Feb 14, 2007

This Is Irrelephant's Brain Off Drugs:

Any questions? *sizzle sizzle*

Be warned: this is going to be an intense, personal post. It is going to involve my experiences with mood-altering prescription medication, and might make you uncomfortable, uneasy, and will no doubt alter your impression of me as a human.

A little over a year ago, I decided after a life of near-crippling depression and anxiety to set aside my distrust of medication in general and mood-leveling drugs specifically. I formally requested that my MD put me on something for what I think is undiagnoised bipolar disorder. After I discussed with him at length my very real concerns about addiction and man-made medicine in general, he prescribed Paxil CR, 12.5mg once a day, the smallest dose available. I have taken this medication daily for the past year and a half, with the very occasional (less than once every two months) adddition of a single dose of Skelaxin for days when I felt my emotional stability was in a dangerous zone.

I have been depressive all my life, let's get that out in the open. It's been an ongoing thing since day one. I have tried to deal with it in many ways, and thus far the only peace I have found is in meditation and a half-hearted pursuit of Zazen, and even that peace has been fleeting at best. As I've gotten older my depressive swings have gotten worse; slowly, incrementally, as my responsibilities of work, family and seeing to my personal well-being increased.

When I started the Paxil, I was warned by my GP that there would be certain side-effects, including dizziness, drowsiness, decreased reaction times, sexual dysfunction, and yawning for no reason. Yes, you read that right--yawning for no reason. That was the only fun side-effect; I'd be working steadily, utterly awake, and out of the blue I'd produce a jaw-cracking yawn. The wool-gathering stage that lasted for two weeks was annoying. Vulgar Wizard was the only person in the office who knew I was starting meds, and she'd catch me sometimes several times a day those first few days just staring off into space, utterly unable to focus on what I was doing, unaware I had stopped.

The next year and a half passed fast, and expensively. Happiness don't come cheap.

It passed in a haze. I didn't realise that until just a few days ago, when I stopped. The thing they don't really tell you about these drugs is that not only are the bottoms, the black-edged nightmare days gone, so are the elations, the being happy day to days, the ecstasies. It's a double-edged sword. You give up a lot to be free of that depression, and part of it is that you become MILD. Lukewarm. Middle of the road.

So now this post has taken the most part of four days or so. The first few days on a half dose? I felt like someone had taken my emotional self out and scrubbed it, like Scott said so well a while back, up and down a cheese grater. I felt as raw as a freshly-pulled tooth, a gaping, raw hole upon which everything touched with fire and claws. I felt like someone had just pulled me out of the womb, into blinding light and scorching heat and freezing cold, and I had no control, no defenses, but I knew everything, felt it all. I wanted to die more than I have wanted to in a very long time those first two days. I felt like I was riddled with raw nerves, each one exquisitely longing to touch something miserable, something guaranteed to cause suffering.

Thinking back over those past four days, those short, eternal days, I wonder just what my GP would have suggested I take to alleviate the suffering. Morphine? Pot? Skelaxin, which is even more addictive? I don't know, but I'm through it now, so it no longer matters. I'm done, standing back on my newborn feet, my nerves retracted for the most part, trying to remember if this is how I really used to feel or if there's some sort of residual balance left behind as my liver and kidneys continue to cleanse my system of the drug.

It's passed now. The black-hats are gone back into the woodwork, the razors are retracted, and the gnarled silk of my emotions has been if not smoothed then at least unknotted and laid out to relax. I'm through the other side. I realised this morning that I was happy, and had been happy for the entire morning. Not a rabid, manic happy but a nice, warm happy, the feeling that some call contentment. I was doing my job, I was breathing good air, I had my evening exercise and meditation to look forward to, and I was happy.

It was a very refreshing feeling. I felt at home in my skin again. FEEL at home in my skin. And yes, the potentials are still there, for manic highs and suicidal lows, but now I have a year behind me, to compare. I can be that person, or I can be this one. The only thing being, this person has to learn another way to deal with the swings, with the crazed jags up and down. This me is going to seek solace in exercise, in physical improvement, and in mental exercise, mental improvement. I'm returning to my long-left-behind meditation, my studies of zazen, and through that I hope to attain a modicum of self-control, of self-centering.

Today really is the first day of the rest of my life.