Monday, February 18, 2008

I Only Like Who I'm Masquerading to Be

While I was sick last week I ran out of the antidepressants I take daily. I know from experience not to go too long before calling in a refill (and picking it up), but being as sick as I was I had bigger fish to fry, and I wound up going a little over a week cold turkey from my meds.

Yesterday morning I lost my shit. It was like a switch was turned on (or off), and I was certifiably crazy. I wanted to scream and cry and be volatile and hide all at the same time. And although I knew full well that I was like this because I was off my meds, I couldn’t totally put the crazy aside. It was all about “the now.” I couldn’t see several hours into the future when I would have picked up and taken the prescription. I was scared that I was going to do something nutso, and I was quite frankly afraid of myself.

As I walked into the pharmacy this morning to get my refill, I thought to myself, “Who the fuck am I?” In general, I really like myself – I like who I am, but that person that I think is “me” is actually “medicated me.” Me? The real me? I guess I’m nuts. Realizing the crazy person is who I really am is a hard pill to swallow, which is why I swallow the antidepressants each day.

I can see why so many people refuse to take their meds – for better or worse, they change who you are. I suppose that while my seeing the stark change between the two “mes” is the reason why I stay on the pills, it’s also the reason why so many people stop taking them.

My taking them, knowing the alternative, is in itself an admission of how flawed I really am on the most basic level that there is, and that’s a really difficult realization to face.

I think, “everything I’m proud of isn’t really me.” Then again, I suppose you could compare my taking mood-altering drugs to someone with a prosthetic leg. The person can’t technically walk without the prosthesis, but with it he or she can. Would you say that person can’t walk just because he or she has an accommodation?

I think fear has been my sole motivator (and still is) for staying medicated – what will I do if I don’t take them? Quit my job? Become homeless? Die?

I want to come off my meds eventually, but I don’t know if I will ever be able to do so. Am I okay with that? Not really, but I’m even less okay with the alternatives. I’m happy to be medicated again.


Anonymous said...

As someone who has taken brain medication, on and off, for the last 12 years -- and RELIGIOUSLY for the last 3 -- I can tell you that it's very rough. When I don't take them, I get very obsessed with things. It could be exercise or art or whatever. And that's awesome! But I also freak out A LOT. I throw things and cry and yell and don't eat or shower or call my friends. When I do take them, I am more chill, more comfortable, but I don't get as into things as I used to be. And that really sucks.

But I think something I have grown to understand is that yes, your mind is chemically altered when you take meds. But it's also chemically altered when you don't. Like Vonnegut wrote in Breakfast of Champions, you have "bad chemicals" in your brain.

So really, who are you? Who am I? Deep down, I am not either of those people. What and who I am is at the core of me, independent of what kind of chemicals are in my brain, artificial or not.

Are your values, beliefs, morals, likes, dislikes, favorite food, favorite bands, favorite books, close friends, different because of what meds you take? I don't think mine are. How I respond and respect those things might be effected but it doesn't change who I am, just how I act. And you can always overcome that and behave the way to truly want to. It's hard, but it's worth it.

I don't have the total hang of it yet -- I still have to force myself to do some of the things I once loved to do -- but I'm getting there. So you can to; you're a lot stronger than I am!

Love you,

meghan gramcracker said...

You put this really well. I've been struggling with the same thoughts for a long time. I've been on a new medication since last April, and so far it's working surprisingly well. So well, in fact, that I'm becoming paranoid about where I end and the drug begins. I'd like to chalk all my gains in my life over the last six months to my own internal fortitude and deep reserves of emotional strength, but really I'm just on pills. I almost feel like I can't take credit for my own achievements.

But anyhow. Depending on what you're taking, the coming off period can be very different from actually being off the meds. I think at a week your brain is probably still in an adjustment mode, so things wouldn't necessarily be that bad all the time off meds. I've been medicated for so much of my life that sometimes I want to just STOP, take six months and see what I'm really like. But I'm too afraid the results would be disastrous.

Stephanie said...

I have been on Zoloft (or as I call it - Vitamin Z) for OVER A DECADE NOW. Yup. That's right. Why F with something that works? I don't even think about it. I don't ever question if "this me" is the "real me" cuz it's ALL ME. I barely ever think about going off of it.

Easy for me to do, i know, since I don't think I want kids so that issue is a moot point. I do empathize with ladies who do have to think about this however and realize that my preference affords me this luxury.

But seriously, I am sort of an aspiring Buddhist and it has really helped me to realize that I embody many different aspects, all of them me, and really none of them crucially define me. Even people who never have taken and never will take meds will have their "days" and behave differently under similar circumstances for reasons that can't be determined.

Also...just to present another perspective...before this last decade, let's call it Decade Z, I went on and off Vitamin Z 3 times. I always tapered off it with no problem and did well for 6 months to a year, then something stressful happened and I spiraled downwards. I think of my Vitamin Z as a safety net that will prevent me from sinking below a certain level when life circumstances get ugly and my counter-productive stress response kicks in.

And more thing...when you skips meds for a few days it can start to be like "going cold turkey" and we (us lovely psychotropic medication veterans) all know you have to taper.

Cheers to us, the mental health set, because we have the smarts to know when we need meds and the self-assuredness to know it doesn't define us. At least not much ; )