Withdrawal, Dating Myself, and Mental Illness

On getting better. Like, for real this time.

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Aside from the past few weeks, I have been the happiest I’ve ever been.

I’ve been going to counselling regularly and then began reading a book called Joy on Demand (I know, super hokey title, but the content is all about making Buddhist practices accessible for the average person as well as scientific studies around happiness) by Chade-Meng Tan, and I’ve started dating myself. Yes, you heard me. I’m in a relationship with me.

It’s not as crazy as it sounds.

After being hurt again by the same friend who’d hurt me recently, I realized that I can’t control other people. Even if I give them as much love as I am capable of, I can’t stop them from doing what they do. *drones in waily country voice* I can’t makeeee you love meeeeeee. But I can go on hikes and walks, to music festivals, Shakespeare in the Park, dinner dates, and have more fun than if I asked someone else to go with me.

In fact, loving the time I spend with myself has made me more carefully consider who I do spend my time with now because I now know that I can do anything on my own and feel joy; if I don’t get joy out of your company or if you’re someone who knows that you’re hurting me but do it anyway, I’m not going to waste my time on you anymore. I’ve removed so many toxic people from my life with this realization, and I have been so happy ever since.

It’s really been a beautiful, beautiful time in my life.

 

The reason these most recent weeks haven’t been the happiest is simple: I’ve been going through withdrawal. My coverage for the most expensive anti-depressant in the world (probably not even close) ends in November. Considering that I’ve been the happiest I’ve ever been in my life, I figured that this would be a good time to get off of them.

I’ve made it through the thick of it.

The worst symptoms of withdrawal were the brain shivers (also called brain zaps). In case you’ve had the pleasure of never hearing of or experiencing these, they are a withdrawal symptom of desvenlafaxine which feel like imaginary metal panels have been placed on your head while a series of electric bolts are fired through them into your brain. They’re like having mini seizures that are triggered by looking at screens, moving your head, blinking, breathing, laying perfectly still with your eyes closed or you know, existing. They’re awful.

There were days when I was confined to bed because the brain shivers didn’t stop for hours. Now, aside from a little zap here and there, what’s left of the withdrawal symptoms is the instability of my emotional state.

Crying for no reason is a withdrawal symptom. The first time I went off this drug two years ago, I distinctly remembering sitting in my car in the parking lot of Walmart, sobbing for no reason, and laughing because I thought sobbing for no reason was hilarious, and then sobbing again, then thinking of how crazy I probably looked and laughing, and then sobbing again.

I was crying for no reason this morning, but this time I didn’t find it so entertaining. Instead I began to mentally pull apart my whole new perspective on life like the frayed ends of a rope. I thought that going off of the drugs was a mistake and that I was destined to be anxious and depressed forever, that my career choice was a mistake, that I am hopelessly trapped, drowning in debt, and that I should just go to bed and sleep for the next ten years. Sleeping in excess is my biggest symptom of depression.

Instead, I tried to meditate.

It didn’t work.

I almost let myself go to bed, but I remembered my doctor asking about my exercise habits when I went to see her about getting off the drug.

So I worked out instead, and then meditated. And boom. Here I am writing and feeling like a star. Apparently doctors really do know what they’re talking about with that whole exercising thing!

One thing that I’ve been realizing through counseling is that I am an adaptive person. Prior to counseling I’d been bitterly looking at my survival as a kind of side effect to my personal tragedies. I was indifferent to my perseverance, and never considered what it meant.

I have endured many different flavors of hell, often limping through it with fresh wounds and singed skin. But I always adapted to the pain and kept going. Finally recognizing that about myself makes the process of going through this withdrawal a little bit better because, well, I’m not hopeless anymore. That’s huge.

I’m going to make it.

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