My #MeToo Moment(s)

Those of you who have read my very sporadic blog for a while probably know that I only write when highly motivated by an experience. This week it was the many hours I spent, eyeball to screen, watching the testimony and questioning of Dr.Christine Blasey Ford and Judge Brett Kavanaugh.

SPOILER ALERT: this is not going to be a political diatribe, although I could certainly spew one. While watching, my text messaging was pinging like a pinball machine with comments from close friends who were similarly glued to the proceedings.

No, it is about my own moment of sexual assault, buried for years, and those experiences and harrassments that came later. Fortunately, my trauma did not affect me as Dr. Ford’s harrowing nightmare did her. But it did greatly influence my feelings about men, my body, sex, and raising two boys… forever.

I entered my freshman year of college at University of Illinois with a close friend. She had a cute cousin from Shaker Heights who we had hung out with when he visited her in Iowa. Shortly into the year, he wanted to visit us on campus and take me out for a date. I liked him and was looking forward to it. This was 52 years ago so please, forgive me for not remembering all the details. What is crystal clear is that beer was involved and at the end of the evening he attacked me. I was shocked and terrified, having had a fun evening and always considered him easy going and worthy of trust. Being a petite 5’2”, I was in no position to actually fend off a six footer. But I yelled that this was NOT what I wanted and was ignored. I fought him verbally and physically, my clothing shredded in the process. Somehow, maybe because he was inebriated, I was able to extricate myself from his grasp, open the car door and flee. Fortunately, we were parked right in front of my dorm and safety was only a sprint away. I don’t even want to contemplate what might have happened if we had been parked elsewhere.

I remember being shaken to my core. Yet I didn’t reveal this incident to anyone but my friend to the degree that her cousin had been too aggressive and I never wanted to see him again. I did not tell my parents because I was afraid they would pull me out of school, nor did I seek help from a counselor.

It was many years later that at the end of seeing “The Vagina Monologues” when members of the audience are asked to stand if they have been a victim of sexual assault, that the memory of that night sprang up like a geyser and I stood. Yes, I too have been a victim. The mere admission brought me to tears and trembling.

There was also an attractive professor in my senior year who tried to entrap me in an uncomfortable situation. I was able to shut it down quickly and feared my grade would suffer for the rejection, but managed to get the A anyway! Lesson learned: don’t be intimidated for a grade, a raise or any other carrot dangled.

After college I was fortunate enough to win a spot as a Guest Editor for Mademoiselle Magazine in a national contest. The 20 girls who won were housed at the legendary Barbizon Hotel for Women, where we were thought to be safe. Only within those walls. We were exposed to many phenomenal people and experiences, one of which was a large party. Drinks and men were plentiful. I was hanging out with a semi famous photographer and then, blur… pause… how did I get here?… I was at his apartment.  Everything became like a slow motion movie and I had no voice or will to stop the film. At some point, my head became clear enough to act. I collected myself, heart pounding, and left. There I was, 21 years old, in New York for the first time, and not knowing where I was. I cannot tell you how I made it back to the Barbizon on foot in the middle of the night but several of the other girls shared experiences after that party too similar to be a coincidence. Clearly, our drinks had been spiked with date rape drugs. The photographer continued to call and I continued to refuse his calls and tried to forget his existence. But every once in a while, I would see a photo credited to him and feel my stomach turn.

I can’t imagine how many women have had hellish incidents such as mine. Many will never speak of them but for me, it is cathartic to do so. The shame and guilt are not ours but the predators who take advantage of women.

Sexual harassment is even more common place than assault and I experienced plenty of that in and out of the workplace. I can’t imagine there are many women who have not, in some form.

Inappropriate remarks, emails, phone messages, touches, head to toe appraisals. And I have been blindsided by friend’s husbands as well, when they thought they could get away with it, like the peck on the cheek at the end of an evening that became a tongue down the throat. These are repugnant and inexcusable no matter how much alcohol was involved.

