I’ve been thinking a lot lately about coming to my MAV family with this. It’s so personal as to be overwhelming, but I love you all and I’m working on trust. 5 pm on a Friday following a real bitch of a week and a finger of whiskey and I have fortified my resolve.
Yesterday, at work, I was the unwilling and surprised subject of an excessively public “private” intervention from a crisis counselor and addiction recovery specialist. Honestly, Mortification should be a listed MAV symptom. But, I’m getting ahead of myself.
Remember me, the one who wrote our mildly popular wiki The Emotional Toll? I should have figured that would bite me in the ass at some point. Even I re-read that with fresh eyes on a fairly regular basis. Chronic illness is an extreme sport. We need all the help we can get.
So, what am I procrastinating talking about? Suicidal thoughts. As many of you know, I’ve been on Effexor (37.5 mg XR) for about a year now. It’s a miracle drug. I went from totally disabled to able to run a successful consulting firm. I doubled my business in that time, brought on staff, thrived. There are many side effects, but with MAV the choice is always between the devil in the cure or the one you brought with you.
One thing that’s been really hard on me is the pretty much uncontrolled weight gain. I have PCOS, a poorly named endocrine disorder that does a lot of things - makes most of us obese and robs us of the ability to shift it no matter what we do or how ardently or disciplined or devoted, adds hair where it shouldn’t be, turns our complexions into spotty teenagers, takes away our ability to reproduce, leads us down the road of Metabolic Syndrome. That super highway only has a couple of exits - diabetes, heart disease and/or stroke. Prior to September 2017, I’d been able to keep MAV in check, and PCOS to a background issue with a strict ketogenic diet. Then things went really sideways. While trialing various MAV meds in the spring of last year (Topomax, Ami, a bevy of rescue meds), I held to a strict ketogenic diet. I felt pretty good. My labs were good. My weight, while still obese, wasn’t morbidly so and that’s a feat for a PCOS woman over 40. Effexor stopped that in its tracks. In the year I’ve been on it, I’ve gained 26 pounds and re-gained my loathed Metabolic Syndrome status all while maintaining a healthy, carefully controlled diet and exercise regimen.
The other thing, just as insidious and creeping, were thoughts of suicide. Now understand, I’m an optimistic survivor of a woman. I’m tough both mentally and emotionally. I came from an ugly childhood where suicide was tempting. I spent years sitting against the school walls doing little pro/con analysis about running away, killing myself, sticking it out. Faith said stick it out. Glad I did. I’m successful, married, happy. So, I know this ground.
But, like in the movie Inception, I kept having these little thoughts that felt like my own, but weren’t. You can stop the pain. You can stop the sickness. You’ll never get better. Why suffer? Take all the pills. Wash them down with alcohol. Maybe not now, but sometime. Hoard them. It became a shiny little secret only I knew. A siren call of destruction wrapped in glitter and comfort. Something to take out and look at during long painful nights or when it was the only still thing in a chaotically spinning world. My precious.
Meanwhile, I’ve been slowly falling apart. Sick all of March with some super cold. 17 doctors appointments in April - homegrown pain from my fragile neck and destroyed pelvis (surgery gone wrong), migraine. A trend that continues. Pain all the time. Sick all the time. Baseline - but a baseline while medicated. So a hopeless place. I can’t go up on the meds - I’m already getting sicker, closer to a young death. I can’t stop them because - MAV.
But I did stop them. I stopped Effexor cold turkey a week ago. That folks, is a super bad idea. Detox from this med ain’t kidding. I don’t care. I may be hating on aspects of my otherwise wonderful life, but I’m not hearing the siren call of death like I was. Not that detoxing is fun, but really, it’s just MAV with some new but not that weird features. I mean, I get brain stem aura. I know from crazy symptoms. But now, without it, no one is whispering death in my ear. Even now, divulging the secret is like letting all the fireflies out of the jar. Somehow sad, insane as that is. I don’t care if I have to live uncontrolled MAV. I can handle pain, discomfort, sickness. I love my life, my MAVtastic life. So I’m giving that secret up.
All of which makes yesterday so ironic. I got brave. I told a friend at work. You see, we glorious MAVericks are used to MAV. It’s disabling, and it sounds frightening, but really it’s not dangerous. Not really. Those without our experience and perspective don’t understand. Imagine my surprise and the humiliation of realizing she’d called in the calvary to save me from myself, when I’d already done just that. It was a brave and painful act of love. One I thanked her for. (And saved the crying for later.)
Of course, it took me less than a few minutes to explain and give context. The crisis intervention guy, a nice black man with soft eyes and a kind heart seemed just as embarrassed as me, though I doubt seriously he’s already called his therapist to add a new big T trauma to his list of hurts and fears to work through, like I did. Life is a tragi-comedy and MAV capers and whirls across the stage. Hey, at least I didn’t shit myself in public this time. That gag is a favorite of my friend MAV. This time, I got to demonstrate grace, gratitude, love. I educated. And then I did it again in an email for the larger office, since no one could have failed to witness that public spectacle. I’m a judge. The whole staff had been standing in the hallway after court waiting for it to go down. MAV adding insult to injury. Invisible disability no more. At least with an email, I could take back the narrative, educate, be kind, be loving, demonstrate acceptance, be my higher self calling from a low space.
That’s ok. As many of you know, I have a mantra. When you’re placed in a press and can’t escape you have two options, shatter or be harder than the press. Well, the press needs to up its game. I’m harder. We all are.
I wanted to share this pain for two reasons. The first is to air the secret so it can’t be secret and alluring again, though it costs me embarrassment to do so. The second is to tell you I get it. If you’re hurting, come to us. Let us love you. Let us all be harder together.