Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Even my psychotic half is an attention seeker

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.


Eric said...

You need a constructive / creative hobby, I imagine. Winemaking maybe?

Then you won't need pills and you could have helped the sad teddy bear lady, I mean assuming she could have used a good glass of wine...

Anonymous said...

First of all, you are one hell of a writer. There were so many great lines in this post. I wish people would just pay me for spotting true talent when I see it because I've got a 7th sense about these things. Your writing is really good. Seriously.

I also feel a connection with you because much of your story is like mine. Strange things set me off and "It must be my period" is my mantra of hope that I haven't started losing my mind or slipping into a dark hole. I don't know if I believe in meds anymore. I like having mine around though, just in case.

I enjoyed your post immensely. I really did.

The mad woman behind the blog said...

One, this is such a well written post. Two, that girl and her bear are haunting me now too, so thanks for that.
Three: MORE ZUMBA. Four: I haven't done meds in years and so I know that roller coaster well....and can only offer my words. We're here for you Ally.

I know this doesn't help but don't all great writers have their demons? Come on, look at this post. Its wonderful in its darkness.

Library girl said...

Holy cow. It's not just me.

Didactic Pirate said...

I can empathize with this; my wife has gone through it. Meds can help people a lot, but the subsequent relationship between the med and the med taker is actually really complex (how long to take it, how dependent to feel, how much better is better "enough"... all of it), and you described it beautifully here.

And now I'm imagining a scene in which your med sentries secretly climb out of your medicine cabinet one night, pin you to your floor, tie you up with dental floss like you're Gulliver, and cackle around you in tiny wicked voices. How am I supposed to get THAT out of my head?

Girl Interrupted said...

I know we share a guilty liking for the Twilight films, not the deepest or most meaningful of sources I know, but this post made me think of something, remember that line when Bella says "Your mood swings are kinda giving me whiplash"? ... that always makes me smile a bit ruefully because I know most of my family and friends have permanently stiff necks, thanks to me. You're not crazy and you're not alone.

You are a great pleasure to read though.

Rusty Hoe said...

I can't find the right words to express how this made me feel. You have a gift in your writing, there is no doubt about that. The imagery is so accessible you can't help but stand right beside you. Raw, honest... Argh, I don't know what I'm trying to say as it wont come out right. Those damn bottles are so confronting, you can end up with a very unhealthy relationship, get together, break up, get together, break up. Forgive me, but I want to get all girly and give you a hug right about now.

Ally said...

I so can relate to the mood swings thing, although usually I just blame my hubs or PMS.

I do that same thing with medication too. I have a drawer in my IKEA night table filled with everything under the sun, pain meds from different weird aches and pains I've had (friends often ask to bum one), every antibiotic you can imagine, I take a few, then just stop.

Anonymous said...

Even though you weren't talking specifically about PMS, someone ought to make a pill for that shit, because honestly, I'm mellow, happy, normal and productive most of the time, but get that few days before my period and I will CRY at the drop of a hat. And get frustrated at the slightest damn thing. And every thought I have relates somehow to chocolate. Then one time I picked up a box of macaroni and it split and spewed out all over the floor. I then spent about five real minutes swearing and kicking macaroni around the kitchen before bursting into tears. PMS PILLS NOW!

But here's to you feeling balanced and to hopefully not sweating it because sometimes it's ok to feel overwhelmed or emotional for no reason at all, even if it sucks to feel it. Plus come on, you get a good blog story out of it.

Anonymous said...

I don't know much about meds, but I know about triggers and I know about the overwhelming feeling of lonely. I think everyone feels like that, regardless of prescriptions - we just deal with it different ways.

Either way, I feel you - it's hard to take them and easy to stop, but easy isn't always good and hard isn't always right.

Wish you luck and self-control.

Beta Dad said...

I think I need some pills. I get weepy from listening to NPR.

Ellie said...

And who decides just what normal is, anyway? We were not made to live in this world which trains children to be office drones and demonises the single person.

steff said...

you have an excellent way with words. i so love reading your posts.
you are not alone with the emo rollercoaster and infrequent med taking.
i've been there and currently live that. said...

I love this. Poignant, hilarious, true.

mylittlebecky said...

well, you're one step ahead of me... you currently *have* meds. i've somehow decided i can handle it alone forever. hugs to you!

Mr. Condescending said...

GI comments she likes the twilight films? And you do too?

I hope you can kick the pills, but if you need to go back to them I don't blame you. I think lots of sex is the ultimate answer though, don't you?

Shinxy said...

I know how you feel. I'm currently coming off a high dose of antipsychotics onto a lower one, so the 'psychotic half'? I can relate.

The worst thing that's happened so far is I think I agreed to have an orgy. I'm very suggestible when psychotic.

Anonymous said...

vicious circles, tell me about it... *sigh*

very nicely put...

CkretsGalore said...

I believe quite a few people, especially women, relate to your story.

At one point in my life I was definitely over medicated. I decided at one point to just stop taking every. WeeWoooWeeWooo Batshit crazy!

That was a long time ago and that person is almost a stranger now. I don't take any meds for my noodle except Champix (smoking cessation med). It's taken years and I still have some pretty heavy lows, drastic mood swings..crying at gey commercials. It's just one day at a time. Best just to find what works for you and if it's meds then don't be ashamed.
I just prefer sex & laughter. tee hee.