Time. I’ve mentioned how time is the only currency we can’t replace or replenish. Almost everything else we deem important can be recreated. Yet, sometimes I ignore my own words of advice. I let time pass, taking it for granted, abusing, not appreciating it’s value. It fades and becomes memories, or forgotten and lost.
I feel I’ve only recently awaken from a dream. Awaken from a state of numb, a dullness I hadn’t recognized because my concern was elsewhere. I wrote about my depression early, but have been fairly silent since then, aside of course from the poetry that speaks to it’s grip around my throat, it’s needling of my heart. The words that follow will deal with drugs, how they helped but ultimately failed me through a false sense of wellness.
Disclosure, these are my personal experiences and thoughts. I am not advocating that one stops taking prescribed medication. Make informed decisions based on your thoughts and feelings and consult your doctor before taking action.
This past fall I hit a bottom, more of this in my previous posts, but it was a low I hadn’t experienced before. I’ve hit bottom in the past due to stressors of lost job, lost savings, lost relationships, but this time around when the recurring cycle of those issues surfaced yet again, though under different circumstances, they were amplified by insomnia. On average I was getting two short cycles of two-hour naps per night, at it’s worse I would stare at the clock for 6 to 8 hours, getting increasing anxious as the day approached and I had yet to rest. At the advice and suggestion of those concerned with my well-being I sought the help of my physician, primarily looking for something to help me sleep. We decided on a low dose of an SRRI.
December, sleep deprivation was crushing me mentally and physically. The drugs weren’t helping yet, but I was told it could take up to a month to build up in my system. Eventually, by January, I began to sleep “better”. I was still sleep deprived and often exhausted, but two hour cycles became three then four. I’d awake each morning at around 4:30-5 mentally berating myself for my recent failures — the sleep deprivation making it more difficult to control the negative thoughts. I had recently turned 44 and had failed the business, failed another relationship, mounting debt was choking me, I was living with my mother and grandmother trying to collect the scattered marbles of my life and put myself back together. All I could hear was I was less of a man, not good enough to take care of myself. I was a failure measured by the social standards I reluctantly adopted.
Middle January through March were Grizzly, my months of hibernation. The drugs had kicked in and I was sleeping — a lot. Sleeping on a blow-up mattress in my Mother’s den, I’d retire at 10 and sleep until 8 the next morning. I was a grumpy bear catching up on much needed sleep, however still exhausted during the days, and still having mentally good and bad days. The mental lows deep but not as often, the highs, however, had gone into remission altogether. I was reaching a flatline state of existence. I had some alarming lows so I accepted this place.
Several times during these transitional months I found myself walking home, my mind spinning. I would feel an overwhelming need to connect with nature. I would touch the trees, I would shed my shoes and walk in the grass, and would feel the earth and the snow — and I would cry. And I wouldn’t understand why. I felt at those moments as if the Universe was telling me my time had come, it was time to lose my identity, lose my physical form and become part of something greater. Reflecting on it now, maybe it was, but not in the sense I was imagining. Regardless, these mental breaks — or mental break-throughs — scared me. Frightned me into staying on the drugs, at least until I could get some of the other stressors behind me.
April arrived, and with it glimpses of Spring. My continually aborted exercise routines were beginning to frustrate me. I have always had a goal and well into the training by this time of the year. Triathlons, endurance mountain bike events, always something. This year I’ve struggled. The desire to put a program and goals together has been there, in short spurts, but the energy and motivation to take action was nowhere to be found. My sleep pattern had normalized, I was sleeping through the night, getting up at respectable hour, and doing my writing and work. However, I was still physically tired. I would go for a long run, but then need days to recover. I couldn’t string together consecutive days of training. I realized I was drinking in the evenings to mask the numbness of the drugs, trying to find some passion and desire in a bottle and spitting it out on the pages. I was writing a lot, but my spark for life, for living beyond the pages was extinguished. I was blocking and numbing the lows through drugs and drink and consequently blocking the highs as well. I decided the lows would have to be a price I paid to experience the highs again, to find some normalcy — my normal.
Mid April I began cutting my dosage, and over a two-week period weaned myself off the meds. It wasn’t easy, my anxiety levels increased, my bones ached, my equilibrium was off, and I’d have some weird dreams. However, my thoughts began clearing and my physical energy increased so I knew I was doing MY right. I began May off the drugs with the intention of cutting the drink and cleaning up my diet, some slips, but overall better than previous months. The results have been favorable, my focus has improved, my energy levels are up, and most importantly my desire and motivation is coming back. I’ve strung together five days of training this past week, 30-35 miles of running. I feel more productive and am enthused to tackle some new projects and endurance goals. I’m not cured by any means, I realize now there isn’t one. I’m awake by 5, but have been able to sleep in after longer run days. I have negative mental lapses, but have come to accept them for what they are, in some ways they are a gift. Only when you’ve been to the bottom can you truly appreciate the top — the deeper you fall the higher you can rise.
If you block the bad, you’ll block the good. The trick, perhaps the cure, is being fully in your experiences without attachment or judgement. My hope, my intention, is to remain cognizant of my experiences, to use them to draw empathy and understanding for others who struggle, and to have clearer vision — to see beauty in the everyday simplicities of life.
If our lives are the message, then my life stories will be the fuel to write, create, and flourish as an individual; and to encourage you to expect magic, love fiercely, and live bravely.