What Happened?

October is gone and you, my much neglected readers, deserve an explanation for my blatant lack of posting. It all started with a good thing. I decided to use Chantix to help me quit smoking once and for all. It worked for my uncle. It was working for my mom. I was ready to bite the proverbial bullet and have a go. I was warned that it might make me “a little more tired” and that it may cause some “vivid dreams.” These warnings did not prepare me for what was to come.

While on Chantix, I slept 18 to 20 hours a day. The worst part, though, was that I wasn’t even aware of how much I was sleeping because I had those very vivid dreams they warned me about. It wasn’t even a more vivid sampling of my usual dreams—which tend to involve the characters and plot lines I’m too busy to write. No, my very vivid dreams involved me living my life as per usual, including turning in the assignments I’d promised to my clients.

This went on for two weeks before I accidentally missed a dose. During the sickly haze that followed, I started to realize that things weren’t making much sense. I became suspicious—paranoid, really—and I decided to intentionally miss a dose. I was sick with headaches, nausea, and a pervasive dullness that made me want to crawl right back into bed, but I was also aware, with a growing sense of dread, that there was a distortion in my sense of reality. What my mind remembered didn’t make sense any more.

So, right before my mom’s hip replacement surgery, I stopped taking Chantix altogether. I spent the day at the hospital, waiting for my mom to get out of surgery and recovery, which is its own kind of misery. Yet, I was able to stay awake and alert and conscious of my surrounding throughout the day. I even started to shake off the sick feeling. As I sat there waiting for my mother to wake up, I committed myself to figuring out what had really happened and what, I feared, had not.

The next day was a Tuesday and, between meeting my mother’s needs and my children’s needs, the day went by quickly. When the evening came and things started slowing down, I sat down at my computer to try to figure out what was going on. I started by checking my e-mail. I had over 800 e-mail messages in my in-box. That was like a punch in the gut. I couldn’t breathe. It was just too much to face, so I shut down my e-mail.

My hands shook as I opened my assignment folders. I couldn’t find any of the work that I remembered doing. The Chantix was still somewhat in my system, so my thoughts weren’t exactly clear. The recesses of the darker part of my imagination threw up dozens of paranoid explanations, which I quickly rejected. I felt like I was losing it. I needed to ground myself. So, I went back to my e-mail, sent off a frantic message to my co-author, and called it a night, all the while hoping to wake up to discover that this was just a nightmare and everything was really just fine and dandy.

Wednesday morning my co-author and I had a Skype meeting and he told me what had happened from his perspective. The short version is that I’d been “gone” for two weeks. He’d sent e-mail messages I’d never answered. He left messages on my work line and my home phone. I didn’t show up for our regularly scheduled Skype meetings. He couldn’t get in touch with me via any of my known methods of contact. He’d honestly feared that I, and possibly my entire family, had died.

By then my e-mail in-box had over 900 messages. I started to filter out the spam from the legitimate messages, but I only got through about 400 messages (just sorting them), before I was overwhelmed. My clients had been trying to reach me, and like my co-author they’d grown increasingly frantic and worried. I sent off heartfelt, honest apologies to my clients. I then went upstairs, told my husband how thoroughly I’d messed up, and cried on his shoulder for a good 15 minutes. I went back downstairs and started reading the messages I’d missed over the last two weeks.

Despite the mess my business was in, life went on around me and there were many needs I had to meet. My mom was in the hospital until Friday; then, she was moved into a nursing home. The boys needed me, my mom needed me, and my clients were all very understanding. I struggled to get everything back under control, but my confidence was shattered. Even though it wasn’t exactly my fault, it was definitely my failure. I felt it keenly. I’d messed up so thoroughly that I didn’t know what to do to fix it.

Honestly, I tried to manage everything I needed to do for my family and I tried to do everything I hadn’t done for my clients. I tried and I failed. The next day I’d try again, and fail. Again, and again, and again, and again. The stress of my ongoing failure was killing me. I was exhausted, but I couldn’t sleep. I’d lay in bed and worry myself to pieces until I fell into a restless daze.

