Monday, September 24, 2012


As soon as September rolls around, I feel a bit of dread.  Summer's over.  What two words are more depressing, really?  "Summer's over."  Sometimes, as it's been in past summers through my own eyes, the end of summer was welcome.  Not this year.

It started off relatively normally enough.  Weatherwise, it was a bit dodgy at first.  It rained a lot, but that didn't stick, of course, as anyone around here would attest to.  Alexandra got through school and moved on with flying colors to grade 11, I was in the midst of weaning myself off of Zoloft, and Janice was recovering from her bout of Bell's Palsy.  On a tragic note, her sister passed away after a lengthy battle with cancer, and that took a while to get through, as anyone would expect.

The key player for myself this summer was my battle with antidepressant withdrawal.  I wanted to find out once and for all if I really needed to be on them or not.  Things seemed to be going well enough, although I did notice some subtle changes in myself along the way.  Some bad, some good, but for most of the time at least it was manageable.  I took to facebook notes on my profile there to make a diary of sorts so I could see for myself if there were changes in my personality along the way.

I felt I had to disconnect with a lot of things and situations in order for me to find out ultimately if I can progress with this idea of freedom from anti-depressants.  I had to actually find out if ... am I really depressed, or is this something else I'm dealing with?  Really, I felt for years that I haven't been suffering from depression at all, but from residual effects of so many head injuries over the years.  The sad part is that some of those were self-inflicted.  When it comes to my temper, I'm my own worst enemy.  I can't hurt someone else.  Even when practicing tae kwon do, if I've hit someone too hard, I'll stop and ask if they're alright.  Sometimes even get clobbered myself for my pause for concern!  But really even worse than this, I've hurt my wife and daughter along the way via hurting myself.  In the late 90's I took action to stop all of it, with some success, all of it attributed to my discovery of Zoloft after a visit and consultation with the doctor, with whom I wasn't being completely honest.  I never did offer that I had divulged in self-harm.

Anyway, summer had its share of things to look forward to upon its commencement.  There were two weeks of vacation, two separate weeks, that Janice and I synced up in July and one in August.  We pledged to go to the beach this summer, as a lot of summers have been beach-less, mostly thanks to the weather.  We've had our share of rainy summers in the past decade.  We wanted to go see more movies.  I was waiting very patiently for the third Batman film 'The Dark Knight Rises' to come out, because my main man Chris Nolan, director of those movies, has never failed me yet.  There was even an online thing were you could submit your part to a chant which was featured in the movie... "de-sheh de-sheh bah sah!  Bah sah!"-- meaning, "rise up".  Janice and me both sent in our pieces, and they used thousands they say, perhaps we were among them.  When all was said and done, we wound up seeing it four times (Alexandra saw it five), once in IMAX, which proved to be THE way to see it.  The first time we saw it on opening weekend, I didn't know quite what to think of it.  I found the film score to be loud and obnoxious at points, the film in general to be loud, and there were a lot of new characters in the three-movie story.  But I enjoyed it.  Janice loved it, our friend Cindy loved it, and Alexandra... well, she saw it four more times, so there you go.  We saw that first showing at Crystal Palace in their new cinemas, in the one that they boast as being 'The Empire Experience'.  What that really is, is their saying they're an IMAX wannabe.  They have spoken word introductions, previews for the actual theatre, just like IMAX always had, that made Janice and me groan a bit, since we'd been to IMAX films several times before.  My perception was that Moncton doesn't have an IMAX theatre... but this place seemed to think it was better.  Sorry, not true.  In fact it was worse than a standard surround sound theatre. 

