Saturday, August 06, 2005

The Killing Moon

There's a reason why lunatics are so named. Something to do with truly crazy people reacting to the various phases of the moon with increasingly insane behavior until the full part of the moon has passed.

I think this holds true for those of us who are classified as plain old mentally ill, also.

I have a cornucopia of psychiatric disorders - lucky me!! Never one to pass up something if it's free, I seem to have stuck my hand into the barrel and pulled out a mountain of them. My old psychiatrist - back in the days when we had Boeing insurance and could still AFFORD a psychiatrist - gave me a laundry list on my first and second visits with her. Some were not a shock to me. I was visiting her because my panic attacks had reached the point where I was seeking medical attention, concerned that I was having some kind of problem with my newly biopsied lungs. Nope. Just good old-fashioned hyperventilating so no matter how much you breathe, you feel like you're suffocating by degrees kind of panic attacks.

And I knew that my inability to leave the house without someone with me, and my tendency to avoid shops, markets, tube stations, road bridges, long car trips, etc were probably rooted in the wonderful mental illness known as agoraphobia. (Which I discovered had an altogether different and higher plane, which I had achieved through my brilliant karmic skills - agoraphobia with panic disorder.)

And yeah, I guess I should have caught on to the fact that not wanting to get out of bed in the morning, having no energy and no zest for life, and wishing I didn't have the agoraphobia so I could get to the store and purchase large bulk volumes of pills and sundry bottles of alcohol with which to wash them down, just MIGHT have been bordering on the eventual diagnosis of severe major depression.

But a couple of them caught me unawares. I didn't know that my insistence on minor rituals in order to be able to write, and my having to go back and check that I'd actually completed a task several times before I was certain could be borderline OCD. And I didn't know that some of the other wonderful symptoms I'd been experiencing my entire life could be PTSD, inspired by some less than wholesome childhood and early adulthood experiences.

And so it came to pass that I became a pharmacological warehouse. I was popping more pills in a day than I'd seen in a year prior to my foray into the world of mental illness treatment. And I was visiting a psychologist on a weekly basis to 'chat about things'. And it did work. It really did. I began to see why I acted the way that I did in certain situations. I learned how the things we are taught, both overtly and subliminally about ourselves as children and adolescents are burned into our psyches like acid through a plastic bottle. And I learned that people with depression and agoraphobic tendencies usually have a minor problem with passing seratonin from one neuron to the next. Hence the advent of the new breed of anti-depressants, the SSRIs, (selecrive seratonin re-uptake inhibitors), which prevent that first neuron from grabbing all the seratonin and not sharing with its neighbors.

I worked my way through the pharmacy shelves, from Prozac to Paxil, and Zoloft to Effexor, with some nice little shots of Xanax thrown in for good measure when the hyperventilation monster bit me in the arse.

And then I began to notice that odd things were happening to me. Yes, I was nice and level, with no real mood swings, and no desperately miserable lows to speak of. But there were no highs either. I couldn't find myself giddy or jubilant or excited about anything. The same magic which had evened out the depression had also robbed me of the other end of the emotional rollercoaster.

So when my husband died, and we lost Boeing benefits, and none of the affordable medical coverage available to us included mental health treatment, I stopped taking the pills. Seriously - who can afford to pay $500 a month in prescription costs alone? I weaned myself from them, remembering my psychiatrist's dire warnings, backed up with internet research, about the dangers of stopping any kind of psychotropic medicine cold turkey. And it was hard. And having been free of the sour parts of the depression for a long time, I had forgotten how bad they can feel. But I reclaimed myself - my mood swings, my depression, my agoraphobia - they're all a part of me.

But at what cost?

For I now find that having stood outside of it without all of the insanity going on in my brain, I can kind of see a pattern emerging. And it's directly tied to the phases of the moon. My own personal moon - the menses. What other women suffer as moodiness and irritability during that PMS week, and the first couple of days of a period, manifests in me as wild and wicked mood swings. Times when I need to closet myself away from other people, and hope that the week does not bring something which runs the risk of unbalancing my fragile equilibrium.

As happened yesterday.

I woke up to find Azrael and Xander had left the house. There was a scrawled message on the chalkboard, "Gone Fishin'", and an email from Azrael telling me that they were out 'driving around' and 'male bonding'. I felt a flash of irritation at the fact that they had a) not told me they were going in advance. b) not told me WHERE they were going, and c) not given any indication of when they would return.