After my divorce,  to my surprise, I became an object of suspicion to married women. Couples dropped me like a hot iron. Men gave me looks that telegraphed “Fair game.” I have never felt so objectified and it happened almost overnight, at work and otherwise. Divorced women are branded and regarded unfairly as available and even easy. Not every women can’t live without a male in her life. When do boys stop being and thinking like “boys” and act like men?

One of the things that attracted me to the father of my two boys was his respectfulness. I knew he viewed me as an equal, someone to be taken seriously, not a “piece of ass”. I felt comfortable with him because I could trust him. Everything went at my pace. Whenever I encountered anyone in my dating experience who came on too strong, he was “outta here”. I alone had control of my body and how I chose to use it.

I raised my sons to regard women as their equals and worthy of respect and now observe them walking the walk and talking the talk. I could not be more proud. After what I have seen of men’s behavior in my life and on TV last week, if I have accomplished nothing more in my life than helping to mold men for the present and future, not mired in the past, I will be happy.

I do not have daughters to whom I can share my experiences and give my advice. But I do have a beautiful college age granddaughter, a beloved niece and great niece. Fortunately, they have been raised by parents who assured them of their worth and to have confidence in their decisions. To them I say, if the situation doesn’t feel right for you, avoid it. If it constitutes harassment or worse, report it. Share these experiences with your friends, parents and if necessary, therapists. It will help you and them as we progress in a world still dominated by men.

This is a time of empowerment for women. Men aren’t yet getting it but we can’t stop this conversation until they do.

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Loss of Innocence

Driving down a country road on a perfect summer’s day, my convertible top down, and the radio blasting vintage Beach Boys, I am transported temporarily to a younger and more innocent time. The music is the hook; different music can get you to déjà vu faster than the speed of light. This music is the essence, for me, of high school days, when the worst thing that could happen was flunking a course or being grounded, not being a victim of a school shooting massacre. No, we were innocents then.

And then came that day in 1963, you know the one. I was sitting in Geometry class when the solemn announcement was made that JFK had been shot. The world stopped spinning. It was as if a national bubble had burst, one of youth, vigor, hope and expectation. When the news was tearfully and unforgettably delivered by (Uncle) Walter Cronkite, my innocence was forever shattered.

From there came college, from 1966 to 1970, and what a time to be on campus at a large mid-western university! I went in a sorority girl and came out a war protestor. The psychic change in my focus was head spinning. The year that finally put the little girl from Iowa to rest and brought the serious young woman out swinging was 1968.  Somewhere moldering in my archives is a photo of me in my pea coat, long hair streaming, with my PEOPLE FOR PEACE armband on. In February of that year, during the Tet Offensive, the deadliest week of the Vietnam War, 543 of America’s promising young men were killed in action, and 2547 wounded; lives shattered. Some of them were known to me, their names now carved on a wall in Washington. On April 4, I witnessed with horror the live televised killing of Martin Luther King.

And only two months later, my idol, Bobby Kennedy was shot down in a hotel kitchen. It is the recent 50th anniversary of his assassination that has occupied my thoughts and memories lately. Both killings brought to you by the ugliness of racial hatred for those who fought against it.

I grew up in a smallish town where racism never entered my purview. There were a few blacks in my high school but I have no memory of them being treated or regarded any differently than anyone else. Perhaps they have different memories. I do have more than a passing acquaintance with Anti-Semitism being raised, educated, and proudly identified as a Jew all my life. So racism is personal to me as a human and American as it flies in the face of “all men (women) being created equal.” It is the reason my grandparents made an impossible journey from Czarist Russia so their children and grandchildren could live in freedom. I have never been able to understand how all beings cannot respect others’ differences and accept the diversity of the human experience.

What I see now in my country is repugnant and frightening. Emma Lazarus must be rolling in her grave. Racist attitudes at the very top have emboldened those at the bottom. A deliberate pose of not understanding or accepting how others show protest for their racist treatment creates MORE division. So too the tacit silence when others are publicly disrespected. The do nothing response to the violent loss of school children, framing it as a mental health issue when it is clearly a weapon issue allows it to continue unabated. I was devastated, overcome when I heard one of the Parkland students say that his entire life had been spent in the era of school shootings. Imagine, a regular part of the curriculum being drills to deal with a  possible shooter.

