“The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud.”
“The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud.”
I knew this was a post I’d write someday, and I wanted it to be sooner rather than later! I truly don’t know how much of a stigma still attaches to those who benefit from counseling and antidepressants, but there was every reason to share my experience with you and no reason to keep it secret. I believe Prozac has allowed me to live a better life, and that’s certainly worth sharing!
Let me start with the day I first felt the impact of my new prescription. Three days after I took that first pill, I had the energy to move the refrigerator so that I could clean every square inch of my kitchen, including the floor under the frig! My 4-year-old daughter was at pre-school, but Tom Jones kept me company. He provided the background music. I sang along loudly, energetically. “It’s not unusual to be loved by anyone. It’s not unusual….”
What had become usual were the panic attacks I’d been having whenever I left the house. The first attack came in an unlikely place: a bookstore with my daughter. I was in my happy place with my happy girl and yet I couldn’t wait to get out. My heart was racing and I felt completely out of control. The next day the toaster broke and I found Amazon. You can get anything on Amazon, and yet I knew I’d have to leave the house eventually.
I had the toaster delivered, but by the end of the following week, I’d made it to my first counseling appointment and my doctor’s office. I described the event at the bookstore, my brother’s diagnosis and the general “heaviness” I felt. I was taking care of my daughter’s needs, but not much more than that. I was self-medicating with Starbuck’s mocha Frappuccinos, but I had little energy and had to will myself out of bed and into the shower each morning. Both my psychologist and general practitioner agreed that I could benefit from counseling and an anti-depressant.
My doctor reasoned it out for me:” People take aspirin when they have an ache and yet they can’t imagine taking a pill to cure another type of ache. Your brother has terminal cancer and you have a young child to take care of. You need help.”
“But what about the end-game?” I asked. I was afraid to start taking the drug, because I wasn’t sure I’d be able to stop. And yet, I knew I needed help. Children can help clarify many decisions in life.
That was 16 years ago. Since then, my dosage has gone up and down and I’ve tried to wean myself off the drug. But without it I am surly to my husband, I retreat from my friends, I feel hopeless and listless. I do not still regularly move my refrigerator on cleaning day. It seems that major spurt of energy was just an initial daylong effect of the pill. (I do, however, still accompany Tom Jones in song; it’s not pretty!)
I’ve never had any adverse affects to the medication. It was all good: I even quickly dropped the 10 pounds of Frappuccino weight I’d put on! I remember telling a friend about my treatment plan. She quite innocently asked how it felt to “be happy all the time.” I explained that Prozac was not a “happy pill.” Life was still hard during the year of my brother’s illness and following his death. I was still sad, but the medication and counseling helped. I had both the energy and courage to leave the house; I knew I could manage it.
There is a theory that some people are born with a switch; stressful circumstances or a major life event can trigger that switch and then it’s done. They need the drug and that’s that. My brother’s cancer diagnosis was the trigger for me. (If you would like to read more about my brother’s death, see my post entitled Happy Birthday, Brother.)
I’ve made peace with myself. I’m a strong woman who must accept that she too needs help. I am grateful that I live at a time when I have the option to help myself. And, I hope that anyone else who needs help will ask for it.
“I cannot live a life where I’m deprived. I’d much rather be five, 10 pounds heavier. With my luck, I’ll get myself to that perfect goal weight, and I’ll get hit by a bus. Then I’ll be like… looking at myself from some afterlife going…You idiot. You could have had that agnolotti,* dummy.“
*Agnolotti is a type of pasta in the ravioli family. The pasta is shaped in the form of semicircles and filled with meat, cheese or vegetables. It’s good!
When I enter my height and weight on the BMI (Body Mass Index) calculator, I am just inside (and occasionally just outside!) the healthy range. This really only tells part of the story, though. My doctor could fill you in on the rest.
“Look, I’m not saying you’re fat,” he assured me during my last physical. “But, I knew you when you were 15 pounds lighter.” (So did I…that was a long time ago!) “Let’s just say you’re fluffy.”
Maybe you are hating my doctor about now. But, don’t. We both have a sense of humor and enjoy verbally sparring with each other. He acknowledges that I am in very good health when he sees the results of my blood work and he acknowledges that I don’t want to take any more of his valuable time talking about my weight. (To give you a full picture: he is only a couple of inches taller than me with a small frame and I’d guess we are about the same weight!)
But, I can be honest with you. Truthfully, I know I could be thinner, but I really do not want to do what it would take to be thinner. I was blessed with Italian curves and a small waist and I knew in my teens, twenties, thirties and even forties that I looked good! I’m now pushing 60 and it would take a whole lot of “NO” to look the way I used to.
My husband and I are retired. Our daughter is in college. And, after nearly 33 years of marriage (40 years together), we deserve to eat, drink and be merry. We are past the half-way mark in life and that, in and of itself, gives us every reason to enjoy. Today we will go to the gym to exercise and tonight we will again pour a glass of vino and enjoy a satisfying meal together. We may even follow our meal with a bit of pastry or chocolate. There will be no guilt!
“Sunday is a likely day to write a poem. Because poetry is a piece of language flying around: you’ll find notebooks, something on your phone. It’s about finding them and getting them off that crumpled piece of paper and onto my computer.”
I found a scrap of paper! You must have some, too!
my prayer is that you know
know that you are loved
and carry that love with you
wherever you go
reach for it when you are glad
call upon it when you are sad
and, in return, that love will
strengthen you when you feel weak
warm you when you feel lonely
celebrate with you when you succeed
and envelop you all your days
I have a cold today, so I decided to hang out on the couch in the main house where I have ready access to hot soup, sympathetic family and lap dogs. You can’t see me in this photo; I’m reclining on the couch while editing my site. But you can see one of my dogs who does not like to yield his space to the computer! My little editor‘s name is Bart (short for Bartholomew). He’s a mama’s boy and he likes a good book almost as much as I do. You can read about his favorite books here.
Thank goodness for Progresso chicken noodle soup!
“I wonder: if you think of someone you love, do you become a little more like them? I would like to think so.”
“Find out who you are and do it on purpose.”