But I swallowed it and started working on transcription. However, on looking up finally and realizing that the clock was reading 3pm, and they'd been out of the house since 10 am, and there had been no phone call to let me know where they were, or that they were okay, I began to start to worry.

Now in this stakes I have a few things going against me. Firstly, as previously stated, I am not exactly the world's most well-balanced individual at this time of the month. Secondly, I am a writer, which gifts me with the ability to imagine all manner of hideous events able to befall two people out in a car, who knows where. And thirdly, I lost my husband very suddenly. He was in the hospital for exploratory surgery. He'd had the operation and was recovering nicely. Until two days later when I had an emergency call from the hospital telling me I needed to get down there right away. He was dead before I could arrange for transportation (I didn't drive at that point). So I know that people - even those who are the closest to you - can suddenly disappear from your life without any warning whatsoever. And that can make you crazy in itself.

By the time the clock had wound its way to 5pm and there had still been no word from them, I was borderline hysterical. I couldn't believe that anyone would torture a person in such a way. Don't they KNOW how much I worry? Haven't they SEEN my reaction when one of the Teen Peeps is fifteen minutes late coming home from their friend's house? By this time I could already imagine the knock at the door, and the nice policeman shuffling his feet because he knew what he had to tell me and how I would react to the news. I mean, this wasn't just a thought...this was I could ACTUALLY SEE IT imprinted in my mind.

They arrived home finally at a little after 5:30. Azrael stuck his head around the door and said, 'Just wanted to let you know we're home.' and went off out the back to hammer things into the porch. And the panic monster which had been threatening to break loose for hours, finally exploded into something more akin to white-hot fury.

How DARE he?! How DARE he make me suffer like that, and then breeze into the house and act as though nothing had happened? Did he honestly have no CLUE what the past few hours had been like for me?

Much snarling and gnashing of tiger teeth ensued. The two horses bolted off to their rear paddock and cantered around, throwing me glances of disbelief, as though they couldn't figure out how I was being so terribly UNREASONABLE about the whole thing, when they had just been out having FUN.

So now my problem is thus. I don't know how much of my reaction is normal. See notes on mental illness above. Yeah, I probably overreacted, but did I have the slightest cause?

Your call.

Enquiring lunatic minds want to know.

10 Comments:

Blogger 'Lema said...

No mention of how the daring snake tried to convince the oldest horse that what he did was wrong? No words describing how she suffered?

~Lema

4:33 PM  
Blogger Serenity Now! said...

Well... you could use this opportunity to explain that it isn't polite or nice to leave without leaving any ACTUAL FACTS about WHERE/WHEN/WHY... I have a feeling that every woman has these moments whether they have a real diagnosis or not! LOL

6:43 PM  
Blogger Azrael said...

suffering doesnt usually equate to (play(chat) online as much as you desire for the last two weeks..when oldest horse "suspends" you ,, little snakie wakie. from the only thing you love..(computer)....you pout(which then possible ups the ratio of unhappy felames from a possible 50% to an alarming 100%...

8:49 PM  
Blogger The Violet Beatnick said...

OK Rachie, i don't know you or anything, but really, I think that you acted normally. Not that those at the receiving end of your PMS-induced wrath necessarily deserved it, but you can hardly be faulted. So go ahead: bask in the delicious knowledge that you're right and they're wrong... it always works for me.

9:12 PM  
Blogger Tenna said...

LOL, I don't think it was so much PMS as typical mother behavior. After years of dealing with my PTSD, Bipolar self, my kids and hubby know not to pull this type of crap.

Eldest goes out, she better call at least once every 1-2 hrs even if I know where she is. That is why i give her a cell phone.

The little ones better never, ever leave the house without me knowing when, where they are going, how long they will be there and then I tell them when I will be there to pick them up.

As for hubby, he learned years ago (20 or so) that his "in a little while" and mine didn't quite match up. He now calls too.

Go get them! Don't let them get away with it cause there will always be another time. LOL,just my 2 cents worth :-)

1:25 AM  
Blogger Jensgalore said...

I do the same thing around my time of the month too. I just utterly lose it and get wildly depressed.

6:27 AM  
Blogger Patti said...

Given the circumstances, they should've KNOWN better. Really, that was just typical Mom behavior. Or at least typical MW behavior ;).

9:13 AM  
Blogger Kelly said...

I think it is safe to say any mother has these moments because we are ravished with fear that our babies (whatever their age)will somehow be taken from us.

I think any writer has these moments just because of our wild imaginations. More fuel for the plot.

9:32 PM  
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