2010/06/12 by MarkInPDX
I realized I haven’t touched this site in months. A LOT of crazy stuff has happened to me, and to be honest I’m not really sure what I should share and what I should keep to myself. But I think I started this with the intention of helping someone someday, thinking maybe they’d stumble across it and learn something worthwhile. I’m pretty open about most things once I know someone well enough, and I learned pretty early on I’m safe sharing my brokenness with others. I’m fortunate in that I know instinctively to go in the direction of other genuine people, but it’s also because I’ve been burned in trusting people who just didn’t care.
I was the outcast in my neighborhood growing up. I was awkward and it was easy for the bullies to pick on me since I was so desperate to be accepted. My parents thought putting me in a different school – a private Christian one, in my case – would help me out. The funny thing is I wound up being the awkward kid there too. I seemed drawn to misery. I was relieved when they took me out and put me back in public school.
Compared to Elementary school, Middle and High school flew by, each year getting easier. I credit my two best friends Austin and Landon for pulling up my self-esteem; and although it sucked at the time, being from a very religious family who made me go to youth group and church turned out to be good places to learn how to behave with different age groups and personality types and grow self-confidence. I can look back and see the positives now. I’ve experienced growth in life at irregular and usually painful intervals. Maybe that’s the way we all do. I used to be frustrated with it, but I’ve learned to accept it with all the grace I have.
I’ve been intentionally vague up to this point. I always feel like I have to defend myself and my points of view, but I’m learning how important it is to just jump right in, be myself and not give a shit who disagrees. This is MY life and these are MY decisions and opinions. You can take it or leave it. As much as I want people to like me, that need is not as important as my need to be honest with myself. I hate hypocrisy. I need to face that very vice in myself. It’s not easy, especially when you come from a background like mine where the most important thing drilled into your head is to be “obedient” and stay in line.
All that being said, here goes…
I’ve been seeing a psychologist since last December. After awhile of getting to know me and my issues, he recommended I see a psychiatrist. For awhile I didn’t do anything about it. I wanted to deal with things my own way (basically to be really drunk or stoned to cope with my issues) but I finally stopped fighting it and made an appointment with the doctor she referred me to – hers.
Since he’s worked with her for a few years, he already had some useful information to go on like family history. After an initial consultation, he prescribed a small amount of medication for ADHD, Adderall. (For those who don’t know, Adderall is essentially legal speed. The generic form I got from the pharmacy was labeled ‘amphetamine salts.’) He carefully explained all the potential risks and benefits, side effects and generally what to expect while on it. I wasn’t sure but I trusted that he knew what he was talking about, so he gave me the prescription, scheduled the next appointment and sent me on my merry way.
I should probably mention at this point that while this was all going on, my father-in-law had died unexpectedly of heart failure (at only 46 years old). It was a shock to say the least. This was in March, about the same time I was starting an internship with the fine folks at PDX.FM. Needless to say, my wife became a wreck. But she quickly pulled herself together enough to begin dealing with his estate, as she was his only survivor. We took a trip the next weekend out to where he lived in Tillamook and began going through his things.
That’s when I found his stash. I don’t know how many ounces or what type it was, and I’m not even sure how I was able to be so sneaky. I got it out without her noticing – somehow – and took it home. This went on for a few weeks. I felt a little guilty for hiding it from her, but didn’t want to stop either. My wife eventually found out, but I was surprised how mellow she was about it. She wasn’t happy that I’d been high as a kite the past few weeks, but she understood. It ran out the day I had my first psychiatrist’s appointment, coincidentally. Up until this moment I’d forgotten about it completely, but I think it played directly into what followed.
I went from being stoned to cranked out in a matter of days. I became agitated and aggressive, a real pain in the ass. I liked the new energy and focus I had, but hated feeling itchy and hot all the time. I could tell it wasn’t working for me, so the next appointment that came up I told the doctor all about it and he agreed. He gave me a new prescription for a form of Ritalin, which I reacted to a lot better. Even as I thought things were improving and taking an upturn, my family had been talking about me and a few days later after I came home from my new internship, gave me a mini-intervention. I decided to check myself into the hospital for ‘observation.’ Truth be told, being stuck in a house full of women was driving me crazy and this was a good excuse to get out for a few days.
I started out in the emergency department at Providence Portland. I knew to leave my valuables at home, since I probably wouldn’t get to keep my clothes, and I was right. I had to wear a too-big pair of scrubs (much more dignified than a hospital gown, thankfully) and I was checked about every hour or so. They took me off the Ritalin, which annoyed me at first, but after a few visits from the on-site psychiatrist, got a prescription for depression instead (Celexa) and Ambien for sleeping. After a day and a half a room opened up in the mental part of the ED, which was the middle ground between the regular ED and the mental ward and I went there for observation.
After three days, the psychiatrist told me she thought I was okay to go, provided I checked into an outpatient program, which I agreed to. I was all set to go, but the staff at the mental part of the ED had lost my clothes, including my Big-Ass Sandwiches shirt. I was so happy to leave I didn’t even care. I’m pissed now, but I was fine. I just wanted to go home and sleep in my own bed and not be checked every two hours, being asked if I was feeling suicidal or not (I never did).
So I went home. I got into Providence’s Intensive Outpatient program the next week on a Tuesday. It was weird. I was in a large group of mostly middle aged women (and one or two other men) who sat around all day talking about dealing with their anger and how hard it was trying to cope with life. I was skeptical at first, but I eventually opened up and shared a little. Gradually I started learning things about ideas like radical acceptance, some cognitive-behavioral therapy with a little Zen Buddhism thrown in, while also learning and practicing how to reprogram myself a little. I have a notebook full of notes, but I don’t need to get into all of it right now. Suffice it to say I was there a little over two weeks, then free to go.
One really great thing that came out of being hospitalized was I was given a new prescription for Straterra, which my doctor told me that my insurance wouldn’t let me take until I had been on at least two other medications. The way my doctor explained it, the insurance company has to pay more because the patent hasn’t expired and the generic’s not available yet, so they want to make sure that patients exhaust other possibilities before they have to shell out any more money.
On a side note, have you ever read The Rainmaker by John Grisham? They made a movie starring Matt Damon. It’s good, I’d recommend the book, but also the movie because it costars Danny Devito and one of the minor villains looks like Greg Nibler of Funemployment Radio. In the story, Matt Damon’s character Rudy is a young lawyer representing another poor young man dying of Leukemia while an oily firm defends the shitty insurance company who screwed him out of the medicine and treatment he needed to survive. The cynic in me, my own private David Walker (I say tongue firmly in cheek) says that’s what it all comes down to at the end of the day – money. Fucked up. But I digress.
I kept seeing my two doctors and trying to deal with life. I didn’t change immediately. Some things improved, some things got a lot worse. But I think I gained enough insight into myself to be able to recognize patterns of failure and to start letting go of thoughts of how life, and who I, SHOULD be and to accept it THE WAY IT IS. It’s hard. Old ideas and behaviors don’t just disappear. New healthy attitudes have to grow up and replace them. And of course, new disappointments and challenges pop up along the way, without any regard to how I’m feeling. The universe DOESN’T CARE that I’m fragile. But it’s also not out to get me.
I could go on and on about it, but the fact is it’s getting late and I’m bushed. I intend to update this on a semi-regular basis, at least once a month. I don’t want to focus on all the shit I’m dealing with, but as I’m inspired to keep getting better, I will continue to do this.