Monday, October 18, 2004

Carrying on

I feel better today. It's odd to suffer from nameless anxiety after a year of relative calm. Not even relative calm: complete and utter normalcy. I suppose the way I felt last year is the way that normal people feel all the time. When my European friends hear that I was on Paxil, normally they smile, roll their eyes, and say something like "You Americans." And I guess that the steady rise of prescription medication is an American trend. Maybe--no, probably--we medicate ourselves way too much, treating the symptoms instead of the problem. The problem with most depressed Americans, in my opinion: work that means nothing to them, isolation, loneliness, lack of purpose and direction, lack of exercise, and overall boredom. To combat this, instead of changing jobs, joining a gym, and doing whatever it takes to end the feeling of isolation, they take an anti-depressant. I'm sure this happens a lot.

But here is where my problem lies: I am working at something that I love, that fascinates me. I have friends who care about me, (mostly) clear and defined goals, and a (decent) sense of purpose.  I am happy. The anxiety that I feel never comes from an actual situation, from something concrete. The hopelessness, the sadness--none of it comes attached with a solution, a cure, or even a reason.

Luckily, it's not that severe. It does get worse in times of high stress, but mostly it's how I described it last night: a constant, dull sort of tug on my subconscious, a feeling that something is not quite right. A bit of obsessive-compulsion helps keep it at bay: when my house is clean, my studies in order, and the dishes done, the tug is less. When everything's a mess, when things go wrong, when I'm running late, the tug gets stronger. And when things in my life are complicated or difficult, the tug becomes an out and out tug-of-war between my rational mind, which understands that this is chemical, crazy, untrue, and my irrational feelings, which tell me that something is wrong, awful, about to be lost forever.

In the past I learned certain ways of controlling this. And when it was so bad that I couldn't control it, I just kind of held on until it passed. And last year, right before I left for Israel, when it was the worst it's ever been and I couldn't eat or sleep or even stop shaking, I finally decided to try Paxil. I've known a lot of people who tried it with no effect, or who went through some really awful side effects, but I responded really well almost right away. I responded so well, in fact, that I convinced myself that it must have been the placebo effect, and went off the drug. Two weeks later I was an absolute mess. So back on I went.

And now, over the summer, I decided to go off it. My life has stabilized, the stress factors are gone, and I was ready to go back to my old methods of controlling and living with my own little insanity. And I'm fine. Most of the time I am fine. But during those weird evenings--when I wake up at six in the morning with my heart pounding and my breath coming in hysterical sips and I am gripped by a pointless panic about nothing at all--on those evenings I wonder if it might not be so bad to be on a drug for the rest of my life.

But those evenings are few and far between, and meanwhile the fact that I feel creative and even crazy again is really comforting to me. So off it I will stay.

There's my explanation for last nights whimperings.

1 comment:

shannon said...

Hi bex,
I love and miss you. Hang in there/ Why don't you write a book about depression? You have it down, your metaphors are so real, I honestly think it could help people. I dunno. talk to you when I get my laptop configured properly for the internet, 'kay?