I’m truly feeling at the end of my rope with this “mystery illness”, and associated symptoms. It’s greatly impacted the quality of my life, caused me to become both anxious and depressed, and I don’t know what to do anymore. I feel as if there’s nowhere to turn for help, and nobody is listening, which is very frustrating.

It’s been difficult not to become depressed as a result of all of this. I largely miss the kind of person I used to be, who was not always the most laid-back, but free-spirited and full of life and adventure. Nowadays, neither my mind nor my body remember that person. The day before I got sick, I was on vacation with my younger brother, and walking 4 miles a day, and feeling in love with so many things about life. Most days, I’d give absolutely anything just to have that back.

Everyone is worried about me; friends, family, even people who don’t know me personally are sending me Facebook messages and e-mails, offering support and telling me about their own struggles. And yet, although I’m lonely and bored to death most of the time (for an extrovert to suddenly live in a world consisting mostly of thoughts, quietude, and one’s own company is also sometimes the catalyst for depression.), my reaction to all of this is to hide myself away. There are only a few people I can handle seeing, and large group events or overcrowded spaces panic me.

It’s ironic. A former stage performer, event planner, and life-long social butterfly who misses living in the most overcrowded city in America has now developed social anxiety.

I suppose it’s just fear, and I don’t know how to make myself strong enough to get past the fear. I wonder what will happen if I have negative physical symptoms, which then spiral into a panic attack, when I’m out in public. I’m afraid everyone will stare at me, or judge me, or pity me. I’m afraid ex-boyfriends and former friends will say “I knew I was right to get away from that crazy chick.”. I’m afraid gossipy and less than well-meaning people will simply use my struggles as conversational fodder. I’m afraid my enemies and haters will see my vulnerability in all its exposed glory, and use it against me (like the Mother Of The Guy I Am Currently Dating telling me I’m nuts, and even strangers see that I’m psycho, and repeatedly wishing for my death.).

I feel like both my good friends and The Guy I Am Currently Dating deserve better than what I can currently give them. I want to attend social occasions, but at the same time, I know everyone would be happier, calmer, and more relaxed without me there to bring them down. I value my relationship, but I feel like The Guy I Am Currently Dating should be with someone who is happy, capable of enjoying life, and won’t hold him back. We used to have so much fun together, and I feel like he should have that back in his life again. He is older than I am, both in physical age and in spirit and overall level of maturity, and I feel like he should be out there exploring all the good things life has to offer, rather than dealing with an emotional basketcase who may also be physically ill, and either way, incapable of keeping up or really participating in life. I’ve been good about keeping up with everyone on e-mail, spending a lot of time on Facebook and having extended phone calls with friends, because I feel I can offer more at a distance than I can in person.

And so I am often lonely, but feel the need to keep the world at a distance. Some days, I just try to invent ways to wish myself away, because I so desperately miss many aspects of my life as it used to be. I took so many things for granted, and now that things as simple as eating at a restaurant are a challenge, I wish I could have had all that time back when I could have done anything I wanted to do. :(

For a while, I hoped each doctor I’d see, each medication, would somehow be a magic solution. But, with every test that came back negative, every pill that had negative and intolerable side effects, or made me feel even more removed from health and reality, I stopped hoping. I stopped praying, and writing in my journal, and reading things about “positive thoughts” and “creating a happier universe”. I just got so tired of hoping, and then feeling crushed when there were no solutions to be found.

Now, I’m afraid I’ll never be that person I used to be, the one who loved life and adventure and people and being the centre of attention. I’m afraid I’ve lost some essential part of myself I no longer know how to reach…and the more I hear that my symptoms aren’t real, aren’t physical, and are just in my head, the more I’m becoming convinced that I’m really going crazy. And yet, somehow I *know* I’m not. I’m a very highly intuitive person, particularly when it comes to how I feel, physically and emotionally. I’ve spent my life dealing with issues on both ends, and actually know a pretty decent amount about medicine for a layperson. I self-diagnosed my appendicitis at the age of 10, and would go to the pediatrician to inform him I was suffering from chronic sinusitis, or pneumonia. (and although my precocious and arrogant approach made him laugh, I was always right.) I’ve been able to handle extreme amounts of stress, from losing loved ones, surviving potentially fatal situations, suffering from PTSD, losing my home, friends, and all my possessions, moving to Atlanta to start a new life with someone who then left me, and being totally on my own, and even a trip to the county jail, without anything approaching a panic attack or anxiety-related situation. So, all of the sudden, to be told that I’m having an anxiety disorder, that I can’t handle stress, that I may be bi-polar, and a host of other things that make doctors disregard my physical symptoms as “all in my mind” doesn’t add up to me. I freely express my emotions. In fact, I express how I’m feeling too freely , most of the time. I have friends I talk to often about my life. I write about and acknowledge my feelings. I am not the person who keeps everything in until she explodes.