This is the not the world I want to leave to my children and my grandchildren. Two are in high school. I can’t but wonder, will this be the day some nutcase with a weapon of war has a grievance against someone at their school and they are in the line of fire? Will my grand baby be in danger at daycare or in kindergarten? Is any of this too paranoid of farfetched at this point?

I was lucky, I guess. I got to have my innocence for 15 years. Today’s children may never experience it unless something changes in a VERY BIG way.

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Mother of the Bride Wannabe

Don’t get me wrong, I adore my two sons. They were so much fun to raise and grew up to be men I am proud of. But if you don’t have a daughter, you never get to experience that well- earned tradition of helping her choose her wedding dress. If, in fact, she chooses to marry and if, she is the dress type in the first place. I always knew it was not in the cards for me.

But I came close to the experience, twice, thanks to the sensitivity of two women.

My friend Joanne had three lovely daughters, each beautiful and brilliant, like they were ordered from central casting. Their father’s name was Billy and I nicknamed them Billy’s Angels. When the first got engaged, Joanne invited me to come with her and her daughter to the local high- class dress emporium, Suky Rosan, to participate in this long standing ritual. I never thought I would see the inside of Suky’s and reacted with the awe usually reserved for places like the Taj Majal or the Sistine Chapel. In the hushed, velvety interior were elegant women quietly procuring elegant gowns for young women living out their wedding fantasies. We sat on a sofa, sipped champagne and watched the self- assured bride- to- be try on, discard and consider dress after dress. The one she chose, with no need for assistance from us, was perfect for her; a simply cut, sleeveless bodice with a bateau neckline, embellished with bead work and joined at the fitted waist to layer upon layer of tulle. It was a ballerina worthy confection. Her mother and I sighed with pleasure. I continue to be touched that my friend shared that very personal and longed- for day with me, knowing I would never have one for myself.

 

But then came PJ. The beautiful, brainy and vivacious girl that captured not just my son’s heart but all of ours, invited me to participate in her wedding dress hunt. I was thrilled and more than touched.

PJ invited my husband and I to Atlanta for Thanksgiving to meet her  family shortly after she and Adam got engaged. Sadly, her mother had been severely compromised by a stroke. But PJ had intuited the perfect plan; she would take both mothers with her to have her first look at wedding dresses. At the very atelier where they film “Say Yes to the Dress”, we watched in a private area as our girl tried on different looks. But this is a young woman who knows her own mind and style. She didn’t need our help but was caring enough to allow us into the experience of a lifetime. It was extremely emotional for all of us as I witnessed just how much could be conveyed by facial expression and tears, with no words necessary.

Later, PJ surprised me with yet another invitation, to join her and her bridesmaids as she tried on dresses in NY and had drinks after. To be included as “one of the girls” was the greatest honor a mother-in-law to be can get! However, the dress hunting itself left much to be desired.

This world famous bridal store, which shall remain nameless, herds potential brides into dressing rooms all opening onto each other, so every bride sees all the others coming and going. And each, with their support group, has little to no privacy. It was a very unsatisfactory experience.

And any bride over a size 12 is left with nearly nothing to try on, cast into the “plus size” category for which there are few, if any, samples.

Considering that 67% of American women fall into this category, I found this practice outrageous and, later, as I was seething at home in front of my computer, sent them a poison pen letter about their policies. Still, inclusiveness being the thing, I will be forever grateful to my daughter-in-law for starting our relationship on such a positive footing. And she did look smashing in the dress she chose.

As for me, I have bought two wedding dresses in my life, both very unconventional, well beyond the bounds of my girlhood dreams.

