Thursday, August 16, 2012

Antidepressants Kinda Don't Suck

Many of you know from earlier posts that I have depression.  What a lot of you don't know, is that I've had this most of my life.  I have very early moments of depression that I've talked with very few people.  I used to get sad and upset for no reason.  I remember once.  This depression is something I've always lived with and sometimes forgotten was there.

This year, the depression has been back, nastier and more vicious than ever before.  The last time I had depression this bad, I was sixteen.  I remember the absolutely worst case of depression.  I made a mask out of duct tape and sealed my face completely shut to the point I couldn't breathe.  I had some trick handcuffs I'd picked up from winning tickets at the fair and slipped them on, behind my back, around a clothing rod in the closet.  My intent wasn't to take my life, it was to play a dangerous game and "escape" before I passed out.  As it turns out, if you exhale with enough force, you can blow duct tape off of your face.

My depression lately hasn't been giving me a desire to commit suicide.  I've had really bad thoughts, however.  Thoughts like, "If I got into a horrific accident, life would get a lot simpler."  I don't like those thoughts and finally got my ass in gear.  I tried to get a psychiatrist at first.  The referral instead was to a licensed social worker.  Though helpful, I knew I needed medical help as well.  I arranged an urgent medical appointment with my Primary Care Physician.  I explained my case and what I was after.  The doctor didn't agree fully with what I wanted, but did agree that I needed medication.  I was prescribed Effexor XR.

This was seven days ago.  Since that time, I have learned two very important lessons.  I have learned that medication can help.  I also learned that the internet, as vast and informative as it is, does not have any decent accounts for what to expect when you take Effexor XR.  I tried to find out what to expect and when. I wanted to know what this crazy ride was going to be like.  Unfortunately, there was nothing to be found.  So, instead, I'm going to start accounting my trip down on the medication drug trip.

Effexor XR Your First Seven Days
Day 0:  The first thing you need to know is that everyone is different.  I cannot attest to what your personal experience will be like.  You could be allergic to the medication.  Other medications can interact with your medication.  Your body chemistry may be different.  So what you are getting is an account of my trip, and hopefully you'll share some of my experiences.  If your doctor is like my doctor, your first week will be half-dose to get your body ready for the medication experience.

Day 1:  The first day is a day in which you going to feel like a fucking bus ran you over.  Your body has absolutely no experience with the medication.  For me, it took about three hours before I felt anything from the medication.  When it kicked in, it felt like a hazy had settled into my head.  It was sort of like coffee withdrawal, but it wasn't quite the same.  The hazy feeling never fully went away, but it did lesson.  By the time I early evening, I was very groggy.  I couldn't focus on anything and could barely stay awake.  I went to bed very early (about three hours earlier than typical).

Day 2:  I woke up in the middle of the night, likely unrelated to the medication.  When I did get up for my normal hour of wake, I didn't feel as hazy as the day before.  By the time 10:00 AM had rolled around, the haze was there and was still less significant.  I was still having focus issues, but it wasn't as bad as it had been the day before.  At one point during the day, I had a depressive thought and much to my surprise, I was able to swat it away as if it was nothing.

In the afternoon, my focus continued to be just "okay".  I was very ditzy and forgetful.  But as the day progressed, I felt this energy in the back of my head.  I couldn't quite figure out what to make the energy or do anything with it.  As the day progressed, I found myself feeling more social.  Still, in the evening the drowsiness kicked it up a notch and I found myself going to bed early.

Day 3:   On this day, I realized I was having more dreams than normal.  They weren't strange, I just recalled having them which is not normal for me.  I found myself more productive than usual and was able to write two blog posts without any real issue.  I was restless during the day and found it hard to focus on things.  During the day I was more alert than typical.  I realized I was actually smiling at one point.

Day 4:  My concentration was only okay in the morning.  I felt depressed around noon and had trouble keeping it out of my head.  I was able to focus on stuff and get a lot of things done.  At one point, I felt a desire to clean the fridge and actually went through with doing the entire fridge.  It was a project I had wanted to do for a while and just hadn't felt the energy to do it.   However, this was the extent of the energy and creative endeavors were hard to accomplish.  I was tired from about 7 PM on.

Day 5:  This day was horrible and perhaps worse than before I took the medication.  I had occasional moments of strength, but the entire day was a constant wave of moments of up and down.  I was drowsy for most of the day.  I was have trouble processing emotions.  I was finding myself easily able to be picked up mood wise, only to crash again.  I recorded one down slump being about three hours in the afternoon and followed by a moment of good, positive energy for three hours at night.  Again, I went to bed early.

Day 6:  This day was better than previous day, but hardly an improvement.  I did realize this day that something that should have generated lots of anxiety, did not generate any anxiety.  I was having more moments of being alert and awake.  The moments lasted longer than any of the previous five days and I was able to do a lot of projects I had been putting off like cleaning out my car.  I crashed for an hour in the afternoon around 1:00 until 2:30.  I also got a very nasty headache in the evening.  It was also the first evening I didn't have the drowsy symptoms.

