Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Unaltered States

Life makes an honest attempt to kick my ass on a daily basis. Many may scoff at that statement, since – at age 55 – I still have all my limbs and I’m fairly healthy. I don’t even need to knock on wood. I walk a half hour to and from work every day, pretty much rain or shine and that keeps me fit – the fittest I’ve been in probably a dozen years. Those walks also help me to release the stress of daily life, as I amble to and from the bookstore.

Some may say, “How does life kick your skinny white ass, when you’ve avoided major illness; both of your parents are still alive. Your only major period of unemployment was by choice and that was to take on the role as stay-at-home parent. You even have two separate internet routers! One for the house and one for your man cave in the garage.” Okay. It’s not a “man cave.” Once it warms up enough, the space in the garage will be this cynic’s sanctuary. It is true though, that I’ve led a relatively tragedy-free life, but unfortunately, depression doesn’t check our social media status, before checking into our life.

I started taking anti-depressants almost ten years ago. I had been seeing a counselor and she had gently suggested I might try medication. I would get into these ruts, not want to leave the house. I’d blow off concerts, wasting expensive seats. I felt as if I didn’t even know how to interact with my friends and neighbors. My continuing battle with depression was taxing on my marriage, and now I had a young son. After a stressful visit from my parents (“Why don’t you do something with this yard?”) and the death of my cat, I acquiesced and decided to try medication. I needed to climb out of my dark hole, so that I could be a healthy functioning parent for my son and so I could also enjoy life, like humans sometimes do.

Initially, I felt much better on citalopram (brand name Celexa®). This drug works cumulatively, so it took a little while and the internal changes were subtle. As other patients have said, I felt more like myself after using serotonin reuptake inhibitors. Unfortunately, my marriage did not endure and we now share custody of our beautiful son. Like some kind of Richard Burton wannabe, I got remarried soon after my separation. I continued to battle depression and after a few rage episodes, and a general feeling of malaise, I decided that the citalopram may no longer be working as it initially had. Upon consulting with a doctor, I decided to try Wellbutrin®, which is also used for smoking cessation. The initial idea was to wean off of the citalopram, and solely use the bupropion (brand name Wellbutrin®,) but at some point it seemed safer not to back off the meds any further.

These are not miracle drugs, and results may vary; hence the variety of anti-depressants, I suppose. Citalopram and bupropion are also not without their side effects, which include seizures, constipation, nausea, headache, tremors, confusion, anxiety, sinusitis, insomnia, night sweats and those old favorites: ejaculatory disorder and a general a loss of interest in sex. In fact, taking citalopram can actually cause thoughts of suicide! Seriously? Yeah. Seriously. Just ask the widow of Del Shannon. How are these medications supposed to be helping me, again? I think I deserve a break today.

I stopped taking my anti-depressants a couple of weeks ago. Usually, any pause is caused by a lack of funds – running out of my prescriptions before payday – but I have wanted to wean off my anti-depressants for a few years now, if only to find out who I am without them. I talked to my doctor about this on my last visit and had one of the prescriptions drastically reduced, with the intent of dropping it entirely. I had never intended to be on two anti-depressants! That’s depressing right there! I do need to restart taking my blood pressure medication, especially if I’m trying to survive without ingesting selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors on a daily basis.

Like anything else in this world worth saving, I’m a work in progress. Yes, it’s about the journey. There is no winner’s tape to break through victoriously between now and my last breath. The only victory will be in living a good life, being kind to others and myself and then moving on to make room. Strip away the corporate medication and I’m left with my unaltered mind. Well, unaltered except for daily doses of chocolate, marijuana and fresh air. Being mindful is all the rage, but despite being trendy, it works. Besides being a terrible thing to waste, our mind is basically who we are. Take it or leave it. I think therefore I have drama in my life. Otherwise I’d be a rock. I’d be an island. And no man is an island.

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Just a song before I go

1 comment:

Dana Gaskin Wenig said...

So glad you posted this, Mark. Well done. I really like the piece. It lets me in to your mind and life just enough and leaves me feeling somehow calmed about this life thing. Glad to know you as we amble along.