And while I’m willing to admit I now have an anxiety disorder, and a subsequent addiction to a certain prescription medication they’ve put me on to manage my symptoms, I’d like to think I’m mentally and emotionally strong enough to cope with both. But, once the physical symptoms get involved, I can’t. I’m not in control anymore.

My “attacks” always start the same way; with a sudden recognition that I’m very dizzy, and a warm flush moving through my body…like the world is moving, even though I know logically I’m sitting still. Then, my heart feels like it’s skipping a beat or two, and panic sets in. I start to feel very out of control. Prior to being on beta-blockers, my physical response to panic was escalating my pulse to dangerous levels. These episodes aren’t a result of stress; they can just come out of nowhere. Before I was on any sort of medication at all, these “episodes” would often be followed by uncontrollable shaking, numbness in my fingers and toes, and symptoms mirroring that of a migraine, particularly extreme sensitivity to light and being touched. I’d feel a huge “woosh” sound in my ears, and feel spasms of something directly under my ears, like a bothersome pulsating feeling, or just a quick “jump”. I had to wear my sunglasses indoors, to work at my computer, and spend 20 hours a day in darkness. Then, they started me on Diazepam (Valium), and my symptoms all mysteriously vanished for two weeks. When they tried to take me off of it, not only did my panic reaction get out of control, but all these physical symptoms returned. In addition, I’ve gained 8 pounds without changing my diet since starting the beta-blockers and Dizepam.

I’m still convinced that something is physically causing these symptoms, which has since given me an anxiety disorder, rather than the other way around. There is a history of epilepsy in my family, and I know Diazepam is often included with anti-convulsant treatment, because members of my family are on this drug. I’ve also had a seizure while on sinus medication, and symptoms mirroring that of a stroke on an anti-anxiety medication. I have negative neurological reactions to a majority of medications, which is why I’ve known not to mess around with drugs or abuse the over-the-counter sort to deal with not feeling well. I’m wondering if these “episodes” are in fact a form of petit mal seizures, though none of my doctors have run an EEG on me to rule this out, and I haven’t emphasized it because I don’t want them to think I’m suffering from hypochondria. I’m actually not…I’m just a highly intelligent person who read too many medical books in her younger years. But I’m also very in tune with my body, and I truly believe that physically, something isn’t right with me. I also have faith that if they were to identify the problem, I could work with finding ways to cope with the non-physical anxiety response, since I have always seemed to be able to handle stressors that aren’t related to physical reactions perfectly well.

Throughout my life, I’ve suffered from chronic ear and sinus problems, which turned into what I thought were allergies a few years after moving to Georgia. I quickly became addicted to using over-the-counter nasal spray and Benadryl to deal with my symptoms, for nearly a decade.A visit to the allergist confirmed I’m actually not allergic to anything. From what I’ve read, these physical symptoms could also be coming from problems relating to sinus and Eustachian tube issues, problems that have solutions.

The trouble is, I get very depressed because I feel like everyone’s stopped looking for solutions. Once they label you as someone suffering from a mental or emotional problem, the physical side of things gets very quickly disregarded, because it’s easier to say “Take this pill” than to look into what initially set off the chain reaction of events. I had no symptoms whatsoever of anxiety or depression before these physical symptoms appeared—I didn’t even know what a panic attack was—and when I feel physically well, I feel close to my old self again. Recently, I even made it out for martinis with a friend, and didn’t think about illness or doctors or anxiety for hours. Yesterday, I went to a friend’s birthday party, and tried to feel normal…but felt largely “spaced out” and tired, which I attributed to the recent problem with regulating my Diazepam and my bad reaction to Xanax. However, I was laughing and having fun, and all of the sudden….BOOOM! The dizzy feeling hit me, setting off a chain reaction of events. I was able to control my panic response, but by the time I got home, I felt very disconnected from myself, exhausted, and had a headache, and intolerance to bright light and loud noise.

