Today, I came across an article on Facebook that really resonated with me. It was by someone who didn’t believe in pressure and limitation of New Year’s Resolutions, and just wanted to be a happier individual that didn’t obsess over things that really don’t matter that much. So, instead of creating a bucket list, she created a “Fuck It” list; a list of worries, concerns, anxieties, drama, and nonsense she wanted to remove from her sphere of existence.

I used to be much, much better about managing stress and anxiety, which is also to say that I was much better about living life in a fairly irresponsible way and not freaking out about situations I couldn’t handle until they actually descended upon me. For instance, even during the most challenging time of my life, where I’d lost all of my friends and was being kicked out of my condo and didn’t know where I was going to live, I managed to not freak out. In fact, two days before having to leave my home of years thanks to a very spiteful acquaintance-turned-enemy, I hosted a goodbye party for anyone who still cared enough to show up. During that evening, I drank multiple bottles of wine, went skinny dipping in the pool, hooked up with a friend’s ex-something-or-other, and skipped through the rather fancy lobby in front of the security guards, who were also from the Atlanta PD. In the midst of the chaos of trying to find a place to stash my stuff and figuring out how not to live on the street, I was more focused on this rather senseless and crazy fling than on things that mattered.

And when things went even more wrong and I moved in with an ex-boyfriend, and had no sense of how to get my life together, I approached everything with a “one day at a time” attitude. Everything was falling apart, and I was still listening to my iPod and tanning by the pool and playing online poker. I was trying to figure out my future, but didn’t wake up with the sense of “If I don’t fix this today, I might as well die.” I was still happy when I woke up in the morning and saw the sunshine. It wasn’t that I wasn’t aware that I should probably be closer to suicidal than thinking I was Paris Hilton recovering from a little “oops”, but it was a coping mechanism I’d always employed. Concentrating on the moment always made me more appreciative of the little things. If you’re aware that next week, you can lose everything, small things like trips to Cracker Barrel or being able to watch TV in my PJs or going out in the sunshine become things that really make you happy. For most people, most days, the little things are remarkable and life seems boring if you don’t set the bar higher for “interesting things that can happen to you”. When your life is really falling apart and you have no sense of stability, you don’t want interesting. You don’t want adrenaline rushes. Everything you have, even time that is so free of stress that you can dance around your room with your earbuds in, seems so much more valuable. I think the time in my life where I most appreciated how many good things I had in my life immediately followed the shock and trauma of having everything taken away.

These days, I can’t cope that way anymore. When things are not good, I am terrified of the consequences; I lie awake at night thinking about what it’s like to die, or what if I didn’t wake up the next day, or if I became homeless or got arrested or something happened to someone I love. (not that I have any reason to believe these things will happen.) When things are good, I rarely remember how to live in the moment. Instead, I’m stressing about the next moment and the next.

My doctors tell me I’ve struggled with symptoms of anxiety most likely my entire life. However, I never had any idea. Nobody did, because my way of coping with life was to appreciate what you have today, and if tomorrow sucks, deal with it then. In fact, except for my health issues, my life today is about 1/10th as stressful or dramatic as it once was. I’m no longer getting myself into “situations” wherever I turn. I no longer think of the future as “planning for next week”. And when things make me unhappy, I do not remember how to push them aside and live in a way that’s even more fearless or even more appreciative, because they may be temporary. Instead, I cry for the possibility that the worst might happen, and I don’t appreciate the little things I do have so much as mourn for things I used to have but no longer do.

Somehow, my coping mechanisms disappeared, and it left me an anxious, worried, frightened person. The person who used to handle situations that would cause other people to break down for me is suddenly a person who does not routinely wake up feeling joy anymore. She is a person who feels like a failure, who is scared her health will limit her or kill her and doesn’t know which is worse, who can’t remember “Today is a good day simply because nothing bad happened.” Some people might say I simply grew up and started thinking like a responsible adult, but I don’t feel better for the change.

I kind of miss those days when the worst things in the world were happening, and I just kept on living and dealing and moving forward. I don’t miss the horrible things that seemed impossible to handle, but I miss how wonderful it felt just to appreciate one of life’s small pleasures without fear or anxiety. It would be the highlight of my day to walk down the road for a slice of pizza and a rum and Coke, just because I could. I remember once, after not only barricading myself inside in the suburbs for months but also not drinking alcohol at all, taking the train over to Decatur and having a martini at lunch at one of my old haunts. I wasn’t worried about being seen in public and having an egg thrown at me, and it felt like freedom. I remember thinking I was too young to feel so worried and so scared about the future, and it gave me the courage to move on. Moving on wasn’t easy. As soon as I started to take small steps and appreciate the little things, though, the more I rebuilt my life.

I’ve had to rebuild my life often. Different cities, different friends, different jobs, different relationships. Long-term doesn’t seem to work well for me, and living with a life of little stability is something that takes courage. Now that I am not living that way, there is so much more time to think, and everything is so much more difficult to handle. I think about the future, I think about my relationships, I take every failure, every heartbreak, every loss, every personal deficiency so much to heart.

So, honestly, there’s probably something to be said about completely not giving a fuck about most of the stuff that adults are supposed to spend time worrying over. What do I think about myself? What do other people think of me? Am I with the right person? Am I loved? Am I successful at anything? Am I on the right path in life?

