99 Bottles: An Introvert Peeks Outside Her Shell (A Whole Fucking Lot)

What up, homeslices. See how hip I am? I still say “what up” and am so gangsta I didn’t even use a question mark. Yeah, bitch.

bitch
I really just needed an excuse for Jesse Pinkman. And the word “bitch.” So here, bitches. Look how yummy he is like this. And the mood of the image. He’s subdued but intent and commanding as he precisely utters that one perfect word: Bitch. And now you know what time it is.

So. Y’all already know I’ve been pushing myself lately. More than usual, I mean. You know I had the April thing get canceled and I carpéd the fuck out of those diems (I just indecently Latined all over your faces. You’re welcome.). With the haircut. Masturdating with Deadpool. At the bookstore. At the park. At the park again. I even willfully introduced myself to a stranger! And the little turtle peeking out of the shell didn’t get her little neck cleavered! Do wonders never cease?

No.

They do not.

For the tale I am about to tell is a tale of public Stephanie in public at public places with public people doing public things.

In public.

Did I mention I did more things in public. Because I did.

I publicked my ass off. (That’s the correct way to past-tense verbify public. I know. I’m an expert on these matters.)

Ass Publicking Chapata One (That sounds so fucking wrong. So I’m leaving it.)

Rewind to Friday, April 22. That’s, what? Two Fridays ago? This dude suggested Happy Hour to me months ago, as a great way to loosen up, kick back and just enjoy life a bit. But I was adamant in my refusal. No. Fucking. Way. Was this ever going to happen. And then this dude pushed me to go “network” at Happy Hour for weeks. Relentlessly for weeks. WEEKS, I tell you! So I finally relented, but it was no easy task.

There’s a cool (and very popular) Irish pub within walking distance of my house. I’d been once before when the greatest history professor to ever walk the earth took all his Historiography grad students out for a couple of rounds on him. But that’s the only time I’d ever been.

Other than that, I was always on the outside looking in. I drive past the joint on a regular basis – in fact, I did so daily for several years.

But I was always outside.
Looking in.
At the people looking out.
At the people unwilling or unable or uncool enough.
To come in.

But this would be the day that I’d make the transition. I was fucking determined. But I was not going alone, damnit. That’s just pathetic. Single fat chick sitting alone at the bar during Happy Hour on Friday night? No.

Fuck
That
Noise

So what’s a girl to do?

Round up a posse of course.

I was having a slow work day, so I wandered around the building herding geeks. Y’all know those little decorator crabs? The ones that wander around, plucking pretty debris from the seashore and affixing it to their shells? So that they may adorn themselves in their very surroundings and be hidden and protected?

Decospidercrab.jpg

That was me.

Unwilling to remove my shell, I wandered the building plucking rogue geeks and affixing them to my shell. They followed me around like Mother Fucking Goose. I was the Pied Fucking Piper of Geeks, trying to lead them down the path of rowdy drunken carousing.

Dudes.

At one point, I had about seven geeks straggling behind me. I’d formed my own posse. And we were going pubbing.

If.

Fucking if.

If we could get The Sloth to go.

SLOTH
Does that bastard look like he’s going anywhere but to sleep?

See, these boys are a unit. And I was going to be the ultimate Dungeon Master, corralling them all for drinks and vulgarity and laughs.

Well, The Sloth would only agree to go if we could get Pookie to go.

So commenced The Hunt for Red October Pookie.

We couldn’t find him. I texted him silly pictures of The Sloth and Buttermilk doing slothy semi-gay things on warehouse equipment.

“LOLOLHAHAHA” came the mature and measured response.

Posse in tow, we rounded corner after corner until we had Pookie in our sights.

Naw man. It’s not pay week.

I told him I’d buy the first round.
He blushed.
I said, “I’m not being weird, you little fucker. Bring your damn girlfriend.”
He blushed again.

Well, I’d HAVE to bring my girlfriend.

I stared at him.

He blushed harder.

I stared at him.

He looked down at his book.

I stared at him.

I just really can’t. I’m broke! I’m sorry! I’m sorry!

“Pookie,” I glared into him with rage in my eyes and condescension dripping from my voice, “you’re dead to me. Now The Sloth won’t go. And then Buttermilk will back out. And then no one is going to go.”

What about Thundercat and Lebowski?

“I asked THEM before I asked YOU. But Thundercat is home alone with his spawn tonight, and Lebowski has to go to some viewing for a dead uncle he never met. You’re dead to me, you understand?”

As I walked away, he was laughing, blushing and apologizing.

I flipped him off without looking back.

So, as anticipated, everyone backed out. I nearly had The Sloth convinced, until he remembered he had other plans. Looking up at me from the filthy warehouse floor, looking every bit like he’d just disappointed the potty-mouthed version of Mother Teresa or gotten caught sniffing his finger after scratching his ass, all wide eyed and hesitant, he tells me…

Aw fuck, I wouldn’t have been able to go even if Pookie went. I promised Dangerhole I’d drink with him tonight.

“That’s a thing? Are you fucking kidding me? Are you fucking kidding me right now, Sloth?”

Noooooooooo. It’s his drinking weekend, and last time I wasn’t there to keep him calm, he broke someone’s face and went to jail. That cost us a month of drinking money, man. I’m sorry, but I promised.

