Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Andy Lipman - raw and honest

July 15, 2013
1:03 AM

Good morning...I mean good EARLY morning. It used to be that you'd never find me up after 10:00PM though I'd like it known I was born at 10:58 PM so I have a history of doing my best work at night. The last few nights I've had difficulty going to sleep before 1:00 AM thanks to the fact that I stopped my antidepressants. The long and short of it was my insurance company said I should have another 90 day supply but I told them I didn't receive it. They would not send me one as I suppose they think I'm a junkie. Yeah, I get off on taking Lexapro 20mg. Look, if it was gummy bears, I could understand why you think I might overdose. By the way, I haven't had a gummy bear in over a month. I have gone from 187 pounds 6 weeks ago to 173. But this entry is not about my new nutritional routine. It's far more important than that.

Most of my blogs detail how strong I have been as far as dealing with cystic fibrosis, depression and anxiety. This blog will do no such thing. This isn't about comeback stories. It's about life and the issues we sometimes have to face. Not every moment is a Roy Hobbs HR or a Clubber Lang knockdown. There are some moments that cause us to suffer but over time make us stronger people. I hope the story I'm about to tell you will some day do the same for me...and maybe even the same for you.

I wanted to talk about my issues with stopping Lexapro. I talked to my psychiatrist after the insurance company turned down my prescription request. We agreed that I could cut my last few pills in half so I could slowly taper off to 10MG for a week and finally stop taking antidepressants prior to July 4th. I knew that this was risky as most patients take 3 or 4 months to taper off and it's still difficult. I was trying to do it in a week.

That morning, I ran my 6.2 miles for the 17th consecutive year at the Peachtree Road Race. This was the first time I ran without my uncle who injured himself. I thought it was kind of cool that there was a 100% chance of rain in the morning yet in the hour plus that I competed, not a single raindrop touched me. I smiled when I thought maybe Wendy was behind it. That was where the good feelings ended.

After the race, I felt out of it but I blamed the exhaustion on running a hilly 6.2 miles (10 kilometers) in the Atlanta humidity. We left for vacation a few days later and the "out of sorts" feelings had not gone away. I felt off balance like I had vertigo...and that feeling has not subsided. If I look backwards really quickly, I feel like I'm going to fall. The culprit became obvious to me.

While on vacation, I read that stopping Lexapro so quickly could do this to me. Sadly, I was out of options unless I wanted a 2-month supply of pills that would cost about $180 since my insurance company would not pay for it (and that still angers me). Honestly, I thought I'd beaten both depression and anxiety and I was overly confident that I could stop these drugs anytime and be fine. Heck, I'd gone more than 37 years without them already. Still, I'd forgotten that many of those years I'd dealt with both anxiety and depression unbeknownst to me at the time. The vertigo persists and now I'm dealing with extreme anxiety. As an example, the other night I woke up in a cold sweat after about a 30 minute sleep. I began hearing negative voices in my head and felt like I was suffocating. It felt as if I was stuffed in a small fish bowl and having someone press against the top so I could not escape. It was hard to breathe...and that's coming from someone with CF who is quite used to having trouble breathing. I was pacing back and forth in my hallway trying not to wake my wife or kids while at the same time trying to shield myself from the angry voices. I felt like I was the little boy in "The Shining" who is riding his tricycle down the hall when he runs into the scary kids. It was frightening.

Finally, tonight or should I say last night since it's officially morning, I called my psychiatrist and left a message. I did get a hold of my psychologist who believes I'll probably need to go back on Lexapro. In some ways, I'm happy. In other ways, I'm not. I feel like I lost by giving in. Even the gummy bears could not beat me. But George, my psychologist, said it best, "It's not your fault. You have a chemical imbalance and a drug like Lexapro helps you." I guess what he's saying is that I'm not giving in. I'm just realizing that I'm not 100% without a little help from some drugs. I have CF. You would have thought I'd known that drugs help by now.

Let me say that I have not been this honest in a long time on this blog. I've never been dishonest but I haven't opened up in a long time like this. Part of me feels like I'm going crazy. Another part of me knows that I have to take care of myself and there are no limits.

It's now 1:23 AM and I'm wondering if I should delete this blog and write something stupid like the Top 10 reasons I know I'm not a fashion mogel. My number 1 was going to be I still have shirts from Structure which closed down more than a decade ago. They might try to sue me for putting on another piece of their merchandise.

Still I think this blog is a lot more important than an occasional Top 10 list or a discussion on my fashion issues. This blog is to tell people it's okay to be honest. It's okay to admit weakness. It's okay to be yourself even if that is considered "strange" to the majority of the world. There are a lot of things that set me apart from others. I don't drink anymore and that can be strange to those around me who are not aware. I take more drugs than someone implicated in the BALCO case. Of course, mine won't get me in trouble. Sometimes I feel like CVS or Walgreens will call me one day to endorse me. Heck, when they have an outage, they may call me to see if I can help out a customer.

I'm an addict. It's something I joke about when it comes to gummy bears and M&M's but it's not always a laughing matter. Over the last few days, I can tell I have problems. Andrea can tell too. I'm a lot shorter with the kids. I can't focus on anything. I'm very condescending with my wife. This isn't me. This is the chemical imbalance which sadly is a part of me.

