Saturday, July 1, 2017

Getting Clean

DISCLAIMER:  This entry is about my personal experience with prescription drugs, i.e., anti-depressants. You need to know that there is no medical or scientific expertise involved at all. I did use the Internet as an informal research tool, but I caution you not to diagnose a physical or mental problem on-line.  Contact your doctor with even the smallest question and, just so you know, I kept in fairly consistent contact with my primary care physician. My caveat-BE CAREFUL with any medication you take whether it's OTC or prescribed. They can be dangerous if not used with precision.

I began taking anti-depressants during my dad's final illness and eventual death in 1988. I started with xanax (an anti-anxiety drug) and finished with a variety of anti-depressants on June 4 of this year.The decision to get clean of them started last winter when I sensed that my then current anti-depressant wasn't working for me. This was due no doubt to an extreme family crisis and a family member needing serious abdominal surgery on an emergency basis. Between March and June I went on and off  five different anti-depressants looking for the magic one that would help  me keep my nose above water as I made my way through this dark family time. I was in regular contact with my doctor. But. Make that BUT. I'm not so sure that either of us was really paying close enough attention to what was happening during this process.

Here's what happened plain and simple:  1.) acute side effects followed by 2.) ugly and tortuous withdrawal symptoms. Curiously, these two conditions can present themselves in similar fashion so it becomes difficult to know when (and if) one is beginning and/or ending. Confusing, huh? You have no idea. Trembling, shaking, brain zaps, weak muscles, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, inability to focus, racing thoughts, obsessive compulsive behavior, and anxiety supreme.

So why did I put myself through this pain? Duh. I needed mental and emotional relief from family strife that was overwhelming me. I'm a fairly tough person and have been through some life challenges in the past but for some reason (turning 70, maybe?) I have not been able to ride out this period of stress and challenge. When I finally realized what was happening, I figured out also that it was much too late to retrieve myself from "discontinuation syndrome."

As of today, July 4, I am beginning to allow myself some hope that I will eventually recover from this horrid experience. I don't know when or even how long it will take, but I will keep on keeping on. I have an appointment with a neurologist/psychiatrist in ten days. In the meanwhile, maybe one day really soon, I'll begin to feel a twinge of improvement. Right now things are still difficult.

And guess what? NEVER, EVER, EVER take even the most seemingly innocent prescription drug without a serious discussion with your doctor. And talk to your friendly pharmacist about any OTC drug you might feel you need. You have my permission to use my experience to make your case. And be careful with the Internet. Just because you read it on-line doesn't make it true.

I'll update my progress next month. Wish me luck.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Things I Thought I'd Never, Ever Do

 1.  Get up at night to go to the bathroom.
 2.  Stop driving at night.
 3.  Play cards every day.
 4.  Call family members by the wrong names.
 5.  Talk to every baby I see.
 6.  Read Lee Child books.
 7.  Take a nap every day.
 8.  Hum along with songs from the 50's and sometimes even the 40's.
 9.  Not like walking on uneven surfaces.
10. Drive around looking for the closest parking spot to the door.

Life is different at 70.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Trump For Breakfast

Yesterday as I was eating my breakfast and reading about Trump's First 100 Days, the cereal box caught my eye. Somehow I strangely started to compare it to the Trumpster himself. Yes, it's weird, but follow me for a minute here. It was a box of Honey Bunches of Oats With Almonds which happens to be our favorite cereal. The box is a graphic success of blue and white lettering featuring a bold blue circle with a spoonful of cereal depicted under it. It is bright and attractive enough in a carton sort of way. A list of ingredients can be found on one side of the box. It is about 15 lines of small print. The first half notes the grains, flours, and sugars used. The last half lists vitamins and minerals included and the middle line reads "BHT added to package material to preserve freshness."
In other words, the product is highly processed. The whole package including the box with its list of ingredients and contents reminds me of Donald Trump who embodies his own highly processed brand of something that claims to be good for consumers.  Hmmm. . . .

Later in the day, another kitchen consumable reminded me of Trump. This time it was a cellophane wrapped package of stir fry vegetables containing yellow, green, and red pepper slices, zucchini rounds, mushroom slices, broccoli florets, onion slices, and celery pieces. Period. You can easily identify the ingredients without reading a list of them. No additives, sugars, flavorings, or preservatives are used.  There were, however, two stickers on the cellophane. One said "stir fry" and offered an idea for preparation. The other said "5$." The package and its contents were straightforward, informative, and honest.  To me, it represented the leader this good country really needs.

Food and Trump? It was a weird stretch of my thought process but I venture that it represents how much of my brain time is currently spent reflecting the absurdity of this crazy man and trying to make sense of him.

Maybe he isn't worth the effort.