Life used to be an adventure, and you accepted that you’d have to adapt and change as it went along. That’s just life. And in the meantime, a quiet day where you got to sit by the pool or go dancing with your friends or watch your favourite TV show with pizza could be a pretty good day. As we get older, our requirements for things that make us happy seem to get higher and higher, and the definition of things that will ruin our days become a much broader spectrum of things. For instance, the past few New Year’s Eve’s of my life have been spent with me crying, because of arguments over relatively small things, like silly string and forks…whereas horrible New Year’s Eve’s in my 20′s were defined by very dramatic, life-changing moments that said “This is an end to a chapter of your life; you have to change course now”.

I do not think that seriousness and responsibility is bad, but life isn’t necessarily something to be mapped out in an obsessive way just because you become an adult. And, if you spend most of the good times thinking about the future and most of the bad times crying about the past, and most of the unremarkable times worrying about everything and everyone, you miss out on a lot of appreciation of the present. You miss out on the little things that can create a feeling of security and freedom and peace in your life, and that feeling isn’t something that should only be reserved for the very young, for those still naive enough to feel hopeful.

There are people in my life—very few people, and not those I’m able to see as frequently as I’d like—who put me in this frame of being, and as a result, help me cope with some very trying times and still look forward to finding happiness in the small things. For instance, one of them is a friend who has made a very conscious decision to live life without caring about the minor drama, without having life ruined by small mishaps, without being affected by what people think or say about him, without being bothered by 85% of what most people are bothered by. He’s truly decided to adopt an attitude of “Life is too short to only give a fuck about the really important things”, and as a result, he puts other people at ease. His lack of emotional delicacy and unwillingness to sugarcoat things is something that actually comforts me, and puts life into perspective.

There are a few others, but for the most part, a majority of the people I know seems just as stressed and unhappy and anxious and worried and care about just as many irrelevant things as I do. People care so much about image, about prosperity, about the future, about what others say and think, about having enough, about being better than others, about judging others—and it’s so limiting, and so stressful.

There comes a point where you realise that you can de-clutter your emotional space the same way you clean up your living space. You put things away when you don’t need them. You throw away things you won’t ever need or only serve to make you feel negatively. You realise that tomorrow, something great might happen, or something horrible might happen…but it doesn’t matter, because now you’re perfectly fine. If you’re not, you will be.

Giving a fuck about everyone and everything can be toxic, as toxic as not caring about anyone or anything at all. Not every moment is worth treasuring, because, yep..it’s just a moment. But once in a while, you’ll feel a sense of freedom and like everything that weighs you down has been stored in the closet, and when that happens, that moment is a good one. It doesn’t matter if it happens when you’re travelling the world, or when you’re making Kraft Mac & Cheese.

Fearing the unknown and being paralyzed by mistakes of the past are two really simple ways to make sure you never go anywhere, do anything, appreciate a single moment, because you’re so hung up on yourself and stuff that doesn’t matter. All of life is uncertain and unknown. And every day will be a yesterday eventually, and there may have been a mistake that day. There will be more.

I wish I could remind my anxiety of what it used to be like when it wasn’t consumed by being afraid of everything that didn’t have an explanation, or controlling the future, and was just a little piece of baggage along for the ride.

I wish I could remind anxiety that there are things worth being excited about and adventures to be had, and even if my “mystery illness” turns out to be a fatal five-years-to-live thing, they can still be a really worthwhile 5 years. When I was outside of Atlanta traveling this summer, strangely, life seemed to take back a sense of perspective. A little sunshine and good company and time out appreciating the small things, and I actually woke up every day feeling 10 years younger and looking forward to life.

I wish I knew how to do that in the context of my actual life, because I think I’m missing out on a lot, not feeling that excited about life every day. I wish I knew how to be happy about my ordinary, every day life, rather than feeling crappy about all the ways in which it isn’t the life I want, I’m not the person I want to be, and I feel powerless.

I think it would change a lot, if home felt the way I do when I travel…or if home actually felt like a safe, comforting place and not a temporary stop haunted by a lot of negative memories. I wish I could remember that my life is still full of possibilities, and not obstacles that all say “No” forever.

This weekend, I had a very busy weekend, which I was looking forward to enjoying. On Friday afternoon, I conquered one of my fears, going out alone to do errands, and took a trip to the waxing salon, did some shopping, and enjoyed lunch at a Mexican restaurant. Friday evening, I planned a little dinner for friends at a place called Aqua Blue. Ironically, it’s a sushi and seafood restaurant, where I can eat virtually nothing on the menu, but they have some of the best martinis in town, as well as delicious desserts.

It was a fun night, despite a few mishaps. The staff put us at a large table in the loud, brightly lit “group dining area”, right next to the kitchen. The other spaces in the restaurant, decorated in a swanky urban blue atmosphere and featuring a live musician, were much more dimly lit and 15 degrees cooler. 15 minutes after our arrival, I started to feel dizzy and ready to pass out. 30 minutes later, I wasn’t the only one complaining. Fortunately, The Guy I Am Currently Dating managed to get our table moved to a more suitable location, and the evening was an enjoyable one. Unfortunately, the laid-back and enjoyable tenor of the night was marred with a misunderstanding between myself and a friend I regard very highly. He made a comment I took the wrong way, and when I pointed out that the comment was insulting, it was repeated with the insulting interpretation becoming even more obvious. Needless to say, this hurt my feelings a great deal, coming from someone I considered a friend…but to add insult to injury, was followed up by a snarky remark from someone I’ve known for years. It’s a good thing I don’t drive, or I likely would have left the event altogether rather than subject others to the evidence of my hurt feelings. Later, apologies and conversation about the misunderstanding ensued, but it cast a black mark upon what I’d hoped would be an enjoyable evening, and rather kept me from wanting to bond with my other friends. It was a special and considerate gesture, though, that one of my oldest friends in Atlanta, knowing about my recent struggles with my illness and dietary considerations and hating to cook, made me a batch of turkey chili to take home with me. It is those type of thoughtful gestures that remind me I am cared about.

