Trying To Take That First, Can I Do This, Step
Pre-nervous breakdown #4, I woke up and started my usual routine. Screamed at kids to eat, brush their teeth (novelty) and get out the door to school. I knew I needed them out of the house, because today was the day I had put off for a long time. Desperate times called for desperate measures: I was finally going to have a call with my psychiatrist.
Not surprisingly, I was dreading this call. I had already missed three scheduled appointments. This is not something one does with public health care providers. Psychiatrists are like GOLD and hard to secure. I had many friends who tried to manage meds with GP’s, and it can be really frustrating for both sides. You end up explaining the various side effects of mixing Brand A with Brand D, that you’ve already tried Brand C and Brand B gives you the shakes and diarrhea. This is never overly reassuring, but you will TRY ANYTHING, so you do it anyway.
I was mildly hopeful and terrified he wouldn’t call because I knew the time had come. The time to be actually truthful, honest, and completely transparent, about how much I was thinking about dying. This round of suicidal ‘ideation’ – as it’s referred to in the medical world – sounds much kinder than it feels. It is how mentally ill people fantasize about death (I have actually been unable to stop myself from telling my friends that if I ever end up on my death bed and I am not surrounded by wallpaper, this would make me very sad). If only wallpaper came in a form of Prozac, all would be better).
All this to say I have long ago given up the illusion of a drug-free mental health ‘path’. And trust me, I have tried. I have drunk the Kool-Aid, I have sat with the birds, climbed the mountains, swam with the dolphins (false, but would have been nice). I have attempted everything in my Google search world to attempt life medication free. Because taking medication for a lot of us adds to our sense of failure, which we are already great at doing all by ourselves (look at me being positive about being good at something).
I do believe that some of us have to go through this process to feel totally, firmly 100 percent ok to tell people we are on medication. That for some of us the choice is medication or death. I am not saying this for dramatic effect, but for a very simple reason.
If you are me, 20 years ago or now, and your doctor’s recommendation is to try medication – please give yourself permission to take the medication. We, along with all humans, deserve to experience joy, the capacity to handle our thoughts, and not live in our thoughts. Thoughts, for many of us, feel like the world is closing in all around you. My rational mind knows this. Humans are allowed to experience life, at least on occasion, through joy, even pleasure, rather than pain. Given the quest for some sort of joy, this question has inevitably plagued most of us who struggle with mental wellness:
To Take Medication or Not to Take Medication?
(This Should Not Be a Question)
For reference, I thought it would be fun to share with you things I have tried (in no particular order) to remain drug-free. Please also understand that this was before I had been introduced to the glories of wallpaper. Who knows, wallpaper may have saved me from some of this shit:
- No sugar (of course they make you try this)
- No carbs (of course they make you try this)
- Candida diet (Google it, it’s horrifying)
- Daily Yoga (or 3 times a week)(or once)(or once every 2 weeks)
- Daily Meditation (honestly, who can do this?)
- Energy Healers (Apparently my 3rd chakra is really fucked up)
- No alcohol (so give up fun)
- (Read carefully) Going to bed at the same time and waking up at the same time EVERY day (Who can do this? Monks?)
- Minimum of 20-minutes of cardio 5 times a week
- Going to Church (I know)
- Squirting grapefruit seed extract up my vagina (yep, did this too)
Needless to say, I have attempted life without medication. Most of us have some sort of preoccupation with the shame around taking medication. This shame has, not surprisingly, led me to multiple long dark episodes. These episodes have robbed me from so many things that I have to discipline myself not to think about them. I have to put them in a locked part of my brain and pretend they don’t exist.
Episodes I am desperate for my children to avoid, and many, many regretful moments with my husband. My husband has always borne the brunt of the most devastating consequences of my breakdowns. My brother, best friends, parents, and family were also not spared. Moments that, when I feel I deserve to feel awful, I go to, to remind myself of the awfulness because this is what is still so shitty: My brain still kind of wants to feel shitty because it can still feel safer to feel bad, than to feel good.
Now, well entrenched into my 40s, I am finally firmly in the camp that medication saves lives. I try to not blame myself for my brain not producing serotonin, especially when there are so many other FUN things for which to blame myself! Medication certainly has not ‘cured’ my depression who, by the way, I am thinking of naming ‘Stan’. Stan still wants me to listen to him, he wants to be heard, and is extremely difficult to ignore. (Also, I am liking calling him Stan – sorry to the Stan’s out there but to me, this name sounds like an asshole).
What medication has allowed me to experience are parts of my life in what I assume is a ‘normal’ frame of mind. I feel sadness, but I can bear it, and I can treat it with empathy, understanding, and remind myself that it may pass. I can laugh out loud, relish in my obnoxious, and – oh so beautiful friends, feel hopeful and proud of my family, and experience the world (at least some of the time) through light.
Bless a non-drug-free life 😉