. The pot in the office.

So many are so dependent on it. I enjoy it, but there’s a constant risk of a mild overdose. I also may already be dependent. I’m not sure. It’ll at least be a ‘normal’ dependency.


Story time: When I worked at Starbucks, eons ago, there was a young woman who came in four or five times a day. Not every day, but I learned that there were other locations that she visited, depending on her schedule.

But each time she arrived, she’d always get some variation on the following: Venti (for those of you playing along at home, that’s 20 ounces hot, 24 ounces iced), five or six shots of espresso, non fat milk.

So, on an average day, this woman had about twenty five shots of espresso.

caffeine-junkie

This, only blonde and in all black.

One co-worker was tempted to make her drinks decaf, until it was pointed out that this woman’s caffeine addiction was so severe that doing so was akin to forcing a heroin addict to go cold turkey with no warning. I was sure, had my coworker given her decaf, the woman would have passed out in the parking lot in a pool of her own withdrawal sweat and/or vomit.

I’m joking, but-

[GOOGLE AND CALCULATIONS BREAK]

The average America adult drinks 300 mg of caffeine a day. That woman was drinking about 320 mg in one drink. So about 5.34 times the national average a day-1600 mg a day! Ouch.

Compared to a serious drug habit, Starbucks is cheaper, but that’s five or six dollars, four or five times a day. So say 25 dollars, seven times a week…it’s about seven hundred dollars a month.

For coffee! That is a little insane.


Now. I like coffee. I used to be a Frappuccino junkie, but I’ve cut way back, because it’s just a sugar bomb, and when I do indulge I only drink Light Frappuccinos.

When I’m feeling like cold molasses, a stimulant is practically necessary to keep moving. And I love me some iced coffee. In cold weather it’s either hot tea or a latte; straight hot coffee hurts me.

But moderation is extremely important.

I have an anxiety disorder. Too much of a stimulant leads to the feeling of being strapped to the front bumper of a car in a drag race about ten minutes after snorting two lines of cocaine, and there’s no getting off.

Many people with anxiety avoid caffeine altogether because it gets risky.

My caffeine overdoses leave me queasy with any tiny movement making me twitch. A leaf falling out of a tree elicits OMG WTF BBQ FUCK FUCK FUCK DANGER.

It’s been less of an issue lately, I think because of medication adjustments, but coffee is so much part of office culture and casual socializing not drinking it either requires an explanation or decaf.

Unless you’re in Starbucks of course. Then there’s a pretty good shot at escaping having to drink anything is a kick.

But I sort of enjoy enjoying coffee-it allows me to pretend better. When one person sighs, ‘It’s too early to do this without coffee’, I can nod in agreement with truth behind it, and such moments where I feel less like an alien are nice.

So I’ll have coffee. Despite the pounding.

The Mind as a Person, and Their Place in Their Family

People often talk about their non-neurotypical children as if they were robbed of their ‘real’ child. And while I can understand the frustration and loss involved with raising a child who may never speak to you, or spends hours in a room screaming-

That is their real child, and there is no untangling how their brain works from the person. It doesn’t mean that they can’t connect with that child as a person.

And demanding their ‘real’ child is essentially the changeling myth, in reverse: the child they birthed in exchange for one that is near identical, but ‘normal’.

I do not exist as a neurotypical person. A person that was physically identical to me but lacking my illnesses, my idiosyncrasies, my way of looking at the world-that would not be me, and could never be.


This post was born from the fact that I feel as if said hypothetical identical stranger was swapped for me at birth, and my neurotypical double was raised by a pair of very confused lesbians who obsessively collect trains, line their walls with bookshelves and chose a sperm donor who they hoped would produce a child that was a little like them.

So my family has me, an atheist neuroatypical bookish nerd who seems to lack anything in common with them. And until recently, I accepted my black sheep status, because despite a lack of understanding, I thought I was loved.

But yesterday, the topic of my young transgender cousin came up. She’s going to be a senior in high school, and both of my aunts insist on calling her by her old name and with male pronouns. It clearly hurts her feelings, and my aunt’s only response was she doesn’t want ‘someone like that’ in our family.