I truly believe that physically, there is something not right with me, and just telling me to see a psychiatrist and putting me on drug after drug is a treatment designed to mask the symptoms and make me feel better (which I appreciate), but doesn’t solve the problem. The rational side of me thinks that solving the problem is the best cure for helping to get the emotional side of me under control, and it frustrates me that most doctors I’ve talked to do not share this viewpoint. Perhaps I’m wrong, but how do you just explain that intuitively, you “know” something…and that intuition has rarely steered you wrong, as it applies to knowing yourself. That isn’t rational, and members of the medical community will always disregard that…but I believe that intuition is a powerful thing, especially from one who has been consistently able to identify problems with her body from a very early age.

I’m not going to start taking Prozac or Paxil or Zoloft or whatever because the doctors think a psychological issue makes more sense than a less obvious physical one. When I have a rational basis to believe that all of the sudden, I was hit by a psychiatric problem, I’ll be happy to take whatever drugs they want me to be on. But knowing full well that those drugs are over-prescribed and have serious side effects, particularly in those with a history of seizure and blood-pressure issues, both of which I’ve exhibited, I want them to be certain there’s no physical cause for my “mystery illness” that could have been addressed in a less traumatic way.

However, I don’t want to end up dead, or in a psych ward somewhere, because dealing with this became more than I could take. I feel emotionally and physically broken down. I feel scared. And I feel like I want answers, not guesses, not assumptions, and not drug-related Russian Roulette. I just want good, old-fashioned, scientifically-based explanations for what’s going on with me, and I’ll be happy to take whatever cure is associated with that (so long as it’s not one that’s worse than the illness itself.)

I am determined that once I successfully withdraws from (prescription) Valium in a non-dangerous way that a *knowledgeable* doctor recommends, I am not taking any drugs, period. The culture of prescribing one drug because another drug made you feel bad, and then the one that works for you is one you’re not allowed to use long term is making doctors and pharm companies rich, but causing people harm. :( I feel a great disillusionment with the medical system, the insurance companies, and the pill pushing society in which we live.

Earlier this week, I went to a doctor highly recommended by a friend. After being ill for months for reasons undetermined, and accruing $30,000 in medical bills and tests, the results show I’m perfectly healthy except for a high pulse rate and unstable blood pressure, and some sinus issues. About 8 doctors have told me that my problems stem from anxiety, and so I have plans to be evaluated by a psychiatrist soon.

In the meantime, they’ve prescribed meds. Lots of meds. They gave two rounds of antibiotics for an ear infection I never had, vertigo meds for vertigo I don’t have, and started me on Ativan for anxiety and Atenolol (a beta-blocker) for my heart. Ativan was wonderful but addictive, so they switched me to BuSpar (apparently a form of Wellbutrin). Within a day, I was experiencing excruciating migraines, crying for 3 hours a day, feeling suicidal, and a host of other unpleasant symptoms. One morning, I woke up with a pulse rate of 188 (while also on the beta-blocker; I’d possibly not be here if I hadn’t been taking that.), uncontrollable shaking, and a feeling of numbness, paralysis, and loss of vision on the right side of my head. That earned me a trip in an ambulance, and a whole day of tests.

All my tests were negative, so they said I was having a particularly negative reaction to BuSpar. I had an MRI, a CT scan, lots of blood work…all showed I’m a normal healthy girl. I’ve been to the neurologist, cardiologist, and allergist, all to find everything about me is healthy.

Except, of course, I’ve been sick to the point where I can’t participate normally in my own life…so, of course, it’s possible that anxiety or another psychiatric illness is to blame. In order to alleviate my withdrawal symptoms from BuSpar, I got put on Valium.

And that’s when life got better….not all at once, but better. The ENT got me off nasal spray and over-the-counter decongestants, and the feelings of migraines and vertigo disappeared. I stopped wearing my sunglasses indoors. I made it out to social events again. I was exhausted, courtesy of the drugs, but spent a few weeks feeling almost normal.

Then, on Monday, I saw this doctor highly recommended by a friend…I mean HIGHLY, as in the girl credits this doctor with helping to save her life. The doctor was nice and all, but since I felt relatively well, I thought the worst was behind me. I asked her about cutting back on my heart medication. Unfortunately, she thought to take me off of Valium, and put me on Xanax.

I was succeeding with tapering off the Valium on my own. They started me on 20mg, and I reduced it to 5. Once I realised I wasn’t getting any more, I cut back to 2.5, where I started to have symptoms of anxiety and ear spasms again, but still manageable. Today, my first day with no Valium, I felt great.

