Sunday, March 11, 2012

As the Candle Burns

It's 2:08am on a Sunday morning here in chilly old Moncton...that's with the time change one hour ahead.  We're just about halfway through March.  I think as you get older, the years go by much quicker, and if I didn't know better I'd say '12 was going by at breakneck speed.  It's all good.  So far so good this year.

One of the most notable things to go on up to this point this year was my brother Greg's 60th birthday party, last weekend on Saturday night.  The entire Cook clan was there, along with some Goulds and even Laviolettes.  I was called upon in relatively short notice (like, two days) to pull of DJ duty for the thing, which really wasn't a problem, because I like doing that kind of thing especially if I can save my own family a couple hundred dollars for playing music.  That's not really work to me.  It seems everything went off without a hitch, at least from my point of view, and I was able to see everyone albeit briefly for one of those rarest of times when all seven of us are in the same place at once.  Janice sat with me through the night and we shared a front row seat of everyone having a good time, including us.  Everyone came up and shared pleasantries with us at one point or another, and it was absolutely great talking to everyone.  If there was one complaint about the night, I don't know what it was.

It was that Saturday, earlier on, that Janice took me for a drive in the car while Lex was working to go out and treat me to a hot chocolate at Tim Horton's.  We'd pulled up into the parking lot on Mountain Road, and she went in to get it.  Just a side note, we never, ever use drive thrus.  We both don't believe in idling engines needlessly for the convenience of a hot beverage or whatever, and wish everyone else thought the same.  Anyway, while I was in the passenger side of the car looking out at Mountain Road on this rather brisk day, I watched an older man walking his bicycle, with a bag over the handlebars full of empty returnable bottles.  I'm the kind of guy that'll stop to think of these things.  So I did:  Where was this fellow heading?  Was there anyone waiting for him where he was going?  What went wrong in his life that led him to have to drive a bicycle in the snow in the wintertime collecting bottles on the streets?  Will he be warm when he gets to where he's going, or even welcome?  Will he eat enough today?  He was clearly poor.  So I said a prayer for him at that moment, and my eyes watered up at the thought of his plight.  When Janice approached the car with the treats, I regained my composure, but kept this older, poor guy in the back of my head, and realized how good I have it.  I mean really, really good.  I think it's good to be reminded from time to time of the blessings you have in your life.  Indeed, I think it's God's method of showing us how good we really have it.

A couple of weeks ago, thereabouts, there was a nasty round of the Norovirus making its rounds about town.  One of the hospitals was closed to visitors for a time, it was that bad, and at my own workplace pretty much the entire staff came down with it.  This time of year, right around February/March, is usually when that damned bug picks everyone off.  Lately it's been the cold and flu viruses going around, but we got our shots, luckily.  Not that that's a 100% guarantee we won't get it, but so far so good.  All's I know is that in the past six years, there were two that I didn't get a flu shot, and both those years I was sick as a friggin' dog.  Thus this year I pledged not to ignore getting my vaccination. Janice too.  It's especially important for her because of the immune suppressing medication she takes for her chronic arthritis and fibromyalgia.  We both also take multivitamins, omega 3's, vitamins D and D3 and acidophilus, and knock on wood they seem to be doing something good for us.  Lex gets sick from time to time, but she neglects to take her supplements regularly, plus she goes to the germ hotel known as school.

Anybody who knows me at all knows I have no problem saying that I take Zoloft, an SSRI medication most people take as an anti-depressant; that would include me.  I don't suffer from depression really, as much as the inability to reason some things due to an imbalance of chemistry in my head, I think likely due to a number of factors ranging from working midnight shifts for seven years, to multiple head injuries (some involving comas), to possibly even taking anti-acne medication Accutane, which has been found in some to bring on some symptoms that I've had.  Anyway, regardless, my life was renewed once I took it and got back on track, but I've longed to be off if it, namely lately.  In the last month I thought about getting off of it.  I take 2 50mg capsules a day, up from the one capsule I took when I began taking it for the first 5-7 years or so.  I upped it after I began running into trouble working at Vail's when the management became so bullying that they nearly drove me over the edge.  That might sound extreme, but it's happened to others there, and continues to.  But that's behind me now with my newer job which I'm happy with, and I'm aiming now to retract from my Zoloft era.

Sometime around February, I cut my dose back in half to one capsule a day, being mindful of the things that could happen in the way of mood swings or edginess or whatever.  For about three weeks, things seemed to go quite well, despite having some pretty crazy dreams, most of which I don't remember; all I can really recall is waking up thinking 'WHAT the F***??"  I decided after three weeks, feeling pretty sure of myself, that I could stop taking it altogether. In the past, I quit Zoloft cold turkey, with pretty sharp consequences.  I guess I didn't choose to remember that this time around.

Day one... no difference.  I knew though, that I would only be noticing some kind of difference gradually.  One alarming thing that I had to be careful of ... well maybe 'careful' is too heavy a word ... is that the sex drive kind of, well -- spikes a bit when the drug gradually weans out of the system.  I don't think Janice would mind though.  But that's minor.  The thing to really monitor is the sense of stability emotionally, and perhaps any physical side effects that I'd encountered before too.

