Friday, December 20, 2013

MISSION TWELVE: Mission Accomplished-ish?

Twelve Days of Christmas, Twelve Steps and Twelve 
Maniac Missions... Coincidence? I think not. 
Though my tree is certainly dressed with 12
crazies cackling. Creepily...

I received an early Christmas present this year. At my last meeting with my therapist, she said the following words: "So... I don't think you need me anymore." Yes, cloud bursts of awesomeness rained down fireworks in my brain when this happened. When the person who has objectively been guiding you out of the woods says you have what it takes to find your own way, it feels pretty awesome. That being said, whatever instantaneous self-gratitude I felt was followed with the reminder that walking alone could lead to some problems: getting lost, muddying my boots, or being mauled to death by a large bear. We'll veer on the side of positivity and say that, in most cases, the metaphorical bear-- my greatest enemy-- is generally my own mind, and that I need not fear such a drastic crash and burn situation. Plus, l like the wilderness, so I would rather go out like a vintage world explorer than lying in bed with a catheter in my... place. Basically, win-win. I celebrate in my victory. I did indeed beat the pulp out of my psychosis Sasquatch. One out of 4,375,295,385,199 psychologists agree. I'll take those odds.

Still, just because I have come to terms with my mental vulnerabilities and misshapen place in the world, just because I have forgiven my past errors and now embrace the opportunity to correct the preceding years of damage and live the Hell out of life like never before, doesn't mean I'm not aware of the challenges that still lay before me, those which I have shared on this blog. All of my so-called "missions" remain open. I haven't totally completed them. I doubt I ever will. Life is a series of transitions, and that's all. I don't expect to make it over a hump and then be A-OK ad infinitum. Nah. I know there's another hurdle coming. I always did in fact. I don't consider this pessimism but mere, general awareness. Before, the forthcoming humps gave me brain ulcers and made me want to cuddle up into a slowly disappearing ball. Now, they make me want to embrace them moment. My malleability has become active instead of passive. I shift with the world instead of letting it take pieces out of me. I (puffs out chest) adjust to the necessary disturbances of life like a master tight-rope walker. Life is crazy anyway, isn't it? Doesn't the danger make it more interesting? (Spoiler alert: the answer is "Yes").

Don't worry. I got this.

In a way, being comfortable with my crazy has helped me explain my originally forbidden eccentricities to myself. I no longer frown on my tendencies to walk in the opposite direction and explore the alternative "just 'cause." Who wants to live a life that's already all mapped out? Not I. Sorry. "I'm nuts." I always will be a little nuts. I'm always going to whirl like a dervish, knock myself senseless, overdo it, and indeed need to hibernate before coming back zanier than ever. I'll probably continue to drive people around me nuts too, because they'll never be able to understand why I just can't hunker down and "be happy." My version of happiness, being different from the mainstream, is incongruent with "reality." At least I know that those closet to me accept me and mercifully trust me to find my own way. 

Indeed, it's all balance. Balancing relationships; giving without completely giving yourself away. Managing criticism; allowing others to help. Keeping the interior battle of "but" or "I don't know" vs. self-confidence in a temperate and not tempestuous place. Taking the bad days with the good, celebrating the victories, and leaving the defeats in the past where they belong. Accepting the integrity of the universe for all its flaws, as those flaws are inherent in me, and then combating them with willpower-- the desire to evolve to a superior level of consciousness, conscientiousness, and spiritual incorruptibility: "I am crazy, hear me rant."

I absorb all of this now. The monkey is no longer on my back. I sent it to the zoo. It's caged, and that's sad. It is my carnival freak. I can occasionally, when forced, visit it and remember, "Yes, you are mine. You always will be. But here you must stay." It no longer lurks, nor threatens so menacingly with its tiny, monkey claws of vengeance. (What a horrible metaphor). Anyway, I'm ready for it. I'm ready for it NOW, that is. I was not ready for it two weeks ago...

I'm going to tell you a little story. If it had a title it would be: "Withdrawal: Fun for Everyone!" Can you smell the sarcasm?

