Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Disorder and the Cure

Even at rest, my heart is pounding uncomfortably. My mouth is dry, and my stomach is churning itself into knots. I realize in surprise that for once I don't feel like doing the following things: eating dark chocolate, watching porn, or talking to literally anyone. I don't feel much like existing but like all things, I know this will pass. I have to remain calm. I have to acknowledge my diagnosed psychopathological condition as being a medical reality and not a slight against my existence or validity as a human being, and I absolutely have to take my medication.

I'd been off of it for a couple months now, or at least I think so. At some point I lost track. Memory problems are a symptom of major depression, I'm not surprised when I have large black outs in my timeline. Most times I can't even remember what I did two days before, and not in a cute kitten-brained kind of way, in a way that sometimes terrifies me. I focus until it hurts, but I just can't access the information. I've forgotten more than I've ever learned, and that is why I like to write things down, make lists. I've written journals since kindergarten, proof that it's always been this way. I am sometimes congratulated for living in the moment, but for me I'm afraid that's all there is, there is no big picture. Each journal is a pained volume in a large narcissistic collection of tainted, disparate, and flawed points of view.

I can feel it exploding in my heart and brain: the medicine that doesn't keep me from drinking but keeps me from getting drunk, doesn't keep me from fucking but keeps me from reaching orgasm, doesn't keep me out of trouble but keeps me in check. Maybe I should have started back into it with a half dose, but I was too scared to think of it. Yesterday I scared myself, because yesterday I experienced rage. Not just intense anger: real, consuming, violent, irrational rage.

Why did I ever stop taking the meds? Perhaps I was convinced that the Turkish generic was somehow making me sick -- I'm no stranger to hypochondriac mind-cycles, so this wouldn't surprise me. I remember sobbing in an ER, reporting a "terrible skin condition" that neither the doctor nor Angel could see, both of them staring at me slack-jawed, wondering with what kind of gloves to handle a seemingly cracking mind.

I think I got greedy. I wanted to feel something more than detached anxiety, I wanted to cum, I wanted to overcome the nervousness, and I wanted to enjoy eating again. But all of those desires, human as they might be, were instantly overcome when like a zombie chimp I lashed out at a loved one in rage. My partner laughed at how riled up I was getting because it was ridiculous. But then I saw red and was unable to control myself as I screamed bloody murder and thrust forth at my demons with my clenched fists until he stopped laughing. Unfortunately I can't attack the phantoms of my mind with claws and fists because, unlike my partner, they aren't made of flesh and blood.

Immediately after the intense bout of temporarily enhanced insanity passed, I rested my forehead in my hand, pressing my temples with my thumb and forefinger. I thanked the universe for the restraint my passenger seatbelt had provided and I became painfully aware of the embarrassment of the situation, of having spiraled so far out of control. "Not again..." I remembered the last time this happened and then promised myself to get a prescription refill. "Never again."

I hate the way the medicine makes me feel at first: jittery, with hot flashes in my face, and unreasonably amplified bouts of paranoia, which would seem contrary to its intended effect. I can feel my heart beating all the way down in my stomach and looking at food makes me feel sick. I don't want to talk to anyone or make a single facial expression, I feel trapped and restless. I have a mild headache and an intense thirst which cannot be quenched. But all of these combined complaints don't compare to the weight of the guilt for lashing out physically or the fear of what I could have done if I were stronger, unrestrained, or if the fit had lasted longer. Notes on dating: assault is usually "deal breaker" material.

It's important that I don't feel sorry for myself or beat myself up. When I first started taking meds years ago (what was that first one, Lithium?) every time I saw the pill in my hand, I saw defeat and confession. I couldn't hold it together and at least one person with a lot more schooling than me felt fairly confident that I was "crazy." But I can't think like that. It's just a serotonin deficiency. A person with a heart condition needs to take medicine in order to continue to live a healthy life, and this mental condition is different only in that empirical test-based diagnoses don't yet exist and as a result often go dismissed or invalidated. I get told by friends and family that I don't really need therapy or psychiatric medication, but I've learned that it's important not to let others minimize the severity with which I should care for my mental health simply because they can't relate to my experience. Many people can't, but often refer to the vocabulary describing these experiences flippantly. Depression isn't common situational sadness, it's a medical disorder, one that has been affecting my life and my relationships for too long.

There is no cure. There is only management, which at best is a tedious match of pharmaceutical Russian roulette. I was afraid to be medicated again because of how it might affect my visual/performance art or my written work, but now I'm too afraid of being without it. I have to look past these side effects, think of my friends and family, and tell myself lovingly, "Time to be brave, sweetums," as I put the gun to my temple and hope for the best.


  1. There are some success stories out there, of finding the magic formula after years (decades, actually) of careful, compassionate, and determined physician-supervised experimentation.

    It may feel like an interminable uncomfortable detente, but it *is* a process, even when it's an uphill slog. Eyes on the prize, grasshopper.

    1. Thank you for the encouragement, RedShift. It has been quite the process, ever-evolving at that, even since this post.
      In addition to the medication referenced here, a new one has been added, which seems to have helped in many ways. Unfortunately, some of the side effects are not being able to focus, concentrate, or "find the right word"... which is for someone who enjoys writing uncomfortable, to say the least.

      But as you say: eyes on the prize! Good health and fulfillment.
      Thank you again for your comments, RedShift :)