Ode: Ally Karsyn
In the middle of the night, I was on my knees, staring into a scummy toilet, wishing I could purge the poison from my body and wondering when was the last time I cleaned the bathroom floor.
This all started a week earlier. I went to go see my doctor for a routine visit while I had some time off of work. On this day, I was running late, a truck on I-29 threw a big rock at my windshield, and once again, I was tired. So when the doctor asked me how I was feeling, I answered by bursting into tears.
Now, I would not recommend doing this. Because when you do, medical professionals tend to get that concerned look on their face and you start to worry that they’ll send in the guys with the giant butterfly nets to take you away.
Given my state of distress, she starts asking for a family history of depression or if there are any problems at home. In between sobs, I say, it’s just work. Too much stress at work.
By this point, I had an ongoing problem with debilitating fatigue that would make me want to sleep for 9-10 hours a night and, then, I’d still wake up tired, feeling like I needed a nap by two in the afternoon. I was also experiencing something called brain fog.
If you’ve never experienced it, it’s like the Claritin commercial where they peel away the blurry filter and the allergy-stricken soccer mom boasts of being Claritin clear. She smiles. I despair.
I’d reach for the Claritin to get that feeling, except I don’t have itchy, watery eyes or a runny nose. Just a brain suffering from mild delirium. I tell myself the clouding of consciousness is invariably brought on by chronic stress.
When the fog rolls in, it takes away my witticisms, my personality, my ability to be me.
I was just tired of being tired. What I meant to ask my doctor was to increase the dosage for my thyroid medication.
I was still experiencing some of the worst symptoms even though my lab tests came back normal, a common occurrence with this condition that can announce itself with fatigue, weight gain, cold intolerance, joint pain, dry skin and depression.
Instead of getting to the bottom of my thyroid problem, I found myself filling out a multiple choice questionnaire, asking me to rank statements like: my future seems hopeless; the joy has gone out of my life; I have difficulty making decisions; without trying, I have lost or gained weight; I have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep or sleeping too much.
It feels a little like filling out one of those online quizzes answering 20 questions to find out which state I should live in, which comfort food I should eat and which pet I should get.
If nothing else, I discovered Quizony.com could make all of my decisions. And that I should be living in California, eating fried chicken with my cat.
The doctor’s depression test was far less fun and left me with a prescription for a new bottle of pills. Lexapro. 10 milligrams. And I was told I might need to take them for the rest of my life. I was 24.
Didn’t she know that newspaper reporter is the worst job ever, according to CareerCast.com? Didn’t she know about the industry’s low pay and long hours, the dwindling job prospects and that, somehow, all of this meant that the lumberjacks had a better job than me? The Lumberjacks. Didn’t she know?
Of course not. She knew none of this.
So she did what was within her power to do. Prescribe pills.
Desperate to find relief from the fatigue and brain fog, I filled the prescription and waited for my new anti-anxiety medication to arrive in the mail. When they came, I ripped open the package and skimmed the drug safety information that said common side effects include drowsiness, dizziness, diarrhea, dry mouth, heartburn, headaches, insomnia and fatigue. And in rare cases: coma, confusion, convulsions, hallucinations and nausea.
I took the pills for two days.
If you believe the things on the Internet (and I do!), supposedly, these pills actually start to help if you can get through four to six weeks of taking them.
But as I was sitting on the floor, hunched over the toilet at four in the morning, nauseous like never before, I couldn’t help but think there’s got to be a better way to take care of myself.
It seems some people can eat whatever they want, smugly indulging in their couch-potato lifestyle with very few immediate consequences. Turns out, I am not one of them.
I wasn’t drinking enough water or exercising enough or eating healthy enough. You know, the usual.
Now, my days include what else but the wonders of yoga and aromatherapy and government-approved portions of fruits and vegetables. I switched over to decaf coffee, started guzzling glasses of water and exercising at least 30 minutes a day.
I even broke down and did one of those subscription meditation apps, called Headspace, the “gym for your mind.” And then there were certain boundaries I needed to set at work.
Side effects have included feeling good about myself and the things I put in my body, having more energy, less stress and seemingly more time to work on special projects like this and do the things I love.
New beginnings can come from the most unlikely places. I just know to be thankful wherever you find them even if it means facing your own reflection in a toilet bowl at 2 a.m.
Ally Karsyn is a features reporter for the Sioux City Journal and the founder of Ode.
Ode is a storytelling series where community members tell true stories on stage. It was founded by Ally Karsyn. The next Ode storytelling event will take place Wednesday, March 30, at 7:00 p.m. in ISU Design West.