Day two, I didn't really feel much of a difference either.  But the dreams just kept getting wackier.  My sleeping patterns were getting a little more screwy, and I do know for a fact that when I don't get enough sleep, whether I'm on Zoloft or not, like most people I'm kind of a crankier individual, and maybe more sensitive to snarkiness.  But, it wasn't too, too bad.  It was within my ability to deal with.  By the third day, I was a bit jittery, but again, I didn't think I couldn't handle it.  Although I was beginning to experience the electric jolt phenomenon that often accompanies withdrawal from SSRI's.  That being, I'd feel something like a shock wave course through my body at any given moment.  Especially at night though.  But, the fourth day is when things got a bit more interesting.

That Norovirus was kind of at its peak right around that time, and let me tell you, I am no fan of woofin' cookies.  I think the worst of it is just before the first time you hurl, you know?  You get that sickly feeling first, with the cold sweats, the dizziness, you wake up suddenly with that feeling and it hits you, "f*** I'm gonna puke.  F***!"  Then there's the deep breathing, the trying to convince yourself you're actually fine, then when it seems hopeless and you're staring down the can in the bathroom you promise God you're going to try to be a gooder person if He'll just let you not be sick.  That's me anyway, because I HATE puking.  The chunks that hang around in your mouth, the heaves, the splat that it makes when it hits the toilet water, UGH.  But enough of the graphics.

I was at work, with some staff actually not in because they were dealing with the Norovirus themselves, and toward the end of my Tuesday 5am-1:30pm shift, I started feeling kind of uneven.  "Ahh," I assured myself, "I'm just tired, all those stupid crazy dreams are getting the best of me."  After a longer-than-it-seemed shift, I got home to an empty house with Janice working and Lex at school, and I went to bed, taking Gravol for safekeeping and to help me sleep a bit.  Sure enough, an hour after falling asleep, I wake up soaked in sweat, weak and dizzy, and looking for extra covers on top of the wool blanket, flannel sheets and thick comforter that were already all on the bed.  My teeth were chattering, I was so cold, yet still sweating.  "Great.  Just f***in' great!"  I was awake for about a half hour waiting to feel that ultimate need to get on my knees to the porcelain god in the bathroom, when I decided to pick up the MacBook and do some research.  Sure enough, I typed in 'Zoloft withdrawal side effects'.  I came across lots of reports of 'flu-like symptoms', like cold sweats, dizziness, aches, fever, nausea, the whole nine yards.  To hell with that,  I said.  I popped two Zoloft, went back to bed and woke up feeling like Superman after the kryptonite had been cast away from his bedside.  I knew then that I had to be a whole lot more gradual about my weaning off of this stuff.

So I picked up our kitchen calendar and marked a 6 month plan to get off of it.  If I do good with it, I should be off of it by the end of summer, God willing.  And what better time to have a spike in the 'ol sex drive!  (Insert "eeewwww, Daaaaaad!", if you're my daughter, here.)  If there are weird things that happen along the way, I'll have to make note of it here on Ragnar for journal purposes.  And let you in on it too I guess.

Edit... it's now 3:06pm Sunday as I continue on.  This is a long weekend for Janice and me, as I'd booked off Monday because she's having her eyes dilated tomorrow at the eye doctor's to check up on her ocular migraines and things related to them, which is entirely precautionary.  We attended mass this morning at St. Bernard's, which I thoroughly appreciate since we went to an Ash Wednesday service at St. Augustine's, the first time I'd been back there in some time.  There were so many 'progressive', liberal things going on at that mass that it made my skin crawl.  Not the least of which was the presiding priest interrupting procedures so he could answer a text on his cell phone, after he'd just done a sermon that included telling us to resist temptation of modern technology.  Don't even get me started.

I really like the priests at our parish, because they welcome everybody.  We're all sinners after all, right?  Every one of us.  But what was especially interesting about Father Carroll's sermon on this day, was what I once again found was God talking to me through him.  No, seriously.  He was referring to a story that he himself told about someone who became sympathetic to another person that wasn't known to him, how that person was suffering from cancer, and he prayed for that person and became concerned about his health and well being.  Father Carroll said, it was that moment that God touched his heart, because he allowed his own heart to be touched by someone else he did not even know.  So... wow.  I found a very clear parallel there to my saying a prayer for that man walking his bicycle in the cold on the road the day before.  I found it to be a reassurance from the Lord, saying that He certainly appreciates that we can open ourselves up like that for others.  You could argue that I didn't even do anything, other than say a prayer.  Well, for one, a prayer is powerful to those of us who believe.  And for another, this isn't something that I will ever forget.  It becomes engrained into how I will treat the poor and less fortunate, and everyone else, in the future along the road of life as the candle burns.  I say random prayers every day.  At the store where I'm a receiver, when I'm out on the floor and a customer asks a question, I do what I can to make them feel like a friend.  And when they walk away, I ask for a blessing for them.  I think a lot of people wouldn't believe me when I say that kind of stuff, but this is me.  Not that I'm some kind of saint.  Hey, I can curse like a drunken sailor at times, not that I'm proud of it either.  I can be selfish, sometimes a little mean, and stubborn to say the least.  However I try to veer on the brighter path.  And I think upholding my spirituality keeps my bearings about me and my moral compass straight.  Or straighter.

With that, I'll leave you till the next post.  There's a distinct chance that I'm going to re-heat The Gravy Pot, by the way, for any of you who remember that blogsite I had going.  It'll likely morph into a place where I talk about what I love and hate about just about everything, from movies, to TV, to politics, etc.  If you're interested in that, I'll post here when I do get that going.

Thanks for tuning in once again, and allow me to say I am humbled by your curiousity into my ramblings.  Humbled and grateful.  Thank you so very much.

Now fire up the colortinis and watch the pictures as they fly through the air.

Have a good week.