One of my best friends celebrated his big 3-0 in style by inviting me and a handful of other close pals to Palm Springs for an amazing weekend of posh living, fire pits, hot tubs, and giant, outdoor chess. To say that I was "stoked" is under an understatement. It is an understatement's  carpet padding. As the interior Meredith that was held hostage has been freed from captivity, and is now finally able to enjoy social gatherings, I have become a bit of a party animal of late. Well, not really. That's an overstatement. It is the canopy over an overstatement's... Oh, never mind. What I know is that I am still the type of person who derives her energy from solitude and peace of mind, but the point is that I have more energy to spend and can last longer in public than I used to. I arrive on time, I stay late, but I leave before the dump trucks hit the streets. The idea of getting the Hell out of L.A. for a weekend and being with the people I love most, thus, was my personal holiday vision of dancing sugar plums.  

Too bad I packed everything but my meds. Yeah, I'm blond. It happens. 

Now, I have had days where I have randomly forgotten to take my pill, despite the alarm I set on my phone to erase such a rookie mistake. I call it the "Don't forget to do the thing you have done every day for the past 10 months and should now be doing mechanically" alert. It goes without saying that I am the person who forgets whether or not she has already shampooed her very, very blond hair in the shower. Anyway, in the handful of times that I have forgotten to take my Effexor, the same trend seems to occur. Generally, nothing major happens. I feel fairly normal until maybe later in the evening. Then, I sometimes notice that my head is moving into the forbidden zone of negative thoughts. These are not soul-crushing, woe-is-me thoughts. They're more like a random observations about a heavier aspect of life or some sadness/madness happening in the world. Normally, when medicated, I would graze over the top of these iotas, get frustrated, and probably write one of my sloppy poems, get it out of my system, and move on. "'Wise' it gotta be dis way? Dismay?" Pun. (I also write cologne ads). 

In this situation, un-medicated, I might entertain a specific thought a little longer or worse sink rightinto it. It sort of feels like the top half of my noggin' is covered in an oddly comforting, foggy gauze. It's familiar. I enter another dimension of thinking. When this has happened, my reaction typically was, "Aw, Hell! I forgot to take ma' damn pill!" Knowing the source of my over-hyped pensive trespassing, I am usually able to correct the matter immediately or at least not allow myself to get wrapped up in it. Despite this counteraction, the worst is that when beddy-bye comes, I can't sleep. Not even if I take my Trazodone, which generally relaxes me and allows me to count Zs as opposed to the reasons why I should kill myself. Apparently, the only way I can get sleep is the Effexor/Trazodone combo. Kinda sucks, but that's the way it is. Anywho, I'll get a crappy night of sleep, toss and turn, and feel worn out the next morning, but who hasn't gone through a day like that? FYI, it's called Monday.

Sinatra demonstrates the horrors of withdrawal, in this case from
heroine: The Man with the Golden Arm.

Now, with this experience under my harebrained belt, I figured that my friend's bday weekend would go uninterrupted. Sure, having forgotten my pills, I would feel a little out of sorts, but I figured that I could easily suffer one or two day of sleeplessness, by which time the pills would probably would have left my system. I realized that I would probably fall back into my former self a little and be Meredith-through-the-Looking Glass as opposed to Meredith in 3D, but I was determined to have a good time. I was in Palm Springs! F*ck it! 

Whoops. I. Had. No. Idea. What. I. Was. In. For.

 Withdrawal... You think of it as something obsessive alcoholics and meth-addicts go through when detoxing. It's something experienced by the hard hitters of the hard drugs. I adopted this perception thanks to Dr. Drew. RIP Mike Starr :( . It never occurred to me that as a person who was dependent on a more "acceptable" drug, I would suffer the same heinousness when coming off it. Just because I don't have an addiction to the drug-- clearly, as I forget to take it-- I did not give it the weight and power it deserved over my life nor the relationship it has with my body and mind. I was humbled, truly, by what was to ensue. 

