Friday, October 11, 2013

My season ends with a whimper and descent into madness

In order to finish off the triathlon season and to celebrate my five year anniversary from my surgery, I decided to do the Santa Cruz Triathlon but as an AquaBike.

When I signed up for it, I was swimming and biking every week and had done some Sprint length AquaBikes and it was over two months away so an Olympic level AquaBike seemed well within my grasp.

Little did I know.

The first thing that went wrong was when I had the weird reaction to the Tylenol PM and couldn’t work out much at all for most of August. But, still, my cardio echo test came back fine and I had more than a month left to prepare so I figured I still had time to ramp up my distances in my training.

But then I had a weird reaction to the Topamax itself. The first month I was on 100 mg was fine, as far as I could tell. It’s possible my word issues were getting worse, but that seems obvious only in hindsight. Or maybe I was in denial. But I think they were just getting worse gradually enough that I didn’t notice at first.

It was the second month were things started to go totally haywire. Bollax-up as the British say.

At first it was just that the word issues and short-term memory issues got worse. Annoying, but manageable. Then, out of the blue, I started having random thoughts about killing myself for absolutely no reason. Next, I started having visions of action doing it.

That scared the bejesus out of me. Mainly because I like living and all that.

The first two times, I just shrugged it off because I knew I didn’t really want to kill myself and we all have weird random thoughts we’d rather not share with the public at times that mean nothing.

But it just got worse from there.

It all kind of cumulated a few weeks ago, the week after IM Lake Tahoe, when I was talking to Mr. Mac on my hands-free system driving home from work and we got into an argument and he hung up on me. I pretty much went ballistic. When I got home I was in a state and he made everything worse by trying to be logical, which was not helpful at all.

I literally felt like I couldn’t take it any more and like I did want to actually kill myself and I was screaming “I don’t care” and “I can’t take it any more” and he was saying things like “don’t be silly.” (Yeah, really helpful.)

Eventually I calmed down but it was really bad for a while there and I was scared. Very, very scared.

My job has been very stressful lately mostly because it hasn’t turned out to be what I was promised when I took it. I thought I had reconciled myself to that but then things got even less desirable and now I have decisions to make and that is never fun.

Then the weekend before I was in Tahoe for IMLT running an aid station and that was fun, but also hard work. It's what I call "good stress" but it's still stress.

I think between the higher dose of Topamax and work stress and burning the candle at both ends with volunteering, I just pushed myself over the edge.

I actually seriously thought about checking myself into the psych ward at the local hospital but I was afraid, once I got into the system, I wouldn’t be able to get out. (And also the best choice in my area shut down two years ago.)

Plus I had plans to go to Anaheim for an ObesityHelp.com conference and Mini-Mac and her friend were coming with me and I didn’t want to disappoint any of us. I really wanted to go and felt that would be a good mental-health break that I didn’t want to miss.

Okay, I also didn’t want to miss my deadlines at work. Because I'm kind of Type A like that.

To be even more honest, I also didn’t want to go off the Topamax.

Being on 100 mg had been, up until this point, heavenly. I hardly ever had any head issues; maybe just little niggles a few times a week. I was sure I’d be totally cured and ready to start running and working out full tilt by January.

Understandable, I didn’t want to give that up.

Then again, you can’t train for tris if you’re dead so there’s that…

I bit the bullet and I emailed my neurologist and told him what was going on. It was the weekend though so I went ahead and did my AquaBike. Or tri-ed to.

Because I was in a state and also because my PCP wanted me to cut back on the exercising for a while, and then I was busy and out of the habit, I just haven’t been working out much. About every two weeks, I swim a mile. And that’s pretty much it.

I do bike once in a while and I had gotten up to 19 miles. But the course is 26 miles. I figured I’d be okay but very tired. Still I was nervous about it.

MacBoy wanted us to go away Saturday night so he could have a party with his friends for his birthday. We said “okay” (with reservations) and went down to Santa Cruz for the day. Because Mini-Mac and I were going DisneyBounding the next weekend, we spent the whole day shopping and I was exhausted by the time we got to our motel. Not good.

Then the morning of, I was okay but I kind of tweaked my back in transition. Uh oh. I thought I was fine until I had to run from the beach into the water. Oh my, that hurt! I kind of stumbled into the water very slowly, one of the last in from the last wave. Bah!

I was okay in the water though. I got all the way around the pier but it took me 45 minutes, which seemed wrong for .96 miles. Oh well. I wasn’t the last one out of the water and I felt good in there so I figured I must have swum longer than .96 miles. I got out and started to run up the beach but every step just KILLED. I forced myself up to the timing matt and then….

I was done. It was clear that I wasn't going to be able to bike and even getting back to transition was iffy.

Mr. Mac helped me back to transition which took about 10 minutes with me having to stop a lot and lean on him and he got me out of my wet suit and packed me up and we got back to the motel and went home.

I did see on my Garmin that the .96 course was actually 1.05 miles so my time was about right – just the same as when I swam around the pier for the Dip and (no) Dash two weeks prior. That was cool.

I had an OZ rehearsal later that day so I took some Advil, lots of Advil, and by the time of the rehearsal I was okay. It was a dance rehearsal and I was able to do all the steps with no back issues. Too bad I couldn’t have waited three hours to do the bike ride – I could have finished the race!

But it was a disappointing ending to a very weird season.

On Monday I heard from the neurologist. He wanted me to wean down from 100 mg to 75 and then 50 mg of Topamax and then come see him when I got back from Hawaii.

Almost immediately on the 75 mg, I started to feel more like myself, as long as I didn’t go to work. But I had to go to work so I went through a period of ups and downs for a few days until my Anaheim trip. (I went from 75 mg to 50 mg while on it the trip.)

At this point, I consider myself to be in a holding pattern. As far as the head is concerned, when I went down to 75 mg of Topamax almost immediately my head started bothering me. It bothers me almost every day, in fact.

Most days it’s just there. But about once a day, for at least five minutes, there is pain especially on days I overdo it or am stressed.

I gained two pounds almost immediately too. I’ve got the nibbles again. Not as bad as when I first hit my head but that restlessness that leads to snacking is definitely there more than it used to be even when I was on 50 mg before.

In fact, in general, I feel worse off than then I was on 50 mg before. That may be because I was running around going to Disneyland (noisy!) and trying to meet a big deadline at work before my Hawaii trip (didn’t) and getting ready for my trip (made the plane but haven’t done my tri coach clinic homework).

I am going to relax in Hawaii no matter what and then just see what happens, I guess. I definitely feel a lot better mentally even if my head bothers me a lot more.

I still have my moments. Like when my phone died in Anaheim, I wanted to curl into a ball and die until my normal personality finally kicked in. I also spent a lot more time in my hotel room than I normally do at these conferences.

However, when I discovered at the Oakland Airport after it was entirely too late that my bike box is 10 inches too long to fit on the plane from Maui to Kona, I just swore good naturedly and then laughed. I know I’ll figure something out.

So maybe I’m getting me back. It sure feels like it.

Though I’m still making an enormous amount of typos in my writing and having trouble finding the right word. So I’m not totally myself yet. But I feel less fragile and less like I need to check myself into a psych ward every time something goes wrong or I have a hard day at the office.

My goal is to be back to “normal” by the time I come back from my vacation. And just put this season behind me as the strangest one ever that involved actual working out and racing (vs. last season where I didn't workout or race at all, just volunteered).
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