Saturday was trivia day, and that required us waking up early to go play in the Team Trivia tournament, the first we’ve ever attended. A team we normally compete against at Outspoken Entertainment had an extra space they weren’t using, and so we competed on their behalf. Again, it was a fun experience, until my body decided to rebel. I didn’t sleep enough, took my pills at a different time than usual, did not have my typical morning organic cookie, started the day off with plenty of caffeine, and waited quite a while for lunch, which was salad. All of the sudden, I felt extremely dizzy, and then overwhelmed by anger and adrenaline, the feeling that makes me want to stab myself and other people with pencils, knives, toothpicks, and the like. My doctor has told me this behaviour is not crazy, but happens because I’m hypoglycemic, and the meds I take cause sudden spikes and crashes in blood sugar, but largely masque the effects. I ate an emergency candy bar, and tried to get back to normal, but again, I kind of felt the damage had been done. Also, we didn’t do well on the Team Trivia bonus, leading us to a less than stellar performance.

On the way home, we got some chicken nuggets from Chick-Fil-A, which seemed to make me feel better (they have become my go-to food when my body feels weird and like it’s freaking out, because they stop it from happening.), and I had time to take an hour nap before going to play trivia at Dagwood’s. I love trivia at Dagwood’s. It’s the closest thing I have to a neighbourhood bar, and I enjoy seeing people who have somehow become friends over the years, and talking about random stuff until the pizzeria closes and kicks us out. We also won second place, which is good for us at that location, but by the time the pizza sign was switched off and it was time to go home, I was exhausted. My head hit the pillow at about 2:30 AM, and the next thing I knew, it was 11 AM.

Unfortunately, I woke up in a very stressed out mood about all the outstanding work I have to do. I had two weeks to complete 30 articles for a client, and I didn’t. Not because I didn’t want to, but because often, the strain of completing 12 articles within a 4-5 hour window each day is exhausting. That is my normal workload, and it doesn’t really allow me breaks, unless I choose to work at night, or get up earlier in the morning, which my pills seem to leave me unable to handle. Today I expressed my feeling of being stuck in a hamster wheel, a machine of article creation, where any mistakes or missed deadlines can end up in me losing an important job. Yet, the stress of working more than most people (how many people spend much of their 8-hour work day ACTUALLY working the entire time?), while getting paid less, having a social life/obligations, and trying to lose weight, look healthy, and hide symptoms of my illness from the world as much as possible…well, it’s wearing me down. I used to have the energy for it, but in reality, maybe I never did.

Once upon a time, I was a very laid-back person. I didn’t make much money, or have a lot of responsibilities, and my chief worries were about my electricity getting turned off or paying the cable that week. Yet, somehow, I had a better quality of life. If stuff didn’t get done, it didn’t get done. If I was late for something social, it wasn’t the end of the world. I didn’t always have to feel in charge of *everything*, and that if I dropped the ball or took time out, everything would fall apart.

I don’t remember what it’s like to be like that. I feel the weight of the world on my shoulders. If my work is late, I *will* get fired. If I’m late for a social event or overlook a detail, my phone rings off the hook. Everyone constantly seems to want me to do things and take care of things, although I’m the one who’s chronically ill and could use some being taken care of. I don’t have time to slow down, to do many of the things I love, and I still feel like I don’t have as much money as I need to never be concerned about it.

A friend of mine recently related that he went through a similar experience at a point in life when he was around my age. A happy-go-lucky guy I adore, he admitted that as soon as work became his primary focus and there was no longer a daily struggle for food and electricity and cable, he began to suffer debilitating anxiety. Suddenly, he felt it was his responsibility to take care of others, since he’d learned to take care of himself, and felt the burden to be too much. Suddenly, there was time to think about how demanding it was to be an adult, instead of going out to the bar or a concert or to play poker after work every day.

That’s where I am in my life right now. I feel overwhelmed, stuck in a wheel I can’t afford to get off of. And when the wheel goes too fast, my health suffers. My relationships suffer. My perception of myself and of others suffer.

I want off the wheel. A world of constant deadlines and stress and expectations is something that drove me to be an overachiever throughout most of my life, until something happened, and I realised I just couldn’t keep trying to be perfect and make everyone happy all the freaking time. Then, I felt like I failed myself and the entire world, and engaged in behaviour that was ultimately self-destructive, and destructive to others. When that phase in my life passed, I realised I was happiest being a laid back, chilled out person who really enjoyed life…but I missed stability. I wasn’t achieving anything, I was stressed about paying my bills, I made bad decisions, took advantage of others…in short, I was the irresponsible teenager I never really allowed myself to be.