The second time we saw TDKR was in IMAX in Halifax, during our first vacation week.  To make a long story short, we felt like we'd been cheated the first time we saw the movie at Crystal Palace.  We'd realized that at CP, they'd screwed up the sound mix and cranked it up so bad that a lot of the dialogue was either distracting or unintelligible.  The score was brought back to earthly levels at the IMAX screening, and we appreciated the movie 100% more than the CP one.  Most importantly, though, half of TDKR was actually shot with IMAX cameras, so half the picture isn't seen in a standard theatre.  But this second time around, we also knew more what to expect of some characters, and got to know them better, and naturally picked up a lot of things that we hadn't, or couldn't, the first time around.  TDKR is not 'Batman Begins', or 'The Dark Knight', and I'm appreciative of that.  I didn't want another movie to look or feel like those two, because it would have felt redundant.  The only minor disappointment is that the Joker character was not addressed at all, but I knew that Nolan didn't want to do that out of respect for Heath Ledger.  He didn't want to sensationalize anything that happened or have to sell the movie after that sad situation with his death.  In the end, great performances all around.  Michael Caine should get a best supporting actor nod, but he won't.  Tom Hardy did a pretty amazing job considering you couldn't see half his face.  Of course, Christian Bale wrapped up the story by defining Bruce Wayne/Batman as no one else could, or will afterward.  And to me, this was Joseph Gordon Levitt's shining moment, his coming-of-age.  He's been good in 'Inception' and other things he's been in, but after this, there's no where to go for him but up.  The ending of this movie will have a lot of us wondering what could possibly come next. 

I found that the main villain in the story, Bane, can be a metaphor in my life for this mental illness that I've been battling for so long.  Bruce Wayne underestimated Bane at first.  The guy who trained Bane, Ra's al Ghul, was in Batman Begins, and he also trained Bruce, leading him to become Batman.  Bruce defeated Ra's, only to see this protege of sorts surface and challenge Batman all over again.  The fact that Batman decided to short-sell his adversary cost him dearly, nearly his life.  He wound up in a prison, a deep hole in the earth with sunlight constantly beaming down, but always out of reach and nearly impossible to overcome.  But with determination and heart, Bruce trained and made himself stronger in heart, mind and body, and was able to resurface, reclaiming the light, and made his way back.  Learning from his past, he challenged Bane once again, knowing what he was up against, with much different results.

That vacation week when we took off to Halifax for the day was a good one.  Alexandra was joined by her friend Jessica so she had some relateable company.  Janice and me made our usual pit stop at Quizno's and the other ladies went somewhere else, and we enjoyed the nice weather on the drive back to Moncton.  That week we also went to Alma for a sticky bun trip, and we went to Parlee Beach one day and soaked up the sun all day.  Originally we'd planned on going to the States for a couple of days, maybe even to see a game at Fenway, but we just couldn't muster the finances to do that.  We figured, though, as long as we were together doing something, we'd have fun.  And we did.

The second week of vacation in August was very gratifying.  We'd rented a cottage in Grande Digue near the city, with the beach just off in the short distance, fresh air all around, and lots of room on the property that allowed us the privacy we wanted.  There was a sun room, a sizable deck with a barbecue, a fire pit in the back yard, there was even a small chicken coup the next building over.  We would take little trips to Shediac sometimes to go to the store for stuff, but we opted more for the local bakeries and veggie stands there, where the produce was local.  One day in the middle of the week, the cottage property owner showed up at our door with a batch of fresh eggs from the chickens he had next door.  Talk about tough eggs!  You had to come onto those suckers to crack them.  These were free-run chickens, and that made all the difference.  Best eggs we can remember ever having.  We had barbecues every day, fires every night, went to the beach, took long walks (one time a 10 mile walk... MILES, not kilometres... which we pretty much burned to a crisp), and just had a lot of great family time unwinding, even with the cats, who we were allowed to bring.  Marbles hid a lot of the time, but the ever sociable Crocky would just be himself and hang out.  Alexandra had her friend with her for half the week, and they had a great time.  This is something we must do again.  I guess I just kind of wish we'd rented our own cottage in the summertime long ago.

Work has been fine during the summer.  I feel fortunate that I work with the people that I'm with.  Although there have been times that I've been challenged by my Zoloft withdrawal.  Healthwise, there was one point where I actually threw up at work, part of the withdrawal effects, along with the light headed-ness, general aches and pains, headaches, mood swings, etc.  I expected it all, but when you're going through it and you're in the midst of it, it's not quite as easy to accept.  I would hear some things and take them the wrong way, at least in the end I hope that's all it was.  But I learned to keep to myself and be quieter at work so as not to create any kind of openings for negative humor or criticism that I might not take to, although I actually thrive on my work being critiqued, as long as it's not 'constructive' all the time.  I will say this about myself:  No one, outside of management (and I am not management), works harder than I do.  And I will say that about any job I've ever worked.  If there's something I'm proud of, it's my work ethic.

