Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A Month on Zoloft

GREAT NEWS! Last month, I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder. With some OCD in there for good measure.

And no one is surprised. For a long time, I thought I was a quirky introvert. Like, how on some days, I just couldn’t talk to anyone, because I thought that everything I said sounded crazy. Or how I always had to-do lists, and I felt wound-up and nervous until I finished the last thing, and if I was interrupted, it was like a million bees in my skull. But the worst part: obsessive thoughts.

For instance. One day, my car makes a funny noise. Immediately, my brain goes into overdrive: Is that a problem? What’s wrong with it? PANIC. I get on the internet. I research. The panic gets worse: it could be a hundred things. I’m pretty sure that whatever’s happening, it’s expensive. I should take it to the mechanic. Or should I? Is that premature? What if it was a fluke? What if it never happens again? I should test it. I should take it out right now, even though it’s 10:00 at night. No. I hate driving at night.

Generalized anxiety disorder means my brain never shuts up. I wake up in the middle of the night worrying about the car, and in the morning, I wake up thinking about that noise. I feel sick to my stomach, and I can’t stop my racing thoughts. Really, I decide, I should just take it to a mechanic; I know it will cost a lot, but it’ll be worth the piece of mind. Only the car doesn’t make a noise for a few days, and I start to wonder if it’s my imagination. I start to feel a little better. Until the car makes the noise again one day, and it all comes back. I take it into the mechanic, and they fix it, and then I spend the next couple of weeks listening REAL HARD just in case there's still a problem.

This happened usually once a month about all sorts of stupid stuff: a leaky roof, a broken sink, death, a spot on a board, a creaky floor. Vacations were the worst, because probably there was a burglary or a fire going on while we were out, if the pipes weren’t frozen. If Rebecca was going somewhere with Audrey and I hadn’t heard from them in a few hours, that probably meant they were in an explosive car wreck. Etcetera.

This has always been a problem, but every couple of years, it got REALLY bad. And no matter how badly I wanted to fix my anxiety with rationality, it didn't work. I'd make plans, I'd reason with myself, and then I'd spend an entire day (or week) ramming a thermometer into the mayonnaise jar to make sure it wasn't in the salmonella zone. At the beginning of 2014, it got really miserable; that's about when I started obsessing about my anxiety, which is pretty meta. So I wound up calling a nurse practitioner and setting up an appointment.

The nurse practitioner told me that anxiety was one of the biggest reasons why patients visited her. Anxiety disorders are very common; something like 10-15% of adults have one.  They’re highly treatable with Zoloft, which is cheap and has relatively few side effects. But you know: social stigmas. "You should try asking around," she said. "You might be surprised how many people have the same problem you do."

For a couple of weeks, Zoloft ramped my anxiety up to eleven. Then I was only anxious during the first half of the day, and then only in early morning, and then it was kinda-sorta gone.

I'm STILL adjusting. It’s subtle. I still get grumpy and tired and anxious, but not nearly as much as before, and not NEARLY at the same levels. And it's so much easier to let go of it. I feel SO much more patient with everyone and everything, and I can focus on the moment instead of rushing from one problem to another.

We’re working on selling the house, too. I haven’t done much writing lately. I’m okay with that. When I get back to it, I won't feel so much like it's more stress than fun. Right now, I'm enjoying life again.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Handyman

This is a pretty good story, so bear with me.

At LAST, I started working on The Dead Rise. At the rate things are going, I’ll have this draft finished sometime in the next five years.

But it’s okay! We have a lot going on. We’ve decided to sell our house and move to a bigger, nicer, better locale. Somewhere, preferably, with two bathrooms. But before we can put it on the market, we have to find a handyman to do some big repairs that we’ve been putting off. Recaulking the bathroom, refinishing the deck, stuff like that.

I found the perfect handyman online. Fantastic reviews. Great prices. He even works with a couple of big realtors, so he can point out exactly what needs to be done to appease inspectors and attract buyers.

And, of course, he’s overworked. It’s been two weeks since he gave me a quote, and I still haven’t heard back from him. I have the sinking suspicion that, despite his declarations that Everything’s Still On, he’s probably going to bail on us.

I complained about it at work, about how EVERY time I call someone to cut down a tree or clean my gutters, they come out and give me a quote and seem so friendly and then they disappear on me and the work never gets done. Why does it happen so often? Is it just me? Why won’t they just take my money?