And now, here I am, back on the wheel, back in the world where any mistake or shortcoming is the end of everything. If I don’t finish work on time, I get fired. If I am too sick to do things, my roommate/boss/friends/boyfriend will yell at me for not trying hard enough, not being on top of things. If I don’t take care of stuff, it doesn’t get done. If I don’t look or behave my best in social situations, someone is there to write a nasty e-mail or end a friendship or make comments that destroy my self-esteem. The preoccupation with being *perfect* and my innate inability to focus on perfection long enough to attain it has returned, and causes all kinds of anxiety and fear and self-loathing.

Today, I turned on all the Christmas tree lights in the living room, lit the birthday cake and gingerbread candles, and made a cup of Alayna’s special detox tea. It felt like Christmas for a little while, and reminded me of how happy and peaceful I felt over the holidays. I think small comforts and a slower pace of life makes me the happiest right now. I don’t want to have to be perfect. I don’t want to live in fear of making a mistake or disappointing someone. I don’t want who I am to be measured in how much energy I have to accomplish everything, smile at everyone, and hide the fact that I’m sick from public view, lest it make people uncomfortable or not want to be my friend.

I have already learned my lesson. I can’t be this person, stuck on the wheel. I can’t be the one who always takes care of things, meets deadlines, makes everyone happy, is charming and entertaining, makes sure all the bills are paid and the dog is walked and nothing in life fell apart because I slept too long. I can’t handle being that person. The Guy I Am Currently Dating, he is that kind of person—he has more demands on his shoulders and works harder for less appreciation than anyone I know, and is still kind and generous and responsible and liked by all.

Trying to be that kind of person pushes me to a place I just can’t handle. It makes me anxious, emotionally imbalanced, physically exhausted, and unable to cope with life. I shut down.

I disappoint myself because I will never be as accomplished, as perfect, as responsible, as well-liked, as happy as I want to be. Especially since becoming ill, I lack the physical and mental stamina I need to write 12 articles a day, every day, and then do other projects on the side because that doesn’t pay enough…but I can’t quit, or slow down, or show weakness, or let people know I’m ill, or get behind, or I will be replaced by a faster, more efficient hamster. And I have too much debt to afford that.

Poor people literally do work themselves into the ground, because when there’s only you to depend on and you always need the money, the luxury of illness does not exist. If you want to keep your wheel, you have to keep on pushing, no matter what.

You may have noticed I haven’t been around a whole lot lately, and I’m not sure why, other than I’ve been struggling with a sense of depression and isolation I don’t wish to inflict on my readers day in and day out, just as I don’t wish to be that person who’s always bringing my friends down in real life. The result is often a feeling that it’s too much work to talk to anyone, and I’d prefer my world quiet and filled with solitude. At the same time, I feel kind of a large weight on my chest that’s either anxiety, or a warning sign that my heart is about to go on permanent strike.

I’m still not recovering. I’m still gaining weight steadily, despite eating and drinking less than ever. Research into the subject shows this is an unpleasant side effect of my medication, along with hair loss, and short of discontinuing my use of beta blockers and restricting my calorie intake to about 800 calories per day to maintain my weight, there’s little I can do. I still suffer from headaches and intolerance to bright lights and sometimes, merely leaving my house. I sometimes wonder, “What if the doctor is wrong, like so many before him?” I wonder if I am dying, and how best to put my affairs in order, to make it easier on everyone if I don’t wake up tomorrow.

According to the literature I’ve read, my feelings are pretty normal, although they seem pretty screwed up to me. It mentions that being diagnosed with a chronic illness sends people through the five stages of grief typically reserved for coping with the loss of a loved one or receiving news of your own impending death. Instead of mourning for another person or preparing for the end of your own life, you’re mourning the loss of your former self, of things you believe you can no longer do, a person you can no longer be…at least for awhile. This makes a lot of sense to me, because it *is* how I feel. I just feel compelled to go through my process in isolation more days than I’d typically feel comfortable with just my own company. Too often, I don’t feel strong enough to face the world…and when I try and fail, the failure hits me hard. I wonder if I will be alone and unloved for much of the next portion of my life, after a life spent constantly on the go, in the spotlight, seeking the attention and approval of others.

I did make it out this weekend, despite some struggles with anxiety and feeling physically ill, and to a concert of all things. We saw Ani DiFranco at Variety Playhouse, and although Ani didn’t perform many of my personal favourites, I enjoyed a lot of the stuff from her latest album. Her opening act was a rather unknown act from Brooklyn called Pearl And The Beard. I liked their music a great deal, although the acoustics made it difficult for me to enjoy them as much as I’d have liked to. Their lead singer is a fabulous, eccentric lady, barely taller than I am, but with a belt voice that encompasses almost her entire range. It’s unusual to come across a white female who can belt without a break in her voice (no, it’s not racism, it’s just one of those weird biological facts learned throughout my years of vocal training.), but this band’s singer, Jocelyn, belts almost up to a high C. As an operatic soprano whose belt voice won’t even think about trying that, I’m both jealous and impressed….enough that I wanted to purchase their CD. Alas, it was sold out. We said a few words of congratulations to Jocelyn after the show and received hugs, so I hope to see and hear good things from them.