Then, out of nowhere, BOOM! I’m on the floor, dizzy, my heart is racing, and everything feels out of control. So, I decided to give in and take half a Xanax, assuming I was having a panic attack. Almost immediately, my heart rate shot up, I became extremely anxious, started crying, and then got depressed….the kind where killing yourself seems like a viable option. My fingers and toes went numb. My pulse went from almost 100 to in the low 60′s. I started feeling hostility, as if I hated the whole world and wanted everyone to die. I’m again sensitive to light, afraid to sleep, overly sensitive to touch, headachy, and depressed. Pretty much the same symptoms I had on BuSpar.

My research shows that this doctor made a huge mistake in addressing my use of Valium. In fact, many of my symptoms are on the list of common withdrawal symptoms from Valium, and it suggests that Valium be tapered off over 4-6 weeks to avoid these potentially serious withdrawal symptoms. On top of it, it seems I can’t tolerate any type of anti-anxiety/anti-depressant med so far, with the exception of Ativan and Valium. For all I know, I don’t even HAVE anxiety, and I still have a physical illness that Valium helps reduce the symptoms of.

Either way, all I know is that this has been the worst summer of my life, and these doctors are going to have me in the psych ward by playing Russian Roulette with drugs, simply because I’m having scary symptoms that can’t be explained. And the thing that helps is the thing that’s now potentially caused me a drug addiction problem.

It kind of sucks to be me lately. I’d much rather be anyone else.

It seems like there’s a lot I’d like to sit down and write about, mostly stressful personal situations going on in my life. I’d like to update the world on the ongoing struggles with my health, and also an amazingly upsetting incident a few weeks ago that involved The Mother Of The Guy I Am Currently Dating leaving voicemails on my machine designed to tear me down, and ended with threats to do me harm if I didn’t leave Atlanta (for good measure); confusion about the future of my relationship (and specifically, if there is one there), and my ability to be independent and start all over again, should that need to happen; and the audacity of a girl in my Meetup that was not only incredibly rude to me when I interacted with her, but wrote to The Guy I Am Currently Dating to ask him out to dinner without running it by me first. I’d like to vent about the isolation that’s come with two months of illness, and the disappointment in friendships and infatuations that aren’t what you put into them, specifically when some people simply are the type you can’t get too close to, or they’ll pull a disappearing act.

Perhaps I could talk about Dragon*Con, and the anxiety I’m feeling over going, because my recent struggles with anxiety and medication have left me fighting with odd symptoms of social anxiety disorder, and because the medication I am on caused me to gain 8 pounds and feel less loving toward myself than ever before. (especially given some of the commentary delivered by The Mother Of The Guy I Am Currently Dating.) I could talk about how I’ve gotten to a point where I don’t believe anyone could find me attractive on any level; physically, emotionally, mentally, or just by virtue of being a “nice” person, and how I’m not sure how to interact with a world that doesn’t naturally emphasise my attractive qualities lately.

However, all those things seem stressful, so when I sit down to write, a blank screen stares at me, and I leave to do something else. Instead, I’ll share some of the things I’m infatuated with lately.

*Spotify. A new service that’s part ITunes, part Rhapsody, and one of the best ways I’ve found lately to discover new music, as well as share what I love with others. In theory, it can also help keep your music collection organised, but I’m afraid it takes a lot more to organise me.
*Christina Perri. A tattooed, long-haired native Philadelphian who channels a strange mix of Alanis Morrisette, Tori Amos, and Norah Jones, this girl is one of the more talented and unique voices to show up in the pop world in a long time. Her “Jar Of Hearts” caught my attention, as well as that of the radio stations, a few months ago, and immediately charted impressively on Billboard before Christina even signed with a label, or released a CD. Her first album is out in the UK right now, calledLovestrong, and is available on her website. Oh, and she’s a great supporter of To Write Love On Her Arms, one of my own favourite causes.

*Marie Antoinette One of the women in history that fascinates me to no end, I’m planning my own spin on a modern-day Marie Antoinette costume for Dragon*Con this year. And, just in time, I’m preparing to read Juliet Gray’s “Becoming Marie Antoinette”, the first book in the trilogy about this controversial coquette.

*Big Brother 13 Despite the fact I haven’t put any serious effort into campaigning to get myself on the show since making it to the final auditions way back in 2000, I still love the show just the same. And this year, I have Showtime, which means I can watch 3 hours a day (fortunately, while multitasking life.) It’s trashy, stupid, predictable, and I love it. Still cheering on the women America loves to hate, and waiting to see Rachel Reilly try to win the whole thing for her (and her cheating, controlling man.)