An off- the- rack bride at 23

My first dress, at age 23, was bought off the rack, on sale, at Foley’s, Houston. It was white but what I would characterize as a Mexican wedding dress. With a deeply cut square neckline elasticized to go off the shoulder, bell sleeves and empire waist trimmed with yellow satin ribbon,  it was cut all of white pin tucked fabric that fell simply to my feet. I remember my father being scandalized that I didn’t wear a bra but, hey, it was 1971!

When I became a bride at 60, my fiancé insisted on shopping with me, in itself a rule breaker. We went to South Coast Plaza in Orange Co. CA and looked for inspiration. It was all very “Pretty Woman” as I tried on dress after dress while he sat in a chair, on his phone, giving them a thumbs up or down. The dress that stopped us in our tracks was on a mannequin in front of the St. John boutique, about the last place I would think of looking. It had a wide scooped neckline, again nearly off the shoulder, lace capped sleeves and then was one long, form fitting pour to the ground. But the back was the eye catcher, dipping almost to the waist with a skinny decorative strap holding the two sides together and ending in a lace train. I had to wear a stick -on bra for that one! Oh, yeah, and did I mention it was black?? When he saw me in it,his eyes filled with tears and we knew it was THE ONE.

So despite not having a daughter, I have managed to have my share of  wedding dress experiences, all varied and all very memorable.

A designer bride at 60

I can only advise the daughter-less among you to sneak in the back door of the dress experience like I did. Or grab a bowl of popcorn and watch “Say Yes to the Dress” where  you can have it vicariously AND critique to your heart’s content.

 

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Reflections on Turning 70

On my 70th with Adam, Seth and the Little Dude

 

 

It’s just a number, right?

No, it is a SURREAL number, one I can’t quite wrap my head around. I clearly don’t picture myself as whatever my previous idea of “70” was. Which reminds me of my mother, in her 90’s, delivering Meals on Wheels, to what she referred to as “really old people.” Like me, she saw herself as eternally young despite evidence to the contrary.

I recorded my thoughts at 50, realistically a halfway point these days. So 70 is definitely the down slope which gives one pause and a different perspective on life, and what comes at the end. And maybe beyond.

So here are some of my reflections as I pass this milestone:

On Final Arrangements-

It is time to plan for “the end” so my boys don’t have to. There are really difficult decisions to make and I don’t want my sons to have to make them when they are grieving, nor pay for them. So my plot, a stone’s throw from my parents’, has been purchased. Someone just has to get me there. During my research, I found the whole funereal industry so expensive and distasteful. When I’m gone, I’m gone. Keep the money for yourselves and your children; don’t bury it with me.

On spending money-

There are constant reminders that life is short; news of those younger than me dying of cancer, by accidents, in natural disasters. While I don’t want to outlive my money, I want to enjoy it while I’m here. I worked damn hard for it.

That said, I don’t need more THINGS. I could shop my closet for years to come, just replacing the worn out basics. 98% of my life can be covered by jeans, leggings, long sleeve Tee shirts, basic cashmere sweaters, a great pair of boots, one pair of black heels and flats. I have enough jackets and coats for any temperature variation. But I’m still a sucker for a pretty dress!  I definitely don’t need more fine jewelry having given my diamond crazy husband an edict: only costume jewelry in the future. Seriously!

On use of my remaining time-

What I DO want to invest in is more EXPERIENCES while I am still physically able. All those demanding trips we talk about to far flung places, we need to do them while we can. The concerts, plays, movies we love to share, that’s where we should be spending our time and money. I don’t need fine dining anymore either, just good food. And good wine.

I’ve become more of a homebody than ever. Having a comfortable, beautiful abode has always been important. Now it is my cocoon. I look forward to coming home where the light pours in, the furniture is comfy and there are numerous places to cuddle up with my husband and my dog to read, knit or binge watch addictive TV shows. Add a glass of Pinot Noir and a fire and, really, what else does one need?

On marriage-

Speaking of husbands and dogs, although I love him dearly, I will never have another husband. But I will always have another dog!

