A Familiar Taste of Hell

Last night at midnight I was curled up in fetal position, crying. Overwhelming sadness and a sense of hopelessness consumed me. I was talking wildly, meanly to my husband. For hours before hand I couldn’t stop nibbling and snacking. Yesterday, I barely had the energy to get out of bed. I couldn’t get myself out of the house and to the gym. I couldn’t even blog more than a few lines, bemoaning my inability to write.  I was only able to finish 16 minutes on the treadmill.

I stuck to my routines but nothing seemed to work. I tried getting my hair done – shopping – lunch with a friend. Everything I did felt as if it was experienced through a sheet of thick, tinted glass. All the color had gone out of the universe. I made it to work at 1pm and was only able to do the most menial of tasks. I lost my ability to converse and it was only by the skin of my teeth that I avoided an episode with a co-worker, brought on by my inability to respond, handle stress or even think.

By the time I made it home, I was exhausted from the effort of trying to pretend that I wasn’t a hopeless case. I made dinner, ate too much bread. Settled in with a book and the tv to distract me, but all the time it got worse, until by 10 I was curled up in the chair, barely moving.

My husband knew what was wrong. He reminded me that my endocrinologist, worried about my high B12 levels, asked me to go for 4 weeks without my shot. I was supposed to take the shot last Saturday, which means that by yesterday, I was almost a week behind schedule. After a couple of hours of watching me slide down into the pits of hell, he said he’d had enough, and if I didn’t take the shot, he’d stab me with it. By that time I could barely force myself to move.

Seriously. It took another 15 or 20 minutes of his kneeling by me, holding me, hugging me, trying to get through the wall before I could get up, get the medicine and take it.

The effect was astonishing. He said it was like watching me get younger. The wrinkles on my face smoothed out, my color came back, I stood straighter and was able to smile. Within a half hour my mood had changed and the crazy insomnia that has plagued me for the last week was gone and I could curl up and finally go to sleep. I woke up this morning, my mind racing with thoughts that had to be committed to paper, um, computer.

Is it a placebo effect? Is it all in my head? Am I addicted to b12? Or have I suffered from vitamin deficiencies my whole life that have led me time and again deep into the pits of Hell? Vitamin D deficiency and the resulting problems with depression. Vitamin B12 and the fuzzy thinking and mindless eating, and feelings of hopelessness.

Through me you pass into the city of woe:
Through me you pass into eternal pain:
Through me among the people lost for aye.

Justice the founder of my fabric mov’d:
To rear me was the task of power divine,
Supremest wisdom, and primeval love.

Before me things create were none, save things
Eternal, and eternal I endure.
All hope abandon ye who enter here.

Such characters in colour dim I mark’d
Over a portal’s lofty arch inscrib’d:
Whereat I thus: Master, these words import.

Hopelessness isn’t just the absence of hope. It’s the absence of life. That spark that makes us human. That allows us to interact and feel connected. I have lost that so many times in my life. Last night I felt as if I was back in those times when I was felt so disconnected and apart, overwhelmed by the universe and unable to function, though I was adept at hiding it for years.

How did I get out if before, without the b12 shots? Was there something else that I was doing? Is it seasonal, like the seasonal affective disorder? Was I instinctively turning to foods that were high in B12? (I found a good list here).

Or was the effect not as drastic as it is now, post WLS? The articles I’m finding talk about B12 being released in the stomach and problems can result for “those with reduced levels of stomach acidity (achlorhydria) or intestinal disorders—have difficulty absorbing vitamin B12 from food and, in some cases, oral supplements”. Well, my food doesn’t go into my stomach anymore. It goes into a pouch and then straight into my intestines.

So with all due respect, Dr R, I’m taking the shot every two weeks. This is my life, and I don’t intend to live it curled in a ball, fat and hopeless.

Been there, done that, got the t-shirt.

Excuses, Excuses

I’ve had my water and then my hot cinnamon smelling oatmeal. Now I’m sipping a cup of hot water with lemon juice to warm me up from my sock feet to my fleece nightgown. It is cold and dark here in Atlanta this morning. 48 degrees and at 7:15 the sun is still not up, although the sky is starting to lighten in the east. I don’t like these mornings. I feel like dragging the covers back over my head, snuggling up next to my husband and going back to sleep.

