the end of a 9.5 year era (my life as a psychiatric medication addict)

To be honest, I thought that I was going to officially unofficially end this blog. I only have so many stories to tell, and rants to go on before people get fed up with my uncreative story telling and word usage, and to be perfectly honest, there’s some stuff about my mental health that I’m actually not okay with writing about on the internet. I know this is supposed to be completely uncensored, no bs, etc. etc., but some things are just best left to my own devices (one of them not being a computer). That’s why people have friends.

But there are still things, okay a lot of things. For example, why haven’t I posted jack squat in the past month or so? There are many answers to that question, but the main one being this: I’m officially on the klonopin wagon (I had to google “on the wagon” vs. “off the wagon” because I could have sworn that being “off the wagon” meant that you weren’t doing the addictive thing, but it’s the opposite and now I’m really confused about this phrase. Cause being “on the wagon” sounds like you’re back on the drug of choice, which totally makes more sense and not “yeah I’m on the wagon, I decided to stop drinking.” When you’re off a drug, you should be “off the wagon,” right?)

About a month and a half ago, after being fed up with psychiatrists telling me that I shouldn’t be taking Klonopin long term, that it leads to dementia and Alzheimers and it’s addicting and terrible for you, I finally went to my primary care doc and had him taper me off of it. I noticed my short-term memory going a bit. My anxiety wasn’t really under control anymore and unless I got a stronger dosage or switched to another medication that probably wouldn’t help, it was looking like I was going to be taking psychiatric medication for the rest of my life and eventually develop more brain damage than I’ve already inflicted upon myself and has been inflicted on me by medication.

I still remember when I first started taking Klonopin. It worked almost instantly and suddenly the things that normally scared me were just whatever everyday things. I lost a lot of weight because I was constantly nauseous and didn’t eat more than 500 calories a day and was still exercising daily. And for a while, I felt really great. My self-esteem soared because I finally had the mind and body I had been wanting for years. The nausea went away, but I still kept losing weight, which was okay with me. And I still felt better in general. I wasn’t scared to be around people or go out in public. After a while, I adjusted to it, but I just kept taking it because it was just a part of my daily routine and I didn’t think twice about it besides that it was still helping. And then I decided it was time to take away the safety blanket. No doctor could convince me to stop taking it, I made this decision myself.

After a month and a half of misery, days where I couldn’t walk straight, days I sat in my car before work having a panic attack, days where I couldn’t be around more than 1 person at a time, days where I’d stay in bed all day because my blood pressure dropped down to a borderline hypotension level of 90/58 and I thought I was dying..

I’m now happy to say I’m on my last week of tapering. For this last week of being a pill popper, I’m down to 1/4mg of Klonopin once a day, and then next week, I’ll be pill free. For 4.5 years, I’ve taken 1mg twice a day of Klonopin, always relying on it to keep me calm, cure my hangovers, blame anything that happened that day on the fact that I “forgot to take my meds.” For 9.5 years, I’ve exhausted the list of anti-anxiety, anti-depression, mood stabilizers, anti-psychotics, ADHD medications, benzos, and some others that I’m not entirely sure what category they fall into besides the “I feel like a sociopath” category. 9.5 years of side effects and reliance. 1 seizure, 1 overdose, several medication-induced manic episodes, days of withdrawal if I really did forget to take my morning Klonopin, weeks of not eating anything, my weight fluctuating between 100 and 135 lbs, nights fighting with my Dad because I legitimately forgot to take my meds, nights fighting with my mom because medications would make me a mess, days I had to be pulled out of school because I would start crying for no reason, 9.5 years of constant fluctuation of who I thought I was, what was wrong with me, going from on top of the world to begging the universe to let me die while I sleep.

I’ve haven’t been just me in 9.5 years.

And now it’s almost done. I’ve spent years jumping from medication to medication trying to find my cure, but really, I was just trying to find a band-aid. If there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that medications will not cure you, they will not fix you, and ultimately, they will not help unless you are actively trying to help yourself.

It’s liberating, really. While medications are convenient, they also get in the way of everything. Way too many trips to the pharmacy, too many phone calls to get refills, time wasted in doctor’s offices every month, needles stuck in my arm to get monthly blood testing. And now I can say I never have to do this again.

So that is basically why I haven’t written in a month. I’ve been re-learning how to be human, how to feel emotions somewhat appropriately, and looking all my fears and suppressed memories in the face and saying to them,

“I’m over you. Congratulations.”

