What happened to Me 2

It’s hard making a switch with a medicine you’ve been taking for 20 years, but I felt good about it. I’d be sleepy, maybe even crabby while I worked my way down from the one so as to ramp up the other. I knew that. But I might be able to actually be out in the sun for an hour without getting itchy spots. Maybe I wouldn’t have dry mouth or the facial flushing… Who knew what else could change for the better when I got that dirty drug out of my system.

And I was crabby as I worked down. No wonder, I was talking a lot in my sleep, I remember scratching at the air, I yelled out people’s names, I kicked and I remembered the passage of time through the night. I woke up tired.

When I started to add the new clean drug (Klonopin) to my very reduced dose, I did fall asleep faster, but I didn’t stay quiet through the night. I hung in there for a week then called the sleep doctor who wanted me to come in, which I did. I was tired and crabby, sleepy all day.  The doc breezed in, looked at my chart, verified that I wasn’t sleeping well and made a decision.

“You’re down very low in the Imipramine, now. I want you to go all the way up to a full milligram  of the Klonopin. Lower your Imipramine one more time for a week then get off that altogether. Call me in a week. We have some options after that. We put you back on the Imipramine, we can switch to another drug similar to the Klonopin or one close to the Imipramine.”   He was in and out in 5 minutes or less. Great, we had a plan.

I went up to the full 1mg of Klonopin and had my first night of black sleep. A couple more of those and I’d be a new woman. I felt dopey, but sometimes that happens when people haven’t been sleeping well. A couple times in the morning, when I was standing at the sink or putting on a sock, I started to tip over. Like I wasn’t quite awake yet. But I did indeed sleep like the dead. Good for me.

I was still low energy. My life felt hard. My husband was having a difficult time at work and when he came home, he’d plug into a computer with headphones and go off into the ether.  I hated him.  I was sick of him ignoring me, sick of feeling like I wasn’t important enough to talk to.  My 15 year old was snotty  sometimes yelled at me.  I didn’t like his recent choice of friends, and had no idea what to do about it. His school didn’t feel supportive, either.  I was totally sick of parenting.  I wasn’t good at it, it wasn’t good to me.

My oldest son wasn’t doing well at all, at least I didn’t think so. Not based on the mail from people he owed money to, or who threatened him with police action for fraud, or cigarette companies who wanted to send him coupons and special deals. I wouldn’t know how he was really doing, because I never saw him or heard from him. This was especially disheartening because it’s such a lame thing for a mother to complain about.  Ick, who wants to hear that?   Of course he doesn’t call, he’s 20!

I was doing well in my class, but I hated it, and felt like there was no way I was ever going to be a good interpreter or qualify to get into a graduate program I’d be really good at. One thing I could do well was write, but I didn’t have anything to say when I did write. At least nothing that didn’t sound like self-indulgent whining. Nobody wanted to hear that crap. I’m an amateur, I’d always be an amateur, and people were tired of me and my drivel.

All of these things, and more really weighed on me, drgged me out.  By mother’s day I was in trouble.  Shortly after waking up, I thought, “I wish I were dead”.   I couldn’t get through the day without crying.  We went out for dinner on mother’s day and I had to excuse myself and go cry in the bathroom after an unpleasant interaction with my kid.  I hated my life. The rest of what should have been my support network seemed to me like they were way too busy with their own stuff to be burdened with my troubles.

I got home and went to bed. I lay in my bed while Jasper and Andy plugged themselves in.  I cried. This was my life: Crappy mom (proof is in the pudding), neglected wife, decent student but nothing spectacular, mediocre Spanish speaker with the nerve to try to do interpreting, undisciplined writer, shoddy housekeeper, aging, gaining weight, disappearing jawline…  going nowhere.   By the time Andy came up for bed, I was utterly bereft, and could only come up with, “Why can’t you be nice to me?” between very wet and sniffly sobs.  He didn’t answer, just patted my back.

The next day I told him I was feeling really bad that we really needed to talk.  He assured me we would, but went all but underground.  He left town for a couple days, and when he came back he was very busy.  He didn’t come to bed until I was asleep or almost asleep, just generally stayed on the down-low.