As for Ani, I think her voice only gets better with time. Like Tori Amos, she has an unusual, quirky voice that may fool you into thinking she lacks true vocal skill, but you’d be dead wrong (on both accounts.) Ani doesn’t have an interesting range or the ability to play with light and darkness in her voice the way Tori does, but she performs in a variety of styles and shows off a really strong voice when she chooses to. Other times, she chooses to take a Bob Dylan-esque, musical-without-singing, narrative approach. Both are equally compelling. As a person, I think she’s extraordinarily likable, slightly to the left of me in her personal and political views, and not afraid to tackle the controversial. This was my third Ani show, and I’ll keep seeing her, as long as she keeps coming to town.

This was my personal favourite from her latest album:

Ani DiFranco: Promiscuity

I made it through most of the concert without any unwanted feelings or panic attacks, until the bright blue gels went on and everything started flashing. I sat with my black wrap covering my head like a burka and using the hat The Guy I Am Currently Dating always wears as a shield. But,all in all, I’m glad I went to see the show.

In other news, I was invited to perform at an event at a local theatre, a monthly showcase called Write Club. It seems to consist mostly of actors, writers, and other theatrically-minded individuals. You’re given a challenge partner, and two sets of contrasting themes (i.e, Happy Vs. Sad.) It’s not improv; you have about two weeks to craft a 7-minute monologue, story, poem, performance art piece, essay, whatever you want to do. The person receiving the most applause “wins”, which pretty much means you’re entitled to choose a charity that one-third of the proceeds will go to benefit (there are three winners per night.) You also have the benefit of hearing some pretty interesting and talented people do their thing.

I submitted an application at the end of December, when on my “I’m going to break out of my comfort zone and focus on doing things I like, even if I’m sick” kick. I had rather forgotten about it, but was kind of impressed they wanted me to appear so soon after I’d submitted my application. It made me feel liked for a brief nano-second. :P

Since the show occurs the day after Valentine’s Day, the three themes are relationship related. Mine is “Stay Vs. Go”, and, appropriately enough, I have “Go”. I immediately wrote a piece that was funny and charming, in my own opinion, but since The Guy I Am Currently Dating has encouraged me to explore writing different pieces instead, I’m not sure he agrees with my assessment. The hardest part, of course, is fitting the story you’d like to tell into 7 minutes. On first reading, mine was 11. I had to edit my piece 5 times to get it down under 7 minutes, and there’s not much room for leeway still. I’m totally not used to editing, so of course, now I think the whole thing probably sucks. :P I’ll throw it under my bed somewhere with the rest of the random stuff that was a good creative idea at one time or another, but really wasn’t. :P

I also read Paulo Coelho’s Aleph, which I would have finished in one sitting, did I not have the terrible habit of only reading and writing late at night. Paulo Coelho is my favourite author, probably the best thing I got out of my time with someone I’ll likely never cross paths with again, but who made an impact upon my life in terms of love and spirituality and finding the essence of oneself. Not coincidentally, these are Coelho’s favourite themes. I enjoy some of his books more than others; the more abstract, philosophical stories he shares appeal to me on a much different level than those that read like a “My Trip To The Mayan Ruins’ docu-drama. Aleph is one of his strongest, along with “Eleven Minutes”, ““Veronika Decides To Die”, “The Alchemist”, and “The Witch Of Portobello”.. I have a habit, borne out of the friendship previously referenced, of sharing these books with those who touch my life in some extraordinary way…and are also the type to understand and appreciate the complexity of what’s being shared. This is certainly one I’ll be passing along.

On a similar note, I started reading a book called Yours Ever: People And Their Letters, a sad reminder of how bleak and emotionless our world will look 50 or 100 years from now, when impersonal communication has taken the place of the outpouring of ideas and feelings. I don’t think one person will be saving the tweets and e-mails of those who may potentially change the course of our world, which is a little sad. I think I am simply, at heart, part of a different era, one where communication and expression and vulnerability and human connection are valued….and not in blocks of 140 characters at a time. I think I may always continue to write little handwritten notes and cards, although it’s impractical and unfashionable.

The author of the book, Thomas Mallon, agrees:

In this electronic age, a letter is personal and permanent. It says you took the time and trouble to communicate. The impact of a letter is unique, whether you’re complaining about a disappointing purchase or declaring your love. The point is, write. A letter or a card is truly a unique gift—a piece of yourself.”

That being said, I’ve crafted some pretty memorable letters—both of the disappointed-and-pissed-off-with-your-product sort and the hopelessly-and-secretly-in-love-with-you sort, and sent them via e-mail. And I didn’t give myself an ulcer agonising for weeks until receiving a response. There are advantages to instantaneous communication.

I didn’t watch but the the last 3 minutes of the Super Bowl; I don’t follow football, commercials disinterest me, and it was largely too much work to turn on my TV to see Madonna. However, happy that New York came out victorious, since it’s only like the world’s most awesome place and stuff. :P
R

Definitely kind of good news! I had my follow-up with the super-duper ear specialist, and he told me that he believes I don’t have a fistula in my ear. So, that’s the good news, in that I don’t need surgery.

The bad news is, there’s still no clear answers regarding what’s wrong with me. The doctor’s official diagnosis was that I did have a vestibular issue in my right ear, but it has since largely healed itself. He believes that with the passage of more time and vestibular therapy , I should be OK and back to normal.

However, he also thinks—like many other doctors—that I have a panic disorder, which seems to be set off by physical symptoms. Whatever caused my illness this summer likely also started this problem with anxiety, so yet another problem that I need to address.