*Swap-Bot.Com I have always loved mail, and confess to an online shopping habit and missing the days when letters came in envelopes with stickers and handwritten love was usually involved. Today’s love letters to the world—and one another—are usually digital, and just not quite the same. (though, every once in a while, I’ll find myself getting excited when I see an e-mail from an old friend.) I also enjoy being crafty, unique, and sending little care packages to my friends…but the problem is, I don’t know many people like me. The last card I received from The Guy I Am Currently Dating basically signed his name, and the last present anyone gave me was tossed in a bag rather than gift-wrapped. Needless to say, I’m delighted to find a new hobby in Swap-Bot, where you can find like-minded pen pals and artsy folks, and even some writers and artists looking to get to know others. I highly recommend signing up and playing along!

I guess that’s all for me…ending on a positive note, so I can save my energy to recount some (if not all) of life’s dramas at a later date. See you over on Facebook! (do follow me if you’re a reader who’s not already a friend.I like to know who’s out there, but not enough to enable comments! ;P )

Recently, it’s occurred to me that I live in a city that’s not only the right kind of city for me or a place I really enjoy living, but the more people I talk to, the more people I find don’t particularly enjoy it here, either.

It’s no secret that Atlanta isn’t for me in a number of ways. I’m a city girl that doesn’t drive, and has no interest in ever owning a car. I want to know there’s a subway that will take me anywhere I want to go, when I need to go there, and I needn’t depend on anyone else for a ride or to want to go with me. I’m not staying in because of heat, cold, rain, snow, or sleet, and unless there’s a blizzard, don’t think weather is a valuable reason to cancel things. I’m outgoing, talk to strangers, walk through dangerous neighbourhoods by myself, and don’t feel odd eating dinner alone, unless the waiter sees the need to point out, “Oh, it’s just one today?”. I’m quirky, artistic, love the energy I get from crowds and a fast-paced lifestyle. I’ll never be blonde, blue-eyed, anorexic, or have perfect hair and a Southern drawl (real or acquired.) I don’t date based on how much money you make, and I don’t make my life decisions focused on how much money I make. I enjoy authenticity, drama, creating something interesting…even if it’s only yourself.

Here in Atlanta, conformity is the name of the game. While Donald Trump takes the NYC subway, very few people in Atlanta are brave enough to use it as a primary form of transportation (I have friends who are literally AFRAID of Atlanta’s MARTA train.). Not only that, the subway doesn’t serve over half of the Atlanta metro area, making it impossible for non-drivers to leave a very specific bubble. Only 500,000 people actually live in the city of Atlanta; the other 5 million live in the suburbs that aren’t served by public transportation, although many low income people have been forced to move out to the suburbs for lower rent, and walk miles each day, sometimes crossing dangerous highways.

At dinner the other night, the conversation of dating in Atlanta came up, and I mentioned an article I’d read. The article stated that Atlanta is one of the best cities in which to be single, but only if you expect to stay single. Over 80% of singles in Atlanta aren’t looking for long-term relationships. As someone who spent years being single in Atlanta, I can tell you first-hand, the emphasis is on going out, drinking, dancing, social climbing, showing yourself off, and ending up going home with someone you deem worthy, whom you’ll likely never call again, or even think of, until your paths cross socially.

Very few people are looking for friends, which is alien to me, because I wouldn’t date someone with whom I didn’t have a pre-existing friendship. I’m neither stupid nor naive. I don’t believe at love at first sight. Anyone can jump in bed together, and doing so does not create a relationship, 9 times out of 10. Friendships, on the other hand, take time and effort to cultivate, and not everyone is capable of or compatible with each other when it comes to developing those friendships. I have never had a successful long-term relationship with someone who was not a dear friend to me first, and I’ve never had a one-night-stand or friend-with-benefits turn into anything meaningful, even when I put tons of effort into trying to make it happen.

Even girls don’t seem to want to be friends with other girls; there’s this element of competition that seems to make most women view other women as “frenemies”. For me, it wasn’t until I was in a long-term relationship for years that I began to find friendships with women that weren’t based upon gossip, backhanded comments, and tearing down other people behind their backs. The people that have treated me most viciously in this city have always been women, from girls my own age who didn’t appreciate my free-spirited lifestyle and behaviour, to mothers of guys I’m dating who forget Southern class long enough to make death threats and use the C-word.

