Saturday, January 31, 2009

Altered States

My doctor changed my blood pressure medicine about 3 weeks ago. Now, I've been taking medication for high blood pressure for nearly 20 years, and been through several formulas in the process. My experience has been that, when you start on a different regimen, the drug hits you with with both effects and side-effects, and you learn to tolerate them all. The balance, naturally (or un-naturally, I suppose in this case) is to be found in getting the right imbalance of the desired result over the undesired. What had happened was a change about 7 weeks ago, a follow-up, and then the drug was boosted another 50%. I'm going to try and explain, briefly, what happened to me, for reasoning that I hope will be meaningful.

Beta-blockers basically lower blood pressure by slowing one's heart rate. They are also used as an occasional anti-anxiety drug for this reason. In the first few weeks, I noticed that the slowdown was mental, as well, but, when you tend to be a sullen curmudgeon with occasional outbursts, I didn't see this as that much of a negative. My weight loss continues, albeit more slowly - if I couldn't be fat, then 2 outta 3 (dumb and happy) might not be so bad. As the dosage increased, I found myself having a hard time concentrating, particularly when someone was speaking to me about anything complex; building control programming, the plot of  "Burn After Reading." At the beginning of the week, I started experiencing panic attacks, but they were very,very strange because a> I had absolutely nothing to be that anxious about, which only made me more anxious, and b> my heart rate wasn't rising to meet the anxiety, which physically felt a lot like stepping out on a very high ledge covered in Crisco(the ledge, not me- that'd be really creepy). I slept for a couple of days, changed the time of day for taking the stuff - didn't really make any difference. Saw the doc yesterday, I'm starting today with a combination of a couple of old favorites to perhaps mitigate the problems with both. Of course, a possibility is aggregation rather than mitigation, but if that happens, there's always litigation. I'm just kidding. Healthcare and lawyers - now there's a prescription for side effects lasting more than four hours. But I digress.

The reason I'm writing about this is that I was reminded, over and again as I went through the motions, mostly at work, moving through the same spaces that I've traveled in for 20 some years, but feeling so very different, that we're not perceiving this world identically. We may be occupying the same spaces, but our senses and conclusions can be as different as night and day. If I might be so bold, I think it's been a real factor in my unease this year concerning politics - seeing relationships torn asunder because, in my opinion, they were just incapable of understanding/accepting/relating to a different view than their own. I was quite frightened, on Monday, by the prospect that I knew that something was wrong with me and it was somewhat out of my control - fortunately I was aware of what was (probably) causing it, and could do something about it. I've been contemplating what it would be like to be in that position without the last part of that sentence in force. I've been reminded that, if I truly want to be the kind of person I'd like to be, I need to be aware of others' contexts, perhaps even drug interactions, when interacting with them. This is pretty easy to observe, where I work, where there are ready examples of a full spectrum of humanity -  from the certified mentally ill to the ultimate ego-driven specimens known as surgeons. It is fortunate that the gemütlichkeit of my workplace includes empathy and compassion; they are inherent in the business plan.

So. How do we come to trust what we trust - our senses, each other, gravity? Experience and Love? What if they're wrong, misplaced, misled? Should I even be asking these questions, are they merely borne by beta-blocking? I'm not sure - but I guess that's the point.