Well, it turns out that the entire class of SNRI antidepressants like Cymbalta and Effexor, which tweak norepinephrine as well as serotonin, can exacerbate high blood pressure. That, plus an extremely high stress job, plus losing that job, plus having a difficult pre-teenager who has constant struggles with behavior and schoolwork, plus having the teenager who did live with us leave us abruptly, plus financial disagreement with my husband, plus leaving SoulFire, plus a few other things thrown in there for good measure -- and as a final straw, having a sudden serious disagreement with another close friend -- apparently it all added up enough to send my blood pressure into outer space (and I have never in my life had high blood pressure, so I didn't even know to consider it as a possible cause for my almost constant headaches). Now that I don't have a headache, I can look back and realize that chronic pain really does have a terrible depressing effect on one's entire being. I wasn't able to think clearly, and all the old "demons" that had been conquered long ago (self-loathing, feelings of worthlessness, even mild paranoia) came dashing back in to take advantage of my vulnerability... like a fall-back position or a "default" setting. It all kind-of made a vicious circle, all the problems sort-of feeding off one another (did the headaches make me more irritable and cause me to have disagreements, or did the disagreements cause me to have headaches? It's hard to know).
My distress has subsided considerably already, just knowing that there's a medical issue to deal with. That, and having my BP be much much lower (like, a hundred points lower) so that I no longer have a headache NOR do I feel one coming on... it's like I'm a brand-new person. I have to admit that I still feel a bit light-headed when I'm upright, but my nurse friend says it may take a couple of weeks for that to completely go away and my body to get used to the lower BP.
And yes, we're going to deal with the emotional aspects of this whole thing, since obviously they're still around in one way or another.
They've switched me back to a SSRI-type antidepressant (Lexapro), and have put me on two different BP meds (metoprolol and Norvasc). Rick bought me one of those wrist BP cuffs that I can use to monitor it here at home, and I'll be seeing my own family doctor to decide what to do from here on out. I should hear in the next day or two just exactly whether they found anything unusual on the ultrasound of my aorta and renal system they took today.
It has been an incredibly stressful spring. I'm hoping the summer will afford me a bit of a respite from that... I'm PRAYING that it does. I practiced tonight with Big Mike and the boys, which lifted my spirits considerably. I think God knew I would need that boost of encouragement that they've given me; those guys have bent over backwards to be nice to me and have been more gentlemanly and professional than any other instrumentalists I've ever worked with (except Blue Fish, of course). They're real, they're fun, and they're all about getting the music right. Period. It's like a breath of fresh air.
I can't wait until the Blues Challenge Finals next Friday. I personally think we're on our way to Memphis for the international competition already, but even if we don't, I will have had a heckuva good time getting to know some outstanding people and I will have learned how to play a new genre of music that I didn't know before. It's been a great ride.