January Breakdown


By Sherri Caldwell

"Happy New Year!"

"What?! No, I'm not ready!"

I know it's January 15th, but I'm still finishing up last year--I don't even have all my Christmas--no, make that New Year's--Cards out yet! (That's my resolution for today. And yesterday. And last week, last month, last year!) I swear I started thinking about them back in November--I was going to have them all out early this year, in spite of everything else. And here I am, scratching out "Have a--" to pen in "Hope you had a--holly jolly Christmas," and adding "Happy New Year!"

I want you to know, I do have all the Christmas decorations taken down and put away (finally). It took me a week in utter chaos and decorative disorder that consumed the entire house, but we got it all straightened out and dragged all the boxes down to the basement yesterday.

So it's on to the New Year...soon...

With the holiday madness settled and packed away, you can't help but look forward to a new year with some fresh goals and decisions, even if it's not fashionable to call them resolutions anymore. I made just one: I decided 2004 should be drug-free.

Okay, whoa--back up a minute. Four years ago, we moved from a cozy, little house to a big house. Our poor old dog, Shaney, who was seven at the time, started acting strangely--more strangely than 'normal' as a gorgeous, but already somewhat schizophrenic, lab-shepherd-collie mutt; harmless, sweet, never very bright. We started to worry: she just couldn't seem to settle down, always nervous, on edge, barking at everything, anything, nothing...I took her to the vet and they checked her ears, her eyes, all her body parts, and everything was fine. The vet prescribed doggie-valium for "non-specific anxiety attacks."

Great. We were movin' on up, our poor dog was losing her mind! It actually kind of made sense, in a way: Shaney is very protective. She takes care of her people, her house and her yard. Over the space of three months, she went from guarding three outside doors, two bedrooms, two adults and two children...to seven doors, five bedrooms, upstairs, downstairs, a full basement and a new baby! There was noise and activity all around--the poor thing couldn't even figure out where she was supposed to lay down so she could still keep an eye on everything and everybody.

At the time, I declined the prescription, fearing doggie addiction with visions of Shaney strung out and trolling for drugs. To be honest, when I discovered doggie-valium was the same thing as people-valium, I worried about the overpowering temptation, visions of me and Shaney strung out, trolling for drugs and fighting each other for the last pop to la-la land...I assured the vet we would find ways to ease Shaney's anxiety in the big house and maybe that would be enough to help her calm down.

Two years later, we both started to lose it. Life got complicated and some bad people did some bad things, causing financial devastation in the big house and a whole lot of stress. Russ came home from a business trip to find me in mini-breakdown mode and summoning all his courage and love, told me: "You need to go see the doctor." I blew my nose, crawled out of bed, got out of my pajamas and went to see the doctor. She checked my ears, my eyes, all my body parts...and prescribed doggie-valium (it's the same stuff, you know) for situation-specific anxiety and depression. I filled Shaney's prescription at the same time--I now knew how she felt! (Actually, two years later, with advancements in these types of drugs, I got Effexor and Shaney got Xanax.

And it helped us both. But after two years on the drugs, with life settling back into place, the "situations" getting better and with much to look forward to--I decided it was time to go drug-free. (Me, that is--let the poor dog keep her drugs!) My underlying motivation was to lose the drug-weight (that 30lbs I keep moaning about) and get back my sexy. I tried to back down in November, when I went to see my doctor for an annual visit. I told her I wanted to go off the drugs, all my reasons...and I walked out with a new prescription--in addition to the one I didn't want to be on in the first place, I had a new one to take twice a day, ten times the dosage. But you know how it is in the doctor's office--well, she knows best, so...okay...I got it, I started on it, I hated it, I quit the new one and stuck with the Effexor through the holidays.

January 4th--got home, went cold turkey (I'd already worked down to the lowest dosage over the last year). Sunday night, decided I'd taper down every other night. Monday night I felt fine, decided I didn't need it--Tuesday, all hell broke loose. I lost it. Big time, physically and emotionally. Depression is not pretty; withdrawal from antidepressant medication is really ugly: not only are you back to being depressed, but you've also got the shakes, aches and nausea like the flu. When I resolved my personal rehab, I failed to consider the potential fall-out from some substantial situation-specific stresses coming up in January: My best friend and Rebel Housewife partner moved half-way around the world to Hong Kong. The very same day, Russ moved into his new office downtown, which is really great (business is good again!) and very exciting, but at the same time, he had been working from home for two years, and as much as I bitched and complained about him taking over my office--I miss him! Big adjustments for January. I went back to my Effexor, feeling like a drug addict--but a legal drug addict. I was depressed about that, until it kicked in--and then I felt fine again.

Almost February 1st and I am finally ready to start the New Year: the cards have all been mailed, the decorations are down and we are back to our everyday, non-holiday life after Zach's late-January birthday. (And how is it that kid-birthdays go on and on for more than a week with all the different big and little celebrations with family and friends, kids and adults, at school and at home?! That is, again, a whole 'nother issue.) I am free of all new resolutions, fat and happy for the time being--

© 2003 Sherri Caldwell and The Rebel Housewife, LLC.
All Rights Reserved.

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