Part of me had been hoping for a clear-cut problem with a clear-cut solution, but I’m also relieved that surgery isn’t in my near future.

When will I feel better? I don’t know…but I’d really like my life back, and sooner, rather than later.

And I have a crapload of medical bills and take a lot of pills for someone who, technically, isn’t sick.

Oh, and since a friend e-mailed me to ask, this is technically my diagnosis.

It also makes me laugh, because months ago, I talked to a friend of mine, a very smart guy who plays trivia with us (on the team that always wins), and he told me he had very similar symptoms at one point in his life. I asked him what he did about it, and he said that, over time, it improved and became manageable, although he still had bad days with migraines and such. Because of his story, I went to see a doctor that specialised in the inner ear.

After months of tests and waiting and so forth, I find out that what’s wrong with me is almost exactly the same thing he suffered from, and the prognosis is the same…there are some exercises that help, but it gets better over time.

The person who gave me the most accurate diagnosis is the one that didn’t do anything other than talk to me, and didn’t charge me a thing. :P

Via a blogger friend of mine doing a study into such things, I received a free code to take a “scientific” personality quiz appearing in Psychology Today, called “How Assertive Are You?” (The overall assessment is free, but they charge you if you want to know more about your detailed report.)

The invite came via a bit of synchronicity, since last week, I blogged about my struggles with anxiety, and the fact that I wondered if much of it came from unexpressed anger and rage. Anger and rage aren’t “nice”, “ladylike” emotions, and too many women have a tendency to “let things go” that truly bother them, rather than engage in confrontation. In reality, those things are rarely “let go”, it’s just a mask created to please others. In reality, the feelings often come out in the form of anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, passive-aggressive behaviour, and talking about people behind their backs rather than addressing problems directly. Don’t get me wrong; it isn’t that I don’t think men don’t do this, as well. I know plenty who do. It just seems there’s a higher incidence of women doing it, in order to keep the peace, appear loveable/amiable/easy-going, or to keep everyone else happy. Proportionally, there’s a higher incidence of women suffering from anxiety and depressive disorders rather than anger management. (I once had a therapist encourage me to punch pillows during our sessions, because “self-destructive behaviour is just anger turned inward.”)

I’m a bit of a dichotomy. I’m very nice, if you ask most people who know me well. Sometimes, too nice. But if you ask people who don’t like me, you’ll hear that I’m too aggressive, too direct. I express my feelings in a way that’s off-putting to some, especially when I get tired of pretending. In situations where I feel the need to pretend—such as in relation to smiling and putting up with hurtful criticisms of who I am as a person from the Mother Of The Guy I Am Currently Dating, or from my own mother—I can only stand it for so long before something in me explodes. The longer it takes to explode, the more anger and resentment build within me, and I often become moody and withdrawn, allowing the hurtful things that go unexpressed to become real feelings I harbour about myself, to tear me down.

So, I was very curious what the inventory on this subject would say about my level of assertiveness.

And, while my results generally identify me as a relatively average, well-adjusted human being in the department of assertiveness, it clearly identified this dichotomy. I am both more subservient than average and more outwardly aggressive than average. (Somehow, I’m S&M all rolled into one package.*laughs*) I also tend to sometimes fear confrontation with authority figures, but have no problem speaking up when it’s needed. (I suppose this explains my lifelong attraction to older and/or more powerful and accomplished men, rather than to those in my peer group.)

I often laugh when I hear that someone is afraid of me—afraid to confront me directly, afraid to talk to me about something, or only comfortable taking a passive-aggressive approach to dealing with me. I think, “Who’d be afraid of little old me?” I also could never understand why I’d work so hard to make sure everyone around me was having a good time, only to find out later that so-and-so didn’t care for me, my personality, or my attitude. If this test is to be believed, my desire to make others happy is constantly at war with a desire to defend myself from attack (or even perceived attack). Even though I’m just “little old me”, I do have certain attributes that others might find imposing or unapproachable. It’s probably because of, as the test mentions, my “being uncomfortable with vulnerability”. (that one, I freely admit to.)

All in all, it’s an interesting personality inventory. I’ve included my results below the dotted line for those who know me well enough to care, or for those with a keen interest in psychology. If you personally would like to take this test, it’s here

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Overall results (score 64)

Ability to express opinions, thoughts and wishes in a clear, direct way, even if there’s the potential for rejection or disagreement.

According to your results on the Assertiveness Test, you are doing quite well in this department. You have developed most of the necessary skills and the self-confidence to stand your ground, whether it’s with family, friends, or colleagues. You know that you deserve respect from others and the way you behave encourages others to treat you accordingly. You certainly demonstrate some leadership potential. Just be aware of your actions so that when you assert yourself, you are not overly aggressive – you don’t want to come across as hostile or bossy. As long as you show as much respect for others as you expect in return, you are on the right track.

Ability to speak for self (score 80)

Acting with confidence to voice a personal opinion.

You rarely hesitate to address the issues that concern you the most. Whether it’s noisy neighbors or a raise you feel you deserve, you’ll immediately bring it to attention. You express yourself freely, asserting your personal rights with the confidence that your request is reasonable. As a self-assured individual, you are comfortable with letting others know you disagree with them, especially when you feel you’re being treated poorly. This approach shows that you feel you deserve respect and expect others to treat you this way.

