Monday, 27 November 2017

The unreasonable effectiveness of tabasco shots

A few years back a therapist of mine came with a suggestion that sounds weird: to break out of the more debilitating anxiety attacks — drink a spoonful of tabasco.
She had been using this with self-harm patients, as a way to get the release that comes with cutting, without actually causing yourself harm.

Since then, I have been drinking tabasco whenever my mood crashes out too hard to handle. And it is effective.

Surprisingly effective.

Bizarrely effective.

Exemplia gratia: yesterday, after a full but very pleasant day, a bunch of things conspired against me. A panhandler intimidated me. Then various things kept my edge high, and eventually S brought up a high priority family task and suggested I do it today. I teach all day today, and don't have much in the way of slack, and ended up working up a real panic about how to fit this additional thing in, and about whether delaying until Tuesday would work.

All in all, as I went to brush my teeth, I went from quiet, sad, upset, on the verge of crashing to sitting on the bathroom floor, rocking and crying quietly. Once I finished brushing, I asked S (I had to try twice for her to hear me, each time taking a real effort to get any sound out at all) to fetch me some tabasco.

To really, really show how effective it was, let me paint the scene before and after in even more detail:

Before: I'm sitting on the bathroom floor. Rocking back and forth. Crying. Not able to get any words out. Standing up is completely out of the question. I panic, hard, when S tries to ask me which of our hot sauces I want. It's an effort to even reach up and accept the spoon S has filled with hot sauce.

After: I have barely even swallowed the spoonful of tabasco when my crying stops, a wry smile slowly creeps in. I stand right up, step over to the sink and rinse out my toothbrush, then go to bed.

It doesn't even take a second, but swallowing a spoonful of tabasco will stop — dead in its tracks — my ongoing paralyzing anxiety attacks, return me back to a reasonably good humor and quite capable of taking care of myself and functioning in my surroundings. I have yet to find anything, at all, that is quite as effective at managing my moods: the one obstacle I face is to remember that this is in my toolbox when I need it.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Suspended in Air

This is another guest post by Dorothy Donald.

I was twelve years old. Dr B said she didn’t like to prescribe antidepressants for someone so young, but I was such a classic case that she felt she had to. My mother kept my meds in a high cupboard so that I couldn’t… you know. I didn’t get better.
I was a teenager. It made me feel like I was looking at the world from the bottom of a swimming pool. I did things without deciding to do them. I had never harmed myself before…
Early 20s. I just didn’t think it was helping. I thought I was just getting worse. I wanted to know if there was an alternative. Dr R wrote ‘patient refused to continue treatment’ on my medical notes and dismissed me from his office.
I didn’t want another SSRI. I remember citing some meta-analysis or another on the success rate of SSRIs. I remember saying that I’d tried them before. I remember saying I was not in the least convinced that they would do me any good. Dr S gently asked if maybe doing something that might work was preferable to doing nothing. What did I have to lose, from where I was?
I agreed to give the damn pills a try. I agreed to stick out the first few weeks of dizziness, nausea, acid reflux, and general big weird feelings. I even agreed to up my dosage last summer when I had ‘a bit of a wobble’. Since then I’ve been different.
I still get low mood, but it kicks around for a day or so, rather than weeks or months.
I still have times when I struggle to get out of bed, but the thought process goes “oh, I need more sleep” rather than “I am useless”.
I still think about offing myself, but it’s a thought that drifts into my head and then just drifts right out again, rather than some abominable earworm.
I’m not happy all the time – that would be odd. I get grumpy, furious, sad, excited, tired, TIRED, lost in the flow state, bored, amused, content… all the stuff.
I just looked through my diary for 2017. It shows a bereavement, a house move, a couple of other fairly serious upheavals, and only one thing that felt like a depressive episode. Which seems to have lasted only three or four weeks. I think this is pretty good going, considering.
It would be premature to conclude anything about the efficacy of these tablets (my memory is not infallible and I’m not good enough a girl to keep a really comprehensive diary). It would be unwise to draw comparisons with the other drugs (oh, the confounding variables!).

18 months and counting.