Stewing Poison

Spewing poison. Do you know this phrase? It came to mind riding home from the doctor’s office tonight. I’m spewing poison!  My mood sucked. Bad vibes leaked from my pores. Susan kept reaching over to hold my hand, not talking because I didn’t want to talk, not talking because she didn’t want to hear what I had to say. Sitting in a silence drawn dark and shadowed, I realized I had the phrase all wrong. Cobras spew poison as an offensive measure. Racists spew poison to injure people. I kept my poison inside. I didn’t spew poison, I stewed it.

I reread that paragraph. I suspect readers are worried. Horrible news at the doctor’s office, this can’t be good. No, not bad news, just news, more of the same. Susan said as much to me. “List the good stuff in your life.” She rattled off fifteen or twenty things. I said as much to myself. Other people have real problems: cancer, MS, ALS, Parkinson’s. Terrible diseases, degenerative diseases. I have double vision.

I’m not sure why I’m fired up. My double vision returned in October. I was referred to this surgeon in early January. Nothing I heard today was unexpected, it just landed wrong—like hopping off a barstool and turning your ankle. My next appointment is March. I’m no closer to surgery than I was this time last month. We’re still in the diagnostic phase.

This probably isn’t the right week for this. I joined a Tourette Syndrome study on Monday. A group of scientists are trying to teach Touretters to endure distress. A stereotypical story about Tourette goes like this: Office mate says “Man, you gotta stop making that noise.” Touretter says “It doesn’t work like that. It’s out of my control.” These scientists think maybe it is in our control. We just need to train ourselves to overcome the urge.

My meeting on Monday was all about me. Describe your mental illnesses. Do you have OCD? Anxiety? Depression? When did that start? Do you take medicine? Do you squish your eyes together? Cuss? Hit yourself? Do you grunt? Can you make that sound for me? Three hours of this.

I’ve never talked so openly about this in my life. It felt simultaneously freeing and triggering. I enjoyed the conversation and it left me in a good mood through the next day, but I also can’t remember my Tourette symptoms ever being this escalated. Going into the interview, I worried I wouldn’t be Tourettey enough for the study. “Pish, you call that Tourette?” No, now I know I’m the real deal. “Do you ever get the urge to point your toe and try to stretch your ankle?”

“Well, I do now.” While my upbeat feelings lasted into a second day, so did my heightened tics. Today, I’m still excessively ticcy, but that mood is gone. The eye doctor appointment chased it away. “You’ll need to buy yourself a new pair of glasses before your appointment next month that doesn’t correct your double vision at all. Unfortunately, you may need to buy another pair after surgery too. It doesn’t always work 100%.”

I lack resilience. I’m easily weighed down when I feel like problems are ganging up on me. Driving home tonight, I could only focus on the bad—buying a pair of glasses to essentially throw away; my escalated tics are not only embarrassing but also painful; my inability to drive at night because I can’t trust what I see; the realization that I would get home fifteen minutes too late to go to my spin class…

Missing my class turned out to be the best thing for me. Two hours of writing and a pair of Guinness drafts (alcohol free), seem to have settled me down.  The poison in me stopped stewing an hour ago. I’m now ready to face tomorrow with double vision, tics and good cheer.

Thanks for reading.