Once you’re in a relationship, it’s still a challenge. If I were still living a polyamorous lifestyle, I’d probably find Atlanta easier. But now that I’m not, I’ve noticed how little committments are respected. Both men and women will approach you, in front of your significant other, to hit on you. Friends will proposition you, saying they still respect you’re in a relationship. And ex-es will call you out of the blue to get together, pointing out that hanging out for “old times’ sake” doesn’t mean anything. Even married couples are not immune to this, and I’d imagine the rate of infidelity in the Atlanta metro area is far, far above the national average.

If I find myself single again in the future, it won’t be here. I’ve learned enough about Atlanta to know it can’t give me what I want….with the exception of more living space, a more reasonable standard of living, and a great group of friends I’d be sad to leave. But it’s not a fair trade off for low self-esteem, a general disbelief in the honesty and integrity of other human beings, being called horrible names, and driven to develop issues with depression, anxiety, and eating disorders.

There’s not a lot of value I see going on in ATL. Sure, there’s value on money, good looks, good jobs, the kind of car you drive, the image you present to others, and what you can do for me, should we start hanging out together. But there’s very little value being placed in getting to know others as a person, on friendships, on lasting relationships, and even on developing a positive mindset on how you feel about yourself that isn’t dependent upon what others are saying about you.

I think Atlanta is potentially the second-most shallow place I’ve ever lived; Los Angeles taking the cake for being the first. I’ll find it hard to leave behind the things here that matter to me…but there’s a reason everyone I like is constantly talking about no longer being here, and those that stay, find it hard to build long-term lives and relationships characterised by stability.

Don’t get me wrong. Some do, and they’re very happy. The first thing those happy couples do? They move to the suburbs, and spend 3 hours a day in a car. :)

Single or not, there’s little about Atlanta that’s for me…and most of those I’m close to seem to have similar feelings. I guess the best I can hope for is a Prince Charming that dreams of a penthouse condo and isn’t afraid of the subway. *laughs*

I received a rather sharply worded communique from my roommate regarding the candour I employed when telling the story in the previous post. He felt I was out of line in telling it at all, whereas I disagree.

However, just for the record:

Although my previous post talked about illegal activities…specifically the use of illegal drugs…neither my roommate nor myself use any illegal drugs, condone the use of illegal drugs, or have guests in our home that openly use illegal drugs. In fact, we’ve both passed drug tests with flying colours! We also have no specific knowledge that the fictional “Ted” character in the earlier story used illegal drugs, as it did not happen in the presence of anyone involved. While there is a real bar in our neighbourhood that may or may not have patrons willing to buy or sell illegal drugs, we don’t have first-hand knowledge of any of those activities. We’re just street-smart, city-wise people aware of the level of drug-related crime and arrests for such behaviour in and around our neighbourhood.

End of disclaimer. :)

I had a number of different topics to write about recently, but I think the theme for the week is this: crazy people.

This particular post got moved to the front of the writing ideas queue because once again, my roommate had an out-of-town friend imposing on our hospitality, and staying with us. In the past, my roommate has had a friend whom I call The Most Obnoxious Man In The World stay with us. He eats our food, stays out at the clubs until 5 AM, wakes up the entire house by slamming doors and turning lights on, makes rude and demeaning comments to and in front of women, talks loudly on his cell phone while everyone else is sleeping, and is generally the most inconsiderate person I’ve ever met.

That is, until I met Ted. Of course, the visitor’s name is not really Ted, but he kind of looks like a Ted, so it’ll do for descriptive purposes.

On first glance, Ted seemed nice and hospitable. Despite the fact that I’ve been seriously ill for 6 weeks, behind on work, and need peace, quiet, and non-stressful situations in my life as much as possible, my roommate thought it was a good idea to let Ted stay here, AND have two of his guy friends over to cook dinner. Said guy friends are very nice and polite…one actually did cook dinner for all of us, and cleaned up, despite my objections…..but we live in a 1300 square foot apartment with a tiny kitchen, and AC that doesn’t work properly. There’s very little room, and when people are over, talking and watching TV, it is not restful. It is not a low-stress environment. It is not conducive to work, and this is why I rarely have anyone over, outside of The Guy I Am Currently Dating.

We also have 2 bedrooms, and four couches, and none of them are well-suited for visitors, in that they don’t pull out into sofa beds, or provide any level of comfort. In short, we’re well-equipped for having people over to watch a movie or hang out, but when all is said and done, they need to go home.