I’ve been married twice, once for 32 years and now for almost 10. No regrets. But a lot of hard work comes between “I do” and “happily ever after.” There have been many peaks and valleys and it takes determination to stick it out. And sometimes outside help can be invaluable. But if I find myself alone from this point forward, I will remain a single lady. With a dog.

On changes that time hath wrought-

I am still trying to come to terms with my “new” body. My formerly tiny waist is no more and though I am still at the low end of my “acceptable” weight range, it’s rearranged itself in a way that is not altogether pleasing or even recognizable to me. Ditto to my skin which doesn’t want to stay firmly and smoothly attached to my skeletal system. It’s frustrating to have zero control over my body. All I can say is, thank G-d for Pilates and Spandex!

On maintaining health-

As a member of the lucky gene pool, I fully expect to live into my 90’s as did my parents. All my organs function perfectly; it’s my skeletal system that needs  constant remediation. If only I had married an orthopedist instead of a dentist!

Lots of surgeries have followed me since hitting 60 including two recent spinal fusions. But I just keep moving because with arthritic joints, it’s disastrous not to.

I am dedicated to Pilates which I have practiced for over 10 years and walking, preferably by the ocean, or in the woods but on the dreaded treadmill if all else fails. Healthy eating is my goal but I live by the 80/20 rule: eat smart 80% of the time and indulge 20%. However being somewhat obsessive, it’s more like 90/10. I have no plans to give up dark chocolate –ever- nor wine or an occasional margarita.

On beauty (i.e. maintenance)

Less consumed than I was when I started my blog, I have settled into a simple routine of twice a day cleansing, vitamin serum in the a.m., SPF 50 religiously, and moisturizer. Every once in a while, I’ll do an at-home peel or mask just for the hell of it. At night, it’s Retinol, eye cream and more moisturizer. Consistency, not brand, is important and certainly not exorbitant creams with unrealistic claims.

On cooking-

Cooking nightly is a bore; cooking for friends is fun and creative; but baking = love and will always be my passion. Compiling a family cookbook of my mother’s recipes last year while I was recuperating from surgery kept me sane and gave me a great feeling of accomplishment. And long buried memories that came flooding back.

On reading-

I’ve always been a voracious reader. As a kid I read my breakfast cereal box if nothing else was available. I cannot be without a book! Now I volunteer at my local library bookstore. It is exactly like being a kid in a candy store. So many books, so little time! I wish I could live there. I also started a neighborhood book club that has put me in touch with a great group of intelligent, expressive women.

On my “growth years”-

As I look back, my 50’s were a real high point of my life in terms of career achievement and personal growth. I had four productive years between husbands that were invaluable in terms of learning who I am, feeling confident in my own skin, and adjusting to self -sufficiency. Having married at 23, becoming single and dating in my 50’s was a real eye opener! Aside from some very lackluster dates, there were two lengthy relationships that taught me a lot about what I did and didn’t want in a male companion. ‘Nuf said.

On women-

Female relationships are increasingly cruciall to my life. Women are so emotionally evolved and diversely interesting. Each friend adds something to my experience. Some of my friendships go back to grade school, high school, college, former jobs and places I’ve lived.  Though years and distances separate me and the many women who are meaningful to me, I try to nurture those relationships and stay in touch. I could do a better job and will strive to let them all know how important they have been/are to me. On the other hand, I have no time to waste on someone who does not add something to my life.

On family-

Family is EVERYTHING. The older I get, the more precious the moments I spend with them and when my children gathered for my Big Birthday, I was over the moon. Although it’s very anti-feminist of me, my greatest goal was always to be a mother because I emulated my own. And nothing has given me more pleasure. My little grandson is a giant cherry on top of my life’s sundae. I had forgotten what it was like to fall so in love! My second marriage added extended family which has so enriched my life. My step- daughter and son- in- law are incredible people whom I love and admire and I have had the joy of watching my three “acquired” grand children grow from little kids to high school and college age, each amazing in his/her own way. I simply adore my entire family.