About 1/2 way through day two of the trip, 24 hours off drugs, I started to feel... strange. The typical kind of strange I mentioned, however, this time my sensations were heightened by the environment. Were I alone at home, taking a hot shower or watching The Simpsons before falling to sleep, all would have been well. BUT, I was in "party mode." The intensity, and being around so many people, made things rocky, especially since I had made myself official den mother. I made sure we formulated a plan for dinner, bought groceries, collected receipts, I cooked pasta... This, naturally, caused me to feel an undue amount of pressure. Then, as the drugs weakened and my reason deflated, I started to get a little irritated, not to those around me, but to the situation. Everyone was laughing and talking, and doing so very loudly. Every smiled started to seem enormous and invasive. I was having trouble maintaining focus. It was oppressive, as if everyone was taking turns poking a finger into my exposed brain. Not the best of sensations. Suffice it to say, I was overwhelmed. 

That old fashioned Claire Danes manic tear magic. We're
both unstable blonds, but at least my tears were won
honestly. Brody is gross. Get over it. #NoLand

Anyway, the tension built, and it only increased the more I tried to hold it in. I was out of practice, as I haven't had to do that in a long time. Let me tell you, when you really start to merge with your former self and recognize how out of control and victimized by your own mind you used to be, how little  power you still have over your own brain, it is terrifying. I kept thinking that I would be able to talk myself out of it. "Say something funny, Meredith! Smile broader!" My bday friend turned to me at one point and said, "Are you okay? You seem so quiet." This was like a dagger in my heart. I haven't heard that question in 10 months, and I swore I'd never hear it again. I knew I was losing the facade battle. So, I started getting emotional. Then, it was time to cut the cake, and I was supposed to give a speech. I pulled it together and presented the family favorite Better-Than-Sex-Cake. (Bragging rights: it is better than sex. This has been confirmed by multiple sources). With a story in mind, a sentimental and hopefully kind-hearted memory, and I opened my mouth to speak:


Yes, I started crying. My speech took on a self-deprecatory spin that was quite pitiful. Basically, "I remember when I realized what a great friend you are" turned into, "Why are you friends with me? You're awesome and I su-uh-uck!!!" This I followed up with:

"Sorry... I-- I-- forgot my medication!"

This got a big laugh, so I felt at least a little redeemed that my off-putting behavior was explained. Still, I made everyone cry. My pals were behind me, I had let the cat out of the bag, and after I took a quick 10 second T-O to clean myself up, I came back with my dancing shoes on. There are few things I love better than '90s music, and let me tell you, the karaoke-dancing-prom that was happening in the living room of that house was unparalleled. I still didn't feel great, but the endorphins did me some good and wore me out. I went to bed early, hoping to get some rest and wake up refreshed and renewed. It had been a silly, over-emotional night, but the worst was over! 

Whoops. I. Had. No. Idea. What. I. Was. In. For.

I didn't sleep. I woke up cold. I woke up sweating. I had dreams that I, and most particularly my jaw, was vibrating. It was crazy. I can't remember the details, but the dreams only further exhausted me. I woke up several times as the sun started pouring through the window, and I just couldn't face it. I felt like I had spent the night in a washing machine: EXTRA HEAVY LOAD. Eventually, I heard laughing outside and looked at my phone. "Oh, great. 11am. We have to be out of here in 2 hours, and I've missed an entire morning of fun." 

Feeling foggy, I brushed my teeth, threw my hair into some sort of elastic splendor and went into the sunlight. I felt like Gizmo. The light, it was too bright... Worse than being hung over. So much worse. Yet, I hobbled over to the patio, feeling too gross to participate in brunch, and tried to be as social as possible. I was grateful that at least I would be able to hit the road soon and take my meds. So, we start packing up to go. I was all set. Bag packed. Everything was together. It's one o'clock. "Let's get crackin'!" Then the dizzy feeling started... And had to lean on stuff. A lot. I played it super cool, like a gangster leaning on a lamp-post. Well, that is how I appeared in my own mind, but I am sure I looked more like the Grinch Who Stole Birthdays to everyone else as they buzzed around me cleaning things up.

Do you like the way I lean???

