Meds Forever

I was twelve the first time I took psychiatric medication.

The weeks leading to my treatment blurred into a smear of insomnia and discontent. Sleepless nights opened with horror stories read by the greenish glow of my aquarium light. When the words wearied me, I contemplated my fish bumping about in a lidless sleep. I felt like them, eyes open, insensate. Sometimes, I slept before sunrise. Other times I drifted through school without rest, as if I was another person imitating myself. As sleepless nights piled up, my eyes sunk inward and my cheeks blossomed outward from stolen sweets. Mom sought remedies and plied me with hot baths, vitamins, and sprite mixed with increasing amounts of brandy. Nothing worked.

I don’t recall seeing a doctor, but the relief his prescription brought me is vivid. Orange, triangle-y Triavil tablets took away racing thoughts and unwound the knots that kept my eyes sprung open at night. When I woke, well-rested, the real me became less of a shadow each day. A week after my former chatty, semi-pesky self resurfaced, treatment ended. We brushed off the incident as if I a headache summarily banished by aspirin. Months later, insomnia crept back, but to a lesser degree. The family deemed sprite and brandy a good enough cure.

I returned to medication in my early teens. Although I forget what precipitated this bout of nervous exhaustion, I recall my distress over stopping the remedy. Filled with dread, I peered into the bottle as tablets vanished. Weeks, months, an eternity of insomnia, seemed inevitable. When I appealed for more medicine, Mom reminded me how Dad had been overprescribed Valium for a back injury. The agony of his withdrawal enfeebled him for months, reducing a strong man to a husk.  “I don’t want that for you, Lori. Let’s get a steady sleep schedule settled, and your body will adjust.” Sleep hygiene is a respectable approach, but it does not always work. My insomnia converted from a headache with a cure to a character flaw to battle with 7:30 wakeups. I coped with bedtime tumblers of Almaden wine and stuffing dark socks under my door.

I stumbled down valleys of sleepless despair and imposter syndrome ruminations for a decade before my wellness collapsed. It was more than wide-awake nights or disembodied days. My ability to function beyond shuffling to our sagging couch to watch cop dramas had ended. I did not shower, brush my teeth, or leave the house. I saw doctors, though. Some branded me “neurotic” or quizzed me about my periods. One grey balding physician told me I had “serious problems that would take years to overcome.” No diagnosis, just judgement.

I fought against antidepressants, insisting, “But I don’t feel sad!” True. I didn’t feel anything. Except anxiety and exhaustion.  My older self would like to explain to younger me that depression is not always sadness. Depression can be restive, obsessive, and agitated. Tired of aquarium light nights and stuporous disconnected days, I went back to my childhood doctor who suggested Paxil. In two weeks to the day, I woke up…happy. My legs wanted to move, smell brought me pleasure, and colors became glorious again. At last, I could sense my heart in my chest, not as an anchor but as a buoyant entity to propel me up out of bed and into the world.

In the next ten years, I played leapfrog with my meds. On again. Off again. Pregnant-me took no meds and was happier than ever. Postpartum-me needed a truck of Lexapro. Moving-to-New Hampshire me thrived on change and novelty. My-son-was-diagnosed-autistic me needed medication to cope with hordes of specialists and their conflicting advice. Eventually, I realized the only way to avoid forays into the sleepless abyss was to take medication every day. Sometimes I am happy, others sad, but I can function. I can sleep. I am present for my family.

16 thoughts on “Meds Forever

    1. Leah,
      Thank you so much for the kind words and encouragement! I’ve been working on this forever. It can be so difficult to capture a slice of life! 🙂

  1. wow this is so beautifully written. I could feel the excitement and found my toes tightening as the accelerator was floored. Really gorgeous piece. Your mum sounds like a great character and lucky you to have such memories x

  2. Oh what a fun playmate your mother would be!!!! As a lover of hanging out at the airport watching and working on airplanes, this story is great. Loved mechanics ever since I was a little girl. My dad owned a race car in the Indianapolis 500 and my favorite place to be was in Gasoline Alley (after being snuck in of course because I was much too young to be there!) I loved looking at all the tools working their magic in the grease covered hands of the chief mechanic who I considered to be the equivalent of an artist. And just a few weeks ago, as I sat in our large family room I pondered the possibility of moving out all the furniture. Hmmm, I thought to myself, the space might just be big enough to build an airplane in!!! I now know I was channeling your mother!!!! Thanks for such an awesome story Lori. The artwork and the writing are both, as usual, masterpieces! 🙂

    1. Charlotte,
      Thank you so much for your lovely comment. I’ve gotten stage fright trying to reply with a suitable response, so I might stumble and ramble a bit. I cannot imagine how exciting it must have been for you as a girl . I can see and smell the type of artist you write of. All built things are art, more so when precision and alignment are so delicale.

      It thrills me to imagine you building an airplane in your house. I would have to visit just to experience the quality of aviation fumes. It is a joy to hear from you, despite by fumbling absences. May you have many mechanical adventures!

      Lori

  3. How fantastic! Your mom rocks! Thank you for sharing such a wonderful story. I do love reading your family stories.

    My mom’s dad was a mechanic and owned his own shop here in town. I grew up around the shop. When I drive by it now I can still smell the oil and gas flooding into memories. I also have memories of the vending machine because I thought it was the coolest thing ever. 🙂

    My grandparents yard always had a car being “put together” either from my grandpa or my uncle. The garage is still filled with parts and whatnots and the smell of cary type of things. Your pictures took me back to my own experiences.

    LOVE The Blue Bomb!

    I can relate similarly with my mom, only instead of car parts or a car engine it was refurbishing furniture and building things, or us trying to fix all of the things falling part around our house. (She also sewed and crocheted.) I remember the furniture stains on the concrete, dust from sanding, and or nails and stuff.

    Your story flashed a bunch of wonderful memories for me as well filling me with joy from yours!

    1. Thank you so much Angel! I am always so happy to share family stories.

      How cool we grew up with similar smells I can envsion an old vending machine–one of those ones with the bottle opener and cap disposal space built in. I loved those!

      We refinished some furniture–it is crazy hard to do well. I was never patient enough to do a good job. I’d get super excited and get sloppy. It was only an old dresser or two, but the memory is vivid–I think the smells help make it so. Sewing and crocheting are exhalted arts. I think the most fabric craft I did was potholders!

      I appreciate your visits! Thank you for sharing with me!

    1. Thank you for stopping by. Sometimes I look at my life and remember how important the job of a mother is. One day our own children will have their own stories to tell about us!

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