Finally, the stress did its thing and I succumbed to a fibromyalgia flare up that floored me completely. When I was first diagnosed with fibromyalgia, I’d sought treatment, in part, because my pain was hovering between a 5 and a 6 on a daily basis (out of 10, with 10 being bad). I’d also sought treatment because my ability to concentrate was shot to hell. Before the Chantix, I’d gotten my daily, regular pain down to a 3. My concentration wasn’t fabulous, but it was good enough to do my work. After the Chantix and all the consequences of those two weeks, my pain was at a 7 out of 10. My ability to concentrate was as bad as it’d been at my worst. I could not do my work. I just couldn’t do it at all. I was too ashamed to face my clients. I could barely meet the needs of my children and my mother. I could barely function. I felt like a complete failure. I was so thoroughly depressed that I couldn’t see my way out.

Yet, there’s that part of me that still believes in fairy tales. There’s an even larger part of me that believes in a loving God who answers prayers. I had hope that things were going to turn around in a major, life-altering way. All I had to do was hang on for Wednesday.


About Stephanie Allen Crist

Stephanie created and produces ComeSootheYourAchingSoul.com in answer to a call from God to use her experiences and gifts to help others. Stephanie is also the author of www.StephanieAllenCrist.com and two books that can be found on that site. Stephanie strives to share her love, faith, and talents in an inclusive manner to help others who know spiritual pain and who know the bitter taste of the dregs of despair.
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12 Responses to What Happened?

  1. acflory says:

    Oh Stephanie…. 😦 Don’t know what to say except… HUGS!

    • Thank you. These last two months have been rough. But, on the other hand, the change they have wrought has me writing fiction again. So, there has been some good that’s come out of all this badness.

      • acflory says:

        – hugs – I’m so pleased you’re writing fiction again. To me it means you’re listening to your own needs a little bit. The balance was too far over in the other direction for a while.

      • It was. It seemed necessary at the time, but I’ve re-realized that creativity increases when you use it. Fiction and creative nonfiction is where my stores of creativity come from.

      • acflory says:

        I think you’re finally on the mend. -hugs-

      • Yes, but it’s been two rounds of antibiotics and neither the sinus infection nor the bronchitis are all the way gone. They’re definitely better, but they’re still lingering.

      • acflory says:

        I’d like to suggest some pure iodine to help your immune system. You don’t drink it!!!!! You paint a one inch by one inch square [or circle] on your tummy and watch it fade as it’s absorbed by your body. Just don’t put clothes on until it dries as it will stain.

      • Hm. Now that’s something I haven’t heard of before. A while back, my levels were checked and the only thing they said was that my vitamin D was low. Since then, I’ve been taking a prescription dose of vitamin D and a multivitamin. It says it has 100% of my daily need for iodine, so I should be good.

        Of course, the daily vitamin also says it has 250% of the vitamin D I need, which is clearly wrong considering my own peculiarities. I’ll have to research the iodine thing.

        Mostly, though, I think the stress is what’s compromising my immune system. I haven’t been able to find anything that counters the physicochemical reactions caused by stress. All the information out there says to reduce your stress. I say that’s easy for them to say.

      • acflory says:

        Re the iodine – if it fades away in 8 hours or less then your body needs it and is using it up. If it stays for 24 hours then you probably don’t need it.

        Re the stress – yes, I wish there were some foolproof way of reducing it from all our lives. I haven’t even been working full time and yet I’ve reached the point where I know I have to stop and relax for a while. Luckily we’re heading into the summer holidays so I’ll manage a rest and some writing.

      • I think one of the reasons I like action adventure stories is because, whatever life throws at them, these guys and gals just keep going. The good ones–especially television shows–show that this capacity is the product of intense training and a history of being put through unendurable situations and yet managing to survive.

        I know if exerted more self-discipline I would be able to improve my own capacities, even if I never attained that level of ability. But part of growing up without realizing that my sensory system was markedly different from the norm is that I taught myself to “shut off” my body awareness in order to concentrate on my cerebral activities. Part of the attraction for studious and creative endeavors for me is that my senses bring in a constant state of chaos, while my mind can shut that off and create order and beauty and meaning, most especially meaning.

        The flip side of that is, of course, it’s “natural” for me to neglect my body. Since the two, body and mind, are really inseparable, there are consequences I have yet been able to deal with or counter act.

        Like everyone else, I’m a work-in-progress.

      • acflory says:

        I’ve neglected the body too, and my brush with cancer was the result. I can visualise mind/body as one whole. Putting that into practice however… Not easy.

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