On looking backward-

As I look back over 70 years, it truly has been a “Long and Winding Road”, one I could never have envisioned. My only goal was to get out of Iowa!; now I have lived in eight different states from Midwest to Southwest to New England. I’ve been a single career girl, a married woman, a Mom, single again, married again. I’ve had entrepreneurial businesses, changed careers and retired. There has been exhilaration and despair.  Unexpected physical challenges that have had me down, but never out. I have had an incredibly fortunate life; solid, loving and supportive parents, a close knit family of nieces and nephews, cousins who are like siblings. But I also have a sibling from whom I am distant although I no longer brood about it. Life goes on.

I can’t help but think of my incredible mother who, even in the last weeks of her life, got up each morning, dressed, put on jewelry and makeup and with a big smile, said in wonderment, “I’m still here!” Yup, Mom, me too.

Let’s see what comes next…..

 

 

 

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A Cautionary Tale

 

The arsenal

 

For a (former) card carrying member of the sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll generation, taking anti-depressants should be a no-brainer, right? Except when it isn’t.

The taking of anti- depressants has become as mundane and common as gulping vitamins. Their use has become so pervasive that not only are they prescribed for the obvious, depression, but also a myriad of other conditions including  anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, eating issues, chronic pain, ADD, addiction and sleep disorders. Since the national election, many doctors report a major upsurge in demand for antidepressants just to deal with the State of the Union! Basically, they have become an easy go-to for medical and psychiatric practitioners and a panacea for patients. The goal in all cases is the same: to feel better.

And for most people, they work. Of course, there are countless antidepressants to choose from and choose you must. Each may affect one in a different way. Web MD cautions:

“Not everyone has the same side effects. And a particular antidepressant doesn’t cause the same side effects in all people. Many things, including your genetic makeup or existing health conditions, can affect the way you respond to taking an antidepressant.”

Then they list the most common side effects. Are you ready to take your pick?

Nausea, increased appetite and weight gain, loss of sexual desire, (the dreaded) erectile dysfunction,decreased orgasm, fatigue, drowsiness, insomnia, dry mouth, blurred vision, jitteriness, weird dreams, constipation, dizziness and irritability. Yes, while attempting to feel better, you may encounter other unwanted aspects that make you feel even worse.

I have my own personal history with antidepressants. I started taking them in 2004 when my divorce coincided with menopause. What a Clash of the Titans that was! I was prescribed a drug called Effexor also known as Venlafaxine. The dosage was the lowest available, 37.5 mg. And in a short while, I did feel immeasurably better and encountered no noticeable side effects.

Fast forward to 2006 when I fell in love with my (current) husband, Richard. He, too, was taking Effexor for reasons of his own. But while on a romantic trip to Paris and the South of France, we felt so upbeat that we went off the drug. I wish I could say we made it a dramatic gesture, like throwing the pills into the Seine, but unfortunately I blew that photo opportunity. I have no memory of any difficulty  experienced with stopping the drug, but most likely France, wine, and sex obliterated any negative effects.

In 2010, we relocated from Santa Fe to Richard’s home in Connecticut. I completely underestimated the devastating effect that move would have on me. It involved leaving a home I had lovingly built, friendships that were emotionally important to me and a 25 year career in real estate, which occupied me 24/7. So we moved to his small but lovely bachelor pad on the water in Stamford where I knew no one and had nothing to do. After a serious back injury incurred while moving, major depression descended like an anvil. Concerned, Richard sent me to a psycho pharmacologist he knew and after determining that I truly was depressed, he put me on Effexor again. Remember Dr. Feel Good because he comes back later in my story.

Eventually, I established a life and friendships in Stamford, but was never truly happy there and continued taking Effexor. In 2015, Richard retired from his dental practice and we moved to North Shore Boston area to be closer to his daughter and grandchildren. By this time my back problems were chronic and I had already weathered a surgery for spinal stenosis with no relief. Because I was plagued by debilitating back and radiating leg pain, my new physiatrist doubled my dosage of Effexor. A spinal fusion followed and a lengthy recovery. This opened up a whole Pandora’s box of new drug problems.

