I'm Julie. I began writing this blog not long after my then 10-year old son, George, began the transition to Jessie. In the years since I have chronicled not only her life, but her big brother Harrison's and mine. I keep things real and love a good story. Thanks for stopping by.
A friend recently posted an article she had written about how &*%$ing hard it is to parent teenagers. (Okay, she was classier than I am and opted for the word freaking as opposed to what I know she was thinking: &*%$ing). I shared the post on my Facebook page (1) and a friend commented, “We were just talking about this” to which I responded, “Yep. But then again, I am always &*%$ing talking about this!”
And there we have it.
Over the past few weeks, I have received several texts and private messages asking me if I am okay, noting that I have been “quiet” lately. “Quiet”, to be clear, is code for curiosity over why I have neither blogged -at all – or posted much on social media. This, I have learned, is a sign to my followers that something is amiss. And they are not all together wrong.
So here’s the thing: I have a lot to write about, a lot to say, and a lot on my mind. As in a shit ton. Remember: I have two kids and two step kids. One (thank the Lord) is a successfully launched, self-sufficient and kind adult. The other three are smack dab in the throes of being teenagers – a job they are taking very seriously. And, as has been established, raising teenagers is really fucking hard. Oh, sorry, I forgot to pretty-up my expletives. The gloves are off.
In addition to my own bedroom, my house has three others, each belonging to one of the kids: ages 12, 14 and 17. And, if it weren’t enough that there are bedrooms for them…they are inhabiting them. And, to make matters worse, they have all read – and epically mastered – the manual: How to be the “Perfect” Teenager. Following me?
They are all good kids (at least I like to think so) (no, they are)(really) and I love each, but none of them – not one – are what anyone would consider, well, easy. Not. One. Of. Them. I am actually kind of okay with not easy, though. I mean, who wants a go with the flow, fall in line, no-issue kid? That would be boring. And, if we are being honest, I myself have been accused of being “complicated” which, we all know, loosely translates to “not easy,”…but I am ONE person. There are THREE of them. All at once. Couldn’t one, just ONE, be easy? I’d be down with being a little bored.
Complicating matters is the fact that of the THREE teenagers who hold the keys to my house, only ONE of them came from my body – which, incidentally, has never been the same. With only ONE am I allowed to lose my shit without repercussions beyond the crappy feeling you get after calling your kid a shithead. (2) With only ONE do I have not just power (oh, who am I kidding? I have no power) but huge responsibility to ensure that, whether they be a boy, a girl, a dog or a Martian, that they not be an asshole.(3) With only ONE can I bellow, “I brought you into this world, and I can take you out!” It’s a burden, folks.
So, yeah, parenting teenagers is really fucking hard. Step-parenting them: nearly impossible. That being said, I have lived through it once. I am (fairly) certain I will manage to live through it three more times. And, while I would love to go into (graphic and brutally honest) detail as to what life looks like on the daily – I simply cannot. Unless, of course, I am hell bent on ensuring that things definitely get worse before they get better. Ya gots me?
Consider this a little insight into why I’ve been quiet. Rest assured, however, I am not so quiet here on the homefront.
Oh, and to all my friends who are relishing life on the other side – aka EMPTY NEST – please, for the love of God, don’t even think about telling me I am going to miss this all some day.
(1) I shared for a few reasons. I. It was spot on. 2. I want more people to read my friends Abby’s stuff – she’s a good writer. 3. I have come to consider Abby a great friend. 4. Abby and I have never met in person, but we are basically the same person – so that makes her awesome.
(2) So maybe you’ve never called your kid a shithead. Props to you. But, if you have never even considered calling your kid a shithead, you should just stop reading now. We clearly have a very different parenting experience.
(3) Been using that line for nearly 8 years. Still believe it. Still pray for it to be.
I’ve spent the better part of the past three days crying.
What has our world become that a woman can survive the Holocaust only to be shot dead, shot dead, while praying?
I am not a religious person, but with all the crazy in the world, I was actually in synagogue on Saturday morning seeking, and, for a time finding, quiet, calm, solace and community. Then, in a moment of horrific irony, during the Misheberach – the prayer for people who need healing – someone, smartphone in hand, shared the news.
I have felt vaguely sick ever since.
I’ve gotten angry. Angrier than I ever do. I’ve screamed at people I love, mostly because I love them. And I am terrified.
My heart, my soul and my physical body are heavy, achy and spent. And, though I haven’t laughed in days, I’ve continued about my life, feeling both grateful and horrified at the sight of the “enhanced police presence” which, we are told, is being implemented out of an “abundance of caution.” But we all know that it is no longer possible to be too cautious…
My patience is short.
I have a dull, throbbing and relentless ache in my chest. I wonder, sometimes, if I am having a heart attack, but know it is more likely that this is what a broken heart feels like.
I am baking. And shopping. And talking to strangers even more than usual. I crave touch and warmth and comfort…wondering not if, but when, the next unimaginable thing will happen. And we know it will.
Now, more than ever, let’s all remember to be kind. Most of us are hurting, afraid, anxious, angry and lonely. We need one another. We need kindness. We need to supportive and loving. Life is precious. Protect it. Protect one another.
The following is my personal experience with getting off of anti-depressant medication. It is not meant in any way to criticize, disparage or otherwise shame anyone who has taken, might take or is currently taking one. In fact, I suspect there will come a time that I revisit them myself. I am sharing this in the hopes that it might speak to anyone trying to make things work in our increasingly challenging times.
We all deserve to feel:
If not happy then at least content,
If not calm then at least not hysterical,
If not confident then at least not fearful,
If not joyful then at least not sad.
I happened upon this on the beach last week. I loved it then. I find joy in it now. Really, I do.
On and off – mostly on – for my entire adult life I have struggled, suffered, and had to deal with what I would now consider low – pretty darn low – grade depression which gnawed at rather than tortured me. Its symptoms never forced me to take to bed. I’ve never been so undone that I’ve not left the house for entire days. And I have never felt that I could not take one more moment of how I felt.
Until, that is, I endured the misery of getting off my anti-depressant medication.
Over the years I had found reasonable success with Paxil, Lexapro, Zoloft and, I am sure, one or two others. I took them each for years until I decided that I didn’t want to anymore at which point I endured the recommended slow taper and was no worse for the wear. Any negatives of getting off of them were so negligible that I’ve not even committed any of it to memory. So went the story: I’d take something for a while, it would stop working (whatever that meant), I’d easily get off of it, stay un-medicated for a while and then, for whatever reason, would try something new. No harm, no foul, no big deal.
Until, that is, I went up against Effexor.
I legitimately cannot recall when or why I started taking it. I can think of any number of things that might have precipitated my desire to feel better – man, life can be challenging – but, at this point, it doesn’t really matter. Suffice to say, it has been a few years. And, if we are being honest, it served me pretty well.
Until, that is, it didn’t.
Early in the summer I was far more troubled by the distention of my upper belly, the bloat of my face and the sluggishness of my body (and, um, soul) than my low-grade depression. I was acutely aware of a totally-new-to-me quickness to anger and found myself actually yelling at people with more intensity than their transgression called for. (Aside: I am a lot of things, but “yeller” was never one of them.) I was certain that everything was being caused by the meds. Completely certain.
So I did the right thing (because I always do the right thing) and met with my doctor to ensure that I did it the right way. I did as I was told (because I always do as I am told) and did a slowwwwwww taper that was truly easy-peasy.
Until, that it, it was whatever the total opposite of easy-peasy is.
In truth and fact, the first few days and weeks were entirely uneventful. No problem. A complete non-event.
Until, that is, the tapering was done, there were no pills of any dosage and the true – not to mention brutal – withdrawal symptoms kicked in.
Crying jag √
Taking to bed √
Inability to get anything done √
Loss of appetite √ (okay, I’ve often lamented that I have never lost my appetite…as in ever. This, if we are being honest, is not the worst of the symptoms. Hello, looser clothing, so so so nice to see you!)
I have been miserable. I have been frustrated. In the moments that I could pull myself together, I took to Google. These are actual searches I did. (Really… I consulted my history to confirm):
Effexor withdrawal treatments
Weaning of Effexor
Will I survive weaning off Effexor
Is there anything worse in the world than weaning off Effexor?
Amazon (aside: the cute little dress I ordered should arrive tomorrow)
Tips on minimizing symptoms of Effexor withdrawal (which led me to the darkness of chat rooms, message boards, horror stories,warnings…)
Whose great idea was it to start taking Effexor in the first place?
Zappos (aside: why yes, I did need another pair of Birks which are, I am thrilled to know, are out for delivery as we speak!)
Mayo Clinic (which led me to more chat rooms, message boards, horror stories, warnings…)
Facebook (aside: as a lurker only…no posting. A sure sign I was dying, at least inside.)
Today, day four of no meds, marks the first time I have actually sat at my computer.
Today is the first day that I am not too dizzy to walk from room to room within my house.
Today is the first day that I feel a little less panicked and a little more hopeful.
Today is the first day that I considered eating anything other than bread or bagels. (In fact, that toasted strawberry Pop Tart actually tasted pretty darn good.)
Today is the first day that I feel my sense of humor might be coming back.
Today is the first day that I not only got dressed, but even bothered to moisturize.
Today is the first day that I think I might be able to make it through this.
This has not been fun. This has not been pleasant. This has not been easy. This is not something I want to do ever again. This has sucked and will continue to suck. .
Until, that is, I find myself, hopefully sooner rather than later, on the other side of it. And then, I might just pat myself on the back.
Final honest thought: I do worry that once I get off this I am, with great likelihood, going to find myself needing/wanting (those lines are blurry) something else. But today, as the gruesome (okay, that might be a bit of an exaggeration) symptoms begin to subside, I am just going to try to sit back, relax and not worry about next week or next month.
Until, that is, I do. But then, I will do it with an un-distended belly, an un-bloated fact, an un-sluggish body and soul and the knowledge that I can do this.
p.s. A special shout out to N.S. who, as it happens, is on this same unpleasant trip right along with me. We’ve got this, honey.
I am not sure what is more remarkable: what I did or what happened once I’d done it.
I’d been thinking (and talking) about it for years. Like years and years.
I’d never been able to get “permission” from anyone to do it. Oh, I had asked and been denied. And then I was too afraid to ask, mostly because I already knew what the answer was going to be. Again, not sure what is more remarkable: the fact that I asked, the fact that I was told “no” or the fact that I accepted that as, well, an acceptable response. Yet I did. Argh.
Wednesday morning, I did not think, not even for a brief, joyful moment, that I would pull the trigger and, well, do it. I had strict self-imposed parameters under which I would do it. Said parameters were so strict, in fact, that I was fairly certain than it would beto an impossible feat to pull off. “So,” I said to myself, “what harm is there in looking?”
With Jess there to encourage and support me (thanks, Jess), I asked all the questions I had heard asked over the years, was careful to play the game the way I’d seen it played inumerable times and was fully prepared – hoping, even – to walk away from it all and go back to being the practical, respectful, obedient and, if we are being honest, fearful person I’ve always been.
What had I done? Bye-bye practical, full-sized Passat. Hello… MINI?!
As Jess and I drove home with, duh, the roof down (black scary clouds be damned) Barry called. I told him I was almost home…with a surprise. Okay, let this sink in. Not only had I just bought a little teeny-weeny convertible, but I had done so without consulting him and OMG I had just bought a little teeny-weeny convertible! He greeted me with a smile. And then pelted me with every (fair and reasonable) question one would expect:
Mileage? only 6,000!!!!
Warranty? 4 more years, unlimited mileage, everything…including electrical!
Front Wheel Drive? Yeppers
And so it went. It was official: I had slayed it. All on my own I got a killer deal on a crazy fun car. Sure, the backseat is, um, snug, but a.)Jess, who is taller than me, fits easily, b.) I don’t often have more than two passengers and, c.)I’m never going to have to sit back there! Score!
And then a funny-only-it-wasn’t-funny thing happened. There I was, on the floor of my bathroom, knees to chest, tears pouring out of my face with such fervency that my t-shirt was getting wet, rocking back and forth like a person losing their mind. I was freaking out. What had I just done?!?
I texted my brother, hoping he could talk me off the ledge. He did his best.
I texted Harrison, hoping he would confirm that I got a great deal on an awesome car. He did his best.
Eventually, I peeled myself off the floor, got undressed and stood in the shower for a good 20 minutes. Just stood there. No soap. No shampoo. Just stood there, convinced that this, my first solo stem-to-stern car purchase experience would prove to be an unmitigated disaster; a sure case of getting caught up in a moment. Argh.
I crawled into bed and, thankfully fell quickly to sleep.
The next morning I woke up, still beating myself up. And then a funny-but-actually-funny thing happened. I went to the garage, got into my new car and felt pretty darn good. Hmmm…maybe this wasn’t such a bad idea after all.
I went about my day, roof down (when it wasn’t pouring, that is), music loud, and my already & always messy hair flying around. Yeah, it is definitely small and, yeah, I am going to have to get used to actually using my side mirrors more than I ever have before (strange things happen when there are no backseat windows) and, yeah, that’s a darn narrow backseat, but…
On three occasions I happened to drive by someone I know. And on three occasions they all said the same thing: “That car is so you!”
I am still a little bit panicked. I still wonder if I was impulsive (if getting something you’ve been wanting and talking about for years can be considered impulsive…). But man, is it fun to drive! Just ask Jess, Max, Noah and my dear friend Julie with whom I drove to get ice cream last night.
p.s. I am not sure what has come over me, but this happened today, too. True, my nails are never without polish, but they are also are never anything other than pale pink or white. Ever. Stay tuned for whatever else I might just have up my sleeve…