I’m off my meds!

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I find that so often with blogs, the personal intertwines with the creative. I’m not sure if creative personalities are that much more vulnerable to the vicissitudes of mental health, or if it’s just that poetry or writing itself is more closely linked to the mental realm than other things one could be doing. For example, I find that my work performance is not really affected by depression or my mental health (positive or otherwise) as much as my writing is. I suppose that’s good because it means I haven’t missed nearly as much work as I could have as a result of my various brain troubles, but I digress. A few weeks ago I stopped taking my medication. All at once. For those of you looking away in disapproval or tut-tutting at me, I would not recommend this to anyone. As usual in my life, it’s a case of do what I say, not what I do. However, I do have a reasonable excuse. Let me expound. Or expand. Expostulate?

About a month ago I realized that I had lost my prescription from my doctor. Amazingly this is the second time this has happened. One would have thought that doctors would have come up with a better system than a scribbled bit of paper for getting access to potentially dangerous substances, but it seems not. Perhaps Canada is just lagging behind and the rest of the world is happily emailing their prescriptions directly to the pharmacy of their choice, or better still posting them onto some shared website for any pharmacist to access. Anyway. As a responsible patient, I did nothing for about a week. Work has been very busy, and I kept forgetting to call them during business hours. And I still had some pills left, so I wasn’t worried. Eventually I got round to calling, and of course there was nobody there. I left a detailed message explaining the situation (as this is what I had to do last time to get it fixed). I never received a call back. A few days later I went to the chemist/pharmacist just to check if my prescription had been delivered, but nothing was there. Now, being the somewhat lackadaisical individual that I am, I did nothing again. Part of this was because I was sure they would eventually call me back, but also on some level I saw this as an opportunity. Circumstance is good motivation for me, and I saw this as ideal timing. At my last appointment, my doctor and I had agreed that I was to taper off my medication gradually (one drug at a time), and in fact I had already tapered off one of my three meds. So what with one thing and another, this seemed like a good time to stop the others.

I was prepared for withdrawal symptoms (although Wellbutrin is notoriously nice in that respect) or some dramatic change in my mood or emotions. In fact, the results were rather boring. It’s now about four weeks later, and I feel essentially the same. I have a little less energy to do things, but it’s not a huge change, and frankly I would rather be unmedicated and slightly slothful than constantly questioning my own autonomy. I have also been working up to 10 hour days, which may explain why I have no energy in the evenings. I am trying to force myself to do things like reading and writing, with limited success. I went swimming today, which I am quite proud of. But overall, very little change. In fact, this experience has me questioning the usefulness of medication at all for someone in my position. I think that I am largely stable right now, and accordingly, medication doesn’t really help me. Of course it’s the first thing any psychiatrist would suggest, but perhaps some sort of talk therapy would be more useful. A revelation! 

I should disclaim again at this point that I don’t advocate stopping meds without consulting one’s physician, or stopping taking things cold turkey. I am very resistant to most side effects of most medications, and the ones I take (or rather was taking) don’t have any severe side effects anyway. When dealing with the brain, caution is best I feel. Don’t try this at home, kids!

This Year’s Child

This is sort of my 2013 in review poem. I read back over some of my old posts and things that happened this year, and this is what I came up with. Some things are notably absent, please don’t judge me on that score!

 

This year

I have taken approximately 3000 pills

This year

Seamus Heaney died, as did a piece of Beowulf. So.

This year

I have lived a generic existence. Unlabelled, flat, unrippled

No quakes, no storms. No roll of thunder

This year

Nobody has died

This year

I have taken someone’s small bruised world

And studied it like an orient pearl

This year I learned what it was like to be a pretty girl

And I feel bad for them

This year I was tongue tied

I raged at the inadequacy of paper

This year I understood the agony of movement

I laid in bed for days at a time

This year I was frenetic, fragmented, fractious, fictitious, fractured

This year I bought a dictionary (I have read up to ‘F’)

This year I trembled, I teetered

I was hebenon, iocane

I thought about the median lethal dose of caffeine and cigarettes

I was soothed by amorphous jellyfish

This year I met someone I liked

And she meandered away

Into the waning December

Day 18 – Betrayal

You are

Dark trickster

Hidden in the hollow of the hand

The pill

That opens the eyes

The coin

That flashes across the palm

These feelings

Are not my own

The locus of everything is this little white pill

And you said

That the pill would become a calendar

Would become a star

Would become the world

And now I am trapped

In the sphere

Of this little white pill

Writing on medication

I’ve been on this medication for around nine months now. In fact, I haven’t been unmedicated in about a year and a half, which is my longest time on meds. It’s also been my most stable eighteen months all told. I’ve had only one brief stay in hospital, and I’ve only missed about eight weeks of work (which is pretty good as in 2010 I missed more than sixteen weeks). That’s pretty good considering I’ve moved across the country once (and I’m about to do it again), gone through a breakup, had some failed therapy, acquired a new position at work and also tried to be taking university classes at the same time. I’ve even started working on my book.

