Monday, January 14, 2013

The Elephant in the Room

Confused?  Check out the background HERE.

Explaining this stuff is hard.

It's so overwhelming and the information is all intertwined and confusing.  It's hard to know where to start.  It's difficult not to start every sentence with "It's".

A few months ago, I was talking to a doctor.  As I explained why I didn't need a daily OCD medication to him- the fourth doctor that had gently suggested it- I said, "I just think things aren't that bad".  He leaned forward, looked me in the eye in that very doctor-y way and said quietly, "But they could be better, couldn't they".

I calmly made it through the rest of the appointment as he handed me the drug sample and I drove home.  Steven and I talked about our days, and I made dinner.  As I was standing over the counter I broke and started sobbing into the meatballs (Okay, I don't remember EXACTLY whether it was meatballs or not, but meatballs are my favourite, so that's what we're going with).  It was one of those deep, defeated sobs that shook through my whole body.  It was the realization that I was so, so tired.  I have always felt supportive of people with mental illness, and of their options, of finding ways and working with doctors to find solutions.  I had no idea that when faced with the idea of medication myself, I would fight it so hard.  I've just had the, "I can handle it" syndrome.  Drugs are a good solution for OTHER people, but I am smart and strong, and I shouldn't need medication to get through the day to day.  Do it MYSELF.  Ya know, like a two-year-old.

I waited for a couple of weeks to start taking them.  I needed some time.  And one day before work, I cut that tiny pill into quarters (yes, quarters-why can't they just make the pills smaller? Cheez) and swallowed that tiny chunk of white powder.  I did not expect anything to happen.

The difference was astounding.  I didn't even know what was happening at first because I hadn't anticipated it would take effect so quickly.  I realized that for most of my life, I had felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest, and all of the sudden it was gone.  I'm assuming to an imaginary elephant conservation land with lots of other elephants to play with.  And a watering hole.  I felt happy and relaxed, but not cloudy.  Not false.  Like myself.  Like all of me had been stifled by cotton for years and all of the sudden it had disappeared and I could breathe again.

I had no idea how bad it had gotten until I got help.

At the risk of sounding like I'm tooting my own horn, I've done remarkably well for someone with such a messed up brain.  I've held jobs and done well at them, completed schooling, maintained relationships with friends and family, through carefully controlling every aspect of my life so I could carry out my compulsions and avoid situations that would cause paroxysms of anxiety.  But really, you can only dam this stuff up for so long.  I would hold it together during work or rehearsal, then come home and fall apart and the dude would be left to pick up the pieces.  Thankfully, while his puzzle skills are severely lacking, his proficiency in wife-putting-back-together-again is well above average.  

That night, Steven and I went to Jericho Beach, one of my favourite places, and where we spent the vast majority of our summer.  We sat on the beach and I cried some more.  But this time is was tears of relief.


*This is the (sort of lame) disclaimer part of the post, where I say that I know that this isn't the answer for everyone, where I mention that I'm one of the 20-30% who reacts this way to the drug and experiences the maximum effect from a minimum dose with no side effects (hooooollaaaaaaa).  Every solution and every person and every situation is different.  This isn't the end of my treatment.  This is a small part in a new stage of getting help.  And it's awesome.


  1. Thank you for sharing your journey. It is important that we do everything we can to normalize our unique experiences with mental health challenges. Respect. - Melanie

  2. I cannot even say in words how much your writing has encouraged me today. Your courage to live fully up until now is only overshadowed by your courage to try the 'clinical' way. I couldn't be prouder of you, or respect you more than I do right now. Nor could I love you more! I really hope we get more time together as we both grow older...and yes, Steven is my hero as well!! <3 A. Joyce