Friday, January 23, 2015

Life, Currently: A Health Report

When I started trying to talk honestly about my attempts to lose weight so many years ago, I didn't think I'd end up documenting a long struggle with mental illness.

You may have noticed that I've slowed down. It's because I've been on an antidepressant for the last few months, and despite assurances that it wouldn't turn out to be a Lexapro numbness, it's turned into exactly that. The sexual side effects, the weight gain, the total loss of motivation, the total lack of faith in my abilities, and the foggy numbness are all here again, and it's been a shitty couple of weeks as I've become aware of this and tried to do something about it.

It's hard not to feel like I'm always going back to zero and somehow undoing all of the gains I've worked hard to make in therapy. I can never figure out why I'll do so well on something for a while, and then suddenly all progress seems to cease, frustrating my efforts. It's hard not to feel like the problem is me and what I've really internalized in my life as my inherent shittiness as a human being. And the thing is, I know that's irrational. A conscious part of me knows that I'm not thinking clearly on this. That I've internalized every single time someone--friend, co-worker, schoolmate, teacher, relative, parent, internet commenter--has told me how obnoxious and lazy and selfish and worthless I am, and it's done terrible damage to me. I know it's irrational to believe all of those things. But here's the thing about anxiety: it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter that you know how stupid it is, because what you're feeling is so overwhelming that it presses down on you, and fighting sometimes becomes so hard that it's easier to just give in.

Right now, I'm having some problems with Medicaid and with trying to wean myself off of this antidepressant, so I'm dealing with those same withdrawal symptoms I did a couple of years ago, and it's so hard, because at one point in the day I'll feel ambitious and capable, and then later I'll be on the floor, curled up, sobbing uncontrollably for a half hour, followed by a half hour of staring at nothing. That happened to me already today. I sobbed so hard that my abs hurt. Why? I don't know. Because life is fucking hard and sometimes continuing to try seems really, really pointless. And yeah, I know it's irrational. But it's also real.

You might remember that I transitioned to a new therapist (my fourth now) around two or so months ago. And she's the first one to figure out that I've apparently got Attention Deficit Disorder. That shocked me, because I don't entirely understand ADD, and there was such a controversy about it when I was  about 18/19 years old. I didn't even know that adults could have it. (Apparently in adults the hyperactivity becomes a sort of restlessness.)

And this explains everything about that inherent shittiness I've always felt. It explains why I have so much trouble in social situations. Why my best friend could ask me to be his best man and I would react with terror instead of being touched. Why I can't go out and work. Why I can't maintain family ties. Why all of the medications I've been on strictly for anxiety or depression really haven't helped. Even why I drink so much Coke--apparently in people who aren't being medicated or who are undiagnosed, the caffeine evens us out. (And that explains the weight gain when I'm on antidepressants--because the fatigue and fog of untreated ADD is magnified and made foggier by antidepressants, which means I'm drinking four or five Cokes a day and not getting up and walking around, because my mind is telling me I can't get up.)

I feel like I've found some kind of hidden key that deciphers so much of what's gone wrong in my life, with the added benefit of finding out that I'm not an inherently shitty person, I've just been living with an undiagnosed mental problem that has grown steadily worse because it hasn't been addressed. And now that we know it's ADD--and ADD on top of my Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Panic Disorder and Agoraphobia--we can try and treat that and finally fix my focus and concentration and even my damn memory.

Because the reason I have outsize reactions and an inability to make decisions and no idea how to motivate myself or even pick a course of action is, in my therapist's words, "because you're thinking of ten different things at once and trying to give each one a hundred percent of your attention simultaneously."

So right now I'm just in a hard position of trying to safely get off of the antidepressant and then have some time to clear out before I start taking an ADD medication. I'm having a really hard time, because I don't like myself on antidepressants, and being lost in this fog and entirely unmotivated and feeling sorry for myself all the time is just a damn nightmare. Right now it feels like my choices during the day are either being completely numb, or having to deal with a constant anxiety that has me so on edge that my teeth ache from grinding them so much without realizing I'm doing it.

I can't wait until this part is over.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.

THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES (2014)
I'll tell you one thing I was surprised about: this movie's short compared to all of the other Middle-earth movies. Two hours and 24 minutes? It seems like that's been the average running time for most movies for the past decade. And after sustaining all of the internet whining about "that interminable battle scene" I was expecting something much bigger. I quite liked this movie and I like the way the entire trilogy turned out. Like I've said in the past, a three-film version of The Hobbit doesn't seem really necessary, but when I'm watching and enjoying these movies, I really don't care. I like being in them, I like being in Peter Jackson's Middle-earth, and I'm quite sorry that (with the exception of the still-to-be-released extended version of this film) I'll never have a new experience there again. I had one or two disappointments here, I'll admit: I wanted more of the Dwarves, whom I had come to really know and love through the first two movies, and I wanted less of the humans, since I found Bard rather dull. I do think a lot of the characters get lost in what is basically a flurry of third act resolutions. I felt like this film and the previous had set up a resolution with Thranduil (still one of my favorite characterizations in the whole thing, as Lee Pace really makes his Elf feel alien) that didn't quite come off, and after liking Tauriel so much in the previous film, I wish she didn't end up being quite so defined by her love story. But none of that dampened the overall effect of these wonderful films, and I'm withholding a real feeling on all that until the extended version (and let's be honest, I'm taking all three films as one masterful film rather than three separate ones). My reviews of these movies are pretty worthless, because they're critic-proof (and aggrieved fanboy whine-proof) for me, because as much as I'm willing to acknowledge some flaws, I just don't care. They don't ruin any of my enjoyment. I love these films. Three years ago, I didn't think I needed them. Today, I'm very glad to have them. ****

GONE GIRL (2014)
If you have some time, I recommend you read a long piece by Film Crit Hulk about sexism and feminism and pulp in regards to Gone Girl. There's been a lot of talk about the character of Amy Dunne and what she represents, and I'm having a real problem with a lot of the conversation, because I don't want to engage it, but I also feel like not acknowledging it is somehow inherently sexist. Just read the article; Hulk gets at a lot of my feelings about representational critiques of this movie, and someone in the comments makes a really good point about female agency. I did really enjoy this movie; it's stupid pulp, but it's very compelling and involving stupid pulp. I think it's a good showcase for basically all of David Fincher's strengths and many weaknesses as a filmmaker, wrapped in a well-executed, enjoyable, preposterous (but in a fun way) thriller that makes a point or two about the media. I think my wife and I will argue endlessly about whether the movie tries to be an apologia for men who are accused, but the fact that it gave us this much to talk about while still being a solid-but-possibly-problematic genre flick is more than I hoped for after Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. ***1/2

NANNY CAM (2014)
The problem with these Lifetime movies generally is that the inevitably crazy girl that they put at the center of these things is always more sympathetic than the bland normo leads, and I sympathize with the annoying way Lifetime likes to exploit stereotypes of mental illness only to turn around in the last half hour and pretend to be sympathetic to how much they need help, so I always end up rooting for the crazy girl. Here, a bland couple (Cam Gigandet looks half-asleep most of the time) hires a new nanny (India Eisley from Secret Life of the American Teenager but having lost a truly upsetting amount of weight) who... eh, it's pretty obvious. Anyway, nice twist at the end. **

MASQUERADE (1988)
Rob Lowe as a yacht racer in a community of rich people. He's making it with his boss's trophy wife (Kim Cattrall, and what a trophy), then falls in love with a rich heiress (Meg Tilly), much to the anger of her stepfather (John Glover with a terrible haircut), her stepfather's new sidepiece (Dana Delaney, looking glorious), and the jilted cop who loves her from afar (Doug Savant). Everything that is at once preposterously ridiculous and gloriously sleazy/steamy about sexy 80s thrillers, with all of the murder, double cross, luridness, implied homoerotica, and revenge-planning that implies. So stupid, but so riveting in its soapiness. Written by Dick Wolf. ***

Monday, January 19, 2015

Muppet Monday

Since it's Martin Luther King, Jr. Day today, I thought I'd put up a couple of segments from the current season of Sesame Street.

The first is Lupita Nyong'o appearing with Elmo to explain the word of the day: "skin."



And the second is a song, "The Color of Me," in which Leela, Mando and Chris sing about their skin color to encourage an Anything Muppet named Segi. Segi is the same Anything Muppet from "I Love My Hair," which I posted last week. She has a name now! And it's the name of Joey Mazzarino's adoptive daughter, whom he wrote "I Love My Hair" for--he wrote this song, too, with composer Bill Sherman. I don't know who's performing Segi now, but Chantylla Johnson is still providing that beautiful singing voice.



Chris is probably my favorite of the more recent human cast members on the show. I really only know what I see online, but I like Chris.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Song of the Week: "New York State of Mind"

I love this song, and you know I love Billy Joel, but this is my favorite version of this song. Just Jim Henson in character as Rowlf the Dog, giving a genuine and pretty rendition of this classic on the album Ol' Brown Ears Is Back. Interestingly, this album was released in 1993 (three years after Jim died), but mostly recorded in 1983. No idea why it wasn't released earlier, but when it did come out, it was a nice, touching tribute to Jim Henson.