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.