My psychiatrist has been warning me for months about what it'll be like to go off my medication.
"We'll have to go through a slow withdrawal process," she explained. It would be a process that would take months if I decided that I no longer wanted to be on my antidepressant. "But Paxil is one of the best antidepressants on the market."
Translation: any hope of things getting better than this are slim to none.
I didn't mean to not take my medication two days in a row. One day, here or there. Four days when I was in Los Angeles in April for a writer's conference. So when she kept talking about how terrible it is to detox from Paxil, I didn't think it would be so bad.
I was wrong.
Day 1 was on purpose. I'm sick of taking four medications a day, plus supplements, plus Xanax if I need it. I was feeling lazy and didn't do my normal routine. And I felt better Day 2 — I was running late to physical therapy and I have to wait a half hour after taking my thyroid medication before I can take another medication, so it slipped my mind.
But when I went to physical therapy, things felt off. My senses were heightened, but not in a good way. I was shaking. I was hearing things. I was seeing things. I kept going through my appointment, to my grandparent's house after for lunch, and then grocery shopping because they were things I just needed to get done that day.
By the time I was at the grocery store, I was in full-blown paranoia. People were following me around the store. They were too close. My Xanax was on the counter at home, so it wasn't even like I could take that to help calm myself (the way I had in LA). I felt the ground tip under my feet as I pushed my shopping cart towards the checkout. The world was ending, breaking apart, crumbling beneath my feet. I was going to die. I was already dead. I needed to get out of there. If I could just make it back to my car, maybe I'd be OK.
I was crumbling right there next to freshly baked organic sourdough bread.
Somehow, I made it to the checkout line. I made it back to my car and drove home. It wasn't like I had a choice; my husband was asleep and we only have one car. I wasn't going to bother anyone else that might've been able to help. I didn't want them to think I was crazy. I was just losing my mind, that's all. I just had to make it home, take my medication, and then I would be fine.
It was a mantra I repeated to myself on the drive home, through taking the dogs out, through changing back into my pajamas and finally, finally, taking my Paxil. I added a Xanax for good measure, and then I waited.
It took an hour before my world even started to level out again.
Many would have the opinion — do have the opinion — that I shouldn't even been on antidepressants to begin with because of this reason. How scary they can be, how difficult it is to wean yourself off of them, how they don't fix anything. Sometimes I agree with them. I still feel really depressed, so much so that I doubt that my Paxil is even working for me. But that's because I expect it to fix everything — to instantly make me feel back to normal (whatever that is). I want to take my pill and be able to get up off the couch, get out of bed, and handle my day like someone who isn't struggling, like someone who is really good at faking being "high functioning." I want to have energy, feel motivated, and be the person everyone could count on to volunteer for everything.
What I want out of my antidepressant, out of my anti-anxiety medication, is an instant fix. I want the magic pill that makes everything better, and I'm disappointed that it doesn't exist. But that's the society we live in: instant gratification. We don't want to do the work that goes along with the pill; we just want the pill to do everything for us. We want it to lose the weight for us, instead of working it off through healthy eating and exercise. We want the pill to fix our headache instead of looking at the causes for why we get headaches in the first place. We want the pill to fix our nightmares, our insomnia, without having to work through the reasons we're experiencing those things to begin with.
When it comes to mental health, work is painful. It's reopening up memories that we'd rather not relive. It's going through the most painful part of our lives instead of going around them. We think we've closed the box on what's making us feel this way — depressed, angry, anxious, etc. — and can't understand why we're still feeling like hell.
I'm not a doctor. Not a psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, or anything close to someone who'd be able to give a professional opinion about what to do and not to do when it comes to mental health. But I do have experience. I do see the good my anti-depressant does and understand that it's not going to fix everything. There has to be a working relationship between my medication and I. Mental health is fluid. Some days are good and some days are bad. Paxil takes the edge off of some of my symptoms and I do have good days. The bad days, though, aren't the drug's fault. They aren't anyone's fault. The bad days just mean I need to take extra care of myself. Rest. Hydrate.
There are no instant fixes. No magic pills. There's help, there's home, and there's the chance — the hope — that tomorrow is going to be a better day.