My answer befuddles my ex-wife. Wasn’t the one she was expecting.
I’m doing good. OK. “About 70 percent of the day,” I say, talking into the phone’s imperceptible microphone as I drive back from the nature park where I’ve been letting the two dogs — my support group — run in the wind and sun.
“And you’re off your Klonopin?” she asks. An incredulous tint betrays her skepticism.
Yeah, it strikes me finally. And for days. Weird, huh?
E. was the one who reminded me about the power of pills when I really needed to hear it. She gave me permission, so to speak, to return to the pharmacological collage after a revived tsunami of anxiety and depression ran head-long into my cerebral swamp of uncertainties.
“Why do you think that is?”
Good question. Why hasn’t a steady round of panic attacks and suicidal depression followed the subtraction of my lithium, Wellbutrin, Prozac, and Klonopin? Why hasn’t the me of summer 2012 returned as I’d been expecting?
The last time E. and I had talked meds I was an existential mess. My brain chemistry had started going through wild swings due to my decision to take myself off Prozac and Klonopin in late 2011. And my thinking — a shifting, tangled heap of deepening work dissatisfaction and near-constant ruminations over my religious convictions (or lack thereof) and life’s increasingly imperceptible purpose – was primed for the perfect storm.
In early 2012 she started coaching me to get help. It would take nearly three months to get into a shrink and get a prescription. I grit my teeth and kept marching to and from work. It was a long three months. By the time I got my tube of little white tablets I had totally forgotten how strong and fast a good dose of Klonopin could be. And I had forgotten how much better being slightly stoned at a work meeting was compared to the range of desperate emotions that kept me shuttering myself at home as I literally clawed the floors and walls in “prayer” begging for divine aid as thoughts of death corrupted my mind’s internal hard drive.
If I’ve ever come to believe with certainty that there is absolutely nothing but what we think there is, it was during this time.
E. heard me at my worst, in tears in the dark buried at home or running from work to an isolated corner down the road to catch my breath. I described feelings she well understood. She herself has been on something ever since she started having destabilizing flashbacks of childhood abuse, about a year or two before we got married. That must be 15 or 20 years by now.
So what am I doing being better? She was right to be skeptical.
It’s true that I’m crazy vulnerable right now, emotionally naked even, hyper-sensitive, and definitely, as they say, at risk. I’m easy pickings for any errant triggering thought that may amble through. But the me of 2012 hasn’t returned in force, I think, because I’ve adopted an intentionally delimited lifestyle.
I’m eating. At home I could hardly bring myself to cook and the dishes were always overflowing the sink. I skipped many meals. But since I’m at my parents’ and my mom still enjoys cooking, self-nourishment issues are almost non-existent. Oh, and no coffee (stimulant) or booze (depressant).
I sleep in. Or sleep until I wake naturally. And I take naps most days. (Even if my folks tease me for it, I know it’s an important part of recovery. Under this stoic outer wrapping my nervous system is going through the paces, for sure.)
I’m busy. Or at least I try to keep myself busy writing and reading (when I’m not sleeping and eating). With no job to go to and no friends in my life to entertain, I have more than a few hours every day that need attention. This blog is big part of that.
I walk the dogs. That’s about 30 minutes of a raised heart rate every day — even when we don’t go to the nature park. Helps.
I don’t over-think anything. (Or I try not to.) This is the big kahuna. As long as I’m awake, I find, I have to watch my thoughts. Now that I’ve been de-drugged they move a lot faster, too, in more sophisticated, frequently provocative, fashion.
As most depressives know, all it takes is one insignificant-seeming judgment to attract (and maintain) our attention for a few mintues and we’re looking at a possible serious depressive episode. One of those will put me out of commission for a day easy, and the mental pounding of that typically spills over to color a day two or three, as well.
So, yeah, I’ve been good. But not for no reason. And it doesn’t mean I’m not sick anymore. I am. I feel it constantly: my brain chomping at the bit to let it really open up and run — every prompt from the deep of my subconscious possible gold.
Yeah, brain. Like I’d ever let that happen.