Immediately after surgery, I was given Oxycodone, a morphine like opioid used to treat severe pain, and directed to take it around the clock. Oh, it killed the pain all right, but it left me like a Zombie. I remember thinking, why would anyone take this drug recreationally? It makes me feel like shit. I couldn’t focus or carry on a conversation. It was as if I was living in my own little opium den, swathed in gauze, and trying to get out. So I began  to taper off the drug, preferring the pain to the stupor. But I did it without consultation and too fast, precipitating severe withdrawal. Nausea, vomiting, sweating and fatigue enveloped me for days before I came out of it with real perspective on what people endure to get off addictive drugs.

Once I recovered from surgery, I realized something else was happening with my head.    Strange neurological symptoms surfaced: low grade but constant headaches, the sensation of vibrating vision and something I can only describe as “brain flutters.” I was examined and evaluated exhaustively by an ear doctor, auditory specialist, ophthalmologist, neurologist, ophthalmic neurologist, you name it.  MRIs, CT scans, balance, vision, auditory and dizziness tests were administered. The conclusion? “We found nothing wrong with you.”

This might seem great news, but it threw me for a loop. Give me a problem and I will deal with it. Here there was a persistent medical issue but no diagnosis.  I was beyond discouraged on every level.

Clearly, there WAS something wrong with me, diagnosed or not. Frustrated, I turned to online self-diagnosis which is admittedly questionable, but can be informative. A medical article on Effexor’s side effects listed “visual disturbances” as the number one result. Yet, none of the many doctors, all aware of every drug and supplement that passed my lips had questioned my taking it.

I had an epiphany: what if all my issues related back to Effexor?

I decided to go off it to see if my thesis proved correct. I did this under the supervision of my primary care doctor.

Going off a psychotropic drug like an antidepressant cold turkey is very ill advised. After my experience with Oxycodone, I knew even weaning myself off slowly could be challenging. It took several weeks to gradually decrease my dosage til I was taking the lowest level capsule every fifth day. At that point, I was instructed to stop.

And then I started to feel other worldly and not in a good way. I was super emotional, having crying jags from songs on the radio or random thoughts. I became lethargic, unmotivated, anti –social, stoned, as if I were living in a parallel universe. Overwhelming fatigue sent me to bed for hours. And the brain flutters were worse than ever. This all made me, you guessed it, depressed. So I placed another call to Dr. Feel Good, who despite my nickname for him, is a brilliant and very serious guy. He felt that what I was experiencing, three weeks after being completely drug free, was drug withdrawal and not atypical. He also told me something very sobering: after one depression treated with drugs and then stopping them, you have a 50% chance of relapse into another depression. After two such go- rounds, you have an 80% chance of relapse. He also cautioned that it could take two to three months for all neurological effects to resolve.

So. One sees why people get discouraged and go back on antidepressants.

He offered me two options: to gut it out and hopefully feel “normal” in the next couple months, or to go back on the drug in perpetuity.

What a choice.

I decided to go with Plan A and hope that I do not relapse into anything requiring chemical assistance. What I now understand more fully is that drugs like antidepressants alter the chemical balance of your brain, which controls and affects all mental and physical function.

And that is no small matter.

So the cautionary in the tale is this:

Think carefully and research well before embarking on a course of antidepressants.

Popping pills is not be taken lightly; you are making serious changes to the status and operation of your brain. Be advised of the potential side effects of any drug you consider.

And IF you decide to go off any serious psychological or opioid drug, do so with care, under medical supervision and VERY slowly, even if you have taken it for a short time. All drugs have both positive and negative effects and may have major consequences.

Better Living Through Chemistry? You could benefit greatly or be in a world of hurt.

 

 

 

 

 

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Boy in a Box or A New Twist on Mother’s Day

 

My First Grand Child

When I first became a mother on March 25, 1974, it was the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. The Mother Gene was very strong in me from the get-go. And as soon as I looked into that little face and held that tiny body against my chest, I fell deeply and profoundly in love.