Handling assertive/strong people (score 59)

Ability to stand up to those who might be intimidating.

Your skills are average when it comes to assertively dealing with authority figures. You are sometimes able to stand up for yourself quite well, but in other situations you can be overwhelmed by feelings of insecurity. Perhaps you feel inferior or don’t think that your opinion is as important as that of others. Unfortunately, these beliefs allow your self-doubt to get in the way. Keep in mind however, that you have something worthwhile to contribute too.

Comfort with vulnerability (score 53)

The ability to take action despite the risk of rejection or embarrassment.

While you are sometimes able to put yourself on the line, you tend to hesitate when it comes to showing your vulnerable side. If there is a lot of emotional risk involved in a situation – like the potential to be rejected or embarrassed – you might choose to avoid it altogether. Perhaps you are unsure about your ability to bounce back from humiliation or you just don’t think you have the confidence to pull it off. Occasionally, you might decide that the potential benefits are worth it but that doesn’t happen too frequently. This is something you may want to start doing more often. It is essential to take gambles if you want to achieve your goals.

Subservience (score 49)

Allowing the needs of others to take precedence over own desires.

When you feel that what you want may be in conflict with the desires of others around you, you are torn between giving in to their needs and expressing your own. While you dislike being treated like a doormat, you could end up feeling like you are the victim in a situation because you don’t deal with the perceived injustice effectively. You try not to take the blame for things you are not responsible for but if you keep telling yourself that your opinion is just as valuable as anyone else’s, you’ll soon find it easy to add in your two-cents when asked.

Aggression (score 77)

Using aggressive tactics, such as intimidation, physical force or manipulation.

According to the results of this test, you often use aggressive tactics, like intimidation or swearing, to get your point across. Some would say that there is a fine line between assertiveness and aggression, but there are definite differences. Assertiveness is the ability to express opinions, thoughts and wishes in a clear, direct way, even if there’s the potential for rejection or disagreement. Aggression is unnecessarily forceful, hostile, demanding, or even manipulative. Aggression shows disrespect for other people, since it does not allow them to assert their own rights. It puts your own needs above anyone else’s and takes the focus away from the topic at hand. The use of aggressive tactics is counterproductive and should be avoided at all costs.

It’s been a bit of a challenging week here so far, so you’ll have to forgive me for being a little forgetful about keeping everyone in blog-world updated. I had the misfortune to, a few days ago, run out of my prescription Valium about a week before the next prescription was to be filled. This is completely my fault; rather than being on the suggested dose of 5mg per day, I’ve been steadily using 7.5 mg per day for the past few months, the “set point” at which the desired effect of the drug sets in.

For anyone who hasn’t experience with this type of drug, Valium, and all the drugs in the benzo family (Xanax, Klonopin, and Librium, to name a few) are frequently prescribed—and over-prescribed—for anxiety, panic attacks, PTSD, and as one of many drugs in the cocktail used to successfully treat bi-polar depression. My experience with benzos started after my first admission to the ER in July, returning from a trip to the beach where I’d gotten heatstroke and 2nd degree burns, and started to experience lightheadedness, chronic vertigo, intolerance to light, and worst of all, these never-ending moments where I felt as if I were having a heart attack. Finally, three weeks after my symptoms began, I started hearing a “wooshing” sound in my ear that drowned out everything, and intense spasms under my ear. I thought I had an aneurysm, so I went to the ER.

After a lot of tests, they found nothing was wrong with me except “sinus tachycardia” (an exceptionally high pulse rate) and an elevated BP, probably due to the chronic panic attacks I’d been having. (I didn’t know they were panic attacks, as I’d never had one before. I legitimately thought I was dying.) They put me on Ativan (another benxo) and antibiotics for a supposed ear infection. Although the Ativan let me sleep, the vertigo and light intolerance never let up, and as soon as I was out of Ativan, the panic attacks returned. 3 trips to the ER later, they’ve put me on a beta-blocker to keep my pulse rate from elevating and a long-term anxiety drug called BuSpar.

From my perspective, BuSpar is evil. From the second day I was on it, I was sitting in the dark (because I couldn’t stand light) with vertigo too bad to ride in the car, and a serious fear of leaving my room. I cried for hours at a time. I wrote suicide notes and burned personal letters and diary entries I didn’t want anyone to find when I was gone. I seriously needed help. I didn’t get it. The doctor told my boyfriend that it took 10 days or so for the body to get used to the drug. By day 7, I was on the phone with 911. I couldn’t stand the movement of the ambulance, and I thought my head was going to explode. The right side of my face was paralyzed. In the ambulance, they told me I was exhibiting signs of “aura” (associated with migraines and seizures) and my pulse was 180, high enough to indicate a trans-ischemic-attack, rare in a previously healthy 30-year-old.

That’s when I met Valium. After a CAT scan, MRI, and tons of blood work, nobody could find a thing wrong with me. My scary symptoms were caused by a negative reaction to BuSpar, which works by blocking your dopamine levels. Oooops. If being on BuSpar was bad, the three days I spent detoxing from it were worse. They prescribed me Valium to help me through withdrawals, at 20 mg a day, a very high dosage for a petite woman with limited tolerance to prescription drugs. I still had horrible BuSpar withdrawals; “brain zap” that felt like electric shocks going through my brain, shaking, constant headaches, the inability to sleep or leave bed for days. I immediately made an appointment with a neurologist, given a history of epilepsy in my family, and arrived in a wheelchair, wearing sunglasses, unable to stand without assistance. Thanks, BuSpar.

