I stopped taking my medication.
It seems like a simple statement, but to some it’s the equivalent to “there’s a bomb on this plane” or “the rubber just broke”.
I’m terrible about taking medicine anyway. I rarely finish antibiotics and birth control pills are out of the question (not that I’ve needed them recently). I have a cabinet full of half empty pill bottles from one time or another, one sickness or another, one dark place or another. I should throw them away, but instead I line them up like mutilated sentries and shut them away in the dark with a satisfied click, too helpless to do their job.
I’m not ignorant. I know it’s not healthy to stop taking a prescription before it’s finished. The majority of the time, when it’s for a sickness, it’s because I’m absentminded or lazy. The rest of the time is more difficult to explain.
When I was kid they gave me Ritalin. I couldn’t sit still in class, had trouble paying attention, and I could be a bit high strung. The Ritalin made me settle down, sure, but it didn’t help me pay attention. I was simply bored, but back in those days it was easier to drug um’ up than ask questions. No one asked themselves why I could sit still from dawn to dusk and read a book the size of my head, but had trouble in the classroom.
I had to go to the office every afternoon for my pill and one of the ladies would follow me to the water fountain in the hall to make sure I took it. I eventually learned to let it fall from my mouth and into the little slots of the fountain as I leaned over to take a drink, shielding it with my body. When the doctor eventually decided it was ok for me to come off Ritalin, that I was (halleluiah!) cured, I smiled to myself and thought, “Idiots”.
I suppose it’s safe to say that I’m defiant, in part, for the feeling of smugness it creates. Though I may have been right not to take the Ritalin then, it doesn’t mean that I’m right now. I’m well aware of that.
But once I start feeling better, once the pills get me over the first hurdle or two, I stop. I say to myself, “You’re fine now. Good job.” And I go on about my business. I add another sentry to the shelf and turn my back – satisfied that their task is done, I’ve stripped them of their ammunition and it’s all up to me from that point forward. I can handle it. I've won.
Life goes on.
Then I’m riding in the backseat of a car on a Sunday afternoon. I’ve just finished a book and I close it with a sigh of satisfaction. But mere moments later I’m restless. We pull over for gas and as the driver gets out to pump, I stare out my window at the busy street. That’s when I see her. She’s wearing a knee length flowered dress and a scuffed, ragged looking pair of Keds. A green and white stripped sock stretches halfway up her left calf, the other is bare. Her hair is cropped close to her skull and her shoulders are hunched around her bent head, as if expecting a blow to fall any minute.
As she passes a few feet from my window I notice her battered black suitcase. Gripping the handle in a dirty fist, she trudges by. In a high pocket on the outward facing side, a grimy brown teddy bear rides shotgun. I stare at his slumped form, rolling along behind his slumped mistress, until they disappear from view.
I feel my face tighten and my eyes begin the tell-tale swim and burn. I hold my breath and lean my head against the back of the seat. “I must be getting my period”, I think. But even as the words form in my brain, I know they aren’t true.
I’m willing to bet that nothing about that woman or her ratty bear would have bothered me had I not stopped taking my meds. They weren't the cause, just the trigger. I probably would have laughed at her one striped sock and her stupid bear and forgotten all about them later. As it is, it’s been weeks and here I am recounting it to you in vivid detail.
Then, just last week, I was on my way home from work. I’d gotten off early and I was in a great mood - singing along with the radio, enjoying the sunshine through the open roof and the wind in my hair. But 15 minutes or so into the hour commute, as if in answer to a brisk snap of summoning fingers, it all went south. I can name no trigger, no real reason for my abrupt change in mood. Suddenly everything was just wrong.
Every unhappy thought or trivial problem I’d had over the past week went ricocheting around my head, gathering strength with each pass and manifesting into a giant ball of “What the Fuck”. I fought back tears and felt my face grow hot. I tried to make sense of it all, to reason with myself. Again, “Must be getting my period” and “Stop it, stop it right now”. Neither helped. By the time I was five minutes from home I’d managed to work myself up so much that I was having trouble breathing.
And all over what? - An argument with a friend, the distance of another. A sudden feeling of loneliness because I’m the last single person in my circle, attending another wedding that weekend. Pressure to be this, do that, feel something, feel nothing, smile, put on the cocky Alyson show. So tired, so tired.
When I arrived home I immediately went to bed and hugged my pillow, just laying there with my eyes closed and breathing slowly, willing myself to calm down. And after a few minutes, I did. I got up, changed my clothes, and walked down to the lake to join the pre rehearsal dinner party that was already in full swing. I was back up again, inwardly rolling my eyes at my dramatics. “Ugh. You are such a fucking girl.”
And that’s where I’m at now. At this moment I feel relatively normal and objective. I have things to look forward to in the coming weeks, things that I’m excited about. But who knows? Tomorrow someone might not call or I might see another homeless person with a battered suitcase and I’ll think it’s the end of the world. Or that my abrupt change in mood has something to do with my period.
Right now I know better. I know I shouldn’t have added that last sentry to the shelf so soon...maybe ever. And when it gets to be too much, I’ll get another and then another. Until one day the door won’t close on them anymore. They’ll band together, form a misfit army to bring me down, and I’ll be found out. Then everyone will know I’m crazy.
But I’ll wait until then. Because haven’t you heard?
Vicious cycles are my specialty.