Chemical Topographies

Chemical Topographies

I‘ve come out of the woods and into a clearing of sorts, though I still stand on the edges.

A year and a half ago I wrote a post about taking antidepressants. It was the beginning, and I had promised to document the ongoing journey. I have not written about it since then, even in a private journal, but I have shared it with close friends. My desire to share now has to do with the realization that, miraculously, I am experiencing this thing I have hoped for a very long time. Relief.woods
The right kind and combination of meds took a year to find. The list goes something like, Prozac, Wellbutrin, Lamictal, Abilify, Topamax, Lexipro. Prozac made me unbearably sleepy, Wellbutrin kept me anxious (with higher blood pressure), Abilify made me angry (I told the psych nurse curtly that I refused to continue taking it), and Topamax (used as an appetite suppressant) made me lethargic. Lamictal and Lexipro seem to be, literally, my happy place…
Here’s why it’s miraculous. There are so many stories about people who suffer from mental illness who take medication to relieve negative symptoms, but in the process lose positive feelings- or they lose feelings altogether. Creativity and empathy may also fall away as medication lifts mania or suicidal thoughts. As a person who struggles with anxiety and depression (two opposite, though corresponding states), I felt skeptical that meds could alleviate both at the same time. Thankfully, I was wrong. Somehow the negative feelings have lightened, and the positive ones have stayed.

Walking the 1/3 mile to the mailbox the other day I suddenly realized that I could not remember the last time I felt either despair or panic. This doesn’t mean I feel happy all of the time. PMS makes me irritable for a day, insecure, hungry and tired. Sad circumstances make me sad. Assholes in traffic make me mad. But all of these things are drastically muted, such that I see them and can take appropriate measures to address them without getting lost in the woods.

Side effects? Miniscule.

It’s like I’ve won the chemical lottery.

I mean, it did take a year to find the right combo, and I continue to see a therapist. I plan to stay on the medications for the next year at least to stabilize my mental and physical health before I consider weaning myself off of them. I feel no pressure to test my strength. I went without medication long enough to get over the feeling like I should be able to “make it on my own.” Who I am is not lost. In fact, this is much more like being freed to be myself than like suppression of the “real me.”

 

woods

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