Category Archives: The Autistic Atheist

Adulting without medication

Since around the time I gave up alcohol back in 2009, I’ve been taking medication for anxiety and depression.

It’s the most recent part of a very long story; I spent years without a proper anxiety or depression diagnosis, self-medicating with alcohol, then to cut a long story short in 2009 I reached a point where I knew I needed to either drastically change my life or prepare for an early alcohol-induced death. Note that this was before I realised I had Asperger’s Syndrome.

I spilled it all out to my family doctor who was very sympathetic, helped me get off the alcohol with a short course of benzodiazepines, prescribed an antidepressant (Seroxat), and recommended a counsellor. I took advantage of all of these things, read the book “Rational Recovery” by Jack Trimpey (highly recommended) and haven’t touched a drop of alcohol since that day. (I ended up continuing the counselling sessions for about three years and they helped me through a break-up and a lot of personal growth.)

Things went well, other than a dramatic loss of libido as a side effect of the Seroxat. So a few months later I went back to my family doctor, explained this, and she switched me to a different antidepressant (Wellbutrin).

Wellbutrin was far kinder to my libido, but it didn’t do much for my anxiety (whereas Seroxat helped with both the anxiety and the depression).

So I returned to my doctor who referred me to a psychologist, and he prescribed Deanxit in addition to the Wellbutrin. This helped quite a bit, and that was my medication regime for several years.

Jump ahead to 2017. I hadn’t had a major depressive episode for over two years, and my general mood was fine too. I had given up smoking, replacing it with vaping, and I felt my anxiety was under control. I decided I wanted to try to reduce (and eventually eliminate, if I could) my dependence on these medications.

I spoke to my (new) family doctor and asked for advice about how to quit Wellbutrin (I decided that was the one I should try and quit first). He wasn’t overly helpful, just said I should take half my dose for a month then stop. I wasn’t convinced by this, so I did some reading, and in the end, because Wellbutrin tablets are very hard to cut into pieces, I came up with this plan:

  1. For 2 weeks, take my dose 2 days out of every 3
  2. For 2 weeks, take my dose 1 day out of every 2
  3. For 2 weeks, take my dose 1 day out of every 3
  4. For 2 weeks, take my dose 1 day out of every 4
  5. Stop

I did this, and it worked amazingly well – I had no depressive episodes, only some minor irritability and sleeplessness. I think the fact that I was still taking the Deanxit probably helped a lot.

So now here I was, free of one of my medications, but quite worried about quitting the other one. The way I saw it was that depressive episodes, while horrible to experience, didn’t actually happen that often, whereas anxiety was my daily companion, so taking the final step of quitting the Deanxit was likely to be much harder. Especially since Deanxit was chemically an antidepressant so likely to affect my mood as well as my anxiety levels.

And in fact for two years I did nothing about it, just kept taking the little pink Deanxit pill each morning.

Jump forward to this year.

In January 2019 my wife and I emigrated from Europe to the Philippines. That’s a big topic that I will touch on in other posts, but its relevance here is that I had no idea whether Deanxit would be available in the Philippines. In the end I decided to take a 9 month supply which would give me enough time to find a substitute if I needed to.

And indeed it turned out that Deanxit is not available in the Philippines. In fact according to its manufacturer’s website it’s only registered in 22 countries worldwide.

So that kind of forced my hand. There were clearly two options:

  1. See a doctor and get advice about switching to a different anti-anxiety medication
  2. Try to quit Deanxit and then see how things went before seeing a doctor if needed

I kept postponing this decision for the first few months in the Philippines, due to the stresses of settling in to our new life. My anxiety levels, even with the Deanxit, were higher than normal, which was perhaps to be expected, and I knew I couldn’t deal with the risk of switching or giving up for a while.

In the end, I waited until we had bought and furnished our house, and dealt with some other problematic family business, before deciding that my life was free enough from anxiety-inducing situations to go with option 2. I would taper down the Deanxit and see how I coped.

So this is what I did, and have just finished doing. Luckily Deanxit tablets are much easier to cut with a knife.

  1. For 2 weeks, take two thirds of a tablet
  2. For 2 weeks, take half a tablet
  3. For 2 weeks, take a third of a tablet
  4. Stop

I’ve now been without any Deanxit for about two weeks, and so far I’m coping. I’ve tried to examine my state of mind and have found that my mood has been, on average, a bit lower than before. I’ve felt, on and off, a bit ‘fed up’ without necessarily being able to pinpoint a cause – in other words, the dysthymia that I experienced for many years is creeping back. I’ve also experienced one stressful situation since stopping the Deanxit and I did experience something approaching a panic attack before forcing myself to calm down and examine the situation. My appetite is also a little reduced, and I’m not sleeping as well as normal. It seems that while the Wellbutrin helped protect me from major depressive episodes, it was the Deanxit that was a significant contributor to general mood elevation.