I have a lot going on so going off Lexapro could not have come at a worse time. There's still the Sneiderman trial which I'm a potential witness towards the end of this month. My son is having his tonsils out. We are closing on a new house. My best friend is coming to town for his daughter's baby naming...and all of this is just in the next week and half. All of this and my glucose results were not great and my anxiety is at an all-time high. I'm not eating. I'm not sleeping. The other problem is that talking is not helping either. Talking about my anxiety makes me...well, anxious!

In certain ways, I'm like many of you. I want to be liked. I don't want to feel different. I try to treat people the right way. In other ways, I can't conform to normalcy. I do hours of treatments per day. I take 30 to 40 pills from morning to night. I go to a doctor once every 6 to 12 weeks to see if I need to stay in a hospital and concern myself with my life expectancy. I wasn't supposed to reach my teens and here I am just 51 days till I hit the big 4-0! In the real world, 40 is considered a mid-life crisis. In the CF world, our midlife crisis was supposed to occur in high school (at least for a guy like me who was born in the seventies).

I've been writing for 30 minutes now...trying not to concern myself with anxiety and depression. The problem is that I get depressed when the topic of depression arises and I get anxious thinking about how messed up my anxiety is. This blog couldn't be more raw nor could it be more honest than it is at this moment. Still I think I should have done that top 10 list. I have some real fashion issues. I had my 7 and 4 year old children walk me around Banana Republic the other day giving me fashion tips...and I listened and made some decent purchases at the outlets.

The last few weeks I've been following TWITTER mainly to read about my Braves but also requesting nebulizer pictures for my upcoming video "I Need A Nebulizer." While the response to the video has been awesome, it has also reminded me why I can never get close to CFers (the clever name we give to CF patients). In the last week, 5 people (a few who asked to take part in my video) died from CF. The average age of those who passed was around 22. Now, I find myself devastated over the loss of people I'd never met, who were killed by the very disease I battle every day...a disease that also killed my sister decades ago.

People tell me I'm so tough and brave. Sure, there are times when I am but there are other times that you don't see how frightened I am. There are times when I cry at the thought of dying before my daughter gets married, being in a hospital room during my son's graduation and being unable to take my wife to dinner because I'm hooked to an IV pole. This is the other side of me. While these thoughts are "normal" for someone with CF or any sort of terminal illness, dealing with anxiety and depression right now makes me think of these awful possibilities far too often.

This picture from more than 5 years ago reminds me of how depressed I could get.

Andrea and I spoke about all the good things coming up. We have a new house on the horizion. We are both turning 40. The Braves are in first place at the All-Star break. Ok, I added that one. The thing is that anxiety and depession have very little to do with what is currently going on. They are these dark feelings that come on like a school of jellyfish invading the perfectly blue ocean. They are unforseen and they are tough to fight off. I could be winning the Nobel Peace Prize and anxiey and depression could make me feel like I was sealed in a square box without a hole to breathe through and without any hope of getting out.

I'm going to tell you that I've been writing for nearly an hour now and refuse to double-check my spelling or grammar (Okay, this is supposed to honest. I went back and edited this. Who am I? Jerry MaGuire?). I am Andy Lipman and this is my purest form. I'll probably read this in the morning and think "What did I do? People are going to think I'm crazy. They are going to make fun of me." In some cases, that will be true. But I'm not writing this for those people. I'm writing this for the people who need to hear about someone real. I'm writing this for those of you who have your own demons and are afraid to talk about them because you're embarrassed and you think you're alone. You're not. I'm not.

Be proud of who you are. Be strong enough to admit your weaknesses. Seek help when staying quiet may be the more popular option.

In summary, let me tell you about myself. My name is Andy Lipman. I'm 39 years and 10 months old. I love my wife to death. My children are the best gift anyone could have ever given me. My parents have been great examples of how to be a good person. My sister Emily, my aunts, uncles and cousins are all very important people in my life and honor me each day with their pursuit of finding a cure for this devastating disease we call cystic fibrosis. I'm an addict. I suffer from anxiety and depression issues just to name a few. My friends and family may want to add the fact that my sense of humor could be another issue. I'm a terrible communicator who will probably ask you what's going on in your life so I don't have to talk about my own. I'm an introvert who is also a motivational speaker. I'm a workout fiend who has trouble saying no to gummy bears. I'm a purchasing director who still pays full price in most retail stores. Finally, I have a terminal lung disease which is probably the 2nd toughest disease I face every day behind the combination of anxiety and depression.

Tomorrow (or should I say today) I will speak to my psychiatrist and see what the next step needs to be. Thank you for allowing me the last two hours to avoid thinking about my anxiety and depression and helping me to feel like things will get better. I will probably continue to hear voices and persevere by ignoring them over the next few hours and probably the next few days. I will still feel as if I'm stuck in a small fish bowl but I'll continue to peek my head out to breathe. And finally I'll continue to keep this blog raw and honest which was my initial intent.

After all, I'm Andy Lipman and I still have a Structure shirt hanging in my closet. You can't get more honest than that.

Good night and good morning,


NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I was put on a lower dose of Lexapro Tuesday morning (half the strength of my old drug) and am already seeing a major difference. Hopefully my family will too.

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