Many doctors and many tests later, what they discovered is nobody knows what’s wrong with me. I’m off caffeine, limit chocolate and alcohol, and don’t put any drugs in my system that don’t come from the doctor. The result was always the same: I have a generalized anxiety disorder. I’m not coping with life. Take your benzos and see a psychiatrist. They tried me on Xanax and Klonopin, as well as Antivert for the vertigo. Nothing worked.

Nothing, that is, except Valium. Although I’ve inconveniently gained 20 pounds as the result of Valium + beta-blocker (my heart rate no longer rises high enough to burn calories, and beta-blockers are notorious culprits of a 7-10 pound weight gain due to water weight, while Valium makes you want to sleep instead of exercise.); I am actually functional. I self-adjusted my dose over time, finding out that at about 7.5 mg of Valium, I don’t have vertigo. I don’t have panic attacks (although, ironically, I do sometimes panic about having panic attacks, which manifests as a form of social anxiety. Two drinks with vodka, and it’s gone, which tells me it’s an anxiety issue.). I sleep more than I ever have in my entire life:;9-10 hours uninterrupted.

Since then, it’s been discovered by visits to specialists that I may be dealing with a vestibular (inner ear) issue that causes the vertigo, which in turn caused panic attacks, which in turn caused high blood pressure and pulse. So, possibly, I have a physical disorder that shouldn’t be treated with psychiatric drugs, or heart medication. Unfortunately, until a diagnosis and cure is established, the only thing that keeps my vertigo and panic attacks at bay seems to be Valium.

Valium is highly addictive. The Prozac of the 1960′s, it was called “Mother’s Little Helper”, because it was given as the cure-all for stressed out, disenchanted housewives who needed jobs and a nanny instead. Nowadays, doctors dislike prescribing it, because you can get addicted to it in as little as a week. If you abruptly stop using it, you can expect detox symptoms ranging from shaking, vomiting, and the inability to function as a human being to seizures, coma, and even death. (Amy Winehouse was on the benzo Librium when she died, though she obviously disregarded the “Do not mix with alcohol” warning.)

I’ve been using Valium for well over 4 months. I am on a very low dosage, but two separate times I’ve tried to discontinue use, I’ve had severe side effects. Quitting Valium is apparently a long-term plan; one that involves your doctors lowering your dose every 3-4 weeks until you’re basically done with it. My doctors aren’t aware of this, which is information out there at every rehab center and on every medical advice website. They simply want me to stop taking it, so they’re not going to prescribe it anymore.

Never mind that they haven’t fixed the primary reason I’m using it in the first place: my vertigo and panic attacks leave me alone and help me function. For a time, I was on the brink of losing my job and not able to leave my house. Now, life is often normal for weeks at a time, courtesy of the “not messing with my drugs program”.

I now basically have 3 weeks to see the ear doctor and hope for some sort of diagnosis that will help me get past all this, and a psychiatrist or GP that sees the value in either keeping me on Valium or doing a safe detox plan. On top of it all, I’m broke and my insurance doesn’t want to pay…they’re dubbing everything a “pre-existing condition”, although no one knows what condition I have.

So, I spent the past few days going through physical and emotional hell because I dropped my Valium dosage from 7.5 to 2-2.5 mg a day. I couldn’t cope. I finally got a refill, with the caveat that there would be no more Valium for me, so I need to find a qualified doctor to handle this problem.

As if I weren’t stressed and broke enough…now it’s back to hunting for doctors, solutions, and finding more guesses and experiments than actual answers. And I have a limited time frame to accomplish it, if I don’t want to spend the holiday season in my bed, detoxing from Valium.

Don’t mean to sound whiny, because I know plenty of people have it worse. But when life decides it hates you, it really throws some crappy shit your way, and says “Let’s see you get out of this one”, while laughing hysterically.

During this rather depressing period, I’ve been reading a biography of Sylvia Plath (there’s something for every mood, I guess). Interesting character; one it’s a little to easy for me to identify with, with her oversensitivity, attraction to older and accomplished men, perfectionistic and ultimately masochistic nature, and high level of intuition. I mentioned to a friend that, as far as the Jungian/Meyers-Briggs types go, Intuitive Feelers seem to have the most difficult road in life, either becoming so disenchanted with themselves and the world that they commit suicide or get involved in self-destructive situations, or try to save the world, only to become disillusioned and depressed when they cannot. Just as there’s been much written about the link between creative genius and insanity, or at least eccentricity, there also seems to be a link between NF personalities and the ability to live a long, quiet, understated life.

Plath’s story is sad, but the sadder one belongs to her husband, Ted Hughes. A poet who is also a narcissist, sadistic, and likely meets many of the markers for being labeled a psychopath, he not only pushed his manic-depressive wife to stick her head in the oven, denying us years of literary genius—but years later, the woman he had an affair with while married to Plath would also commit suicide, killing his child along with her.

Sylvia Plath is an understandable tragedy. She lived a lifetime suffering from inherited bi-polar depression, in a time when nobody knew what bi-polar depression was. The story of Ted Hughes makes far less sense. From a psychological standpoint, at least, it’s interesting how one person can have the power to destroy without ever lifting a finger.

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 )

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.