Of course all medication has its down sides. One of the most common is what they call ‘flat aspect’. The inability to get either very depressed or very excited about things. I’m on the highest dose of my anti-depressant right now, and I am definitely experiencing that. I find it very difficult to get excited about things. In fact, I find it very difficult to get emotional at all. Sad, happy, excited, melancholy all seem to no longer be options. This wouldn’t be so bad in general but it’s affected my writing.

It’s sort of a cliche that poets are more depressive than other people (in fact there was a study on female poets that showed they were more likely to commit suicide than people in any other discipline). In my case of course, it’s true. I write better when I’m depressed. Why? I think partly because I focus intently on tiny things. Whether for good or bad, I am able to concentrate on a tiny particle of wrongness in my world, and form something around it, like an oyster with a dead worm. Those little moments or particles are the things that I write best about.

Despite all that, last week I had one of my most productive days ever. One cup of green tea and suddenly I was off and writing about all kinds of things. I wrote twelve poems in one evening at the cafe, probably more than I’ve ever written at one time. I think in part, that’s because of caffeine. In part, it’s because I didn’t have any particular thing to say or to deal with. I just wrote. I would say a lot of those pieces are below my best, and a lot are unfinished, but I wrote them nonetheless.

That day was an anomaly though. In general, I haven’t been able to write either fiction or poetry on these meds. Which leaves me with a difficult choice. Try to write outside my best, stop writing entirely, or stop taking my meds? None of these seem like attractive options. Thankfully I have to move in ten days, so all of this will be put aside for a while. I shall reconsider from my place in the West.

Editing Poetry: Slump Sad Red

I wrote this about someone who was dying, and is probably gone now.

All made up
In pungent red lips
So painted false colour
Slump red mouth
Midnight hole eye sockets
Stare out of torment
War within
All chemical
Procedural
Heavy lashes
Hang drooping skin and she says
I suffer every day and
Nobody can help me
The chemicals spin in black hole eye sockets and the fat man says
She needs some meat on her bones and the native woman asks
What happened and they
Are all such dimensions in visual perception
Such solid colour stories you can
See back to their beginnings
The first stitch of something like a tapestry
She leaves an empty chair and shuffles away
Like a child building static on a rug
Her name is Iris

via Editing Poetry: Slump Sad Red.

Where am I going?

Since going off my meds I’ve been extra depressed. I was depressed before, and I guess I made the decision that I’d rather trade off the side effects for the risk of feeling worse overall. But now I’m questioning my whole life again. It doesn’t feel like I’m going anywhere. Sure I have all my little projects, which I work on whenever I have the energy (not very often these days) but nothing to look forward to. Nothing to suggest that in a year, five years, my life will be any better than it is now. I feel very alone.

I think that this blog is a good example of that. I started off writing a lot of my own things just for the blog… even reading other people’s blogs and commenting. I made a friend, which is a rare event for me. But now that energy seems to have gone. I don’t think I’ve read more than a post a day from other people, and I’ve definitely not commented.

I’m worried that anyone who is in touch with me will forget about me because I don’t have the energy to write them long messages. My ideas just sit in my head collecting dust, and none seem able to wriggle their way out onto the page. All I’m really doing now is posting old writing, but why? I never get any comments on it. Do people enjoy reading these things?

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I’m off my meds!

It wasn’t just one thing, it was…like two things. All the side effects from my meds combined with the fact that I haven’t really felt they’ve been helping, aand the realization that I’ve now been on this stuff for a year, and I decided it was time to quit.

I know that most antidepressants take about 14 days to build up to an effective level in your system, and this means that when you stop taking them, your body goes into something like a withdrawal. Typically after a few days, you start to feel like crap as you begin to adjust back to normal brain chemistry. People can be a little moody during this period…

This is why doctors tell you to withdraw from these things slowly. But I decided, as I often do, to say ‘screw that’ and just stop taking them. I think Saturday was my first day off. By Monday I was crying a lot. Seriously. A lot. That continued through Tuesday, but today I haven’t cried as much. My head still feels like it’s full of sort of… fluffy electricity and I can’t think clearly, but I’m hoping that will be better soon.

So far no, I don’t feel any better. But at least I’m down to two meds now, and if I can get off those, then I have no reason to keep seeing a psychiatrist. Yuck.

In honour of stopping meds, here’s Medication by Garbage.
I don’t need an education
I learnt all I need from you
They’ve got me on some medication
My point of balance was askew
It keeps my temperature from rising
My blood is pumping through my veins

Somebody get me out of here
I’m tearing at myself
Nobody gives a damn about me or anybody else

I wear myself out in the morning
You’re asleep when I get home
Please don’t call me self defending
You know it cuts me to the bone
And it’s really not surprising
I hold a force I can’t contain

And still you call me co-dependent
Somehow you lay the blame on me
And still you call me co-dependent
Somehow you lay the blame on me

Somebody get me out of here
I’m tearing at myself
I’ve got to make a point these days
To extricate myself

And still you call me co-dependent
Somehow you lay the blame on me
And still you call me co-dependent

Somehow you lay the blame on me