I want to do some complaining about insomnia but in order to do so I have to do some complaining about SSRIs. So! Let me start right out with a content warning of sorts: if you don’t want to read about someone’s non-ideal SSRI outcome, because maybe you are considering medication and all the anecdotal Internet reviews (“It literally saved my life and I worship at an altar dedicated to GlaxoSmithKline!” *next comment* “This drug ruined everything I have ever loved and I am now but a husk of my former self”) have you in a goddamned tailspin, this may not be the post for you.

Anyhoo, early this year I started taking Wellbutrin, which was prescribed by a doctor who chose it for its relatively mild side effects along with other reasons I honestly can’t remember. My dosage started out small then increased a bit, and at some point, I realized I wasn’t drinking my normal amount of coffee anymore — one cup was absolute max or I’d feel like Uma Thurman with the adrenaline needle hanging out of her chest in Pulp Fiction.

I noticed a few other things, too, like how I didn’t feel regular anger but more like an incandescent full-bodied rage? But on the other hand, shit was hugely enraging during this timeframe so maybe I was just legitimately mad? But on the other other hand, my jaw was always clenched in a knot, my legs were always jiggling, and I always had this heavy anxious feeling in my chest like something somewhere was just terribly WRONG, and even though there was and is plenty of wrong to get het up about this felt very specifically like something biological had gone haywire.

Back to the doctor I went, virtually, and she was like “Oh yes, AGITATION. Yes, agitation can be quite common with this drug, because [brain chemistry stuff], here’s an extended-release version that should really help with that.”

The XL version did help with the agitation, I felt maybe more energized than usual but that edgy high-strung anxiety retreated. However, that’s about when I stopped being able to sleep. Somewhere around early July insomnia set in, and it was a particularly miserable variety that came with what I can only describe as whole-body restless legs syndrome. I’d have to get up and just walk around, over and over, throughout the night, because lying still was impossible.

Meanwhile, the doctor I had been seeing left the clinic, and I was assigned a new doctor, who was like — hand to God — “Wellbutrin? I would never have prescribed that to you, wow.”

So this new doctor tapered me off the Wellbutrin and onto Paxil, which she said was sure to help with the sleep issue plus being much better for what the Wellbutrin was supposed to help with in the first place. Instead, it made me sleepy and foggy and headachy but still wide awake at night, and also as the weeks went by one of Paxil’s most notorious side effects made itself known, which is to say an, ahem, inability to seal the deal, even if one uses a Magic Wand while having inappropriate thoughts about Oscar Isaac. You with me?

Stopping the Paxil wasn’t difficult because I hadn’t been on it that long, and I’m now on what I described to the doctor as “a break” from trying to figure out if sanctioned mood medication is right for me. At this point, I don’t see a compelling reason to experiment again any time soon. I’m seeing a seriously amazing new therapist (she’s so good and of course she doesn’t take insurance, arggh), I’m doing all the self-care things, I feel pretty decent and stable these days. Life on life’s terms for nearly 12 months now, check.

My sleep still sucks a whole lot, though. That crazy restless feeling subsided but no matter how tired I feel when I get in bed I am reliably getting on board that insomnia train, destination 2-ish A.M. Is it some sort of left-behind effect from the meds? Is it just the tax of modern life? ♬ Maybe it’s menopause? 🎶 Who knows, but I sure have plenty of time to ponder the possibilities each night.

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Have you ever thought about a thing as an impossible-to-fulfill fantasy and then one day the thing is completely and totally real and it’s almost too much to take in? I felt like that when I crossed the finish line on my one and only marathon, and I feel that way now when I sit in my brand-new studio.

I’m calling it a studio because that’s the best term I can think of for what it is, which is a small but sturdy outbuilding in our backyard.

Originally, it was going to be a TuffShed, because that was the inspiration. You know those ‘she shed’ designs that have been popping up in home shows for several years now? (Some legitimately brilliant marketing mind was like, hey what if you slapped a chandelier up in this thing and instead of being full of rusty shovels it had teal chevron curtains?) The TuffShed route ended up being expensive enough that it felt worth it to invest the extra into an actual outbuilding with a foundation, insulation, electricity, etc.

It’s taken a while to come together. We did parts of it ourselves (and by “we” I mean “John, but I did technically help snap in a floorboard or two”) but used contractors for plenty of things and all of that took time. Then suddenly it was just FINISHED, and within the last week or so I added the furniture and lighting, and now it’s a whole entire space that’s just for me.

And just what DO I plan to do in there, exactly? I mean, how could I possibly be spending my time that would justify such a splurge, right?

I’ve had a long and weird struggle with feeling as though I deserve this studio. Part of it has to do with the exotic notion of an outbuilding that’s for a woman, like yes of course a man building a shop or garage makes perfect sense, that’s just basic dude stuff, but a lady doing the same thing? I shit you not, our contractor laughingly asked me to my face — in front of another worker! — where I was planning to put the pole.

(Did I send him packing? I did not. I wanted my goddamned studio finished, so I could get in there and sage-smudge the fuck out of everything.)

But part of it is just the same old tape that’s been on repeat for decades: not good enough, don’t deserve it. I know this voice for what it is now, a protective gesture gone haywire. Shhh! to that. There was no deserve to this, it’s just desire plus circumstances: it was a thing I dreamed about, and we eventually had the space and the resources to make it happen.

What I do in there: yoga, work, Zoom meetings, personal writing, reading, sitting. Sometimes I just lie on my yoga mat and look up through the skylight at the clouds moving by overhead.

It’s so incredibly quiet and peaceful in there. It’s full of natural light and it smells like just-cut wood and the faint linger of fresh paint, everything brand new and full of possibility.

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