Somewhere in the middle of that fog, I realized I had a medical problem, and I should get professional help.  What was happening to me was that I had slid into a depression.   I had been depressed before in my life for short periods, or because of some bad event.  I had never just slipped into this feeling and not had it go away after a couple days.  It was oppressive, like walking around with a heavy wet blanket over my shoulders.

I did all the stuff I tell people who are battling depression to do.  I didn’t go back to bed, I got up and walked outside every day.  I exercised and ate good food.  I tried to be grateful for the things I have. That just made me feel like more of a schmuck for feeling bad.  Or it made me feel terrible for the people who didn’t have all my blessings.

A friend asked if I had looked into side effects of my new medication, and a light-bulb went on in my head.  I went to take a look.  Depression turns out to be one possible side effect of Klonopin.  On top of that, I was coming off an anti-depressant (albeit a very low dose).   After a few more bad, sad days, I got an appointment with a psychiatrist who could see me quickly and help me reverse the process of medication switching I had started.   She agreed that this was a medication induced depressive episode, and that I should get off the Klonopin

What I learned was this:  Depression is very chemical, and very real.  When it talks to you, it uses your own voice and it is very convincing.  It seems to me, one of the most dangerous things it told me was that no one wanted to hear me whine.  This kept me from telling people that I was in trouble.  I complained about my husband, my kids, my life… But I didn’t talk about feeling sad all the time, feeling down and wishing I were dead.   I understood for the first time why people I love who are depressed don’t always talk about how bad they feel.

It made me understand how real the skewed perspective can look when the chemicals in your brain aren’t mixed quite right.  It looks real because it’s based on real existing fault-lines in your life.  It isn’t totall made up crap. It’s an inability to deal with real crap.  And since the crap is real, the rest of it must be real.  I believed that nothing could get better, and any attempt to make it better was just me trying to get out from under my responsibility for the miserable life I had created.

I have started working back off of Klonopin.  It’s not a high dose, so I’m not having any problems doing it.  I’m quite happy going back to my dirty drug.  Turns out that tipping over thing is another side effect of Klonopin.  So was my utter inability to come up with the right word.   It felt like half of my sentences were ending with “That thing”.

I’m feeling better.  Mostly, but it was really icky.  I’m usually fascinated with reading the side effects of drugs, I don’t know why I didn’t do it this time.  Another lesson learned.

What Happened to Me

Anyone who knows me knows that my life is nothing if not a lesson in how to have empathy people I judged or could not empathize with sufficiently in my life up to this point.  Current example:

I think I may have mentioned that I have a sleep disorder.  It runs in my family.  It’s the kind that sleep doctors love, because it’s rare and interesting.  Until I was medicated in my early twenties I would act out my dreams with some regularity.  The Docs called it a Parasomnia.  I used to walk, talk, spit (once recently actually), scream, pee, kick and  have vivid waking dreams where I saw insects either dropping from the ceiling, or crawling near my head. When this happened I did everything I could to get away from them as I gradually came to consciousness.  It’s a very strange and scary feeling.

The waking nightmares and the bedwetting got to be a bigger deal when I had someone sharing a bed with me.  When I became a parent, the fact that I was waking myself up a dozen or more times a night, really wore me thin.  I lost weight, and felt sick to my stomach much of the time.  It wasn’t until I described some part of this to my wonderful mother-in-law and she said, “Honey, it isn’t normal to see the clock that many times through the night.  That’s not normal sleep.”  that I thought to go see a doctor.  (Thank you Linda)

The doctor first tried hypnosis, which I thought was silly, but figured couldn’t hurt.  It didn’t hurt,  it didn’t help.  The next thing they did is prescribe a very low dose of an old-school anti-depressant; a really old, very cheap drug called Imipramine, which for some reason tended to regulate sleep cycles and with great regularity eliminated bedwetting.  After taking it, for the first time I could ever remember, I fell asleep and the night disappeared.  I closed my eyes, and when I opened them, it was morning.  It was like a miracle.  It’s been close to 20 years since I wet the bed.

I would still have the occasional waking nightmre, and act out some of my dreams, especially talking or yelling.  But these behaviors decreased greatly.  Over the 20 years my dose has been raised 3 or 4 times.  When I seem to be having non-restful sleep, or multiple nightmares (I don’t really count super stressful times in my life as a time when I  need medical intervention, those sleepless nights go away on their own eventually), I check in with the sleep doctor.

That’s the background.

