I’ve had to back down on my hard line ‘no meds’ policy and ask my GP to write me up for something to help my anxiety. After weeks of averaging about 3 hours sleep per night and struggling with extreme agitation in the evenings, it was hard to argue that it wasn’t needed.
My moods have become increasingly volatile since I’ve been sober. I can switch from hyperactive almost mania to collapsed suicidal depression in a matter of minutes. I never know what to expect. I’m more dissociative, and my parts are triggered and switched so fast I don’t get a chance to intercept.
My behaviour is erratic. I’m losing my temper at the smallest problems and I can’t control my outbursts of rage. I haven’t got through a day without crying in about 3 weeks. My responses to these intolerable feelings are peculiar and not coming from my adult part. A minor disagreement with my wife led me to hide under the bed a few days ago. It was the only place I felt OK.
This is all worrying. I know that I’ve had a good stretch of doing a bit better this year. But I’m also acutely aware that at the start of December I tried to end my life and got myself locked up in a psych ward. There isn’t enough space between then and now for me to feel confident that I won’t quickly slide back into that dark place. It’s still present; that destructive thinking still draws me in with a powerful magnetism.
I’m fighting it. I am pushing against that part of me who craves chaos and devastation. But the internal arguments get exhausting, and I know what a relief it would be to just give way. In therapy this week, J asked what it would be like for me to ignore the destructive part. I honestly couldn’t imagine that being possible.
I had to explain to her how constant that voice is. As I walk around trying to function in my life day-to-day, I suppress a barrage of its suggestions. Every single time I take a pill, it tells me to overdose. When I prepare food, it tells me to take the knife to my skin. Walking around town, it tells me to step out into the traffic. As I drive my car, it tells me to put my foot down and smash into a tree. It goes on and on and on. It isn’t any wonder I get tired of saying no.
The same voice makes it hard to walk past pubs or ignore the alcohol section in the supermarket. Those things are easy to give into, because I know the calming feel of that drink, and the relaxation the destructive part will allow me if I indulge the urge to drink. It will let go and back off for a short while, satisfied that it’s got its way, and I’ll have a brief moment of peace.
Peace is what I need, and drinking is an easy way to achieve that sense of internal quiet – even if it’s only fleeting. It feels like torture; this incessant inner battle, and the cacophony of voices inside me. Since being sober, they’re all so much louder and I get desperate to find a way for them to settle. I hate living with the permanent conflict. It wears me out and leaves me afraid because I can’t tell who or how I am going to be from hour to hour.
Despite the destructive part telling me that drinking again is the best solution, I grudgingly took on board the concerns of my wife and J and complied with their suggestions about meds. I can’t stomach the thought of starting antidepressants again, not after the awful process of withdrawing from them this time last year.
My compromise was to see how it feels re-starting on a small dose of Pregabalin (Lyrica). Taking this in the early evening does calm my system down to an extent, and I am sleeping better already. While it settles some of the anxiety, it does nothing for my mood or my dark thoughts. So the adverse effect is that I’m more likely to feel hopelessly depressed in the evening. But actually that is somewhat more tolerable than intense agitation and insomnia.
At the same time, I have a lot of resentment about going back on meds – even just this one. I hate feeling dependent on doctors and pharmacists and being in the monthly treadmill of queuing up to get my prescription. It all makes me feel like I’m a sick person. I judge myself for the dependency it makes me feel.
Plus, there are all the very real concerns about psychiatric medicines and their effects on the body more widely. Pregabalin is not a benign drug. There are risks associated with it. And there’s growing concern about its addictive potential (see this news article from last year). I know how hard it was to withdraw from it and how many months of gradual dose reduction it took me.
The biggest pain point in all of this is my sense of failure. My wife and J have both jumped to remind me that asking for help isn’t failure and it’s an improvement that I’m willing to do what might be helpful to me. J wanted me to bear in mind that it doesn’t have to be permanent, and I may be able to come off it again after I’m settled when my house move is done.
While I can see their point of view, it doesn’t make me feel better. I was so relieved to be free of meds and GPs and psychiatrists not long ago. It felt like such an achievement to shake that all off and escape from being ‘in the system’. Of course, I soon started drinking again and gradually spiralled back down into severe depression, so I know truthfully that it probably wasn’t the right thing to do.
But even with that knowledge, I feel I’ve failed. I had this hope that I’d be able to manage medication free. I wanted to feel like I was getting better and stronger and that it was because of my hard work, not some synthetic chemicals running in my bloodstream. I wanted to feel healthier, and taking drugs every day tells me again and again that I am sick.
Photo credit: Me, Creative Commons.