winning writing

Take Two Anti-Psychotics and Call Me in the Morning

Soul-Making Literary Competition- Rosalie Fleming Memorial Humor prize, 2006

No doctor has ever directed me to take two aspirin and call him in the morning.  My doctor did prescribe two anti-psychotics but he didn’t say anything about calling him. In fact I don’t remember any doctor asking me to call him in the morning or at any other time of day.  This is one of the problems with most doctors.  They don’t really seem that happy to see you in their office in the first place and they seem even less happy to talk to you on the phone afterward.

The doctor who prescribed the anti-psychotic told me all about the medication except for the part about it being an anti-psychotic.  He told me it was an anti-anxiety medication and that it would help me sleep.  I am a seasoned but very reluctant drug user so I did what I always do, I googled it. The internet is very useful when it comes to research but for me it is also very dangerous. It is unsettling for instance, when all the web sites for a particular drug offer advice on how to file a lawsuit against the drug company now that you are dead or seriously screwed up.  The internet is where I found out that my “anti-anxiety” medication, Seroquel, is primarily used for schizophrenics.  Seroquel, it sounds so peaceful and calming.  Maybe I will feel serene if I take it.  Or maybe I will feel dizzy, light headed and nauseous.  In my case the latter is a much surer bet.  I’ve always been sensitive to the negative effects of drugs and mostly insensitive to their positive effects.

I am often tempted to ignore the drug information sheet that comes with each prescription because I worry that reading about all the side effects will either scare me so much that I will not be able to swallow the pill or cause me to imagine symptoms that aren’t there. In the end though my curiosity and thirst for knowledge always win out and I am subjected to something like this:
CHECK WITH YOUR DOCTOR AS SOON AS POSSIBLE if you experience constipation; blurred vision; eye pain; fast, slow, or irregular heartbeat; hair loss; shakiness, fainting; twitching of the face or tongue; mood swings; loss of balance; uncontrolled movements of the arms or legs; difficulty speaking or swallowing; unusual bleeding or bruising; sore throat or fever; skin rash; swelling of hands, face, lips, eyes, throat or tongue; irritability; ringing in the ears; seizures; yellowing of the skin; hallucinations; or chest pain.  CONTACT YOUR DOCTOR IMMEDIATELY if you experience severe nervousness or anxiety; agitation; panic attacks; difficulty sleeping; feelings of hostility; impulsive behavior; severe restlessness; worsening feelings of depression or thoughts of hurting yourself.

I’m not sure how a drug company decides whether a symptom is a side effect or simply the effect the drug is supposed to have on a person.  For instance it makes me wonder when one of the side effects listed for a sleeping pill is drowsiness.  What about an anti-depressant label that tells you to contact your doctor immediately if you experience a false sense of well-being? I always thought the whole idea  behind an anti-depressant is to give you a false sense of well-being.  And this brings up a question for me.  How would I know if my sense of well-being was true or false?

I’m thinking that if I get my sense of well-being from my peaceful and serene life, from meditating, practicing yoga and swimming with dolphins that it is probably true. If I get my sense of well-being from lying on the couch, watching daytime television and taking a little purple pill then it is probably false.  All of this is a moot point for me however, because when I am seriously depressed I really don’t give a shit if my sense of well-being is true or false.  I’ll take my well-being wherever I can get it, thank you very much.  As the saying goes beggars can’t be choosers.

audio version: take two anti-psychotics and call me in the morning

This is My Brain Off Drugs

Golden Key International Honour Society, UCSC Chapter- Best Narrative Voice, 2009

I forgot to take my medication this morning. The medication I take to make myself calmer, make my heart beat a little slower. I am unable to calm down on my own. The problem with this medication is that it tends to make me tired too. In my past life, the one where I used to lie down at night and go to sleep and wake up in the morning, rested, I didn’t know that there was a difference between being tired and being calm? I didn’t know that one could be too tired to get out of bed in the morning and still be unable to relax. I take medication to slow down my heart. It beats on the fast side and that alone makes me anxious which in turn makes my heart beat faster. I guess it makes sense that I would be tired all the time, with my heart and the rest of me working so hard. Poor me.

I also take medication for anxiety. Not every day. Just when I am anxious which I am today. And I have forgotten my medication which makes me a little bit more anxious. My stomach has a knot in it and my heart is going a little faster than it would be if I had remembered my medication. I take thyroid medication too for Hashimoto’s disease. It’s an autoimmune disease that causes your immune system to attack your thyroid or something like that. Anyway, my thyroid was too low, so I took this medication and now my thyroid is too high. Apparently its tricky getting it just right. When your thyroid is too low your hair falls out and you are tired and cold and fat. When your thyroid is too high your hair falls out and you are tired and hot and skinny. When your thyroid is just right I suppose you have lots of hair and just the right amount of energy and you are a lukewarm size 6 or maybe an 8. I am sitting still but my mind is buzzing like a chainsaw. Buzz, buzz, buzz. I think about my thyroid again and imagine myself lying on the couch, bald, cold and obese. Then I picture myself lying on the same couch but this time I am bald and I am sweating profusely in my size 0 jeans. In both scenarios I am watching Dr. Phil. Either way I’m screwed. Why I am doing this to myself? Why I can’t I have faith in my thyroid, my medication, myself? Haven’t I heard of The Law of Attraction? Haven’t I heard of The Secret? Then I notice an actual chainsaw outside. Buzz, buzz, buzzing. Which is perfect of course, because now I have manifested a chain saw in the real world. Maybe there is something to this Law of Attraction.

It is only 9:15 a.m. and I am already driving myself crazy. I decide that it’s going to be an interesting day. And by interesting I mean bad. I whack myself on my head in my imagination for being so negative. Why am I so negative? I am negative because if I go around thinking positive I will constantly be disappointed and I just can’t take any more disappointment. With a negative attitude you can only go up, right? I realize there is a fatal flaw in my thinking, but I haven’t figured out what exactly it is yet. It might be a good time to reconsider anti-depressants. They’ve never helped me before but maybe this time will be different (there I go with the positive thinking). I remember Doctor D’s words of wisdom. I was whacked out on Wellbutrin, feeling like my head was going to explode when he said to me, “anti-depressants are like underwear; you have to find the right fit”. Even though I was not quite myself I knew it was weird and wrong to compare anti-depressants to underwear. But then later I thought about how I still haven’t found a comfortable, cute pair of undies that don’t cause visible panty lines.

audio version: This is My Brain off Drugs

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