My young cousin has good grades, a part time job, and the most trouble she’s ever gotten in involved marijuana. (Like many other teenagers in America, she smokes it with her friends.)

By comparison, my two older cousins have stolen cars and wrecked them, gotten involved with underage girls, leeched off their parents, started fights, thrown things and sworn at their mother-but there’s no mention of cutting them off.

I had to come to the realization that the ‘me’ that my family loves is in fact not me at all, but the me that is related to them and passes for normal. The me that I would recognize as myself-the bisexual neuroatypical woman who likes collecting notebooks and dark chocolate-doesn’t exist for them.


There was a time that I wished that what was so different about me would go away-that I wouldn’t startle so easily, that I wouldn’t count patterns on the ceiling, get overwhelmed so easily by crowds.

Then I realized that if I pull at enough of those differences I would unravel myself. So many of those things being gone would mean that I would disappear.

So I came to accept them-even if living with them is less than ideal.


 

So, for those who feel like they don’t fit in with their family-who feel like the person who is embraced is a shadow or puppet show-

See if you can find a new family.

People who know who you are. All of who you are. Spend time with them.

Take time getting to know yourself.

Minimize time with your relatives.

Constantly holding up a mask and smile is exhausting. Don’t do it.

Living Neuroatypical re: Job Hunting

No one likes job hunting.*

*Well, I’m sure there must be someone, as there are people who want to have sex with their cars, but as a general rule, even people who hate their current position aren’t overjoyed with the process of looking for another.

As a neuroatypical, I have to concur with the general rule on this one.

Job hunting isn’t fun.

Not necessarily for the same reasons.

Reason #1:

Job applications.

Type 1: The sort intended for jobs paid by the hour.

They are generally tedious, too long, dull, and numbing.

They are also not intended for people who aren’t neurotypical. A person with, say, ADHD, is going to have a much harder time with them, and some of them are timed.

The applications have questions intended to weed out those who lack the basic temperament or compliance for hanging up clothes, making milkshakes, and tolerating the general irritations of the position.

But the questions also have the side effect of weeding out people who may be perfectly competent, if not excellent potential employees, but don’t understand and/or misinterpret the questions.

Questions on applications for retail or food service jobs are often meant to be answered on a scale of 1-5, agree/disagree, which is already sort of a crap-shoot in terms of answering.

How much do you agree? Are you neutral?

When I filled out those applications, it seemed like I had to guess. And after twenty five questions, with another forty to go, I would be so overstimulated and irritated that I would have to go do something else for an hour or would be unable to process anything. And half the time, the application would have timed out, so I would have to start over again.

(I learned, much later, that (apparently) neutral or hesitant answers are negative, while answers that are at either end of the spectrum are seen more positively. If they’re the right answer, of course. )

When the question was ‘Everyone slacks off at work sometimes’, I said that I agreed, because that’s true. It isn’t as if we, as human beings, are not masters of dicking around. But this is a massively wrong answer, because since retail and food service workers aren’t meant to be human beings,  and therefore should indicate that they do not understand what ‘slacks off’ means, and that at work they are nothing but vessels for said work.

Being who I was, I answered the questions without understanding that mindset, and took everything too literally.

Type 2:  Resume and Cover Letter

This form of application is less tedious-but I wouldn’t call it better.

The resume is always the same, you arrange it in a way that is meant to appeal to the applied position, you send it.

But the cover letter?

If anyone is honest, a cover letter is half advertising and half blowing as much smoke up someone’s ass as you can get away with, each meant to be customized to each job you apply to.

As someone with anxiety and trying to find a spot on the spectrum: trying to constantly sell myself, while being all too conscious of the performative nature of the cover letter?

It’s like pulling teeth. It can get obsessive, writing and editing and trying not to sound boastful or boring and not being able to imagine how the recipient will interpret the letter, and any lack of response fueling the obsession, not knowing how to fix it, even with advice, a need to succeed and a lack of feedback causing the anxiety to rise, causing you to make mistakes?

It’s not a good place to be.

Oddly enough, I do better via phone and in-person interviews, when I get them.