Friday, March 31, 2017



TO:  Everyone In The Whole Wide World

FROM:  Americans in the USA

RE:  Global Status

We are still here. We still care.
Our status as a world leader is definitely undergoing a change, but we are still here. We care about the environment.  E.g., our Alaskan neighbors living near the North Pole might be relocating their villages soon because the melting ice is threatening to end their lifestyle and culture.
We don't all agree about the cause, but we are capable of working together to solve the threat to our land and people. We are supportive of our children's lives and futures. We wonder about a need to spend more on defense than on education. We care about our senior citizens and know that many of them need adequate medical attention. In fact, we are very aware that each of us, old or young or middling, deserves good physical and mental care.
We are still here.
Most of all, we know that "fake news" and "alternative facts" are not the truth. We can tell the difference between social media life and the real life of global friendship and the possibility of world peace through making connections with each other all over the world. Watch us stand up for ourselves and for all people everywhere.  
We are still here.
We still care.                                                            

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Word Power Part 2

I'm still focused on the power of words.  Several words and phrases have been repeated often in the last four to six weeks.  Below are some examples.

  • truth
  • alternative fact
  • fake news
  • Russia
  • the enemy is the press
  • wall
  • immigration 
Study this list and assess how these words have taken on a scary amount of power.  Even more, try to figure out how the meanings of these words have changed in recent weeks. Then think about how the meanings have impacted this country. 

What other words and phrases have radically changed in meaning?
Why do we need to give them our utmost attention?  

I suggest we all do our part to notice word usage in the days to come.  What could happen if we don't? 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Word Power

When I was an English teacher for all those years I often commented on the power of language to illustrate how students could empower themselves quickly and freely.  I actually based my whole first lesson in Writing 122 (argument and persuasion) on that concept. I began with asking students to think about one of their favorite words. They would look at me sideways so I'd model by telling them that I love the word waterfall. I love the way it sounds, the way it looks, and the image it produces in my mind when I say or think it. Sometimes I'd also share a word I don't like. For example,  I was not allowed to say the word stink when I was growing up so today I rarely say it.  Strange, huh? By now, students would be engaged in trying to discover and share favorite words and a lively discussion occurred,

Next, I asked students to share how they received their names at birth. Responses included that they were named after one of their relatives or that they were named after a dear friend. Others received names that were created by their parents.  Still others were named after a famous athlete or actor. You get the drift. Then I suggested that most parents choose names for their offspring before they are even born. What that does is to provide them with identities before they even land here on earth.

So I wove the concept of word power into every lesson we did in learning how to use persuasive writing effectively. Sometimes we might repeat a word several times in an essay. Occasionally, we can use negative words to take away the power of this or that idea. Then we'd move on to creating power sentences and working them into persuasive essays. The goal was to develop proficiency in choosing effective words and sentences to support an argument. (And, just for fun we'd once in a while do some creative or narrative writing that we studded with power words. The results were amazing. And by the way, amazing is over-used and has lost its original power.)

The upshot of all this reminiscing about WORDS is not only that we need to use them, but we need to recognize their power to be used in a negative way.  Sometimes untruths can become truths if we hear them over and over. Examples follow:  Alternative facts. So-called judge. The enemy is the media. Putin is a good leader. The press does not always report acts of terrorism. Climate change is a hoax.

Do good thinking about what you hear. Be careful about what you believe. Take care not to say or write words that are meaningless or that contain too much negativism.

Most of all and most importantly, analyze and interpret what you are currently reading and hearing about the state of our good country. We are still strong.  We are still free. We are still compassionate toward others. We still have the opportunity to upgrade our lives. We are good Americans.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Happy New Year!

I've been thinking a lot about a couple of different topics since yesterday. One is the Mosul Dam in Iraq and the other is Egypt.  These oddball thoughts are probably a result of reading this week's issue of The New Yorker magazine which I've subscribed to for nearly 50 years. Both of the topics were covered this week. One article was about the Mosul Dam which is located in Iraq and has the potential to burst and kill up to hundreds of thousands of people. Its danger has been considered since its construction began in 1981 under the orders of Saddam Hussein (remember him?). Such a structure could highly impact the power and strength of the country and its leaders. So reading about it and how compromised it is by its own weight made me spend some time thinking about water and the power it has to influence civilization as a whole.  These are heavy thoughts for me to have so early in the year.

The other article was about Egypt, in particular its leader President Sisi, a country and a political figure I can barely comprehend. In fact, I can probably just almost describe Egypt's location. I have nearly no knowledge of its leader or even how its people and culture work. Here's what I do know: Egypt is the oldest country in the world, was home to an ancient culture that is still influencing the whole world, and seems to be subject to a lot of revolutions. I used to long to go to Egypt myself because I was so fascinated by the excavation of King Tut's tomb.  I wanted to see it and absorb the desert history that flourished so long ago in this arid valley so far away.  See?  More weighty thoughts.

So I started the New Year lost in random thought about far away places and people and even though I was thinking about a possible catastrophe and a country where a voter can be arrested for "spoiling his ballot," I am nonetheless considering heavy topics having nothing to do with the monumental changes that will occur soon in my own country.