One coworker said, “I can recommend a handyman . He’s a great worker. PLUS, he’s a Christian; he goes to my church.” There’s always an awkward pause when somebody gives me a recommendation like that. I’m an atheist, so it's like saying "Hey, I went to high school with this guy!" Go, Tigers, whatever. My coworker continued: “He's never done any work for me, but he restored this mansion. I saw pictures. It’s gorgeous. You want me to call him?” So I said, “Sure, why not?”

The handyman called me five minutes later. For the sake of privacy, let’s call him Dickerton. Dickerton said, “I’ll come out this afternoon and take a look at everything. Bring my pad, give you a quote. Is that okay?” What time, I asked, and he cautiously mentioned that he wasn’t sure yet – probably four or five. I said that was fine, but to give me some notice if it would be earlier, because I got out of work at four. I told him I could get out of work early, but he had to let me know.

At 3:55, Dickerton called me and asked when I’d be home. “Right around 4:30,” I said. “Oh. I’m right around the corner from you, just sitting at a McDonald’s.” So I rushed home. By the time I got there, Dickerton was waiting outside of my house in a pickup. I invited him in.

We walked through the backyard, and I told him about all the things I wanted done. Dickerton made suggestions that I was pretty sure were sort of insane, like instead of cleaning our shingles, we might just want to nail new ones on top of the old, and that we didn't have to power wash a deck before we stained it, we could just spray bleach on it. And instead of staining the deck, we might just want to paint it with some gritty paint. I started to doubt his credentials.

Dickerton just wanted to chitchat. Only not the regular kind, where you talk about the weather. He wanted to tell me all about his mom's house that he just restored, and what a good job he did.  He pulled out his phone and showed me pictures. I'm pretty sure they're the same ones he showed to my coworker. I'm pretty sure they're the same one he shows to everyone. I suddenly realized, with a sinking sensation, that his motehr's house was his entire resume.

As he flipped through the pictures, a text came up: “Are you still in Franklin?” And then another: “Where are you?” He ignored the texts. The phone rang, and he immediately hung up. “Ha ha, my girlfriend,” he told me. Another text came through: “Is everything okay!?”

His girlfriend was obviously freaking out. She called him again, twice in a row. By proxy, I started freaking out too, and I said,  "If you need to take that, go ahead." So he did. He texted her back. Again. And again. Each time, I just stood there awkwardly while he typed into his phone

Dickerton stayed at my house for nearly two hours. For reference, it only took an hour for the first handyman, and that included twenty minutes of idle chitchat at the end.

As I finally pushed Dickerton out the door, I asked for his last name. I had this faint, desperate hope that maybe he was some sort of secret genius, that I’d google him and find a couple dozen five-star reviews: “At first, I thought he was a lunatic, but…” Anyway, Dickerton told me it was Dirkley. Dickerton Dirkley.

So the minute he was gone, I googled Dickerton Dirkley. The first set of results were adorable: a Facebook profile and Twitter account for an aspiring country music star named Dickerton. I was like, wow, who knew! Country music isn't my thing, but whatever; that's kind of fun.

And then I pulled up the second page and found a series of police affidavits for a “Dickerton Dirkley Todd” who just so happened to live in Nashville and who, like Dickerton Dirkley, previously lived in southeast Texas. Turns OUT that Dickerton Dirkley Todd used the alias "Dickerton Dirkley" and had been booked something like a half-dozen times in the past five years for driving drunk and without a license. And the last time he was arrested was nine days before. He was due in court in two weeks.

Number one: driving drunk is pretty bad. It’s not the ninth circle, but it’s definitely in the bottom four. Number two: I am all about second chances, but not with someone who, nine days before, had swerved across two lanes of traffic before refusing a sobriety test. For the third time in as many years.

I had this secret hope that Dickerton would forget to call me back. Of course, he called the next day. Twice. When I finally spoke to him, he told me that he has some prices for me. “I think seventy-five should do it for the paint. But if we need another bucket, we can get one for twenty. Okay. But I need you to go shopping with me. See. I think you should see what it is that you’re paying for. So you know I’m not screwing you.”

“Great,” I said. “How much is labor?”

“I mean, well, that’s really hard to say with a job this small. See, most craftsmen make, I think, something  around $20-$25 an hour. So you do the math. We’ll add up all the time it takes me to do a job, and then that’s what you’ll pay me. So if it takes me two hours to paint your deck, you know, maybe fifty dollars. But even if it’s a little longer, you know, that’s not too much.”

The math was too tough. He assured me that he was, and I quote verbatim, “not trying to rape nobody here.”  It was around that point I told him I’d talk things over with the wife and get back with him. Then I stared at the floor the rest of the night and said “Jesus. Jesus.”

Anyway. So far, I still haven’t found my handyman. If anyone knows someone they’ll vouch for, let me know.