It got to the point where I had to hunch over and focus on the ground, meaning the whole pretending-I-was-okay thing was out. It was decided that one friend and I would head directly home while everyone else went onto the more fun gambling portion of the weekend. (Dammit). I felt so close to being in safety, but then... Nothing happened. No one made any move to leave. We all just stayed there. Playing chess. So, I sat curled up outside watching everyone else, being as pleasant as possible, while the strange feeling of my bones biting at my muscles initiated its attack. And the sun... Seriously. Gizmo no like the "bright light." I finally crawled away, as it apparently wasn't time to go. I was trapped there in this awful feeling, lying on the couch. It started getting worse. My hands were shaking. My jaw was tight. I was sweating. My head was doing things that are still beyond me-- trying to push its way out my ears, my eye sockets, my mouth. Some friends tried to interact with me at one point, and I could do little more than mumble and roll over. 

Now, I am NOT that person. I hate being THAT person. I loathe party poopers. And I like to think that I never make anyone suffer for my bad moods, bad feelings, etc. That day, even I couldn't control myself. I just needed to get the Hell out of there. I remember lying there thinking: "I want to die. They are playing chess. I have never felt so bad. They are laughing. My body is going to explode. Chess. Death... Chess..." In that moment, I wanted to murder everyone. I wanted to scream! Mostly, I wanted a car, but I didn't have one. Defeated, I started to get emotional again, so I crawled to the bathroom and started crying. Again. Swell. It's so funny how in your head you can be totally rational, telling yourself "Suck it up! You're embarrassing yourself and ruining the mood for everyone," but your body just won't obey. It wins. It just. Friggin'. Wins. 

After lying in a fetal position on the cold tile, which was the only position that felt good, even moreso because it was in the isolated silence of the bathroom away from the noise, I finally heard the shuffling of luggage. It was time to go. I have never been so happy in my life, nor more disappointed at my sulkiness. Them's the breaks. So, I grab my suitcase and head for the door. "Uh oh." I my body is so, totally mad at me. It hates me for depriving it of the chemical it has grown accustomed to. I know it's about to happen... I am, indeed, going to hurl bloody murder... 

Well, I did. I haven't barfed like that since 2006. Christ, it was awful. And I hadn't eaten anything. I wasn't hung over. I hadn't had much to drink the previous day. It literally was just my guts. The agony... This kind of barfing... I'm sorry, I don't want to get to graphic, but it is a totally different revenge than that which your body takes when it's been attacked by a foreign substance-- alcohol or bacteria or a virus. This is the body craving, not getting, and shutting the eff down. Let me tell you, I wanted it to. I would have rather died than experienced that level of pain.

Fast forward. I'm in the car with my brave chauffeur. We drive, oh, Maybe 1/2 a mile or so, and I say, "Mm mm. Mm mm," shaking my finger. [Dorothy], God love her, pulled over in time for me the hack it all over the sidewalk of beautiful Palm Springs. You will never feel lower than opening a car door and vomiting while other cars honk, and pass, then see you, and cringe, then leave you in the dust. Oh, except for when 5 seconds later, at a stoplight, when you literally stand up, lean out the window, to do it again. Puking out the window is worse somehow... It's so parochial. It's high school. I had made it through my entire life, through my college education, through early Hollywood life, without drunk barfing out the car window. No, I had to enjoy that experience at 30. During my friend's birthday weekend. I was the pest that had infested what was supposed to be a great getaway.  

As my body decomposed on the way home, I managed to pass out intermittently. I think I got the worst out of me. God bless, Dorothy. That's all I gotta say. I made it home, ran inside, and went straight for the pills. "Save me," I cried with my wild eyes and gaping mouth. (Gulp). I waited about 30 seconds, then "Uh oh." I give you the final barf. Part three of an epic trilogy I hope to never see again. I spent the rest of the night in pjs, curled in a ball, watching TV, sleeping, TV, sleep, etc. Later that night, I felt better. I could walk. I got a few crackers down. I woke up the next morning feeling like I had, this time, spent the night in the drying machine. Anyway, I took my pill. Kept it down. I looked like death rolled over thrice, but I was making it. Went to work. I got a lot of pitying looks from the boss and assorted co-workers who seemed to keep their distance for fear that I spontaneously crumple like Lincoln Logs. They took it easy on me that day. Tuesday was the same but better. Wednesday, the same and nearly better. Thursday, I was back to my normal self. 