Which leads to-!

Reason #2:

Interviews!

Perhaps there exists a human being so confident and socially calibrated that an interview is a pleasant experience from start to finish.

I envy them, if so.

There is a constant sense of performing a balancing act, in an interview. You must appear eager, but not desperate. Intelligent, but not a know-it-all. Friendly, but not pushy. And so on.

In a neuroatypical’s case? You have to constantly worry about looking normal, on a everyday basis.

A job interview is ‘I’m normal, why do you ask’, dialed up to eleven.

In my case, I have to prep entirely the night before, medicate, do numerous deep breathing exercises, and hope that absolutely nothing will go wrong because I can be sent into an anxiety spiral of panicked uselessness with something as trivial as losing an earring.

And the instant the interview is over? It will be gone from my memory, because I would be unable to store it, too busy appearing normal.

Let me set the scene:

Intimidating woman in a power suit, perfectly peach lips and sharp eyebrows: Hello.

Me, professionally dressed, with a smile that tastes like mouthwash and too many mints: Hello, nice to meet you.

Me inwardly: MY NOSE ITCHES is my skirt riding up should I fix it oh no now I’m fidgeting, that makes you look insecure? Or was it immature? Insincere? Shit, make eye contact! No, now you’re staring, look away, not over there, look in her direction, oh look a bird-

IWIAPSPPLASE: So, what interested you in the position?

MPDWASTTLMAG: (says rehearsed answer)

MI: What was that? You’re fidgeting again, stop it you look like a freak. Oh look it’s that bird again, hi pretty birdy. Oh, I hope it doesn’t crash into the glass. What if that window fell out and I died? Shit she said something, nod NOD DAMN YOU.

IWIAPSPPLASE: What is your greatest weakness?

MI: I can’t actually tell you that, because ‘I have generalized anxiety disorder, depression, and CPTSD’ translates to ‘useless DO NOT HIRE’ in interview-speak, so…now I have to make something up!

MPDWASTTLMAG: I’m really rigid.

MI: REALLY? THAT’S THE BEST YOU CAN COME UP WITH!? (falls into despair, hobbles through rest of the interview, crawls home, kicks off shoes, and is completely depressed for a week)

This will then set off my anxiety about literally (almost) everything, to the point that making any sort of decision, including what to have for breakfast, becomes crippling, as well as convincing me that trying to work is impossible, and that I would resign myself to subsisting on disability for the rest of my life, as well as building imposter syndrome. And so on, until the next one.

In Conclusion:

job-interview-stock-photo

This. This  about sums it up. Just with more fear sweat.

Why Insurance Is So Important

Affordable Care Act (AKA Obamacare, and yes, they’re the same thing) went a long way in helping people access medical care. Until the Affordable Care Act, insurances weren’t required to cover a lot of things, and preexisting conditions excluded a lot of people. Is it perfect? No, but it seems like there is no perfect (or improved) plans waiting in the wings, and you don’t rip off a leaking roof to replace it with one that would leak more. If it stayed up at all.

And, to be frank, unless you are wealthy to the point of obscenity, paying out of pocket for health care is impossible.

I’ll use myself as an example. If I had to pay for my mental health care out of pocket-well, it’s a moot point. I couldn’t.

My therapy appointments, at a sliding scale clinic, without coverage, would be $200 a month, with another $50 for any additional appointments to manage my medications. My medications, without coverage, would be about $900 a month.

So: let’s say $1150 a month,  that’s $13, 800 a year.I could rent an apartment with that amount of money.

Where in the hell am I going to get that? And that’s assuming I don’t need any other medical care. No injures, no hospitalizations, no illnesses that can’t be treated with something over the counter.

And other people-say, a diabetic or a cancer patient-would have bills that make my costs look entirely reasonable.

The short version is that we’ve reached a point that medical care is too expensive for the average American to pay for, forcing people to choose between their health and financial ruin, if paying for their care is even a possibility.

A lack of provided health care is just an indication that the American government has no investment or care for the disabled or the health of their citizens, in a depressing and striking contrast to the rest of the developed world.

It makes me feel devalued as a human being.