Awash in Ashwagandha

I promised myself when I finally hit the absolute minimum medication level I would start ashwagandha based on what I had heard about it. To be honest, I like the word too. When I wrote Uncomfortably Numb I essentially hit my absolute minimum and started taking Ashwagandha. Stupidly, or it would be if it wasn’t living up to the health store hype, I didn’t do any research before hand. Costco sells it, afterall, and they do what is the absolute most popular at all times.  I do know enough about herbs to know it’s not good to put something in your body without knowing what it is, does and can do.  Plus with the other drugs, for both psychological and physical ailments, not researching interactions for each and on the whole is again, stupid.  Well, stupid if it blows up your face.  Absolutely brilliant if you can jump stressful buildings in a single bound and not even scrape your tushie on the pointy bits at the top.  Consider…..The move.  Quitting my job.  Working up until the move.   Having people touch my stuff.  Keeping my emotions in check.  Colonoscopy and biopsy results. I’m sure I can name a few other things, but those are the ones coming to mind at the moment. Though I felt the strain and my sleep was severely disrupted each night, I never not felt I couldn’t handle it. I would give that credit to God and Ashwagandha. Both got me through.

I found an article on Forbes Health: Seven Science-Backed Health Benefits of Ashwagandha. Not all of them apply to me, and I kind of wonder what increased testosterone will do for my current health, I really don’t need more robust chin hair.

  1. Relieves stress and Anxiety. YES IT DOES!!! The adaptogenic qualities of this herb live up to it’s billing. When I first took the pills I got from Costco (Youtheory) I wanted to slow down my heart rate and maybe eliminate the paplaptations. I noticed a drastic difference when I started taking it, however it didn’t make it go away. When I was focusing on other things, like what I was supposed to be doing, I didn’t notice it. My sleep was deeper, though still fitful and once I woke up around 2:30am I tended to stay awake. But I felt stronger for the sleep and rest I did get. I guess you can say the rope got longer and the knot at the bottom bigger and sturdier with Ashwagandha.
  2. Lowers Blood Sugar and Fat. I wasn’t aware of this. When I had my fasting blood sugar before my colonoscopy it was in the 140’s which isn’t bad, but is high for a fasting blood sugar. I think I was still just taking the single dose in the evening when that happened. If it does lower fat and sugar, good since when I’m stressed sugar and fat become the two most important food groups for me, however, if the ameliorating of the anxiety and stress of the first benefit is in effect, I won’t need sugar and fat and it lowers my blood sugar and fat. So, this is just a happy side benefit.
  3. Increases Muscle Strength. This is awesome. You’d say that too if you had to hike 30+ boxes up 20+ steps over five days. That is not counting the things which didn’t fit in boxes or needed to be hauled up from shopping, etc. My thigh muscles should be so angry with me and refuse to get out of bed, my arms unwilling to support my hands to type but I haven’t had to stop. I pulled something in my back, but that was just imprudence in the way I was carrying things instead of doing too much. And even still, it’s not debilitating.
  4. Doesn’t apply.
  5. Doesn’t apply.
  6. Sharpens focus and Memory. I wasn’t aware of this benefit either. However, I have been constantly impressed with my memory of late and my ability to write during a stressful time when I normally spend more time hiding from it than embracing it. In times of trouble and stress I either become scattered like a dandelion in the wind or stymied and unable to move or function. I normally have to use psychic prybars to get my proverbial butt in gear. The stress of the move, of joblessness and so on, has been something I’ve been able to pick up, deal with and then move onto the next task. The ability to not just focus but to remember what I was focusing on is a boon of no little proportions. Of course I say this looking back through the filter of a grateful memory of living through it, at the time I wasn’t as composed and focused as I would like you to believe. However, being in less stressful situations without herbal help and being more scattered and less focused to compare to, I can honestly say it has helped tremendously.

So, during the move I was doubling the dose because if a little is good a lot is better. And it was better. But the article mentions “Larger doses may even trigger unwanted side effects, such as vomiting and diarrhea.” Now that I’m moved out of the apartment, or psychic hell hole as I prefer to call it, and almost completely moved into my room I have cut the dosage back to the 2 pills I’m supposed to take per the directions on the label. My sleep is starting to level off, according to my Oura ring, my heart rate is returning to a normal pace when I’m sleeping (85 bpm down to 69 bpm). The goal now is to get back to doing what is needful: prayer, scripture study, exercise, meditation and see if I can’t get some semblance of a schedule and normal life before I start work again. Sigh. Normally, the idea of this never ending habitrail hamster wheel I feel like we all endure fills me with anxiety but it’s just a sigh and a nod to the reality of what is and that I can do it.

