Depression and the Art of Medication Maintenance

Don’t panic and think this is going to be some highbrow piece about that book by Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, because I can assure you I never read it. I probably started it a few times, but I have trouble with non-fiction, unless it’s funny. Self-help books have to be coated in something else (a story, humor, denial) for me to enjoy them. I will happily read Anne Lamott, Paulo Coelho and Herman Hesse, but I could’t stay in the moment enough to read “The Power of Now.”

I love fiction. Sometimes I go to bookstores and feel like there is not one thing I want to read. Other times I am struggling to the counter under the weight of hardback gems I could have sworn weren’t here last week. I am accustomed to the fact that any trip to the bookstore is accompanied by a vaguely panicked sensation that I recognize as my impatience with not having my book published yet. Or it could be that I need Kolonopin.So far I don’t take any medication that is considered addictive – no Xanax, Valium, Ativan or any other benzodiazepines (known by drug addicts as a “benzo.”) I am not a drug addict, but I am dependent on certain medications to live. If I don’t take my anti-depressants on time, at around 2 p.m. I will start going into withdrawal and have the following chat with myself, with or without the presence of onlookers who feel I should be 5150’d (it wouldn’t be the first time.)

“Self, why do I suddenly want to throw up/fall down/die?” I will ask, with curiosity.

“Because silly,” my Self will answer whimsically, “You didn’t take your medication this morning.”

“Oh, thanks Self,” I nod gratefully, “Hey.. Remind me to check in with you every now and again to see how I’m doing.”

“Yeah, right. See you next Tuesday…” she quips.

Truthfully my Self is kind of a bitch, and not in the good way.

I try to be nice to my Self, but a lot of the time she just doesn’t co-operate. She calls me names, threatens me and she can also physically hurt me, although she promised a long time ago she wouldn’t do that anymore and so far she’s stuck to it, probably because she figured out that whatever she does to me, she will feel it too.

So we have arrived at that magical juncture where I have several unattractive options:

a. Up my medication.
b. Rage at my kids, spend every moment I can in bed and alienate my husband.
c. Start drinking again.
d. All of the above.

Hey, just kidding. I’m totes “medication compliant,” you guys. (It’s the only time I would ever describe myself as compliant.) I would never… I mean, I would if I could get away with it. But no. It has to be my good friend Elly Lilly Pfizer Merck, over my other old mate Jim Beam. I haven’t seen him in a long time, and I’m sure he’d welcome me back with open arms (he’s so sweet that way) but if I’m honest with myself, that relationship was a little one-sided. He had all the fun, while I had all the date rape.

I’m always reluctant to up my meds, because now that I’m not a twenty year old depressive being put on Paxil for the first time (worst withdrawal ever) I cannot claim ignorance over what will happen when I try to taper down a medicine, once I start it.

It’s like trying to pick the right moment to jump off a carousel, wait that’s too benign… more like a ferris wheel, and nothing pleases me more than waving and snapping iPhone pictures of Wonder Dad and the kids, as they laughingly ascend hundreds of feet into the air. However not only would I never consider getting on one of those rinky dink, rusty contraptions, but I would certainly never jump off in mid-air. For someone who spends so much time asking G-d to please let me die, I’m remarkably cautious. Sure I want to die, but not like that!

So up my meds I must, life is for enjoyment (so they tell me.) Personally I see every day as fresh potential for disaster. Each good thing that occurs (Kids still healthy! Mortgage paid! Fresh groceries!) is just another opportunity for G-d to play a really sophisticated game of bait and switch. Even if a biblical swarm of locusts has not singled out our house so far, doesn’t mean it can’t happen.

In a week I will be the smiling, cooing Wonder Mom/Wife/Humanitarian I know I can (pretend to) be. Until then, please be patient with me and also gentle. If only I could sit in a wheelchair then people would get it. They would know that once again I am in the situation where there is no ramp to access my joy. Please pardon the mess as I build one.


  1. I love the little surge of relief I feel when I stumble upon someone else who understands the little surge of relief I feel at stumbling upon someone else who understands how I feel. Someone who knows the frustration of receiving “just” advice: you just need to exercise more, you just need to think positive thoughts, you just need to snap out of it … You just need to go fuck yourself, how about that? My doc routinely adjusts my meds and it helps. Sometimes. But sometimes I still feel myself sliding and I know once it starts I’ve got a confirmed reservation at the bottom of the pit with no idea how long I’ll be staying. And when I do begin the ascent back from the underworld the climb can feel like forever. I know what it’s like and I’m sorry that you have to know it too.

    On a lighter note, funny that your old mate was Jim Beam. I used to hang out quite bit with his friend Jack Daniels. Great guy, tons of fun, but the worst.designated.driver.EVER! I’m still regretting that decision …

    • You are hilarious. We are lucky to be alive, even if we sometimes don’t feel it. Humor is the only true savior!!! Thanks for the appreciation. I could hear you sighing sighing with relief over here…

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