*Special thanks to D for sticking with me through this hurricane. And to my few Foco friends who I have put off seeing because I’ve been a mess and I really will try harder to hang.

 

 

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Anti-Consumerism Month Update Numero Uno

Okay so I haven’t really been on top of the whole “update” part of this anti-consumerism month thing I resigned myself to. But here’s my first update! Are you ready? It’s oh so terribly exciting. Full of withdrawal and resisting the things that I “need.” It’s exciting, I swear.

Well, not really. I just had to draw you in somehow. So far, it’s been a bit difficult. Some of the things that I’ve wanted to do haven’t been able to work out. Frequenting farmers markets right now doesn’t exactly fit into my schedule at the moment. Since it’s the off season for farmers markets in Foco, the only farmer’s market that I know of takes place on Saturday mornings, and unfortunately I work on Saturday mornings, which has forced me to still rely on King Soopers, Safeway, Sprouts, etc. However, it has made me realize that some of the foods that I really love and tend to buy frequently, are either not necessary (oh, Complete Cookies and Lara Bars, how I miss you) or just expensive (avocados and tempeh, an unfortunate sacrifice). Food shopping is hard. It’s just so easy to overspend. Eating a mostly vegan diet does help in some ways since tofu is much cheaper than meat, and not buying cheese or milk cuts out a large portion of the grocery list. I’ve kept eggs on the menu, however, so it’s not completely vegan. Apparently there’s a whole different section of vegetarian and veganism that is called “veggan” aka, not eating any animal products except eggs. It works out though and while my vegan values are telling me that eggs are bad, I’m still trying to make sure that the eggs I do buy are from hens that are ethically raised. Also I forgot how good eggs taste and I refuse to eat the dreaded “vegan egg” (some weird powder made of seaweed that Follow Your Heart puts into egg shaped containers and tastes like nothing and is extremely overpriced, and also a complete waste of packaging. I’ll put the “not buying the vegan egg” in a definite anti-consumerism category.)

But also since I’ve been cutting back on my meds (on doctor’s orders), I’ve had to be extremely cautious. Benzodiazepine withdrawal isn’t something to be taken lightly. While I’m coming off the medication slowly, it’s still risky because of the whole likelihood of seizures thing. So basically, if I wasn’t already a heavy drinker, this medication withdrawal wouldn’t be as much of a concern. But coming off a benzo and trying to cut off alcohol completely in the same month? That’s basically me walking to my grave. Like being taken off benzos, alcohol is the same way. Cutting it off completely is very risky since alcohol works on the same neurotransmitters in the brain (fun fact: benzos are a common medication prescribed to alcoholics in rehab in order to prevent withdrawal). So I think it’s pretty safe to say that I shouldn’t go cold turkey on alcohol while going through benzo withdrawal (who came up with that “cold turkey” saying anyway?) So I buy cheap wine and try to stick to only a glass or two. So far, it works out pretty well. I’m definitely spending less on alcohol and my tolerance is decreasing so I don’t have to drink as much, which is kind of nice.

The one thing that I have managed to be good about is not eating out. As much as I love pita pit and sushi really aren’t necessary when I have food at home and it does save a good amount of money. Also not going to bars or going out is just an unnecessary expense when buying a 6 pack or a bottle of wine for $10 will last me the week.

Really, the hardest part is the realizing the amount of food that I consume in a week. Since I work out almost every day and do some heavy lifting, it feels like my body constantly needs food. Trying to find healthy and cheap foods to keep me well-nournished is difficult. Buying protein bars is convenient, but not cheap. I wandered around the King Soops for almost half an hour yesterday trying to figure out what cheap and healthy snacks that aren’t chocked full of high fructose corn syrup I could buy. After staring at the cracker aisle, the nut aisle, cereal aisle, and even just the general snack aisle, I settled for a bag of apples which I figured out upon purchasing them, that granola bars were actually cheaper. Just another learning curve. Since I already know how to make granola on a budget, I can probably figure out how to make snack bars in bulk that will long term be cheaper and healthier than store-bought granola bars.

Life has been stressful, and I admit to being a stress eater. Between the stress and withdrawal anxiety, it’s been tough, which has made me need to find other ways to relieve the stress. Some days have been hours long marathons of watching Buffy. When I have adequate energy, hooping has helped a lot. Staying active has helped combat the stress and the anxiety since anxiety seems to manifest itself in me as an overabundance of energy. Instead of stress eating, I try to hoop more, do some sit ups, yoga, hiking or just working off the energy on the elliptical. The nice weather we’ve been having here has helped keep my energy up (as much as it does concern me that it’s March in Colorado and it hasn’t snowed in almost a month).