That being said, it’s a little annoying that my roommate keeps having out-of-town visitors we don’t have space for, but it would be the tolerable inconvenience if said visitors were polite and respectful. Last night, after dinner was eaten and cleaned up and my roommate’s two guy friends went home for the evening (it was 11 PM on a Sunday, so that seemed an appropriate time to call it an evening.), my roommate took Ted out to his favourite local bar for some drinks.

All seemed well and good until my roommate returns at 2 AM, extremely anxious, without Ted. Ted apparently wanted to drink more and more at the bar, and the next thing you know, Ted is attempting to score cocaine from guys who appear to be dealers at the bar. On a side note: Seriously, how do you know who is a coke dealer at a bar you’ve never been to, in a city that’s brand new to you? I’d like to point out that, probably because I’m not into drugs,I’ve only met drug dealers at bars/restaurants a handful of times, and in all those experiences, the offending individuals were owners/management of the venue. (and offers were declined. Don’t do drugs.:P )I would have no idea how to go to a bar and find a drug dealer. But, apparently, Ted does.

My roommate, sensing trouble on the way, told the bouncer that Ted was being a little unruly, and it was time for him to get cut off. The bouncer told Ted to close out his tab and leave, and that should have been the end of it. Instead, Ted gives his wallet, keys, cash, cell phone, and other items to my roommate, and proceeds to leave the bar in a car with the aforementioned strangers/potential-drug-dealers.

At this point, the only thing my roommate knows Ted has is my roommate’s cell number, since it seemed ill-advised to give our address to a guy riding around the area with sketchy strangers, drunk, possibly high, and very likely to attract police attention. However, the problem turned into “Where did Ted go?” and “How is he going to find his way home?”.

Finally at 5 AM, there’s a loud knock on the door, and voices. Lights go on and off, doors slam open and shut, and I have no idea who is in the house…whether it’s Ted, police, or angry drug dealers. All I know is I’m scared shitless, despite taking my evening Valium (prescription drugs are OK. :P ), and pretending not to be in the house. Finally after 6, it seemed that everyone was back in the house, and we all went to sleep…which would be great if I didn’t have to work, being Monday morning and all.

I wake up, and my roommate is on the couch, and Ted is passed out in my roommate’s bed. 2 PM, and he’s still here, sleeping it off. I find that Ted had been doing shots from my bar, and left the sticky shot glass sitting on the counter, so it was covered with ants, and the cheese I had bought to make grilled cheese this week was opened and used by not me.

I don’t understand. I’ve been a Couchsurfer for years, and have met many interesting people, and felt welcome at many different places. But I’d never dream of any of this behaviour that seems to characterise my roommate’s friends. I’d never abuse hospitality of a stranger, but especially not a friend.

I do like my roommate, especially since he’s been working on getting his life together, and has become a more considerate individual with whom to live—and because he adores my dog. But experiences like today’s make me believe I really need my own space, my own calm, and my own anxiety-free living situation. Perhaps some people are just “alone” types, while others are less bothered and feel less infringed-upon by rude visitors. I think I’m the first.

Usually, I get in the bad habit of not posting here because there’s simply little of interest going on in my life. Lately, however, it’s been the opposite. Life has resembled a rollercoaster ride I’d love to get off of, but somehow, seems to start over again before I can run for my life.

I’ve been mysteriously ill for 6 weeks now, ever since my fateful trip to the beach, and the frustrating part is that absolutely nobody has been able to say “Aha! Here’s what’s wrong with you!”. I’ve made 4 emergency room visits, a trip to the cardiologist, the neurologist, and the ear, nose, and throat specialist. I’ve been on no fewer than 8 prescriptions, largely for drugs I didn’t need. And, while the symptoms have improved a bit over the past week or so, I’m certainly not back to my former self. I’ve been diagnosed with everything from anxiety and depression to heart issues to ear infections to vertigo to migraines, but little seems to make a difference.

The scariest moment, by far, happened at 6 AM once morning, when I was forced to call 911. I woke up with half of my face feeling numb, a numbness in the top of my head, and peripheral vision in my right eye gone and replaced with a black shadow. Since they’d diagnosed me earlier in the month with anxiety, due to recurring panic attacks about my health, I quickly took my Wellbutrin for the day and waited to calm down.

Within minutes, I felt a feeling as if something exploded in my head, and my heart was physically beating so fast that the rest of the world disappeared. I couldn’t walk, or get to my phone, and when I did retrieve it, couldn’t remember my name or how to call 911. I started to have a feeling like convulsions were grabbing hold of the back of my spine, and if the ambulance didn’t get there, I was going to die. When they did arrive, my pulse was 188, putting me in the “danger” category for having a stroke.