Uncomfortably Numb

Pink Floyd’s lyrics are strangely apropos:

When I was a child I had a fever
My hands felt just like two balloons
Now I've got that feeling once again
I can't explain you would not understand
This is not how I am
I have become comfortably numb

It’s funny how the brain works. I could convincingly lie to myself and self-soothe my anxiety with the simple words “I just need to get passed ______________” and then fill in the blank with the most urgent need, goal or problem. And, honestly, I think I’ve done a good job lying to myself my whole life this way. It’s even the way I write when I am composing a story. I will work like a mad-woman to get from major scene A to major scene B, and when I start on major scene B, construction of major scene C is underway and promises to be better than what I was anxious over major scene B. And that works for me…..for writing. Life has none of the elasticity of imagination and when the rubber-band starts to fray there is no surprise when it SNAPS!

The good news is I didn’t snap, but I guess to carry over the simile I frayed a bit. I don’t know when I stretched to my outer limits. It might have been trying to understand why my reaction to the humiliation parceled out by my job wounded me so completely. It might have been trying to explain to the first roommate about how the PG&E bill works in the apartment. It might have been the 30 days waiting for the second roommate to move out. It might have been the lack of scaffolding (exercise, meditation, self-care rituals) to hold my shape when I started to implode. It might have been the conversation with my liberally libated sister about how I was going to put everything into storage, transfer to a patient service center in the central valley within the next 30 days and move. It could have been the constant internal dialog about setting up the rules for new roommates and the stress of going though that process all over again. I just kept telling myself I just need to hold on and this too shall pass. In the meantime, my heart was always skipping along at an abnormal pace, I was always tired, I was isolating, I was hiding in my two favorite video games (Lili’s Garden and Merge Dragons) instead of being productive, the house began to accumulate the detritus of a throw-away lifestyle, I couldn’t focus to pray, I stopped taking my other medication and my need to eat sugar increased 100 fold. I have been bragging of late how my need for candy and cookies has waned since I’ve reached this utopian level of sanity. I never allowed myself to believe I would never binge again, and I was enjoying the control until I was really enjoying the package of Extra Stuff Oreo Thins. For now, I’m back to not having the binge-ables in the house.

The racing heart rate and palpitations were worrying me so I focused on that one point in the darkness because if you can’t see the whole bad the whole bad doesn’t exist….right? I was positive it wasn’t cardiac related because I didn’t have the time to deal with that so I prayed that He would take away or ameliorate or just fix the problem. The response was as solid as stone and as true as sunshine; “Up your medication.” I knew what medication and there was complete calm in the acceptance of this admonition. I went back to 100mg. Wellbutrin at first. It knocked the fuzz off the edges and sharpened my acuity enough to better function in my dysfunctional state. The racing heart problems improved but didn’t go away. I realized those where symptoms of anxiety, so after four or five days of just the extra Wellbutrin I went up on the Buspar. Now I only have the problems with the physical aspects of anxiety when I think or write about them….like now.

This time though, there aren’t any self recriminations, no loathing or feeling like a failure because I couldn’t maintain the lower meds. I’m not a failure. Period. I am owning my medication, I am owning my needs and my sanity. Though this is not what I want, as I’ve stated before, I want to be off the meds and functioning with enough tools and controls in place to make my life what I need and want it to be to be who I want to be. I’m just not there yet. The greatest discovery I made during this recovery time (and I’m still in recovery from the stress) is that even though I lost a lot of my controls on eating, money, emotions and thoughts, I never stopped eating three meals a day. It sounds trivial, I know, but considering for the past three years is the only time I mindfully ate three meals, even if my evening meal was toast, in my life. I have established a ritual or habbit or self-care regime that has taken root and has truly grounded me. There were days when I just wanted to go to bed and skip dinner or just blow off lunch but I didn’t, I knew I couldn’t. This gives me hope and a plan for the medication. I do plan on going down on them again, but not until I have the exercise down as a rote process, same with meditation. I believed that because I knew I had to do these things to keep the chemicals on my brain I would do them. The first thing that fell away from that nascent structure when the storms gathered was the exercise. Not that getting up to 3.5 minutes on the HIIT machine was really exercise, but the budding routine died a quick death. When I get a grip back on the wheel to steer through these tumults I will reintegrate it back into my life, but at this moment….this exact moment….just thinking about adding one more thing to my to-do list pushes me back to the brink.

I’m not back in the void, that much I know for sure. I don’t even think of what could have happened if there wasn’t a Divine Telehealth consult. I was wishing someone would hit me with their car, or I could see myself slicing through my wrists, type of crap starting to blindside me, but I didn’t go back in. Honestly, the idea of being safe in bed doesn’t even appeal to me. I don’t want to hide from the world, I just can’t handle all of the world without my chemical blankie to make me feel comfortably numb to function.

There are a lot of changes behind me and a few big ones on the horizon. I have made the decision to get out of this apartment where I feel like I’m locked in to the trauma of the past and the uncertainty of the future. I can’t afford the rent by myself and I don’t have the wherewithal to find a suitable roommate. I’m going to move in with my sister and brother-in-law in the central valley and get a job at one of the hospitals my nephew works at. I’m putting my 30 day notice in for the apartment on May 1 and I’ll be moved out before June 1. I’m putting my two week notice in at work either May 7 or May 14. I’m thinking I want the last week off in May to really focus on things around the house and get it done so I’m not over-doing it. Once I get settled into a the house, once I get settled into a new job, once I get settled into a routine, I will start putting my life back on the rails towards my goals. It’s annoying how life tends to grab you by the ankles just as you’re getting your feet under you. I stumble and I fall but I am very proud of the fact: I GET BACK UP.