What I have learned from this experience, I now carry in hand with my liberation from psychological treatment. Yes, I have the equipment to carry on, and I am proud of that. I have come a long way in ten months. I have a handle on things. I'm making plans for myself. I'm being proactive in every way possible. I have rediscovered the inner Mer and am being her to the hilt. But, part of my aforementioned equipment is my medication. I am not above nor beyond it. It isn't an offhand piece of daily triviality like brushing my teeth. It's big. Respect the meds, that's my motto. Indeed, I often get a sad little feeling when I fill my weekly pill box. It sucks that I have to live this way, taking daily doses like a 65 year old with arthritis or high blood pressure or what-have you. In that moment, I am reminded, while I am "okay," I am only 'okay' because I take one of these tiny pink pills every day. I will never be "normal" without them.

Should I ever decide to go off medication or it is agreed by a professional that I could do so, I understand that I would be weened slowly and that the withdrawal would not be as intense. But to have seen the huge distinction of what my meds do for me, and how truly dependent I have become on them for a more stable, mental center, I respect the pills. I respect that they are doing their part to assist me, and I am going to have to do the rest. But I am not immune. I am not cured. I am always on the precipice of being screwed. At least I will be more prepared should this happen in the future, which I solemnly hope it does not.

Anyway, this has all been an overly long and drawn out way of saying that I am ready to turn the page. I have been through a lot over the past 10 months. I recognize that my work-in-progress "recovery" was quicker than it may be for many suffering the same circumstances. By whatever combination of good fortune in inheriting a very adaptable mental fortitude, however mixed with the bad, and my amazing support system of friends and family, I was able to process what was happening to me, what I was affected with, and thus move forward with the iron resolve of a true Grau. I was lucky in this respect. Lucky that I am stubborn and that-- once I realized that I was not a horrible, deplorable, waste of space person, and that the true villain was but one treatable part of me-- I was able to latch onto the concept of healing and run with it. 

There are some with more severe cases of depression than I experienced. And I am sure that my trials pale in comparison with theirs. I sincerely hope that my peculiar sense of humor or wisecracking about how I "kicked depression's ass" has not trivialized the raw, painful, and often excruciating aspects of the disease. Broken Meredith is still with me. I accept her, as I accept the pills, as I accept that the future is in my own hands. Still, I am ready to move on and leave this blog behind, as I feel that I have little more to offer on the subject. I am exiting the learning phase and entering the applying phase. This isn't to say that I have it all figured out and will not return when I fail or have more "uh-oh" moments. Yet, for the time being, this is "Good bye." The only advice I have for other sad little soldiers, still fighting their way out of the abyss of unworthiness, can be found collectively in my past posts:

Accept your weaknesses, fight them, be courageous, even if it means plowing ignorantly ahead without thinking. Know your worth and know that you are valued by others. Open yourself up to being loved, and fight each battle as it comes knowing you can overcome it. Get to know yourself again, trust yourself, love yourself, and keep your friends close and your pills closer. 

Mostly, and this continues to be the big one for me, know that you are "allowed." 

I don't like the word "deserved." It implies some measure of hard work and elbow grease. I don't know that I or any other being deserves more than any other. I think we all go at it suffering and fighting our way through our own personal obstacles. There is no 'deserve' in life. Life is a free for all. But know that you are allowed to have more and be more. You may not need certain things, you may not think you 'deserve' them, but know always that you are allowed to have them, just as much as the next guy. You inherited this earth the same as everybody else. This life is yours to walk. You can fill your days, your pockets, your memories with whatever you wish. It isn't about being more worthy. It's about being human. 

So, just as I shall try, go on. Go on and grab whatever it is. Go on and do whatever it is. Go on and love whomever it is. You are allowed. By breathing, you are allowed.

Thanks for venturing this rocky road to semi-happiness with me. I am indeed happier, and I will continue to persevere and choose comedy over tragedy every time.

All my love and best wishes for you all. <3


  1. Meredith,
    I am happy that you have faced each day with a better understanding. Life is full of lessons some not so pleasant. Glad you soldiered on! You my love are important to all your crazy family(saying that with love)! I Love you!
    Auntie Paula

  2. Hi, Nice site I enjoyed reading it. Thanks for sharing. Would it be possible if I contact you through your email? Please email me back. Thanks!

    Aaron Grey
    aarongrey112 at


Your diagnosis: