Monthly Archives: November 2013

Thanksgiving was his favorite holiday

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By Jack Smith

Thanksgiving was my father’s favorite holiday. It may have been his favorite day of the year.

He would rise early, whistling with gusto and singing silly songs in the shower, while mom did all the work in the kitchen.

Dad loved Thanksgiving because it was the one day of the year he was sure to see almost all of his Smith kin, most especially his five brothers and sisters. They were an unusually close set of siblings, their relationships forged by fire with the tragic early death of their mother, who died when the youngest was just an infant, and the premature death of their father, who died when my father was in college after living for years with a broken heart, never remarrying or even dating.

Every Thanksgiving morning, after watching Big Bird, Kermit and others float through Manhattan, we’d pile up in the station wagon and motor through the Wiregrass toward Geneva, home of my namesake. Uncle Jack and his sweet wife,  my Aunt Mill, hosted all the Smiths  every year. They fried up the best hand-breaded chicken fingers you’ve ever tasted and put out salty Apalachicola bay oysters before any of us even arrived. I ate more fat oysters on Saltines, dripping with tangy cocktail sauce, than one could count. Continue reading

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CPAP mask makes for restless nights, so far

By Jack Smith

Imagine you are dressed up as Darth Vader for Halloween.  Only your mask is too small, it fogs up when you breathe,  your lips are chapped and you are claustrophobic to begin with.

Now you have to slide into bed, hook a garden hose up to your mask and try to go to sleep.

That’s how my first week with a CPAP mask has gone. It’s been a sleepless train wreck. It’s a good thing I don’t operate heavy machinery for a living. Heck, driving and typing (not at the same time) have been hard enough. Continue reading

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Manic patients aren’t mad, just different

By Jack Smith

With a presentation to 50 people a few hours away, I had more energy than a cocaine user on his highest high. Only it was 4:00 a.m. and I had not yet slept.

I felt larger than life, drinking beer after beer while listening to music in my hotel room. I was traveling alone and enjoying a party of one.

Thoughts raced through my mind as the alcohol warmed my blood. I would leave my current job and conquer the world. I would become a high-flying consultant to big companies and write a book. I would be rich and would retire at 50. I might even become famous.

I ordered room service and more booze, giving the waiter an absurdly high tip. I partied alone and plotted my future until 6:00 in the morning. A couple of hours later, on precious few hours of sleep, I walked into the conference room and knocked it out of the park.

The reviews participants left were some of the best I received in my short consulting career. They said they liked my energy and enthusiasm. Some said it was one of the best presentations they had ever seen.

bipolar-symptoms-400x400Later that day, I drove three hours to another city for another gig and did it all over again. I remember being amazed I wasn’t tired after that presentation, which also got good reviews.

Another time I was alone in a big city with no real work obligations. I stayed up most of three days, meeting strangers with ease, buying rounds for people I didn’t know and making repeated trips to the ATM so I could keep gambling, which isn’t something I even know how to do.

That episode ended with a spectacular crash. I was reduced to sobbing on the sofa, calling my wife and confessing what I’d been doing. I so quickly descended into depression and panic, we had to call a friend staying at a different hotel to come and get me. The next day, I made the long drive home, devastated by depression and anxiety.

Continue reading

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noeffexor

Wicked antidepressant withdrawals bitter pill to swallow

By Jack Smith

So this is what the hiccup tastes like. The doctors warned me it would come.

Hiccups, setbacks and even relapse can all be part of mental health recovery, especially when you start some drugs and stop others.

I just didn’t know the hiccup would taste so bitter, hit so hard and cause so much angst.

Google “Effexor withdrawal” and you’ll see horror stories from patients on message boards and blogs.

On the more official websites, you’ll see the Who’s Who of side effects: Upset stomach. (More like stomach bug from hell). Dizziness. Brain shakes (this is real and hard to explain, except that it feels like your brain is rattling around in your noggin).

Migraines (four in five days). Nervousness. Fatigue. Loss of coordination (my wife revoked my driving privileges on a weekend getaway). Vomiting (does puking in your mouth count?). Tremor (good thing I’m not a brain surgeon or we’d be screwed). And an itch that feels like ants crawling under your skin.  Continue reading

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Weight gain frustrating side effect in battle with depression

By Jack Smith

Topics at this blog tend to be kind of heavy, so I thought I might lighten things up today. Only I can’t.

I’m teetering on a new personal record— but not the kind you want plastered on the wall at the gym.

I recently tipped the scales at more than 200 pounds for the first time ever. I weighed 206 to be exact. That’s roughly 46 pounds heavier than I was in 2011 and 50 pounds heavier than college.

Both times, doctors told me the meds I was taking were partly to blame. The drugs I was taken in 2011 took away my appetite to the point I could only eat a few bites at meal time. The fist full of pills I’m currently taking, however have caused my appetite to go off the charts.

unexplained weight gainI have to take some responsibility here. I’m the one who ate like a bird or inhaled food like a pig, but the meds didn’t help and probably hurt.

I don’t recall exactly what meds I was taking in 2011 when I all but quit eating.  I think I was on Abilify and Remeron, among other drugs.

I just remember it was an incredibly difficult time for depression and anxiety.  I had no appetite. None at all. I was so skinny my wife wondered if I had an eating disorder and several people thought I had cancer. One friend later told me she thought I was “manorexic.”  Continue reading

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Telling our secrets, sharing our pain takes away their power

secrets

By Jack Smith

I’m reminded of something my late father once said to me after I got busted for a night of drinking. I probably wasn’t even 21.

Trying to wrap his naive mind around what we’d done, he asked how many drinks I’d had.

“I don’t know,” I shrugged, preparing to lie. “Three or four?”

“Four beers!” he shot back excitedly. “What kind of idiot would drink four beers in one night!”

If he only knew….

Since I’m still working through self-esteem issues and this novel idea of self-compassion, I often question why I do certain things. Well, most things.

Take writing this blog and sharing my darkest secrets. Talking about your problems isn’t something his generation understands.  I can almost hear the wise voice of my father asking, “do you really want to do that?”

Most of the time, I do. The reason I do it is simple. I write to help me cope and give others hope.  Continue reading

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