It’s been almost a month since my last post, and I’ve got some rather striking changes to report with regards to my medication and how it’s affecting me.
To recap, a month ago I started taking an SSRI medication called Luvox. It’s an antidepressant that is sometimes prescribed to treat social anxiety. My doctor told me that I shouldn’t expect anything for about 4 to 5 weeks, and despite some of what I thought were early effects (which I’m chalking up to the placebo effect), I hadn’t really noticed very much difference.
Last week, however, I did notice a difference. I spent the week in Memphis, TN for work taking a class on application development software used for writing factory automation applications. About halfway through the week, something happened – I noticed I was feeling very happy, almost out of nowhere. Despite not doing anything really special (until Wednesday and Friday anyway – I’ll get to that), I was really enjoying my time out there.
Now I’m sure some of this is due to the lack of kids and family induced stress – essentially I had a mini-vacation, so this much I expected. What I didn’t expect was what came next. Wednesday, after class, my co-worker asked me if I’d like to go hang out on Beale Street, where there’d be live music, crowds of people, etc. At first I was apprehensive (I’m always apprehensive about going somewhere new) – but it was different. What I was feeling was the anticipation of anxiety, but not the anxiety. I told my co-worker Yes, and off we went.
Beale Street was interesting – there were street performers, an open-air market, live bands playing mostly blues, and lots of people. Situations like this don’t usually trigger my hard-core anxiety – mostly because I feel like just an anonymous face in the crowd – but I’m never comfortable in places like this. But Wednesday was different – it felt no different to be among all those people than it does any other time. I wasn’t uncomfortable at all – in fact, I was quite enjoying myself!
I’m trying, but it’s difficult for me to describe the specific difference here between how I usually feel and how I felt that day. My typical ‘in the crowd’ feeling is unpleasant, but not overbearingly so. It’s a subtle feeling of a lack of belonging, like I’m constantly in the wrong place, or doing the wrong thing, or looking in the wrong direction. It’s a feeling of being out of phase with the rest of the crowd – I’m constantly worrying about how I look, or how I’m acting, or how I’m walking, or what I’m saying. It’s the feeling of being different from other people, in a negative way.
But Wednesday, I felt none of that! I didn’t worry about, well, anything! I was just there, enjoying myself, listening to good music, eating good food, seeing good sights, and … enjoying the company of the crowd. That’s never happened before.
We only stayed on Beale Street for a couple hours – long enough to eat and see the sights. I would have liked to stay longer, maybe drink a little, etc. – but we had class the next morning. The next couple days I was happier than ever – not only had I enjoyed myself that night, but I felt like I’d accomplished something big!
Friday, after the end of our class, we went to Graceland, Elvis Presley’s estate, and enjoyed the tour. Beautiful place, and I learned a lot more about Elvis than I thought there was to learn… I’m glad I did. The tour group was small-ish – maybe 20 people – and the tour itself was pretty much self-directed. Small groups like this are my bane, because they’re just small enough that if I can be noticed, I will be noticed.
Except it wasn’t. During the self-directed portion of the tour I barely paid attention to the fact that there were other people around me (except for when I marveled at my lack of attention – this is still very new to me!) This continued all day – no anxiety around people. None. At the airport I ended up sitting in the middle of the floor next to a power outlet, pretty much in the center of everyone else waiting, and never did I feel anxiety over being so visible. In fact I ended up creating a small circle of conversation with the other passengers who were surrounding me – we passed the time together as strangers sharing our thoughts.
I’m starting to seek out such interactions, now, too. When I pass by people at work, I make eye contact, and usually smile and greet them in some way. I did the same sort of thing before, but it was always out of what I felt was expected of me to not seem unfriendly – I never did it because I enjoyed it. That’s different now, and the crazy thing is this: it’s all of a sudden.
It’s like a switch flipped in my brain, and now I am craving social interaction.
This is good on so many levels! For example, last Saturday I took the family out to Cypress Gardens, and we walked the nature trails, visited the butterfly house and the reptile house, and had a generally good time. I *wanted* to go out and do something – that’s why we went! We’re going back this weekend – if we get there before noon it’ll be free ’cause we live in Berkeley County. HEY I should see if anyone else wants to go… I wonder if we can get some of our kids-having family to join us…
See, THIS IS WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT! I don’t think of things like this! This is so new to me – and I know it must not seem very profound to many of you, but I’m seeing… my future life… and it’s exciting and happy and social and interactive and – just YAAY! =P
This is going to be good for my career, too – I can already tell. I got called back to the lab yesterday, to help troubleshoot an issue they were having with my software. When I arrived, there were maybe 6 people – electrical engineers, testers, and builders – standing around, waiting for the issue to be resolved. Usually when this happens I get in, fix the problem, and get out – feeling watched and pressured and anxious the whole time. Not this time, however – I felt just fine, joked a bit, got to know a couple of them a little while I waited for the testers to be certain I’d fixed the issue.
How is this good for my career? If I can get over my anxiety, I can put myself out there more often, be seen by the right people, make the right friends, and get involved in more projects. More projects means more chances for me to show my worth – and I think I’m worth a good bit, at least as a software developer. My employers think so, too, otherwise they wouldn’t have spent over $10,000 on training for me.
It isn’t that my behavior has changed, really – I’m still doing the same sorts of things I did before, just minus the anxiety! Well I suppose my behavior has changed – my anxiety kept me quiet, kept me out of the spotlight, kept me boring. It kept me from enjoying the things I should be enjoying most – the company of my fellow humans.
I don’t think this is going to be a problem for me anymore. =)