I dislike doctors intensely, which is a real shame, as I am a great patient: informed (my father is a pharmacist), intelligent, and funny (during a pelvic exam I once made my doctor drop his gynosaurus: he said, "Okay, now spread your legs as far apart as you can," and I asked politely, "Aren't you going to buy me dinner first?").
Nevertheless, it takes an act of Congress to get me to a doctor. Perhaps it dates back to being told that I had the flu because I'm fat, or that I had an ear infection because I'm fat, or that I wouldn't have sprained my ankle dancing if I weren't fat. (Holes in the ground, as we all know, open up before dancing fat girls.) Oddly enough the only doctor I've ever had who didn't try to blame my medical condition on my weight was my cardiologist, who said my heart was very strong, but spastic. (Truer words have never been spoken.)
You can imagine, then, how bad things have gotten in the last month that this morning I found myself sitting on a crinkly paper-lined exam table, staring at a chart made by some drug company about atherosclerosis and how their drug can help reduce said affliction by 20%, waiting for a doctor to put pen to prescription pad and save my life.
"So," the doctor, an attractive youngish woman with enormous eyes, said, "From what you've told me I'd say you definitely qualify for antidepressants."
Two hours later I am staring at a serious-looking orange plastic bottle with my name in all-caps on the side, as well as "TAKE ONE TABLET BY MOUTH EVERY DAY." If you look at it the right way it seems as though the pharmacist is advising someone to take one of me every day. I find this funny--I am, after all, pretty hard to swallow.
The second bottle is full of generic Ambien, and it actually says on the side, "MAY CAUSE DROWSINESS." Well, I'll be damned--I thought it caused clog dancing.
Actually if life were true to commercials the warning would have to say, "MAY CAUSE PATIENT TO GO HORSEBACK RIDING AND PLAY WITH A DOG."
So this, I muse, is where I've ended up, with my mental health held in balance, an insurance copay and an orange bottle on a Wednesday morning in July. I suppose, if you're going to go on mood-altering medication, your Saturn return is the ideal time for it.
Again, a lame old joke plays through my head:
Once upon a time, a mighty flood washed through a small town, and a homeowner found his house filling with water. Being a devout Baptist he prayed to God, "Dear Lord, please deliver me from this peril!"
One of his neighbors, who drove an enormous truck, called to the man and asked him to evacuate with the neighbor's family. "No," the man replied. "God is going to save me."
"If you say so," the neighbor said, and drove away even as the water started to cover his driveway.
A few hours later the man was forced to climb up onto his roof as the flood swept through the town. A police officer in a speedboat appeared. "Come on! I can get you to safety!" the officer shouted, but the man shook his head and replied that he was confident God would rescue him Himself.
An hour later, the man had to crawl up on the top of his chimney as the water continued to rise. A helicopter came a-hovering over the neighborhood, plucking the few stray refugees from their rooftops, but when they attempted to rescue the man, once again, he denied them, claiming (loudly) that God would save him.
Finally, the man drowned, and appeared before God soaking wet and rather pissed off. "Lord, I prayed to You for help, but You let me drown! How could You betray my faith that way?"
God raised an eyebrow. "I sent you a truck, a boat, and a helicopter; what more do you want?"
The question arises: how does a person in the midst of personal crisis tell the difference between a cop-out and a holy helicopter?
I really, really intended to work through this one on my own. I figured, it's coming at this time in my life for a reason, and if I ignore the reason and just shove a bunch of pills after it, I'll never work it out and it will just come back. I even went so far as to think of it as a test of sorts, although I don't really believe my gods would pull a Book of Job on me. Most of what we humans have to deal with is either the result of our own blindness and selfishness and stubbornness, or that of other humans. A god who would make a bet over how much torture it would take to break me is not a god I want to revere.
It became apparent, however, that I had made a slight miscalculation in my appraisal of the situation: there is a big difference between difficult emotions you should learn from and overcome on your own, and the sort of morass that leads to news reports concluding, "...before turning the gun on herself."
And lo, Ms. Sylvan considered her history, and how much less severe states of depression had led to pharmaceutical intervention, and that one has a much easier time changing the world if one can get out of bed; and it did occur to Ms. Sylvan that it might, just might, be time to call in the damn helicopter.
In the words of the immortal bard:
You gotta know when to hold 'em
Know when to fold 'em
Know when to walk away
Know when to run...
And you gotta know when to reconsider the lesson. Are you being asked to delve deep into your negative emotions, or is the first task to learn how to take care of yourself, to ask for help when you need it? No serious and healthy exploration of trauma or pain can be undertaken from a shaky or nonexistent foundation. If you don't plant your feet firmly, the power of depression will knock you on your ass and carry you away--don't depend on overhanging branches to appear just in time. Do what it takes to stay standing, and from there, you can decide on the next step with a clearer head.
There is a stereotype that persists even now, that if you go on some sort of drug for your emotional problems you're either a) crazy or b) weak. I am neither of these things. In fact if most people knew how hard it was for me to admit that I couldn't do this on my own and pick up the phone, they would agree that weakness is the least of my problems. Crazy, well, that one's still open for debate.
I have a strong prejudice against the medical industry and the way it fosters dependence on its products; however I also have a strong prejudice toward staying sane. I'll assault the fortress after I can see in color again. Until then, all my efforts would be empty anyway, done out of a feeling of obligation rather than true passion for a better world. Stumbling about like a zombie never changed the world, except perhaps in the case of the Great Zombie Revolution of 1407 led by Ugggh the Untimely.
The only problem with antidepressants is that conditions can get worse before they get better, so posting here at DDtM may still be sporadic for a couple of weeks. Please continue to bear with me.
And don't come after me with a pitchfork because now you have "The Gambler" stuck in your head. Cut me some slack--I grew up in Texas.