Life – Medication = A Dawn Of Discovery

I know, I know it’s been quite a while. I’m sorry. Some basic bullet points about me now….

  • I’m healthy
  • I’m happy more often then not
  • I’m working (and like most Americans I love my work but hate my job)
  • I drive a blood red hybrid with an astronomical car payment (soon to be refinanced)
  • I’m sane (thankfully)

So, it’s been over four years since the apocalypse. Proof that time flies even when you aren’t having fun. COVID-19 has been a boon for the medical industry and everyone is rushing out to get life insurance, and I, as the trusty insurance examiner, have been working pretty much non stop since June 2020. I found a fabulous therapist who has helped me curate tools and helped me build the shed to keep them in. When on medication I didn’t realize how desperately I needed them until the influence of the chemicals is waning and I’m left to my own devices. No one needs a lawnmower in a rock garden, kind of thing. When we last spoke I think I was on 20mg of Lexapro, 300mg of Wellbutrin and 30mg 2x day on Buspar. They are effective tools, but blunt and limiting. I’m now off Lexapro, 75mg Wellbutrin and 10mg Buspar 1x day. Life is starting to have sharper edges, my disdain for complacency is magnified and my utter frustration with the human race not being grown-ups is starting to take center stage in my mind these days. I can’t change the human race but I can make my life more comfortable so when the sharp edges stab at me I’m able to bob or weave or endure.

I am moving. My New Years Goals is to move away from this place….whether it’s up the street, down the block, a city over or a continental divide. Just get out of the rat hold I’ve lived in for the past 20+ years. With that goal comes the need to disgorge my life of everything I’ve collected, every piece of crap that I kept because it was associated with a happy memory, a piece of flotsam which is a representation of who I was/am/want to be. I haven’t seen most of it in over 10 years, I don’t need it. We’ll see what happens when I actually go through the stuff and I have to fight against the emotional currant to keep it. Getting rid of Mom’s stuff has been easy-peasy. It’s going to take a lot of effort and time so I’m giving myself a year to get through it. It will also give me time to get some sort of savings together for the move. I’ve been thinking I’d keep my job as an examiner so I can just transfer, get settled, get a new job then quit but I don’t think I’m going to be able to hold on that long. My job is the major part of my current frustration of the human race not being grown-ups thing.

For the last several years I’ve lived with a less than stellar array of roommates. One was a carry over from the Mothers care team, who told me I killed my mother because I didn’t clean the house (I kid you not, those were her exact words.), one was creepy kind of quiet who was desperate to get married, another doesn’t like anyone to touch her stuff and has threated twice to “make your life a living hell” and the final one believes, again, I kid you not, that solid cancer tumors are filters the body creates to remove the poisons out of the persons body; essentially saying they are good for you. I must attract them, I dunno. They have good qualities, those are just the high-lights. While medicated, I have always done my best to be personable, pleasant and honest in all my dealings with them. In essence I wanted them to like me, to be my friend to make up for all of the things I’m not as a human being. Off medication, I don’t care, well I do care but I don’t need them to love me, like me or even address me, they do have to respect and pay me. That’s all. This is scary territory for me, not being loved by everyone.

The voices in my head are still trying to convince me that if they don’t like me then there’s something wrong with me. That if they are unwilling to pay their portion of the utility bill it’s because I’m not explaining it correctly. It is my fault they are too afraid to ask to use the family-room the two hours I’m home to use it even after I’ve told them to tell me they wanted to use it. The reality is, I’ve explained my explanation to two different people, I’m explaining it correctly. Someone wasn’t expecting the bill so she doesn’t want to pay it. Period. If you want something and are too afraid to ask then that’s on you. That’s the way the world treats me. Period. The voices in my head are wrong and maybe I am a holy terror to live with, I think I’m fine, but until you live with someone you never really know, but the voices saying there is something wrong with me because they (the roommates) aren’t happy, that’s wrong. Maybe someday the feeling of frustration and irritation with people who behave like this will turn to sympathy and understanding of their lives; I just don’t think I’m that enlightened yet. Medication does wonders, but it’s not a miracle worker.

I have learned I hate living with people. I hate them touching my stuff, I hate them being disrespectful to my crappy furniture, and I hate having to have to knock on the bathroom door when I need to go, I hate them talking to my birds like they are friends with them (I know that sounds a little crazy, but if you are a bird person, you understand), I hate them eating my food, I hate having to have to tip-toe around them because they’re having a bad day/week/month/life, I hate unilateral conversations. After a long day of dealing with people I just want to come home, let the birds out of their cages and relax. I think it’s just human. It’s not wrong, it’s not weird and it’s not crazy. It’s just me.

Part of my New Years Goals is to have a writing block every day. This is my first public attempt. Let me know what you think.