hangover demands interest
Tuesday, May 28 2013
My brain seemed to be firing on all cylinders this morning, so that was a good thing. If one were to have a multi-day cognitive impairment, one might begin to fear that one had entered a new permanent state.
This morning Ray and Nancy appeared unexpectedly. They had their puppy Jack with them and wanted to go for a hike in the woods. But Gretchen had suddenly come down with an unpleasant stomach condition, perhaps the same one that had afflicted her friends at Blue Mountain Center. So Ray and Nancy took all the dogs for a walk. Normally Eleanor and Ramona will only walk in the woods with either Gretchen or me, but it seems they consider Ray and Nancy family at this point. In other Ray-and-Nancy news, they needed their perpetually-on check engine light reset so that their Subaru can pass inspection, and I have a device that can do that.
Gretchen's condition deteriorated throughout the morning. She lay in bed unable to do anything at all. At one point she asked me if there was any medication that could do something about her nausea. I knew of one such medication, and though it is highly effective at combatting nausea, it happens to be illegal. Did she want to try smoking some marijuana?
Mind you, Gretchen is not a marijuana smoker. She doesn't like what it does to her. But if it had a chance of easing her nausea, she was willing to try it. She took a few weak puffs, hoping to get the medicinal effects without also developing a craving for Reggæ. This made her perhaps one of the few people in the past ten years who has used marijuana strictly for medicinal purposes.
I went away for a bit and came back to check in on Gretchen. She had vomitted on the bathroom floor but was now feeling better. The marijuana had helped with the nausea, though it seems it had also made her throw up, which in this case was a good thing. By this evening Gretchen was well enough to be craving food again. She was favorably impressed with marijuana's potential as a medicinal herb.
During much of the early part of the day, I frittered away my time by being too available on instant messenger (both AIM and Facebook). I'm sure there's a setting in Facebook that allows me to check in on it without trumpeting my availability to everyone, but it's easier and ultimately better to just close all my Facebook windows and do something more productive with my life. I didn't know it at the time, but the early part of the day was the only productive period I would end up having.
At some point in the afternoon, I started feeling anxious in a way similar to the way I'd felt before having Sunday night's anxiety attack. I found myself wondering if perhaps those five days of drunken excess I'd spent while Gretchen was at Blue Mountain Center had somehow kindled a real alcohol dependency, the kind that transcends a simple hangover. Yesterday's cognitive problems had been a troubling indication of something unprecedented. So I found myself researching alcohol dependency and withdrawal, which is never a good thing to do when one is on the verge of an anxiety attack.
In the past I've never had any problem with completely ceasing my consumption of alcohol for indefinite periods of time. My body never craved it in any meaningful sense; if I could have been said to crave it at all, the craving was entirely habitual. But when real alcoholics attempt to quit drinking, their bodies rebel. Their neurochemistries have come to expect the depressing influence of alcohol, and have compensated by increasing innate stimulatory systems. When the alcohol is removed, the body finds itself grossly overstimulated. Blood pressure soars, heart rates become rapid, and sensory processing systems are overwhelmed with data. In some cases this overstimulation can even lead to death.
Perhaps the biggest mistake of the day was to track down a sphygmomanometer I'd bought at a yard sale and then measuring my blood pressure. I don't think my blood pressure has been professionally measured since the early 1990s, so it could really be anything at this point and I'd be none the wiser. Couple that ignorance with my unfamiliarity with the sphygmomanometer and you have a recipe for an anxiety attack. My first reading seemed to place my blood pressure at something like 180/110, which is not only considered high, but a "crisis." But what could I do about it? Gretchen was sick in bed, and every time I complain about being sick it always seems that she got sick only hours before. This is something she is quick to point out, and I take it to be somewhat dismissive of any concerns I may be having. So I decided not to say anything. But in so doing, I had another anxiety attack. It got so bad that I had to lie down on the laboratory floor. I also tried walking around in the woods, but that didn't seem to help much.
Eventually I calmed down and felt almost normal, but then I made the mistake of checking my blood pressure again, and now it seemed like it was up around 190/120. Was I about to die? Anything seemed possible. I started feeling discomfort from all parts of my body, as if I had transformed into a poorly-organized animated meat puppet comprised of chunks of flesh hanging on by feeble-and-increasingly-stretched sinews.
Eventually I had to lie down in the bed, and that was where Gretchen (who was now feeling better) found me. I was trying to play it cool, like nothing was wrong with me, but she could sense something was up. So I finally admitted I was having an anxiety attack. I added that I hadn't wanted to tell her because I didn't want her resentfully telling me yet again that I always get sick whenever she gets sick. Eventually I took a hot bath, which completely reset my physical condition and made me feel normal again. This time I was smart enough not to attempt another blood pressure reading.
But later in the evening, I'd been sitting at my chair in front of my computer for awhile and needed to go check something in the greenhouse. On the way back from there, I was climbing the steps back to the house when I started feeling this swelling in my chest cavity that seemed to make inhaling difficult. I somehow made it inside, where I lay down on a couch until I felt better. At that point I went to bed, but as I lay there trying to fall asleep, I kept having similar weirdly uncomfortable and panic-inducing feelings. Had Gretchen not been completely asleep, I would have told about these things or perhaps even tried to get medical assistance. But eventually they subsided, I became comfortable, and drifted off to sleep.
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