Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Happy Pills

Doesn't everyone call
antidepressants "happy pills"? 
I have a love/hate relationship with my happy pills.

I love them because (1) I think they saved my life, and (2) they make it so that I can be the woman, wife, mother, and worker I want to be.

I hate them because I hate taking them every frigging gol-darned day of my life. Also, they make me sweat like an icy beer on a humid day. Not pretty. (I have actually corroded the enamel on my hair clips.)

Okay, so the reasons for loving them are pretty high on the "pro" side of the equation, but anyone who has ever had a chronic illness that required medication can attest to the fact that we all wish that we could just be normal. And, like most of those same people, I'm probably not atypical in my periodic attempts to eliminate pharmaceuticals from my regime.

Once every year or so I find myself thinking, "I'm feeling fiiiine. Great, even. I'm pretty sure my neurotransmitters have sorted themselves out by now. Surely I can at least reduce the dosage." So I do that. Very, very gradually.

Then, perhaps accidentally on purpose, I forget to take them altogether for a few days. We're not talking a long time, maybe three days. Less than a week.

One of the first things I notice is insane irritability. Seriously everything-is-getting-under-my-fucking-skin irritability. Everyone is an asshole. (I tend to start swearing more at this stage.) The world is suddenly populated by idiots whose sole purpose in life is to make me hit them.

And my ability to take a deep breath, pull back and regain perspective has been flushed down the crapper. It's not a good combination. I become a bitch. And not in a good Imma-get-shit-done way. The other way. The way where the kids whisper to each other, "Stay out of Mom's way."

The last time this happened, one of my kids quite reasonably asked, "Why are you so snappy?" after I had bitten everyone's heads off and was swinging back for seconds. (He may have said "bitchy." Can't remember exactly.)

After many, many times of going through this cycle over the past 15 years, this is the point where I smack myself on the forehead and reevaluate what I've been up to. Because I know what comes next: the colour drains from my world, the joy dissipates, I start to hate myself for being so miserable. I cry a lot. I forget that life is good, that my life is good.
[I feel compelled to point out here that when I take my medication, I am not a glassy-eyed Stepford wife. I do get irritable and angry, I do snap at my kids, I do get frustrated with Dung Beetles. But I am able - when my brain is not toxic - to get a grip, regain balance, speak my mind courteously and move on. Plus - and this is not to be underestimated - I also feel happiness, pride, satisfaction, hope.]
No, I'm not after a blissed-out existence. I aim for something like Milton, the very satisfied cat from one of my favourite children's books.
Milton is a cat with just the right amount of serotonin.
(I wish I  had retractable claws! That would be awesome.)


  1. I also have a love-hate relationship with antidepressants. The hate for me comes in the form of feeling a little too happy, I guess. And not in the manic kind of way, just in the "I NEVER cry anymore" way. And that may seem like a good thing, but I've always considered myself an emotional person, I cry at Hallmark commercials. It's not my favorite part about me, but it's part of me. So when I'm on antidepressants and I completely lose that aspect, it makes me feel like an unfeeling robot. On the other hand, like you, when I'm not on them I tend to be over the top irritable, to the point that living me with can be nearly impossible (for this reason Jason likes me on the "happy pills" too). I also enjoy the fact that I don't feel trapped in a pit of despair that I don't even care enough to try to climb out of. For me one more pill is one more pill. You'd think when I already take 14+ a day, one more wouldn't hurt, and yet I still think to myself, "I just don't want to be on any MORE pills!". Indeed, if only we could be "normal"!! (What IS normal??)

  2. I don't know what "normal" is either, but it always seems to be that elusive state that we strive for. I don't take 14 pills a day (!), but I do have other meds I take. And even those I have tried going off. (Not a very compliant patient. My doctor was not amused - they're for blood pressure and cholesterol, silent killers.)

    Steve and the kids prefer me on my meds also, and sometimes I feel guilty about the first seven years of parenthood that I made everyone suffer.


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