Softening the Anxiety

My primary care doctor gave me a prescription for medications to help with depression/anxiety a couple of months ago. I was not sure I needed it, but I had been feeling anxious and a little depressed, so I had the prescription filled and have been taking it once a day since. I took the last pill a few days ago and there are no more refills remaining. It occurred to me I might want to ask the doctor to renew the prescription, but I decided against it. I never sensed the medication had any effect on me and I am growing increasingly skeptical about the necessity for several other prescriptions.

In addition to skepticism, I have been debating with myself whether “treating” naturally-occurring phenomena is always the right thing to do. Doesn’t everyone feel anxious and/or moderately depressed from time to time? How appropriate is it, then, to try to erase those emotional rough spots with drugs? What about hypertension? Should medications be the first line of defense? Instead, should doctors urge patients to change their behaviors/ lifestyles before prescribing chemicals?

I’m still mulling over these matters. I know I should change my sedentary lifestyle and my diet. Whether I do remains to be seen. If I opt not to, though, should I expect my insurance to cover the cost of medications that intervene on my behalf, doing the work I should be doing myself?  I have no quarrel with medications that address all manner of maladies, but I question the point at which those medications should be used in lieu of alternative treatments. I should know more about these matters. However, I think the massive amounts of “information” available to me is laced with misinformation driven by marketing decisions. Yet it’s my health, so should I not invest the time to wade through it all and reach decisions based on my assessments of the best information? Only if I value my health and my life enough. And I wonder whether any of us pay adequate attention, until it’s too late. Just thinking about these matters has an odd impact on me; rather than making me more anxious, thinking about them softens my anxiety.

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Speaking of anxiety: A day or two after my wife’s death, I started the slow, unhappy process of dealing with its administrative aftermath. I notified Social Security. I contacted some of her lifelong friends. I cancelled some accounts. I made adjustments to automatic payments linked to credit cards in her name. I cancelled credit cards. I looked for our wills. And I continued looking. Day after day, I searched for the wills. I thought I would find them where our other important papers were located. When they were not where I expected them to be, I looked in our safe deposit box. And when they were not there, I called the attorney who handled our new wills when we moved to Arkansas. She assured me the original must be at home or in a safe deposit box. And she said she could supply me with copies, but the originals might be necessary for some legal matters. I kept looking. I decided I would go room by room, looking in every box, every bookshelf, every possible “hiding” place. My wife was incredibly well-organized when it came to such matters; I had no doubt the documents were in the house, but I had to put myself inside her well-organized brain to find what she had done with them.

Yesterday, I found them. I stumbled upon them, literally a few feet from her desk; I was stunned I had overlooked them so many times during my search. My level of anxiety diminished and softened immediately. The administrative matters I delayed during my search can now be addressed without the anxiety associated with being unable to find the documents. The long, unhappy process of addressing the aftermath of the death of the love of my life can now resume. My disquiet has eased; the matters I must handle will be a bit easier. Now, it’s a matter of setting priorities. Do I sell the car first, or should I have the title to the house changed, naming me sole owner? Is now the time to talk to a financial advisor, or should I wait until my wife’s IRAs and 401Ks are put in my name? There are plenty of resources to help me make those choices; I just have to give myself time, which I will.

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Yesterday afternoon, I sat and chatted with some neighbors, a couple I rarely see or talk with. The man almost never leaves the house and the woman ventures out on very rare occasion, going grocery shopping when crowds are sparse. They are exceptionally nice people and very interesting. We raised a champagne toast to the memory of my wife and discussed topics ranging from Netflix movies to the cost of housing in southern California to their intentions to keep their very attractive Christmas decorations up inside their house until mid-March or beyond. After the champagne bottle was empty, we moved on to chardonnay. By the time I returned to my house next door, we had agreed to get together every so often. I’m quite conscious of COVID-19, so we’ll be sure to take proper precautions.

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Lunch yesterday was potato soup, left for me a few days earlier by a neighbor down the street. Dinner last night, leftover lamb vindaloo, called for something cold to temper the heat, so I finished a bottle of sauvignon blanc. After champagne, chardonnay, and the remnants of a bottle of SB, I had no anxiety whatsoever. And I was in just the mood to watch another episode of Bad Blood. I have decided that Kim Coates, the actor who plays a main character (Declan Gardiner) is an extraordinarily accomplished actor. Until I looked up information about the series, I was unaware it was a Canadian program. Live and learn. The head of the crime family, now out of the picture (in Season 2), was played by Anthony LaPaglia; he is an Australian actor, though I could not have known that except for what I read. LaPaglia’s accent, in character, does not betray his birthplace.

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Today, a woman I knew from my work life plans to come by to leave me a dinner. She and her husband have stopped in once or twice already since my wife’s death. They are very nice people. Although their political perspectives run counter to mine, and their religious views clash with mine, I find them gracious and caring, evidence that political perspectives do not necessarily define the person. But that is a hard position for me to accept and internalize; yet it’s true. I don’t know how to discard the conflict.

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This morning, I am sitting at my wife’s desk. I look around the room and see reminders of her everywhere. Almost every time I think of her, my eyes brim with tears. I miss her terribly. It’s nearing six months since her first hospital admission, making it almost six months since she spent more than a few nights at home. I missed her all that time, but the intensity now feels so much stronger and so much more painful. Even though I think I am doing pretty well with my grief, there are times when I feel like collapsing into a heap and sobbing. I wish, right now, I could just go back to bed and stay there all day. But I can’t. I have obligations and commitments and work to do this morning and throughout the day. I just have to buck up and wade through it. I’ll wipe away the tears and get with it. My wife was so much stronger, emotionally, than me. I could use some of her superior strength right now.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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2 Responses to Softening the Anxiety

  1. David, I was mistaken; I do have one more refill available, so I’m getting it.

  2. davidlegan says:

    Ah, drugs. I had, I say HAD, Hepatitis C for over two decades, liver gradually worsening, no ability to buy insurance because it was a pre-existing condition. I was prescribed interferon, at $1,500 out of my pocket a month, and learned to give myself a shot each day for two years. It didn’t work. Then, as my hope was running out, Obama care and a new drug, Harvoni, serendipitously combined to cure the illness. Not “in remission.” Not “under control.” CURED. The cost of the drug was, get this, $1100 per pill, 90 pills. $99,000, paid without a peep by Blue Cross. At first I questioned the cost…how can a single pill be worth $1100? The answer is, of course, what is the cost of a liver transplant (assuming a liver might be found?) So, as you might guess, I’m sort of a drug fan. I do agree that one should watch carefully the physician’s impulse to add a new drug for every new condition.

    As for the depression and anxiety, I do have a piece of advice. (Experience, ya know.) Assuming that your anxiety drugs were SSRIs, be careful there. Stopping them immediately can go WAY wrong. Quitting those damned things should be a two week weaning time, at least. Seriously, monitor yourself closely…there have been a LOT of unpleasant events associated with accelerated withdrawal. If you are feeling funkier by the day, call me. Or your doctor. As for anxiety, when that is event-associated, Jeez man, take the drugs. The event (even as incapacitating as the death of your wife) will gradually fade away – that ability to heal is baked into our DNA. Until it fades, I see no problem at all with staying semi-stoned for a few months. But that’s just me – I’m pain averse. And, it is pain, isn’t it?

    All the best. Keep stompin’.

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