A few weeks ago, I came out of a fog. It was a hateful, paranoid fog, and it made me feel like I wanted to burn down the place. By place, I mean America.
The fog subtly invaded and got comfortable based on a decision I made last summer, which made sense at the time. I’d been medicated for anxiety and depression for more than ten years, and wasn’t I doing fine? Or well enough, at least? Some days were better than others, but doesn’t that apply to everyone?
Wouldn’t it be good to give my liver a break from processing the extra serotonin boost every day, especially if I didn’t need it anymore? Not worrying with the monthly trip and expense of the pharmacy would be nice, too.
Those practical reasons were minimal compared to what I really wanted, which was the satisfaction that I beat it. That the nasty specter of unexplained consuming sadness, tears, and the terrifying few minutes of impending doom borne of anxiety attacks were something I could control on my own.
Factors that had pushed me into toeing the line of madness in my early 20s thankfully haven’t lingered. My parents aren’t in the midst of an ugly and ridiculous divorce anymore, my baby sister is no longer in the immediate recovery zone of a major brain injury, I’m not flat broke, seeking employment and confused why no high-paying job had easily appeared (I had a Master’s degree – where’s my chunk of the good life?), and most of the time I didn’t feel like I was floundering.
Though I still have emotional bruises from that time, and now have adult concerns that sometimes feel all-consuming, I was doing well enough. I probably didn’t need the meds anymore.
I was wrong.
I need the meds, but I don’t like that I do. As one friend said, “You definitely aren’t the only one.” I know that is true, I don’t want to be in that club. Admitting that I need them proves I’m always going to be a little bit broken inside, and that the pain and stigma of mental illness can seep through the unwelcome cracks in my psyche.
Now that I’m back on the meds, I’m shocked at how much better I feel. It isn’t a feeling of elation or bliss, but I feel like I can breathe again. Like the world and its inhabitants might be a little terrible, but that I can stand sunshine and life isn’t a burden. I like the feeling that I might be able to believe in God again. That faith is actually an option.
I’m trying to be grateful I live in a time where depression and anxiety can be somewhat easily controlled, and that I’m not being told to take a Valium every day as previous generations were. Being mentally checked out all of the time isn’t where I want to be. The tulle encrusted haze of narcotics stifles creativity, drive and memory.
But so does depression.
Feeling like I want to strangle everyone in a three mile radius is not conducive to the family life I want, or the relationships or career I want to cultivate.
So I’ll continue to take the medications, and wish I didn’t need them. And I’ll refrain from burning down America.
This column was originally published in the February 1, 2012 edition of the Fort Mill Times.