Week 1 has been tough. Hopefully it’ll get a little easier from here given the learning curve of the past week. And hopefully the klonopin withdrawal will start to ease which will help as well.

More updates on Emily’s Anti-Consumerism Month 2017 next week (and hopefully other unrelated updates throughout the week). Stay tuned to see my sanity slowly deteriorate.

the need to make my life smaller

Buying things we don’t really need because we think they’re going to make us happy. Let’s face it, we all do it. Splurging on some fancy chocolate at the grocery store because it’s that time of the month and chocolate is a “necessity.” Needing “new” jeans or a shirt because your current wardrobe just seems so blah. Driving everywhere because we’re lazy. It’s a been a long day/week/month/year. I “need” a drink. Hanging onto everything we’ve ever acquired in our lives because we just can’t let go of it (like that scarf that you really like, but to be honest, you haven’t worn it in over a year). We’re all guilty of it, especially me.

So last month, two of my good friends out here in Fort Collins decided that they were going to do an “anti-consumption month” challenge. At first, I was just like, why would you do that to yourself? After reading their updates week to week, it seemed like they were struggling a bit, but after a while, they found that what they thought they NEEDED in their lives, were completely unnecessary. Anti-consumerism is basically the principle of reducing one’s impact on the environment, the world, and our consumerist society. It is taking away everything that one thinks they really need and living on only what they actually need. Sounds a little crazy, right? I thought so too. Sometimes you need to treat yourself. But is that really necessary? Maybe what you think you “need” isn’t so lovingly over wrapped in tinfoil and paper (aka those Chocolove bars that really hit the spot when I’m PMSing or stressed out).

Here it goes: Starting March 1st, I’ll be starting my own anti-consumption month (which will then hopefully turn into something a little more long term). The rules of the game? It’s simple. Live on what you only really need to live. Get rid of the things that I think I really need to hold onto. I actually already started doing this this month when I went through a bunch of my old t-shirts and realized that I hadn’t worn or wanted to wear about 10 or so band t-shirts in over a year. Why do I still have these? They’re currently in a vacuum storage bag under my bed until I find some way to get rid of them (but not throw them in the trash).

Since my friends’ lifestyle is a little bit different from mine, I had to do some tweaking in order to fit my lifestyle of what I really need. So here are the rules for Emily’s Anti-Consumption month 2k17:

  1. Spending only $30 a week on groceries. It’s actually amazing how much you can buy in the produce section of a grocery store. Works perfectly for my vegan lifestyle. I’m also going to start being good about bringing my own bags when I go grocery shopping (which everyone should do anyway).
  2. Eating out? Out of the picture (unless I have leftover grocery money).
  3. Set a budget for gas. Unfortunately, driving to work is pretty much my only option right now since it’s a little too far to bike to and I’m pretty sure the bus doesn’t go that far. Besides work, it’s time to get back on the bike for everywhere else I need to go.
  4. Goodbye alcohol (unless I have some leftover grocery money, and even still, this gives me a good reason to cut back on my drinking in general).
  5. As anyone in their 20s knows, there are some things that I can’t avoid paying for like rent, utilities, recurring monthly payments, you know.
  6. Tis (almost) the season for spring cleaning. It’s time to go through all those clothes and other random things that I still have and donate them/recycle them in some way. Kind of like when I started to pack for moving, everyday I would find at least one thing in my room that I really thought I didn’t need, put it in a box/bag and would wait a week. If I forgot about it, I didn’t need it. Same thing goes for this month.

So what’s the point of this? Minimizing my lifestyle and my impact on the environment and not giving in to this consumerist society. Granted, I am going to have to throw down some money for some unexpected things (like that traffic ticket I got and the doctor appointment I have this coming month, my pet rats need food as well, and I might possibly need to get my oil changed.. but some of these things are unavoidable unfortunately). The point is to live with the bare minimum of what I need to live. Live small and minimal.

I’ll be posting weekly updates on how I’m doing, so stay with me here. Thank you John and Kacie for inspiring me to do this. I know you’ll have my back through this (and maybe Sweet D too if he decides to do this with me).

Let the hunger games begin.