Recently I’ve been seeing  different sleep doctor, and when I complained that I was drowsy during the day (I have had a two hour commute at the classic sleepy time of the day, right around 3-4pm), he said he thought it was the Imipramine.  It has a longer half-life, “It’s an old drug.  What we call a ‘dirty drug’, with lots of side-effects.  There are some newer drugs, ‘cleaner drugs’ which would be out of your system more quickly. I think you should try going off the Imipramine and onto this other, newer and cleaner drug.”    Given the choice, who the hell wants a dirty drug over a clean drug?    I decided to make the switch.


I cannot overstate my strong feelings of disgust for emoticons. I don’t mind too much the kind which are cleverly made from the existing symbols on the qwerty keyboard.
The kind which cause unreasonable rage and ire to swell in my breast are the cartoon kind. I hate the yellow smiley or winky.
I thought when the smileys started to move, that I had reached the pinnacle of my frustration. I was wrong.
Today I chatted with a guy I know from Columbia. He always wants to chat on MSN because he can use his little cartoons. I try to ignore them. I asked him if he knew how to spell the spanish word jengibre (one word for ginger). His response was lightning quick. It was a short looped video thumbprint of a white haired bearded man stroking his beard in thought. Holy piles of eviscerated rodents! I threw up a little in my mouth. If I can get a screen shot and share with you the violation we are talking here, I will. That shit is whack.

Red Nails Salon

Below is a quote taken from an internet site where people can review their experiences at local businesses:

February 22, 2008 “I went to Red Nails because it’s close to my house. But NEVER again! You really do get what you pay for. Nina, the Manager, did my acrylic fill in about 10 minutes. She barely understands English, is rude and mangled my poor cuticles because she’s so distracted “yelling” at all the women that work there (in another language, of course). This place makes you feel like you are in a cheap car wash. Next time I will go further to a reputable hotel for my fills.”

I’m going to Red Nails because City Pages says it’s great and a great deal. It has the added appeal that there are a few REALLY bad reviews on line. I get suspicious of any review that mentions not speaking English as a huge drawback, mentioning it twice is even better. I noticed that almost every bad review mentioned that the management and employees didn’t speak good English.

A typical pedicure costs around 70 bucks. My good friend Bill would quickly calculate that out to 7 bucks a toe. It’s more than I can justify spending on such frivolity. But 30 bucks? I can swing that. Even if it means I have to repeat myself sometimes, and can’t have a deep conversation with the woman scrubbing my feet.

I went to Red Nails with my friend Lydia. She was the only person daring enough to go with me. The girls were nice, the manager today was an Asian man, clean-cut, in a button down suit and pressed slacks. The place isn’t the lap of luxury, I’ll admit that. The waiting area chair was wobbly, and it’s true, no one was fluent in English. But I’d say the cost (about half what a similar treatment usually costs) and the incense laden altar to Buddha with a whole papaya on a plate in front of it made up for the less than stellar communication skills.

Lydia and I decided if we were in charge of the place, we’d lose both of the TVs ( I hate TVs in public places) and turn off the fluorescent overhead lighting and replace it with lamps at each chair. We’d put on relaxing music and crank up the incense one more notch. Other than that, it was a cool place, a fun afternoon outing. Took about a half an hour.

Lydia giggled so hard that I couldn’t talk to her during the scrubbing part. When I asked the girls doing our feet if they get a lot of people laughing, they didn’t understand. That was the only time I wished for better English skills. I bet they see lots of interesting stuff.

We were soaked, soaped, pumiced, scrubbed, massaged, clipped, filed, cuticle pressed, painted., paraffin dipped, peeled and dried. Oh, and we got a calf massage, which I think I could do without.

There was one moment as I was sitting I my massage chair with remote control, soaking one foot and having the other one thoroughly scrubbed up that I looked around and thought, “My god, this looks for all the world like slavery.” (Well except for the part where they get paid) .

Every single employee was Asian (Vietnamese I think). All but the manager were female, they all dressed mostly the same in print smocks and high heels. All squatting on little stools in front of happy, joking white women and doting on their feet. It creeped me out just a little. That, and the fact the employees  never smiled, except for the polite kind of smile.

I got to thinking, what if they all are brought over as sort of indentured servants or something. How would I ever know? I tipped generously.