We've been going to the gym all summer, at the Y.  I'd mainly taken to doing a workout where I go twice a week, and do these two hour workouts that focus on my arms.  I can say that it's worked quite nicely really.  The puzzling thing was my weight gain, because I'd run for half an hour and sweat my pants off with my workout, but still wind up picking up a few pounds, and my pants aren't getting smaller or anything.  Maybe it's my longer hair.  Then I saw some pictures of myself, and I see that my arms are in fact a bit bigger.  Janice will be the first to tell me that.  But this arms workout isn't just about arms, but all the supporting muscle groups, meaning the entire body.  By no means am I some kind of hulk, but I'm healthier than I think I've ever been.  It helps that we've drastically cut back on our pop consumption.  For the longest time, Diet Pepsi would be all we drank around here.  Now we make sure we get a minimum of eight glasses of water, most of the time more, before we indulge in anything bubbly.  The result has been much better working stomachs, better sleep, and just feeling better in general.  We didn't cut out our Diet Pepsi altogether though.  We still love it.  But actually my preferred drink is iced tea sweetened with Splenda.

Now Janice at the gym... you're talking a locomotive.  I'd pretty much defy anyone to keep up with her.  I don't bother trying.  She does cardio where she'll burn well over 1,000 calories per session, and the sweat will just be pouring off of her.  She will go up to five times a week, and she recently started back up with tae kwon do with Alexandra.  I will go back to tae kwon do on one condition, that Master Lessard operate his own club again.  I don't count that out either.  I think it's a matter of when, not if.  I'll have to get back into my old black belt drills again and prepare for my next degree when that happens.

About halfway through summer, I began experiencing things that I shouldn't be.  I was still off Zoloft, had been off it for many weeks, and began to see the person underneath the shield.  It was still me!  But it was a weakened, more sensitized version.  I was on the verge of tears, it seemed, all the time.  Getting up in the mornings was a monumental task that got more challenging as the weeks progressed.  Situations that I'd been dealing with seemed to balloon in my heart and mind:  Friends who decided not to be friends anymore, trouble with trusting pretty much anyone outside of my wife and daughter, general paranoia...  the past couple of years have presented their fair share of challenges, especially in the summer.  Last year was a whopper.  Summer this year did bring with it some substantial relief, but I need to realize one thing.  I needed to realize that I needed to be on medication.  Much like someone with thyroid disease needs their Synthroid, or blood pressure patients need their Atacand, or diabetics need insulin, I need my Zoloft.  I began to reintroduce it back into my system after having had enough of the craziness going on inside my head.  The tip-off being that I was considering going apeshit on myself for not being able to figure something out one day at work.  It was later on that day that I stopped to look back at that moment, and realized, I can not let myself get back to that point again.  I needed to recognize... maybe I'm not a genius, but I'm not stupid.  I'm not the quickest of learners, but I'm determined.  Perhaps I wasn't put on this earth to be some kind of professional or money making machine.  So what?  I can support a family and live a happy life, as long as I don't set unrealistic goals.  I mean, why live a life of disappointment chasing after dangling carrots.

Re-acquainting myself with Zoloft was one more hurdle.  Getting back on it meant taking another hit to the libido, and that sucks.  I just have to get to that leveling-off stage, which can take a little time.  Motivation is something that has to come back, and it is, gradually.  Like Bruce Wayne preparing himself to scale the walls of that deep hole, I am getting stronger, and I know better not to underestimate my foe again.  But perhaps I had to sink to these depths once more to refresh myself.

But, in the end, after all was said and done, I did Rise.


  1. As always Mr Cook very interesting read. A good experiment indeed to try as you try to figure out "what makes you tick" so-to-speak. We are all complex wired individuals with our own unique make-up and who knows what took place in our lives over the years that have made us who we are. My sense with you sometimes is that you are WAY to quick to blame yourself which we all are guilty of sometimes instead of looking at circumstances that you were indirectly effected by. Be that as it may sir you are a great guy with a huge heart and on the flip side you are a major overthinker and sometimes being that way makes one want to think that everything that happens is related to or pointing at you. One needs to take an I don't give a F@#k attitude by times but not to the point of making them calous! We are who we are my friend and that's not to say we can't make changes in our lives but you sir can smile at yourself in a mirror and like who you see!

    keep in touch - my email is btw!

  2. Much gratitude, Tim, my brutha from anutha mutha! You're as stalwart a friend as they come. And I am honored to be yours. I appreciate your readership and your comments. God bless you and your fam.