If I’d gone to a skilled psychiatrist or family doctor and not the ER, this might have been avoided. Reading about Wellbutrin mentioned that patients with a history of being on benzodiazapenes (such as Xanax, Ativan, Valium, Zoloft) should not be on the drug, as well anyone with a history of seizure disorders. Not only is there epilepsy in my family, although I don’t suffer from it, I had a seizure on a sinus medication over a decade ago, and have been treated with both Xanax and Valium in the past for anxiety, insomnia, and PTSD. The ER doctor, to whom I gave this information, put me on Wellbutrin in addition to a beta blocker for my rapid pulse rate and slightly elevated blood pressure.

I was on the drug for two weeks. The first day, I felt wonderful. By the second day, I was sitting in the dark for three hours a day, crying because nobody would help me, and threatening to kill myself. By the end of the 5th day, I’d begun getting intolerable migraines. Around day 10, my vision was blurred, and I hadn’t slept for nearly two weeks without waking up once per hour.

I’m no stranger to anxiety and panic attacks, which is the problem I originally needed help managing, amongst other things. However, I’ve never been on a long-term anti-depressant (although many have suggested perhaps I should have), and never in my life have I experienced some of the strange things that went on with my body and mind while taking Wellbutrin. I literally felt as if I were losing my mind, and seriously considered checking myself in to a psychiatric hospital for my own safety..

After the stroke-like symptoms, doctors went into overdrive trying to find out what had caused my initial symptoms 6 weeks ago, and why things were getting so much worse. I had many EKGs, an MRI, a CT scan, and what seems like every possible test they can do on your blood to rule out diseases, metabolic disorders, and tumors that might be hiding. I was screened closely for MS, for thyroid dysfunction, for hereditary heart problems. Everything was negative, and other than my uncontrollable anxiety level and unexplained high blood pressure/heart rate, nothing could explain what was going on with me.

The doctor immediately removed me from Wellbutrin, and put me on Valium for anxiety. The first few days were rough. I’ve never had to “detox” from drugs or alcohol before, but I can only imagine it’s a bit of the same hell addicts go through. I couldn’t stand light, to be touched, and constantly felt lightheaded and as if my head would explode. At night, I’d sleep for 10 minutes before being jolted awake by a feeling of electricity zapping my brain, leaving the room spinning and my vision blurred. It was simply awful, and on top of it, being scared you’re going crazy or going to die because nobody knows what’s wrong with you, just turns your life upside down.

However, each day, I seemed to improve. By day 4 or 5 without the Wellbutrin, I was sleeping like someone who’d not been allowed to sleep for weeks. I stopped being afraid I’d die everytime I closed my eyes. I stopped crying for no reason and writing goodbye notes to my loved ones.

As for the original symptoms, a visit to the ENT was the most helpful. I’ve always had chronic sinus problems, which I’d manage with the use of pills like Benadryl and over-the-counter nasal spray (Afrin.) The doctor explained these things were basically like being on speed for the long-term, and could cause elevated blood pressure and heart rate. I’d been on two courses of antibiotics for an ear infection, but the ENT seemed to think I’d never even had one to begin with. He did something magical where he pressed above my ears and told me to yawn at the same time. There was an uncomfortable “pop”, and since then, I’ve gone from being dizzy 24 hours a day to having two dizzy spells in a week. I’ve been able to work without my sunglasses, and go out with my friends.

What I learned from this is the truth behind all of those who go on and on about how drugs for depression, anxiety, ADD, and other mood disorders are over-prescribed. Whatever your problems are, it’s far cheaper to hand out Prozac or Ritalin than to perform tests to find a physical cause. For those with both physical ailments and emotional issues—no matter how many times you tell them you’re only anxious because of the scary stuff that goes on with your body, doctors don’t care to listen once they believe you’re in the “Depression And Anxiety” category—it’s almost like playing Russian Roulette with drugs until something seems to work.

I have my good days and my bad, like most people. I’m highly-strung, emotional, and more sensitive than most. I probably could use a Valium or Xanax to deal with stress and anxiety now and then. But, what I’ve learned from all this is that I’ll live with myself, just as I am. I’ll cope in a way that doesn’t involve messing with my seratonin, dopamine, or adrenaline…and the next time anyone suggests I should be on long-term medication for depression or anxiety, I’ll certainly not forget this experience…and run the other way.