I called them all lousy motherfuckers, told them to enjoy their weekends jerking off in their mothers’ basements and stalked off. This whole mission lasted about two hours.

I had a decision to make, and fast.

To Happy Hour alone? Or to Home?

And then I remembered: you don’t have a home. You have a dwelling. A domicile. A house. Is that where you want to go? You want to go cry in bed? That’s preferable to going out just because you don’t have the support of a group of semi-friend stoner geekboys from work? You barely fucking know them anyway.

Decision made, I clocked out early and determined to open the place. It opens at 4:00, and I knew I simply Would Not Go if there was already a crowd before I got there. So if I was gonna tackle this, I was gonna do it on my own terms.

Fuck the Geek Squad.

The fears we don't face become our limits
I’m done being limited by my fears.

Everything happened in slow motion:

I pulled into the parking lot.

I braked to a stop.

I put the car in park.

I looked at the guy unloading liquor from the back of a pickup.

I looked at him look at me.

I killed the ignition.

I palmed my keys and wallet.

I pushed my shades atop my head.

I opened the door.

I stepped out.

I closed the door.

I walked to the front (because I wasn’t a regular and didn’t realize there was a back entrance).

I opened the door.

Pub Life

I observed the old men at the bar.

I chose a stool near the register.

I sat on it.

I put my things down.

I made eye contact with the regulars observing me, the stranger.

I smiled back at the bartender.

Do y’all have cider?

Stella, please.

Thank you.

I opened my very first bar tab.

It’s Stephanie.

Haha no, I’m not new in town. I’m just new. To going outside.

Cue laughter.

A big exhale.

My first sip.

And I was in.

Pub Life

Listening to the old men, who trickled in one at a time, talk about golf and wives and exes and crooked dicks and business trips gone wrong.

Right about the time I agreed to try Irish Champagne (apparently just some sort of Irish beer mixed with cider), Wes plopped down beside me.

Irish Champagne
Irish Champagne

Soft. Blonde. Blubbering. Gay. Twenty-something. College student. Clearly a regular. At some point, he simultaneously cracked open a Miller Lite and a lame joke. I laughed politely.

Then he showed me the picture he had up on his phone, “That’s my granddad.”

Is he flexing?

“Haha yeah.”

“Why is he in his tighty whities?

“Haha Haha………Haha. I don’t really know. I took a picture of the picture, and I think he must have been posing for grandma back then.”

The bartender, a chick, chimed in, “So that’s where you get it from.”

Haha no way, he was definitely posing for grandma, not some guy.

Laughter.

Much much laughter.

“That’s not what I meant,” she said, “although…but I meant the flexing in your underwear.”

He laughed and agreed that must be the case.

Wait. Wait. You flex in your underwear? And people…people know this about you?

“Hahahahayeah, wanna see another one??”

And from that point forward, I called him Flexy Wes and finally just Flex.

At some point in the midst of all this, I took a phone call. Laughing my ass off, I went to one of the tables by the window for the call. And I saw it. I became aware of what I was doing.

I was one of the ones on the inside.
I was looking out.
At the ones looking in.
I was looking out.
At the ones unwilling or unable or afraid.
To come inside.
I wasn’t one of them anymore.

By the time Flex left, I was about four or five ciders in and was feeling righteously buzzed. Also, the Friday night crowd was fast filling up the place, and I felt it was time to make my exit.

Fucking proud of myself, too.

I sat in my car for quite a while, waiting out the buzz. It was worth it. Totally worth it.

Ass Publicking Chapata One, Part Two

I got home. Changed clothes. Plopped down in bed. Updated stupidityhole about my “networking.” Played on my iPad.

And then The Anklebiter texted (about two hours later). She had been updating me off and on throughout the evening, telling me that she would perhaps, maybe, eventually make her way to the pub. But she never did. She kept trying to get me to go to this big party. I refused.

And now she was texting.

“Where are youuuuuuuuuuuu?!???????? Are you in bed???????????????”

I replied, “How did you know?”

“LOLOLOLOL that’s where I’d be! Come back! We’re here! Pleeeeeease! It’s my biiiiiiiiiirthdaaaaaaaaaay!”

So you know what I did?

I went back out. Met up with The Anklebiter and her friends. Wished her a happy birthday. Had more drinks. Listened to the band. Had more laughs.

And had a fanfuckingtastic time.

Booyah. First Happy Hour a rousing success.

Ass Publicking Chapata Two

Chapata Two occurred this past Friday. And it was happening because of me. You see, I had asked a certain group of people to do Happy Hour with me before I ever tried to get the Geek Squad. But most of them had prior engagements and promised they could go out next week. But I couldn’t wait. I had to go that first night – it was a now or never kinda thing.

I no longer wanted to go, though. I knew it would be fun, but I had a raging day-after headache from the Modest Mouse concert I’d gone to the night before. I always have head-splitters on the day after a concert. (And I went to that fucker by myself, was the only one standing in my section, danced and sang and cheered and had a blast. An absolute blast.)

But I took care of my headache, drove home from out of town, gave myself a pep-talk and went to the pub.

And this time was soooo different.

It was me, Anklebiter and Her Little Dog Too, Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong, The Woman Formerly Known as Crankles, UberGeek McHottiepants, and even my supervisor, McFly, for a half hour or so. (Thanks a lot, Anklebiter.)

