A couple of days ago, my husband (not-so-)nonchalantly slipped this seemingly innocent question into our conversation (which had nothing to do with drugs or depression): “Ummm, have you been taking your medicine?”
To which I sheepishly replied, “Well, no… not really… sometimes when I think about it, maybe.”
Why I EVER quit taking my medicine is one of life’s great mysteries, I suppose.
A little history, shall we?
When Damon was around 4 or 5 or 6 months old, it finally dawned on me one day (as I was sitting in the middle of the floor, crying uncontrollably for no apparent reason, and praying that the clock would suddenly, magically forward itself to 5pm so that Nick would be home soon to take over Damon duty) that, uhhh, maybe something was not-quite-right with me.
And with that realization/acknowledgment came a little glimmer of hope. IF something was wrong with me, then something could be done to fix it, right??
Somehow my head became clear enough to make an appointment with my friendly family doctor ASAP. I don’t think Dr. Bruce and I were even five minutes into our conversation before he was scrawling out a prescription for generic Prozac. (Lucky, or maybe unlucky, for me, Dr. Bruce had suffered from depression for years and had a nice, dependent relationship on generic Prozac himself.) Either he was prescription-happy or he could tell that I was in a baaaad way.
I don’t know how long I took that particular drug… a couple of months maybe. And, for some unknown (or unremembered) reason, I quit taking it. And I diagnosed myself as being “fine, just fine.” I figured I had suffered from a little (okay, a HUGE) case of postpartum depression, and well, I’d survived it (more by the grace of God than anything, I’m convinced). But now I was fine. (Famous last words.)
I remained drug-free for a few years. But when I was pregnant with Avery, I swore that I would NOT let myself get to that point… that if I started feeling even slightly “off” after she was born, I would recognize it for what it probably was and be on the phone with the doc in a heartbeat. And I did (about a week after Avery arrived), so I was.
When Dr. Windsor heard that I had a history of PPD and wasn’t feeling quite right now, one week after giving birth, she didn’t hesitate to phone in a prescription — for Zoloft this time.
Zoloft made me realllllly sleepy, no matter when I took it (of course, having a newborn baby and an energetic toddler might have contributed a little to that!). It also put me in “The Zone,” as I like to call it. The Zone is a place where I, thankfully, don’t feel sad/depressed/despondent, where I’m able to function and make it through the day without screaming or crying episodes… all good things.
But The Zone is also a place where I don’t feel much joy either. I like to think that I’m a pretty enthusiastic person… but enthusiasm does not exist in The Zone. In The Zone, I just (barely) exist. I’m not sad, but I also wouldn’t classify myself as happy. There are no highs or lows, just that gray area somewhere in the middle.
Yes, The Zone is better than the dark place I existed for months after Damon was born. I’d take a little gray area any day over that… but, I missed feeling happy and excited. I decided (maybe foolishly) that I’d rather deal with the lows in order to experience the highs of life. The thing is, when you’re under the influence of one of these miracle drugs, you suddenly forget what the lows are really like… meds make you feel better, so you think YOU are better and give no credit to those magical pills you take with your coffee every morning. (Hey, I said it was foolish!)
So, anyway, I stuck with the Zoloft off and on for a couple of years, I guess. At some point I either decided I was cured (being wayyyy past the postpartum phase) or I just kept forgetting to take my meds, or a combination of both.
But inevitably, eventually, that dark sadness comes back. And I ignore it for as long as possible before I find myself sitting in another doctor’s office, rattling off my list of symptoms (i.e., reasons I think I’m batshit crazy and need drugs so that I don’t decide to off myself).
[Maybe you’ll be happy/relieved to know that, no matter HOW bad I got or how dark my world became, never, ever, ever did I consider… not even for one millisecond… harming either of my children, in any way, shape, or form. Ever. In fact, in my darkest hours, when I asked myself “what’s the point??” and wondered why I had to suffer through this life, thoughts of my children are what saved me from doing anything REALLY crazy, that I wouldn’t be around to regret. I include this “disclaimer” because that is almost always the first question a doctor asks a mother suffering from PPD: “Have you ever thought about hurting your baby?” They ask me this and I shrink back in horror and think, “What, do they think I’m CRAZY or something??” (Yes, I recognize the irony.)]
Anyway, the bottom line: I’ve suffered from depression for years. I’ve taken several different medications, for various lengths of time… and have had various reactions/side effects to all of them.
The last time I went to the doctor, I requested that he prescribe Wellbutrin. It’s one I hadn’t tried in the past, and I’d heard only good things about it from fellow crazies (who shall remain nameless). Plus, it’s the same drug as Zyban, and at this point I was a smoker wanting to (maybe) give up that bad habit.
So I’ve been taking Wellbutrin for a while now. It is, by far, the best crazy drug I’ve ever been prescribed. It doesn’t make me sleepy. It DOES curb my cravings for nicotine (although, as my wise doctor pointed out, “It’ll work if you WANT to quit smoking; if you don’t want to quit smoking, you’ll smoke through it and the drug won’t do a damn bit of good.” He’s right about that). And, most importantly, it doesn’t take me to The Zone. When I’m taking Wellbutrin, I’m a much happier camper and much less stressed about life in general, but I still feel like I’m experiencing life… both highs and lows. I like that. No, I love that.
At some point I usually quit taking my meds… because I simply forget and keep forgetting and then say, “well, I haven’t had one in three days, so what’s the point? I’m cured” (even though I know damn well there IS no cure). And every time that happens and I inevitably find myself BACK in the doctor’s office, getting yet another prescription, I say that I’ll never let that happen again (I lie to myself a lot… have you noticed that??).
Finally, we arrive back at this morning (sorry, I didn’t intend to ramble on for days about this, but I kinda got into it once I started, in case you didn’t notice)… I guess Nick has seen me through this vicious cycle so many times that he now knows the signs to look for that tell him I’m NOT taking my meds like I should. And, God love him, he wants me to be happy (because the cheesy saying that’s splashed all over t-shirts on every boardwalk in America is true: “When Momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!”).
Ohhhh, and did I forget to mention the OTHER side effect of Wellbutrin?? It does amazing things for a crazy person’s sex drive. Yeah, I dunno, my husband just MIGHT have an interest in that (lest you should think he’s entirely altruistic, lol!).
So, this morning, when I woke up, I found these things waiting for me on my desk: a yummy egg/sausage/cheese breakfast, cream and sugar with a splash of coffee (just the way I like it!), and a dose of happy pills. I inhaled all three of them, gladly.