Day 7:  This brings me to today.  Today was the first day I went all day without a crash.  I had trouble focusing first thing in the morning, despite being alert, but I got a lot of stuff done at work.  I mean, an EPIC amount of work done.  After work, I had a lot of energy available.  It's still hard to tap into that energy, but I was able to.  I was also able to break through some of the focus issues today.  I didn't feel drowsy at all today until 7:45 PM.

So that brings me up to this moment.  I'm about to head to bed, and I feel like I've had a very good day.  I'll update my continues progress as it happens.  For now, I hope those of you reading this starting Effexor have an idea of the ups and the downs you can expect as your body adjusts to the medication.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Movie Standings Post

There are 7 months behind me and 5 months to go.  As I approach the end of the year, I need to think more and more about the final showdown in my 2012 King of the Hill movie Challenge.  That also includes discussing current movie standards and figuring out what system I'm going to use to determine the best movie of the year.

My plan is to use a single elimination seeded bracket.  This will make me do eleven comparisons between the twelve best movies from each month.

Seeds are determined by the total number of movies that the winner of the month directly went up against and defeated.  In cases of ties, the seed will be ranked in chronological order based on the date I watched it.

This is the current seeding standing for all movies of the year.

4 Wins: Brave (June)
3 Wins: Hanna (January)
3 Wins: The Dark Knight Rises (July)
2 Wins: Tucker and Dave v. Evil (February)
1 Win: Hunger Games (March)
1 Win: The Little Princess (April)
0 Wins: The Avengers (May)

2012 King of the Hill: July Wrap Up

The Dark Knight Takes On Two More
July came to an end twelve days ago and I need to cover the last few movies I saw in July.  The Dark Knight Rises proved to be quite the movie.  But can it stand up against a racist Clint Eastwood and America's First Avenger?  July proved to be a month of many movies.  As I move into the month of August, it looks like the number of movies I am watching has dropped significantly.  It's time for the July wrap up of 2012 King of the Hill Movie Challenge.

For those who do not know, the 2012 King of the Hill Movie Challenge is my system for determining the best movie of year that I saw. One movie from each month will be selected and, at the end of the year, I will do a tournament style showdown where they will take each other on until the final movie has been selected. Bracket placement will be determined by the number of movies the monthly movie faced and won.

Gran Torino v The Dark Knight Rises
In all fairness to Gran Torino, there was a problem with the DVD.  A chunk of one scene and the whole of another would not play.  I did later find the script for the movie and read the missing scene.  Gran Torino is a movie about the story of Walt (Clint Eastwood) following the death of his wife.  He lives in his well tended home in a neighborhood slowly being taken over by Korean families.  Walt has an openly racist attitude to his neighbors and, well, everyone else. As the story progresses, he begins to bond with his neighbors, particularly Tao (Bee Vang).

If you ignore the fact that Clint Eastwood plays the same freaking character in every movie, this was a good film.  I loved the story.  I love the character development.  I loved the banter between Walt and, well, everyone he interacted with.  I found myself wondering up to the very end what was going to happen.  When the ending finally came, it felt me leaving satisfied.  There were a few things I'd have liked to see differently.  I think the movie could have done without Walt's granddaughter.  It seems like her point to the film was to setup a scene at the end and could have been worked out differently.

Compared to The Dark Knight Rises, the movie simply doesn't stand.  Both films had great stories, but The Dark Knight Rises left a feeling in the end that has stayed with me even weeks later.  Gran Torino, also admittedly left me feeling uncomfortable at times.  Walt is extremely racist.  The racist jokes and their delivery were hilarious, which only left me feeling bad.  I personally feel that racist jokes, even if appropriate for the story being told, should be left behind as much as possible.  I don't believe in sugar coating history, but at the same time it is something that can be cut down on and/or underplayed in our media.

Winner:  The Dark Knight Rises

Captain America v The Dark Knight Rises
Captain America is the origin story of Captain America.  Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is a short, little guy who is always getting knocked around, but refuses to let himself be kept down.  Eventually, his desire to be a true hero is recognized and he joins a super soldier program.  The program is sabotaged in the middle of the operation, destroying all equipment and leaving him as the only super soldier.  For some reason, the government refuses to use him as a soldier.  Instead he has him do stage acting to raise money for the military and to entertain troops.

The prison break scene is the only really phenomenal part to the film.  Steve Rogers learns that his friend was one of the troops reported missing and presumed to be held captive.  He goes on his own to try and free the prisoners.  He succeeds and proves that he is a capable soldier.  After this, the movie goes into a series of fighting montage scenes were he and his crew begin shutting down factories and laboratories in Axis controlled territory.  I have never liked montages.  But in this case, the montages seemed to skim over the greater story.  Steve Rogers may have the heart of a hero and the strength of a hero, but learning to be a soldier and work in combat is an area of growth I'd have liked to see.  All this montage did was served to rush the story to it's conclusion where Captain America must make a sacrifice.  I'll stop describing here in the off chance you haven't seen both Captain America and The Avengers.

In summary, Captain America is a rushed movie to give the audience an origin story of Steve Rogers before the release of The Avengers.  This rush job is obvious and left me highly disappointed.

Winner:  The Dark Knight Rises