I drank.

A lot.

And I laughed so hard my stomach and chest hurt.

And then I drank some more.

A lot more.

And then I laughed so hard we became that table. We were outside, under the covered patio part, and we were the obnoxious ones.

And it was one of the most fun nights I’ve had in my adult life. Hands down.

I got there before anyone else – had to open the place to quell my anxiety. Got a cider or two in, and the old men from the first Happy Hour talked to me this time. Called me a snob for drinking cider. And I called them cheap old fucks with their PBR.

When the crew got there, UberGeek McHottiepants made me follow through on my promise to do an Irish Carbomb with him. HOLY. SHIT.

Everyone laughed and asked, “how was it?”

TERRIBLE!

AND AWESOME!

And the antics continued. There’s photographic evidence of me cringing as I slammed the carbomb with Uber. There’s photographic evidence of me sucking on a lime wedge after slamming Patron with Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong.

It was hilarious and vulgar and fucking fantastic. Uber and I made some of the dirtiest jokes…but we were at a separate table for a bit, so we had a blast making the others wonder what was so fucking funny.

Once the band started setting up, everyone wanted to leave and go to Anklebiter and Her Little Dog Too’s house. Everyone except Little Miss. She bailed. (And McFly had been long gone, though he did witness the carbomb.)

Ass Publicking Chapata Two, Part Two

I went because I didn’t have a choice. Uber and I couldn’t drive yet, so we rode with The Woman Formerly Known as Crankles over to Anklebiter’s place.

There was talk of Karaoke and mixed drinks.

But we mostly chilled and talked about the concert I’d gone to the night before, concerts, 90s bands, gardening.

We listened to music. They learned how vulgar I was (this group had no idea – well Uber did. And Little Miss did. But the rest had nooooo idea).

I only had one more drink once we got there, because I needed to sober up to drive.

It was nice. Chill. We played with the dogs and had a fuckton of laughs.

And it made me question my judgment of The Anklebiter. She’s not what I thought she was. She’s not what she presents as. Well she kind of is, but not in a malicious way.

Before we left, Anklebiter had us all take a group selfie. One of them has a dog licking my boob. And the other one has Her Little Dog Too’s bare abdomen in it.

Grandma’s eyebrows.

Not low enough for Grandma’s mustache.

Ass Publicking (Future) Chapata Three

And tomorrow night?

Happy Hour at a Mexican restaurant for three dollar margaritas with The Anklebiter and The Woman Formerly Known as Crankles.

I don’t want to go. It’s going to be extremely crowded. But The Woman Formerly Known as is like me in the sense that she’s trying to put herself out there for the first time. I never knew that. But she shared it with me, because I told them it’s what I was doing. They knew, anyway. I’ve rejected everything I’ve ever been invited to – granted, it has never been much. But I’ve never participated.

So. Even though I hadn’t gotten along so well with The Woman Formerly Known As back when I first started working here (she reminded me of my mother – and that’s a bad thing), she’s working on herself just like I am. And she asked me to go, so I’m gonna go.

And you know what?

I already know I’m gonna have fun.

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Recipe for a Panic Attack: Recognizing the Signs and Admitting My Role in Sinking Down (A Very Long Post)

I had a full-blown panic attack yesterday. I had been in a slow downward spiral for days and didn’t recognize the signs and symptoms. Some of them are typical; some of them are my own that I’ve identified in myself. There was a progression of “events,”, which culminated in purging my thoughts in yesterday’s post (thoughts which are honest and real and truly how I feel), then being slammed with an acute panic attack shortly thereafter. And I did not see it coming. But I should have.

Yes, there’s a lot of shit going on in my life right now. Some good. Some bad. Some great. Some awful. But it’s not all circumstantial. I am somewhat culpable in what happened with me yesterday.

I am writing about this today for three specific reasons:

  1. I need to hold myself accountable, but also remember to treat myself gently and kindly. And it feels really fucking good to be able to identify and recognize what’s wrong and how I got to this point.
  2. I hope that sharing this helps someone, or someone you know, to recognize the signs, to take the steps necessary to care for your physical and mental health, and to be kind to yourself.
  3. I want to thank you all for your support and love – because let’s face it, it’s a form of familial love when you gather around someone and (virtually) wrap your arms around that someone, and I fucking felt it. And I love you for it. I’ve been more positive lately, and I want to explain what (I think) happened to me yesterday.

Here goes.

Circumstantial “Triggers” (i.e. Personal Shit)

I’m gonna tackle this part bullet point style, because some of it you already know and the rest I’m not prepared to talk (in depth) about yet.

  • I am being bullied at work. My character, my work ethic, everything. Full on assault. My supervisor is aware of it. And he knows that the problem is Queen Bitch. He refuses to do anything about it and, in fact, is about to move me to another area instead of addressing the problem with her. This means I will be away from the other coworkers whom I’ve grown quite close to. And they will still have to deal with her, because the super doesn’t want to set her off by moving her for what would be the fourth or fifth time.
  • I have problems that I can’t afford to deal with right now. Arthritis, connective tissue disease (unspecified), fibromyalgia, periodontitis, chronic headaches and migraines. And that’s not to mention the mental health issues I have, which you already know about. I do not spend frivolously (aside from a book here or there or a smoothie, but it’s not egregious). I am responsible and (mostly) frugal. I’ve worn the same clothes for years, and my car is sixteen years old and in need of repairs. I am not complaining about this. I am thankful that I have clothes. I am thankful that I have personal transportation. I am thankful that I am able to be employed and am. However, I make just enough to keep my bills paid (let’s not talk about student loans) and have just enough cushion to buy a book or smoothie now and then. If I were to lose my job today, I could make it two months. I have enough to do that. That’s both wonderful and terrible at the same time. I am 35 years old. I am educated. I am smart. I am competent and capable. And I am fed up with doing the same job that the two men in my department do, and they both make over ten grand more than I do. (Whew. My bad. I did not intend for this bullet to turn into a rant. Ahem.)
  • I am planning a big move this year, on a shoestring budget. I realize some of you don’t agree with this choice. And I get it. But, as previously mentioned, I am 35 years old. And you know what? I’m sick of living someone else’s life. I’m sick of riding in the backseat. I’m sick of following everyone’s rules, rules, rules. There is no tomorrow. There is today. And I need to finally fucking seize the day. I’ve wanted to live in the Pacific Northwest all my life. I do not want to die before I’ve lived the life I want to live. But it’s a costly choice. (Anything worth having is worth fighting for, yeah?) I will have to keep my stuff in storage indefinitely. But with the help of a good blogger friend, I’ve discovered that you can find tiny little apartments outside of Seattle proper, for just a little more than what I’m currently paying as a mortgage. So now it’s getting there that is a bit tricky on my budget.
  • I am trying to prepare my house to sell and then sell it. It’s in need of repairs, but I’m close. Closer than I was, at least.
  • I’m dealing with a personal issue that has been festering for going on five years now. And it’s all coming to a head. Finally. Finally. But it’s intensely stressful.
  • I’ve begun my job hunt in Seattle, and that’s always stressful. Part of the stress here is that I know what the most responsible and safest bet is, but it’s not what I want. I want to finally do something with writing or copy-editing. If I’m not going out to save the world, at least I can do something I actually enjoy doing. We live at least half our lives at work. And that can ruin half of your life if you fucking hate your job.
  • Emotional Upheaval. And that’s all I’m going to say about that. For now.

That’s enough personal bullshit. Most of it you already know. But now I’m spilling it again for the purpose of putting my current mindset into perspective and how that, coupled with other factors, resulted in a major panic attack.

Musical Indications

Over the last few weeks, my choices in music have gotten progressively darker and angrier. Now. Here’s the thing. I have an “angry” playlist, but I typically only listen to it when I’m already angry. But sometimes…sometimes it’s a major sign that I’m heading down into deep depression. A steady stream of angry music is dangerous for me. It always has been. It almost always starts out as anger with me. I didn’t recognize it. I wasn’t alert to it. I’ve been feeling so good lately that I simply didn’t see it coming.

It started out fairly tame. I listen to a lot of 90s music, and man was 90s rock depressing. But I listen to a lot of it and am usually okay. I get into it. I jam out. I get “in my feels” (I hate that phrase.). And I’m cool. I’m good.

It started out with some Pearl Jam. “Black.” (My favorite for deeply personal reasons which would be fairly obvious if you pay attention to lyrics.) “Daughter.” (Which makes me absolutely livid, again for obvious reasons.) “Alive.” (Which makes me angrily happy that I’ve made it through what I’ve been through. Because Fuck You for stomping me into the ground and trying to keep me there.)

It then progressed to Evanescence and Linkin Park. The angry ones. I listened to them for days and days. Repeatedly. At work. At home.

That progressed to Eminem. Oh I listened to Eminem even longer than the others. I was getting angrier and angrier. More and more Fuck. You. Fuck. You.

Which then led to days of things like Rob Zombie and Godsmack. Especially Godsmack. A Whole Fucking Bunch of Godsmack. Particularly:

Yeah. I listened to those four in particular Over and Over and Over again. Then I listened to them some more. Over and Over and Over. At work. At home. And Over again. (Also watched the vids because Sully Erna.) This obviously had a negative impact on me. As I’ve said, I listen to angry music now and then. But not for lengthy periods of time. I have fully immersed myself in anger and rage over the last few weeks. Bad. Fucking. News. I was fucking asking for it. And I was also seething beneath the surface and didn’t realize it. And this shit. This shit was gasoline on an ember. How did I not see what was happening?

As you know from yesterday, this anger (as it usually does with me) suddenly shifted to darkness. Depression. Hopelessness. Alice in Chains.

And the final nail in the coffin? My own doing of my own undoing?

I Broke the Cardinal Rule of Psychiatric Medicine

Yep. I’m prepared for this confession to tick some people off. I was read the riot act over this confession yesterday and rightfully so.

I know the rules about not stopping your meds. Never ever ever stop your meds and especially not “cold turkey” as it were. I’ve been through this with arthritis meds. There were some that were doing more harm than good and some that I simply couldn’t afford. So I very slowly and carefully weaned myself off of them. Like a smart, conscientious girl would do.

I also know it’s dangerous to stop meds cold turkey. Long-term physical or psychiatric meds that your body comes to rely upon on a chemical level. I’m wise to the fact that doing so could cause any number of physical withdrawal symptoms, suicidal ideation, self-harm, you name it.

And do you know what I did? I semi-stopped one of my meds. Straight up. No weaning. No consulting my doctor. Just stopped.

It wasn’t why you think. It wasn’t one of those situations where the person starts to feel better and then thinks, “I don’t need to take this shit anymore. I feel better.” As though you’ve taken an antibiotic and your infection is gone for good now. That’s not why I did it.

Why I Did ItEvery. Single. Day. Since I started taking this cocktail of psychiatric meds, I’ve been fucking tired. I mean wiped out. No. You don’t understand. That’s not good enough to explain it. When I’m at work, I feel as though at any moment my head is going to slam onto my desk and I’m going to pass right the fuck out. I’ve nodded off in traffic, y’all. That does not happen to me. That could kill me AND you. I’ll be in mid-conversation with the geek squad and totally zone out. I can’t focus on my work. I can’t focus on you. I can’t read. My vision blurs. And all I want to do is sleep. Only I can’t. And even when I do, the feeling never goes away.

So a few days ago, I was picking up a scrip and the pharmacist wanted to ask some questions of me. Since I’d been on the meds for a while, he asked if he could do a little assessment. He asked me how I’d been feeling, whether I thought they were working. I was at the drive-thru so I could barely hear him (yes, a drive-thru pharmacy). At first, I said, “Fine! Everything’s fine.” But I heard myself and shook my head.

I have sleep disturbances. I wake up in the night.

“Okay. You’re taking the Lexapro at night, aren’t you? Stop it. Take it in the morning.”

Done. The disturbances have mostly stopped.

“Anything else?”

I can’t go to the bathroom.

“Hmm. Nothing should be causing that. Anything else?”

Yeah. No resolution on that TMI issue.

I’m tired all the time.

“How tired?”

It’s difficult for me to be awake talking to you right now. I perpetually feel like I haven’t slept in days and will pass out at any given moment.

“That’s not right. That has to be one of the meds.”

So I start asking him: Clonidine? No, not if you’re taking it at night. Klonopin? Not to the extent you’re describing. And not at the dose you’re on. Lamictal? Not if you’re taking it at night. At this point I’m getting frustrated. He should be telling me instead of me asking one at a time. Vistaril? How are you taking it? Two capsules, three times daily. (His eyes bug out of his head at this.) THAT is the problem. THAT is why you’re feeling this way. Sweet! So I’ll just stop taking it. I’ve never thought that one was helping anyway, because I’m still quite anxious. Do. Not. Stop. Taking it! However, it would be safe to go to one pill in the morning, one at lunch, and two at night. Then talk with your doctor. Okay! Thank you!

I didn’t mention the sexual issues I’m having. Mostly because too shy. But also because I’m not in a physical relationship with anyone but myself at the moment, so it’s not an urgent matter.

So what do I do? Fuck Vistaril. Fuck it. I started skipping both the morning and lunchtime doses altogether, then taking my two at night. I didn’t consider it as being like the others – Lexapro and Lamictal. This went on for days, and I thought nothing of it. I just changed my dosage and thought nothing else of it.

All of these factors combined and merged into one viscous, throbbing mass of creeping doom.

The Result (Payback is a Bitch)

  • I started feeling a general sadness.
  • I started feeling lazier.
  • Anger became a more dominant emotion than usual.
  • I became frustrated.
  • I became restless.
  • My legs started bouncing again.
  • My speech got faster.
  • I started doing more nervous twitching and hand wringing again.
  • I started dwelling on emotional pain: what a bitch my mother is for abandoning me, what a sick fuck my father is for abusing me, what unloving assholes my siblings are for shunning me because I cannot forgive my abusive father, what a self-righteous prick Queen Bitch is, how emotionally cruel my ex could be, how hurtful it was when The Aussie threw me away, how sad I am that I’m not where I want to be right now. I hadn’t dwelt in several weeks. And still. Still I wasn’t alarmed. Still I didn’t see it.
  • And then the Big Bad Scary: Suicidal Ideation reared its ugly head for the first time in quite a while since I began medication therapy. Now. NOW I was scared. But I blamed it on the meds. They’ve suddenly stopped working for some reason, I told myself. It’s NOT the meds helping you afterall, if you feel this way. God, I really wish I would die in my sleep. Yeah. Now I was scared. But I didn’t understand it.

Yesterday I woke up in a strange mood. I felt simultaneously hyper and subdued. Weird, right? That’s totally contradictory, but it’s the only way I know how to describe it. I felt emotionally subdued and as though I really didn’t want to be around anyone or talk to anyone or leave the house or bother with anything at all. But I felt physically hyper. My legs would not stop bouncing. My speech alternated between rapid and sluggish. My heart was racing. I couldn’t sit still. All the while…subdued. I had zero appetite, and my appetite has been low for days. But now, even the thought of food kind of made me strangely mad. And I was listening to Layne Staley sing some of the most depressing music there is, but I was in no state to handle it or appreciate it for its haunting beauty. My mind, my thoughts, turned into severe emotional turmoil. And I needed to get it out. I needed to purge.

Afterward? The Panic Attack that I didn’t realize was already brewing hit me. Hard. Forcefully. Punishingly. Terrifyingly.

The Panic Attack

It had already begun, and I didn’t even know it. I had no awareness of what was happening except that I felt like shit and wanted to go home. This is hard. This has all been hard to get out. But I’m going to keep going, no matter how ashamed I feel – because I know that I Should NOT feel ashamed. And maybe this will help someone to identify their own signs and symptoms, or those of someone they love. And it’s good for me. It reinforces these things for me. So. Here’s what my panic attack looked like.

  1. Heightened frustration.
  2. Serious stomach distress.
  3. Heart racing.
  4. Restless.
  5. Bouncing my legs.
  6. Rocking back and forth in my chair.
  7. Eyes darting to and fro, nervously, anxiously.
  8. Breathing rapidly, suffocatingly.
  9. Hot. Had to shed layers hot, despite it being cold in here.
  10. A strange out of body feeling, as though I was watching this happen but was helpless to stop it. As though I was detached and other from myself.
  11. Mind racing, racing, racing, making less and less sense, getting more and more frantic, growing more and more irrational.
  12. Feeling crazy, insane, like I was seriously going out of my fucking mind.
  13. Feeling like this was never going to end. Ever. And this state would now be permanent.
  14. Gritting my teeth, rocking, rocking, leaning forward and holding my head in my hands.
  15. Squeezing my head.
  16. Shaking. Violently shaking.
  17. Pulling my hair.
  18. Wanting to hit myself. But I was in the room with others. They couldn’t see me, but it’s the only reason I wasn’t screaming in rage.
  19. And finally I had to run to the bathroom to throw up.

panic'

At some point in the midst of all of this, I thought about the Vistaril and had a brief question in my mind. Is that why this is happening?

And no, I don’t think that’s all that was wrong. I know it wasn’t. Because I’d already had that anger and rage building, building, building. But I do believe that I made a mistake in doing what I did with the medication. I do believe it was a factor in what happened to me yesterday. And I do regret not listening to the pharmacist.

When it was over, I felt exhausted and spent. I took my Vistaril (I had it with me). Talked with a WordPress friend about what was going on (actually during the panic attack, too) – and I’m more grateful than you know.

This morning I took my single Vistaril. And now I’m about to take my lunchtime one. And I’m tired. I’m tired as fuck. I could go to sleep on my desk. Right. Fucking. Now. But I’m going to take it. And when I meet Dr. Feelgood for my next appointment, I’m going to request we try something different for anxiety. Because this is not working for me.

Lessons Learned

  • Be more aware of your behaviors and reactions.
  • Pay attention to your patterns and routines. When you break them, reach out. If it’s fixable, fix it. If you haven’t changed anything, fucking reach out. For me, I could have told people here. People who may have recognized that I was spiraling out of emotional control.
  • Do. Not. DO NOT significantly alter your meds without consulting your doctor or pharmacist. And fucking LISTEN to what they tell you. HEED it.
  • Do not settle for meds that make you feel poorly. Be your own advocate and be ballsier. Ask for better meds. Do it. FUCKING DO IT. Your life may literally depend upon it.

In the aftermath, I still feel subdued. I’m still shaky and bouncy. My appetite is good. I just had a full lunch. I don’t think I ate at all yesterday, which isn’t normal for me. I’m tired as fuck. I’m still down.

But it is better than yesterday. By a long shot. Maybe I am sliding down into a depressive state. And if I am, that’s okay. It’s part of who I am. How I am. But I must take better care of myself and pay better attention to my mind, body and spirit.

And never ever forget to breathe.

And please, if you’re suffering, reach out. If you think you have no one to reach out to, reach out to me. We’re all in this thing called life together.

So I thank you. I thank you for being here for me. For encouraging me. For commiserating with me. For telling me to chin up. For telling me to stop fucking listening to that bullshit while I’m in the throes of a depressive cycle. For telling me you get it. For telling me you’ve been there. For simply being here. I thank you.

The Shrinkening Commences

I did it. I went through with the therapy session on Thursday. Reckon it’s past time to update you. But you should know, going in, this is going to be a bitch of a post. Avoid it if you need to.

Have some Portishead for your listening pleasure. This is what I’m listening to while I force myself to get this out.

~

Pre-Game Panic Attack

The appointment was for 1:00 PM on Thursday, so I was at work all morning leading up to it. You’d think that would be a nice distraction, but it wasn’t. Queen Bitch has impeccable timing and went on her worst rampage yet this past week. (I’ll save work for a separate post to try to keep this semi-coherent.) So I don’t know how much of my pre-appointment nausea and vomiting was from therapy anticipation and fear and how much of it was the extreme stress Queen Bitch had me under.

By the time I got myself to the counseling center, I was a bundle of nerves. I smiled at the receptionist and filled out my paperwork. Thankfully, I was alone in the waiting room. I had so much pent up anxiety, I felt I could literally bounce off of the walls…and not in a fun way. Imagine severe chest pain, heart racing, rapid breathing, roiling stomach, my leg bouncing up and down ninety to nothin’, mouth chewing on a hoodie cord, eyes scanning the room for every minute detail, hands twisting and squeezing each other. That was me, pre-therapy Thursday. It took everything I had to stop myself from bolting.

Off to an Anticlimactic Start

The counselor finally fetched me from the waiting room at around 1:05. (Yeah. That pissed me off.) Let’s call her Diane. Tall, blonde, forty-something Diane. At least she’s older than me, I thought. They nearly placed me with someone who graduated this past May. I cringed. Maybe it seems superficial, but it’s far less about age and more about experience.

Anyway. Friendly enough, on the surface. She smiled and shook my hand, led me to her office. While the waiting room makes the building look new(ish), Diane’s office was poorly appointed. Seriously, her chairs and couch had tears in the upholstery. I kind of approved, because I don’t want to be therapized by someone with a mahogany desk and all leather furniture. She said I could sit anywhere – I just took the chair facing her desk. I asked permission to place my wallet and keys on her desk, then shoved my fists in my hoodie pockets and willed myself to not bounce my leg and look around the room like a crazy person.

I began relaxing a bit at this point, because Diane spent the first few minutes filling out paperwork. A differently formatted document with the exact same information I’d already filled out at reception. Full name? Address? Social Security Number? Bust size? (Kidding, she didn’t ask for my social.) (Got you again. Look, it’s a good sign that I’m at least trying to joke, right?) Then she went over their policies and her personal qualifications. Twenty years as a counselor with this same group. Good sign, right?

I’ve been doing this for a long time, okay? And I’ve worked with every age group, but I no longer work with children. I did for many years, but I had to give that up. I work with people like you now. And don’t worry. You’re perfectly normal. You’re definitely not crazy, right? You’re not crazy. You’re just sad. You’re here because you’re sad.

I hope it doesn’t offend you when I use words like “normal” and “crazy”…

And just like fucking that, she’d formed her opinion and diagnosis of me. I walk through the motherfucking door, am able to show up and shake her hand and be calm and civil. And I’m just sad. Nothing more, nothing less. So glad this process was so fucking easy.

Then she grabs her little legal pad and starts in with her own standard list of questions, the answers to which she notes on her pad:

Have you received counseling or psychiatric treatment before? No.

Do you work? Yes, full-time.
What do you do? I sit at a computer all day.
Oh, do you like it? Yes, it’s so much fun.

*chuckles* Relationship status?
Well, it’s like this…
Children? No.

Parents? Married/divorced? Living? Location?
Uhm. Uh. Well. Uhm. See. Well. *breathes* They divorced when I was little. They’re both still alive, last I heard. Uhm. Uhm. I think. Maybe. I think. Maybe. My mom is maybe in town again. My father lives in _____.
I see. And what sort of relationship do you have with them? I don’t. *fidgets*

Siblings? One brother and one sister.


Do you want me to give you more details? I’m not sure how detailed you want my responses.

She then went into this long spiel explaining the two different ways of approaching counseling: starting from the past and working forward or starting in the present and working backward. She said that people usually had a preference, but she doesn’t. She just looked at me, and I just looked back.

All this time, Diane has been looking down at her phone. Look at me, ask a question, look at phone, note my response on the pad, look at phone, look at me, ask a question, look at phone, note my response….forget what she asked me and ask me again. Yeah.

I finally broke the awkward pause with something like:

Well, I’m not in any danger. I mean, if you want me to start by talking about my childhood, I’ll do that. If you’d rather hear about what’s going on right now, I can do that, too. I don’t know what I need or what’s best, really.

On Unprofessionalism and Suicidal Ideation

It was at this point, this crossroads of sorts, where she finally asked me what had led me to be there that day. She had her checklist and wanted to go by rote, and I wanted to know what we were doing and why. So she asked me. What led you here?

I’ve been depressed for years. And while I managed it best I could for a long time, it’s spiraled out of control over the last couple of years. And now…and now…my thoughts have gotten so dark that they scare me.

depressed-person

“Tell me what you mean by ‘dark thoughts.'”

Suicide. I think about suicide every day. And. But. Well. You see, it’s not so much that I want to kill myself. It’s that I don’t wish to be alive anymore. I don’t want to feel this way, but I can’t seem to make it stop.

“I’d call that danger.”

I’m sorry?

“You just told me that you aren’t in any danger. And now you’re telling me you think about suicide every day. Ongoing suicidal ideation is serious danger. Do you really think about it every day? Do you have a plan?

Well, I mean I think stuff. Bad stuff. You know. But I don’t have a plan. Like a specific plan. You know, written down. I don’t have a plan. No. And I would never do it. I would never act on it.

“Then tell me what you think about. Specifically. Tell me exactly what goes through your mind in your so-called dark thoughts. What do your suicidal thoughts look like?”

Well. I mean. Okay. Okay. There’s a gun. In the closet. And. Well. I think about the gun. And I think about…you know… (I’m crying now, talking softly. twisting my hands so much they’re throbbing in pain.)…I think about how it would affect other people. And I don’t want to make it hard on someone who finds me and has to clean up after me. So….so I wouldn’t do it in the house. I’d go outside. To the backyard. And…and I’d do it there. So I wouldn’t make a mess of the house or damage it or make it hard to sell after I’m dead. You know? That’s not really a plan is it? I guess that’s a plan.

But I wouldn’t do it. I’d miss or something and end up disfigured and living in a convalescent home.

She wrote “gun” and “plan” and something else on her pad. “You have a gun in the house?”

Yes.

“What else do you think? Are there other ideas?”

Well. This one. This one’s really bad, and I don’t…I don’t think I should tell you. It’s horrible. (tears are streaming down my face) But. Well. I imagine. You know. I imagine getting in my car. Getting onto the interstate late at night. Driving dangerously fast. Turning my headlights off. Closing my eyes.

But I would never do it. I swear I would never do that, because it would hurt someone else. It just pops into my mind completely unbidden.

“What else? Is there more?”

My arthritis medicine. I get it in three-month quantities. I’ve thought about taking them. All of them. At once. But I know that’s useless. I would just end up with my stomach pumped.

“Stephanie, your name is Stephanie right? Those are plans. Specific plans. And you are in serious danger.”

Somewhere in the middle of all of that, she interrupted me. She had been looking at her cell phone off and on the whole time, and at some point – while having me detail my thoughts on suicide – she interrupted me. Told me to hang on, and then texted her son.

I told her again that these are things I think about, but I’m not choosing to think about it. And I fight so hard not to entertain those thoughts or allow them to linger. But they rise up, unbidden, and I can’t always will them into silence.

On Reasons to Live and Hospitalization

“Everyone has to have a reason to live,” Diane pronounces. “You’ve demonstrated you’re strong and have a will to live. You made the appointment. You drove yourself here today. You kept the appointment. All of this was done of your own free will. Tell me what you live for. Tell me the positive things that you cling to in order to keep going and keep those thoughts at bay.”

I looked at her, my cheeks tear-stained and my eyes clouded, and I said…

I got nothin’

I don’t have family. I don’t have friends. I hate my job. I don’t want to get out of bed in the mornings. I feel sad when I wake that I made it through another night. I got nothin, Diane.

Well. I recently started blogging. And the people I’ve met there, online, are amazing and have offered so much support.

And. And. (crying and practically whispering) I have this…this vague hope that just won’t die. This vague hope that maybe, just maybe there’s a brighter future for me. A happy ending.

She scribbles “internet” on her little Stephanie page and says, “I’m talking about real life here.”

Church? No.
Social club? Like a book club? No.
Bars? No.
Professional memberships? No.
Work friends? No.
Family contact or support? No.
Really? Nothing? Nothing.

She spent the rest of the time between trying to convince me to be hospitalized (she lacks the authority to have me admitted without my consent) and defining “thoughts,” “feelings” and “behaviors” to me. Like I’m a fucking child and don’t know the fucking difference.

Again she told me I’m only sad, and there’s nothing deeply wrong with me. “You’re not crazy; don’t worry.” I tried to tell her there’s a lot more to it. I told her that sometimes I have wild mood swings and get very hyperactive, sometimes happy hyperactive and sometimes angry hyperactive. She said, “Oh, everyone does that. You’re not one of the crazies or you wouldn’t be here today.”

She really wanted me to consent to hospitalization. She said she’d take me in her car, right then and there. She said that no matter how hard people fight their thoughts, that if they’re persistent and ongoing for as long as mine have been, eventually everyone follows through.

Thoughts. Feelings. Behavior. “It is unavoidable. Eventually those thoughts and feelings result in acting out in a behavior. You can’t escape it. It’s ingrained. It is inevitable.”

But I stood my ground. In order to keep her from calling a psychiatrist and having them admit me against my will, I had to agree to some things:

  1. Get rid of the gun. Or lock it up and give someone else the key.
  2. Email her Thursday night telling her I had done so.
  3. Show up for an appointment next Wednesday at noon.
  4. Get a notebook and log my feelings. Like a motherfucking four year old. I can tell her my feelings. I know my feelings. I know my thoughts. And I know my behaviors. Stupid fucking shit.

As yet, I haven’t done any of those things. Though I have made a note in my phone, which I open occasionally and add a time and feeling to.

On Medication

She also told me that medication is unnecessary. That too many people are medicated, and it usually gives you brain damage. “You don’t need medication, because you aren’t crazy. Crazy people have brain damage. That’s what it is! It’s brain damage! But you don’t need it, because you’re normal.”

But. “Seeing as you’re suicidal, medication may not be a bad idea to get your moods regulated. Then during talk therapy, I’ll teach you TFB through CBT and you’ll get right off that crazy person medicine.”

I told her I have an appointment with a psychiatrist on December 21. She was shocked, saying it takes months to get in with one. But my insurance company found one for me. Apparently she’s only going to diagnose and medicate, though. So I don’t know how I feel about it. I’ll at least keep the appointment, though.

Final Thoughts

Diane is crap. She laser focused on one thing and refused to hear anything else about me. And her plan is bullshit and so was her motherfucking brain diagram she scribbled to show me that I’m behaving like an animal on instinct rather than a rational human being. But I know I need help, and if being accountable to that nonsense-spewing unprofessional moron helps me even a small  amount? Then it’s worth it. For now.

I just rambled a buncha shit, y’all, and probably forgot most of it. But I just couldn’t muster up the strength to write sooner. To those of you whom I’ve worried, please accept my sincerest apologies. I’ve had an absolute week from hell, and I’ve pretty much been in bed since I got off of work yesterday. I’ll do my best to catch up on emails and things soon. I miss reading y’all, too!

I’ll be back on the upswing soon, you’ll see. (I believe that. I have to.) Maybe a music party tomorrow or somethin’, hey?

Thank you all so much for your thoughtful messages and support. As always, you’re the bestest.