This morning I thought about the Seasonal Affective Disorder that I’ve battled all my life and I think what a handy excuse that would be to turn over and go back to sleep. But the truth about depression, especially SAD, is that getting up and DOING something, in particular exercise, is as good for me, if not better, than my zoloft or wellbutrin or prozac or lexapro – or any of the others I’ve tried over the years. Yes, they help. Yes, they were essential to keeping me going and not losing my job or ruining my life when for so many reasons I couldn’t get myself moving. But I hated what they did to me. As the drugs would begin to take effect, I could FEEL my voice disappearing. I couldn’t write, I couldn’t analyze or solve complex problems. I was doing busy work and getting things done, but the spark just wasn’t there.  And every year, as soon as I could, I would go off the meds (against my doctor’s advice!) and feel that part of my brain wake up and start to perk again.

But now I know, after a year of NOT taking the meds, that my light therapy and my exercise and weight loss, plus eating well, can keep me sane and stable through these long dark days until spring. And my voice is still here. I can write and think and analyze and solve problems. 

But I don’t think I should also expect to have boundless energy. It’s just not realistic for a seasonal chick like me.  Spring and Summer are my seasons. I wake up as the sun rises and start to fade as the sun sets. In summer that means long, productive days and long, entertaining evenings. In winter, it means I get a few, precious hours to get going and keep going until I do what I need to do.  Or as much as I can, whichever comes first. I’m lucky I live in Atlanta (though I whine about the heat all summer) because when I lived in New England or London, those winters were longer, harsher and more debilitating for me, though I loved both places and dream of going back. In the summer!

Right now I need to find a better alternative for my evenings. I’m working until 7pm, which gives me long mornings to get in my exercise and life maintenance, but after work, I come home, have dinner and spend an hour watching the boob tube, then go to bed. I know I would do better all around if I spent that hour walking or swimming or something other than crashing.  Plus, I’m still eating too much in the evenings. I came home last night to find no dinner on the table and a fridge stocked with junk food. My husband discovered the truth behind that expression “don’t go grocery shopping hungry”. He bought french baguettes and fried chicken. Cookies and ice cream. Dear God! And I didn’t resist. I had corn and white bread and fried chicken for dinner. Followed by 2 Pepperidge farm cookies. I’m surprised I didn’t throw up.  I’m not surprised that I wasn’t brave enough to step on the scales, but tomorrow is Weight Watchers, so I’ll face the music then.

The analytical part of my brain sees that this eating pattern keeps repeating itself: Weigh in at Weight Watchers on Friday. Start to eat poorly Friday afternoon and keep going through the weekend. Begin to recover on Monday, but struggle with carb cravings. Get back on track Wednesday through Friday until Weight Watchers and then slide into a puddle of carbs again on Friday. 3 days a week off track is more than no weight loss, that’s weight GAIN and is clearly the reason the scale said 177 insted of 171 yesterday.  I had managed to maintain for one according to WW last week – I was even down .4 but what will this week bring? I’ve seen the scale go up and up all weekend while I was struggling to stay on track. It will be interesting to see what it says at WW tomorrow. I have to force myself to wear the same clothes and not show up in a silk dress to get that extra pound advantage!

Ah! The first bird song! And the sky is getting lighter and you can see blue. Time to get going to the gym and do my second weight lifting for the week. I was supposed to do it yesterday, but I had to meet with my accountant to do my tax planning (more excuses!) and so I just hit the treadmill for 30 minutes. So many people think of the treadmill as the dreadmill but I enjoyed it. I put on an Inspector Alleyn mystery – “Final Curtain” and walked while I watched it. It would be easy to do that again today, but I need to the weight lifting two to three times a week.

Speaking of the accountant – I have to celebrate that. For the first time in the last 15 years, I am not behind on my taxes. I have my estimate prepared already and the accountant is going to do some planning for me. That is the first time I have ever been able to take advantage of that. Usually I throw together an estimate the weekend before April 15th and then overpay and file an extension. Then around October 1st, I’ll get around to finishing the paperwork (late for corporate) and file. In the past the overpayment protected me, but now, even if you don’t owe anything, there is a late penalty for filing. Cost me $925 for my 2008 taxes and that is never, never, never going to happen again. So that’s another victory for weight loss and getting all areas of my life under control.

Well, the sun is really up now and I am going to exercise. Have a bright and beautiful day, wherever you are. Think about what you need to do to stay sane and healthy. Then take that first step. It’s the hardest, but if you keep going, you never have to take that first step again.