So, now I need to decide whether I should put up with these issues and see if they go away, or decide that I’m not willing to do that, and talk to a doctor about some replacement medication that is available here in the Philippines.

I think that to be fair I need to give it a few weeks and see how things develop. It’s possible that I will acclimatise given the fact that I’m so much more self-aware these days (thanks to the counselling) than I used to be when I was using alcohol, but it’s hard to be sure. In principle I would like a medication-free life but not at the expense of enjoyment and emotional stability.

UPDATE 6TH SEPTEMBER: I’m still battling some mild unsteadiness and slight feelings of nausea at times, and although it could just be the heat, I think it’s still Deanxit withdrawal. My sleep is gradually getting a little better, and my appetite comes and goes.

Share Button

Are we the last generations of humans on planet Earth?

Catchy title, no? And no it’s not clickbait – look around you.

In Brazil, huge areas of the Amazon rainforest are burning out of control. The Brazilian president Jair “Captain Chainsaw” Bolsonaro has waited until today to ask the military to step in to assist, when Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research announced that it has detected more than 75,000 wildfires in the Amazon rainforest since January.

And the cause of these wildfires? Possibly farming companies looking to clear land to make a profit. Land that for millennia has acted as the lungs of the planet, absorbing carbon dioxide and generating oxygen – for humanity, not just Brazilians. And it seems to me that it’s Bolsonaro’s influence on politics and culture in Brazil that has empowered these people to feel they can act with impunity – or dare I say it, maybe his government is sponsoring them behind the scenes, as a way of speeding up the deforestation Bolsonaro seems hell-bent on. Were there wildfires in the Amazon on this scale 20 years ago? 50 years ago? There were not.

Slightly further north, in Iceland, scientists have put up a memorial to a glacier that has ceased to exist due to the climate crisis. There’s no doubt whatsoever that human activity is responsible for the change in temperatures that caused this to happen.

And a little further northwest, in Greenland, scientists are finding that coastal glaciers are more affected by deeper, warmer water than previously thought. If the Greenland ice cap were to melt entirely, the world’s sea level would rise by over 24 feet. It’s not hard to imagine what that would do to London, or New York, or Sydney, or Jakarta.

And all the while temperatures rise and in turn humans install more power-hungry air conditioners and contribute further to the temperature change.

And what is humanity doing? Not very much.

In Nepal, proposed construction of a new airport will destroy large areas of forest, including rare animal habitats.

In Malta, construction is out of control due to political corruption and the Maltese islands are rapidly becoming a dustbowl.

In China, construction of new coal power plants continues.

In the US, energy consumption continues to increase and hits a new record almost every year, with 80% still provided by fossil fuels in 2018.

Everywhere, traffic increases as car ownership rises and the transport of commodities increases to support a growing global population.

And in fact out-of-control population growth is another huge factor in the unsustainability of what is being done to the planet. The catholic church is of course one of the biggest causes with their intransigent backward policies on reproductive health, indirectly supported by the USA with their global gag rule.

I don’t think there has been a period in history when more politicians and religious leaders were enabling more damage to the planet than today. And I can’t understand why these people are in power. Is humanity really becoming collectively so stupid that they vote into power people like Donald Trump, Jair Bolsonaro and Boris Johnson? Is humanity really becoming collectively so selfish that as long as their own personal interests are served, the rest of the world can go fuck itself? Is humanity really so blinkered from reality that they continue to support and fund damaging religious organisations like the catholic church?

If it was possible to graphically represent all the things I’ve been talking about in a graph that measures ‘damage to planet earth’ against time, I’m pretty sure the result would be an upward curve increasing in gradient, not even an upward straight line.

A day is going to come when that curve passes a certain critical point, the oceans rise, crops fail, water supplies dry up and temperatures are too high for humanity to survive. The question is, when will that day be?

I actually think there are people alive today who will see the start of the extinction of humanity.

And people wonder why I get depressed.

Share Button

Well that escalated quickly

A recent incoming spam email from a “Mr X” (admin@hosting.sierrafayad.com):

I advise you to take this message serious, if you value your life, I am
a hit man, i was hired to terminate your life by someone very close to
you,

i have been following you for a while now and from my findings you dont
deserve to die.

i know a whole lot about you where you work, where you live, your loved
ones and lots more.

i was paid to terminate your life i almost did until i found out
something about you.

so am going to let you live

this are my conditions

you will pay me $2000 within $48 hours not a second more if you fail, i
will carry out my orders but if you succeed i will give you an audio
recording of my conversation with the person that hired me so you can
take legal actions if i dont do the job another hit man will but if you
know who ordered the hit you stand a fighting chance.

you are to pay me using bitcoin with this bitcoin address below

(removed)

if you dont know how to send money through bitcoin you can google it

When i receive funds I’ll send you the name of the person the order came
from, as well as all the evidence i have. You will be able to use them
with the police. Do not contact the police or share this message with
anyone if you do you are dead,

Answering to this letter does not make sense, i use one-time mailbox,
cause i really do care about my anonymity. I’ll contact you as soon as
i’ll get the funds.