Flash forward to this past September when my son and daughter in law brought forth my first grandchild, Jonathan Milo. And again, the first time I saw him in the flesh and held him in my arms, I was a goner. Now every photo sent, every Face Time with him and every video of him chortling fills me an indescribable joy. I am besotted with this little boy. There is no purer love than for the child of your child.

When I open my lap top in the morning, there he is on the screen. A different photo greets me on my iPad and another laughing visage on my mobile phone. And each time, it fills me with such joy. I couldn’t, even with effort, restrain the smile that comes instantly.  The glow fades ever so slowly before I need another fix.

Every month on the “anniversary” of his birth, I send him something. I am constantly thinking of what I would like to see him wear or what would bring him delight. He is 8 months old now and the rest of the year’s gifts are already at the ready in my closet.

So when I saw the Boy in the Box photo, I laughed out loud. Here he is, ready to move into his first house with a quizzical expression that says, “What do they have in store for me now??”

If only they would close that box, cut some air holes and FedEx him right to my door!

Mother’s Day will never be the same again.

 

P.S. A reprise of last year’s Mother’s Day blog by request is being sent.

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The Other Side of Mother’s Day

Ah, Mother’s Day. A mother surrounded by her adoring family; pampered, taken out to dinner, showered with gifts and cards.

Me as a young mom, 1981

Me as a young mom, 1981

At least that’s how Hallmark sees it.

The reality? It can be a painful, hellish holiday for so many women.

Consider:

The mother whose child has died, the mother who lost her child in a custody battle, the woman who aborted and lived to regret it.

The woman who got pregnant and gave her child away. The divorced mother working two jobs to feed her kids, the woman who has tried every means to conceive and cannot.

The woman who was adopted, the woman who sought out her birth mother and was turned away. The mother who has a child with a severe disability.

The enlisted mother deployed to dangerous regions. The mother whose child rejects her or vice versa. The woman who was abused by her mother. The woman with an alcoholic, disabled or demented mother. The woman estranged from her mother.

The woman whose mother died or left home, never to be known. The woman who inherits her new husband’s children.

Even those who never have had a child, definitely had a mother; even briefly. It is the commonality of women.

To all of them, and any other permutations, the words “Mother’s Day” come loaded with emotional baggage.

Mom circa 1930's

Mom circa 1930’s

There is another category to which I belong:

the woman who has lost her mother. And what a mother and woman she was! Funny, feisty, spirited, productive, and resourceful. Not to mention passionately loving, supportive and generous. An impossible standard to live up to. With her as my mentor, having children of my own was a major priority. I was so blessed to have two healthy and loving boys and I savored every moment of raising them. Now that they are busy adults, Mother’s Day can be fraught with disappointment. Neither lives close enough to pop over on Sunday and get to work on Monday, so a celebration is only infrequently in the offing.

My darling sons

My darling sons

But more impactful for me is that I lost the mother who I adored, admired and emulated right before Mother’s Day two years ago. The first such holiday without her was literally unbearable. This one will be little better as she fills my thoughts with every Mother’s Day ad and card I see. On my night table is her picture; a candle lit in remembrance. Friends, childless and not, who have lost their mothers also have confided how they dread this day.

What does one do on Mother’s Day without children or a mother?

Might I suggest making it Me Day.

Go to or download a chick flick. Add popcorn and a glass of wine

Get a facial, peel, blow out or a new lipstick.

Schedule a mani/pedi or massage.

Surround yourself with your favorite flowers (Casa Blanca lilies for me!)

Workout and eliminate the stress while getting some benefit.

Plan a day doing what pleases you; brunch with friends, a flea market, a shopping spree, curling up with a page turner.

Being a mother is hard; losing a mother is hard; losing a child hardest of all.

Live through Mother’s Day any way you can and on Monday, breathe a sigh of relief. It’s over for another year.

As for me, my hopes and dreams for a more uplifting Mother’s Day lie with my first grandchild who will be born in the Fall. Next year, maybe I will view it all differently.

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