30 thoughts on “Stewing Poison

  1. Not being Tourettey enough for the study, that’s great. Nails that tendency to compete, even in being flawed. Or whatever the best word is. Interestingly, the part I identified most with is the lack of resilience. That’s a feature of traumatic attachment and other childhood delights, and something I recognise in myself constantly; an instant tug towards collapse. Not catastrophising, it’s not really cognitive at all. Simply a feeling that all the walls are falling down and the foundation dissolving. If alcohol free Guinness fixes that, sign me up!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’ve noticed a subconscious draw towards competition in mental illnesses in the past. I think I’m trying to assure myself that I actually have something to complain about. I’m sure as a therapist, you’re conditioned to keep an eye out for this, but to me, calling me on that looked like a super astute observation. Guinness: It’s been 7 years since I’ve had a ‘real’ Guinness, but in my mind, the fake one is a pretty good approximation. I really enjoy them, but at $2+ apiece, with no benefit other than taste, I try to stick to one.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I remember having to sit in an office at 8 o’clock in the morning, half awake in full blown schizophrenic episode because the social security administration wanted to re-evaluate me. I was asked questions like – why are you taking this drug and not this? While the shadows were dancing dangerously close to her head threatening to eat her whole, I answered – I don’t prescribe my meds and am not a professional. She asked if I was experiencing any hallucinations at that moment… she could see me looking over her shoulder. Clearly, the meds weren’t working. I was all types of stressed out and it was much too early and I didn’t want to be prodded any longer. Worst hour and a half of my life having to pretend the episode wasn’t as bad as it was and trying to remain present enough to function properly. I left feeling like I was just something on display to be viewed and poked fun at. That’s how I felt. It was all too much for me at that moment. I think she meant well… but at that moment my concern was elsewhere. I kept thinking… she’ll be eaten and they’ll blame me!

    People ask me… does it get easier? No. Sometimes it’s comical, sometimes it’s tragic and sometimes… I wonder why I’m still present on Earth. Easier no. Different from day to day – certainly. I said all of that to say… keep fighting. Sometimes I find that my personal experiences with schizophrenia make for some excellent writing when my brain cooperates. I want a t-shirt with the Hulk’s face (from the comics not Mark Ruffalo lol) that says Days Without Incident and a space for me to enter a number. There is always an incident.

    Liked by 1 person

    • See, more evidence that others have it 100X worse than me… I know that’s not your point. We have so few chances to tell our stories to those with a sympathetic ear. Gotta grab em while we can. Schizophrenia strikes me as a pretty terrifying disorder. I went through a week where I was convinced that I was undergoing a psychotic break and I really worried about my future, It seems like you’re now (at least) effectively medicate. I hope that continues. I like your Hulk shirt idea and comparison. Seems pretty accurate to me.

      Liked by 1 person

      • We found the right drugs to do the job. I still have issues..depression sometimes sets off the episodes but medication is better than no meds. I’ve lived on both sides of the fence.

        I didn’t mean to make it seem like it’s worse than what you’re going through… I just saw a similarity in our stories. But yeah… I do tend to overshare.

        I hope today is a better day… it’s been a weird one for me. Not terrible, just weird. I’ll take it. Lol

        Liked by 2 people

        • Can I ask what you’re taking? I take risperidone, a schizophrenia med (tourette doesn’t have any meds of it’s own). It’s somewhat effective for my tourette but like 90% effective for my OCD. It does tend to cause depression though.

          Liked by 1 person

        • A good dosage of Abilify… also Bupropion and clonopin for depression and anxiety. I am a diagnosed schizo-affective, schizophrenic, severe depression and anxiety. I guess they figure…patients can’t be all these things if they’re asleep..
          And they do tend to knock me out. Which is why I take them at night.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Well, I had no idea Guinness had an alcohol-free version. So glad that you could write it out – sounds way better than what we humans often do to ride it out. And I think it’s fair to feel like the problems are ganging up on us sometimes — until we can get that bigger perspective. Nice work getting that done.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Is it stupid to suggest buying some off the shelf glasses?
    In the beginning, I made up a monocle for my weaker eye. A bit idiosyncratic, but it worked. (‘A table for Lord Peter Wimsey, please’).
    More recently, during Covid lockdown, I bought some +3 glasses for $5 that work nearly as well as the prescription ones. If you need different strengths, maybe buy two pairs and swap one lens over.
    Do good and be well.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Well, even without the double vision, my eyesight is really terrible. The glasses will have a strong prescription plus bifocals. I’ve been buying glasses with built in prisms for so long, I don’t even know what ‘normal’ glasses cost any more. I’ll go find out the deal today.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. That meeting sounds terribly intense. I am glad that some part of it was freeing. But I have to say, even before I got past the first paragraph, I was cheering for your victory because whatever was happening, you’ve arrived at a real gem with “stewing poison.” Gold.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Jeff, do you know what the first thing to flash through my mind when I opened your blog post this afternoon was? I saw the photo at the top and said – a man after my own heart – I’ve got the exact same can of alcohol-free Guinness in my fridge! I bought four cans at Christmastime and still have one left. I’m saving it for a rainy day!

    Anyway, that aside … you’re having a tough time at the moment, by the sound of it. I can imagine how stressful Monday’s appointment was from what you’ve said – and all those questions. No wonder you were feeling fed up. On the other hand, it’s good that the conversation left you on more of an up than a down, even if your tics were worse for a while.

    How are you getting on with your eye patch if you still need it? New glasses for what seems like every five minutes is an expensive business. I only know from my son-in-law, who has uveitis caused by his autoimmune disease. His glasses have inbuilt prisms, too, but they had to be replaced after every operation and frequently in between those times, too. Not that that’s any consolation to you.

    I’m so glad you’ve got your writing and that you, like me, find it very cathartic and freeing. Having been in a psychiatric hospital for some months, many years ago, if it weren’t for me being able to write my heart out, I’d be back in there again, and I’ve got no intention of ever going back there again. My writing keeps me sane, although there are people who would doubt that!

    Now, I’m off to get that can of AF Guinness out of the fridge! Take care of yourself, Jeff.


    • Guinness Draught AF has become a pretty important player in my life. I can’t convey how *normal* it makes me feel to be able to enjoy an excellent beer just for the taste. I haven’t used the patch again ever since. It’s easier for me to deal with the double vision than the patch (which often means just going to bed). The patch was a horrible feeling. I just priced the glasses I need to get before my surgery so I can see when it’s complete ($300). If I need to get a pair after that, they will be much more expensive because I’ll have used up my insurance. It bums me out. My father asked if I need financial assistance, but I’m pretty uncomfortable with that notion. I didn’t know about your psychiatric hospital. That sounds absolutely horrible. Writing (for me anyway) is the best way to process my feelings. It doesn’t always make me feel better, but it always makes everything more clear. Enjoy your beer.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. So much here. First, Jeff, you do have resilience. You bounce back from your momentary downturns. Not everyone can do that. As you said, your writing helps. What a wonderful outlet for you, especially with your talent. I find myself reassessing what my blessings are. For me, I’ve found that when I consider someone else’s difficulty as my blessing doesn’t help me. This person has cancer, I don’t so that’s a blessing . . . doesn’t really resonate with me as a blessing. It’s hard for me to frame my blessings in a more positive way. As in I am grateful: for my husband, I have this back yard full of wonderful shades of green (in the summer), I have kids who help me out when I can’t do things myself, I can still crochet if I take hand breaks, I can do these stretches that alleviate some of my pain.


    • Thank you for the compliment. I’m not trying to say the lack of cancer is a blessing (although it is), but possibly I can temper my disappointment knowing that things could be worse. I dunno, maybe that’s the same thing.


  8. I think one of the best things the internet provides writers is a place to vent about things like this. We all have our bad days. Getting through them is the most human thing we probably do. Writing about it, the most cathartic.

    I have a bit of double vision going on too. I keep having to up the Prism factor of my glasses. (I had to google that term. I can’t remember things any more. So, not sure if the number goes up or just the degrees by which the lens is made prismatic. Who knows?) But, it doesn’t fix it entirely. I think I may have to blame close screen time for this deficit. But, you have my sympathies. Driving sucks when you have to close one eye just to make sure of the road ahead of you. I hope you get the procedure and that it fixes the issue. It would certainly be worth throwing away a pair of glasses–or better yet–donate them to someone who needs them. That will feel like an extra win if you do. Good luck.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The surgery will happen eventually. Now I just want it to hurry up. I’m really having a hard time driving. In fact I just dropped out of the tourette study because the drive to baltimore is a tricky one and I don’t trust my eyes to give me clear data as I’m hurdling from highway to highway at 70mph..

      Liked by 1 person

      • It’s a shame they don’t have an option for remote enrollment in the study. You would think they would adapt to your circumstances to keep you in the program! But, good luck when you do go for surgery. It is hard to face these aging moments, so I have much sympathy and hope you get a great outcome!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Most of it is remote, but there are two 3 hour onsite sessions, each at the beginning and end. They told me they can put me on hold until after my surgery. I’d like to revisit it.


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