Does anyone still fall for shit like this?

Share Button

Is it me? I honestly don’t think so

Every now and then my wife cold shoulders me, freezes me out, gets angry at me, puts me in the doghouse, gives me the silent treatment, pick any or all of the above.

It usually lasts two to three days, and can be extremely hurtful, since when it is happening, the only things she will say to me are criticisms or spiteful observations, or threats (to leave).

The cause can be anything – but you can be sure that she will make it look like something I did or said, or failed to do or say.

Currently I’m in the middle of a freeze-out, the reason being that I reacted less than positively when she announced that she intended to buy a handbag for £800 off Ebay. A second-hand Louis Vuitton, no less. I expressed my opinion that no handbag was worth that much, and it was a bit of a crazy thing to do when we were trying to save money for some fairly major life changes (involving emigrating half way across the world) and she was already working her notice at her job.

My reaction seems to have brought out some normally well-hidden insecurities about the fact that after we emigrate, she will be fully dependent on my income, something that I have absolutely no problem with (and have expressed this many times), and normally, neither would she – it’s just that when she goes off in high dudgeon like this, all the things that would normally not bother her, suddenly rear up and become huge issues in her mind. And now when I approach her I’m being treated to comments like “I can manage on my own”, “I can pay for this myself”, “I can be independent”, “I’m going to look for somewhere else to live”, etc etc. I generally don’t respond as I’ve realised that if I rise to the bait, things get worse.

In other episodes, it’s been a different issue that suddenly gets magnified – like can she trust me to stick by her when we’re old, or any number of other things that, honestly, people in their millions successfully ignore because it’s not something that justifies worry, or that worrying will help to resolve.

Sometimes, in the throes of one of these freeze-outs, I’ve taken a passive, apologetic stance, treating her as the alpha of the couple and agreeing that I was in the wrong (no matter whether I was or not). At other times I have stuck to my guns, when I know that my position is rational and logical, and hers isn’t either of those things. That’s what I’m doing this time around, and I actually think in this situation my Aspergers helps me keep a cool head because I can just use my autistic shell to retreat into and protect myself from all the emotion flying around. Not that it stops the hurt I feel inside. Curiously enough, whichever stance I take seems to make very little difference to the outcome – which is that, after up to three days of alternating silence and spiteful barbs, she transforms back into a normal human being and following a lengthy heart-to-heart all is forgotten.

Right now I’m hoping that today is the last day of the current episode and things will start getting back to normal overnight and tomorrow. She headed out an hour ago for ports unknown saying “don’t wait up”, so at the moment it’s anybody’s guess what I’m in store for when she gets back.

In the six or so years we’ve been together I’ve endured at least nine or ten of these episodes. Two or three were my fault, but not so the rest. Filipinos have a word for it: Tampo (link is to an enlightening article on Wikipedia).

At the end of the day, I endure. I do my best to hold my tongue, or to say placatory things if I think that’s appropriate, and I wait it out. I do this because, when it comes down to it, I love her more than I’ve loved anyone else in my life, I want her to have the best, happiest life possible, and I honestly believe that her life is better with me in it, and vice versa.

The things we do for love.

POSTSCRIPT: Sure enough, after almost three days of tampo, she apologised, explained how hard it is for her to be straightforward and express her anxieties when she’s upset, and everything returned to normal.

Share Button

Taking e-cigarettes through Dubai airport IS OK

Well, this post is nothing to do with either autism or atheism, but the info in it needs to be out there on the web, so here we are.

I will soon be travelling from Malta to Southeast Asia for a few weeks. I’ll be changing planes in Dubai, and I know that e-cigarettes and vaping are illegal in Dubai. So I went online to Dubai airport’s live chat today, and this is the transcript:

Jason: Hi. Thanks for connecting to Dubai Airports! How can we assist you today?
Me: Hi. I will be transferring through Dubai next week and want to know if I can pack my e-cigarette in hand baggage
Jason: Please be advised that electronic smoking devices are prohibited in the UAE, all arriving and departing passengers are restricted to possess the same.
Jason: However, please be informed that it is permissible to carry the item (e-cigarette) in hand baggage if you are a transit passenger.
Me: Yes, I will be arriving on Emirates flight from Malta and then boarding another Emirates flight straight away. So I will be OK then, because I am just transferring. Is that right?
Jason: Yes that is right as long as you carry the item (e-cigarette) in hand baggage .
Me: Thankyou very much for your help.
Jason: Thank you for visiting Dubai airports. Chat support is available 24/7, we are only a click away. Have a good day!

So it looks like e-cigarettes in hand baggage are not a problem in Dubai, as long as you’re a transit passenger staying in the terminal building.

Obviously I wouldn’t advise vaping in the middle of the terminal concourse. But there are smoking rooms where I assume it will be fine.

Share Button