Sunday, August 16, 2009

Gun Shy

Dear Readers, I am sorry. I have been remiss. I don't write, I don't call, I don't stop by unexpectedly with flowers. This, after all of your support and loyalty!

The truth is that this story, or the blog-flavored part of it, may have run its course. While I planned to include the chronicle of a Mother of Two Going Off Meds and explore its universal themes of motherhood, spirituality and brain chemistry, The Eldest Magician* has other plans for me.

I'm going to stay on meds.

For the first time, I am too scared to even take the first steps of going off the medication. Life is so full, so rich, and I have come to believe (based on past experiences) that my staying medicated allows it to be so. I am pretty sure that the house of cards that Matt and I and the kids have going will collapse if I suddenly go off the rails.

Let me back up a little. A couple weeks ago, I went on a backpacking trip with my good friend, Sara. We camped for four days on Shi Shi Beach, which is just below the Makah Indian reservation on the northwestiest tip of the Washington state. Shi Shi is a place of total wilderness. If you break a leg there, you're screwed. We captured and filtered our own water, kept a constant driftwood fire alive, and stared out across the ocean for four days.

No kids. No computers. No cell phones.

When we came back, as we finally had to do, I re-entered my regular life armed with a few new guidelines:

1. Pull the wires out of my ass. Disconnect from the laptop. Start a paper calendar. Unplug more often.

2. Stay on the meds. They make everything else possible.

Upon my return, I was crushed by everyone's needs. Even Matt's. He needs me to decide about dinner. He needs me to help him put things in boxes. I am the lynch pin of this family. I have raged and railed and fought against this ever since my first baby was born. Now I am trying to grow up and accept the fact that I matter in this family.

Earlier in the summer, I felt more brave about exploring a meds-free life. Then, I didn't know that my hubs was going to have to take a long trip for work in the fall. (Picture me having a meltdown while my man is gone and I flushed all my pills.) Then I didn't feel the pressure of my kids entering a new school where a huge amount of parental involvement would be required. (You should know by now how much I loathe get-to-know-you potlucks and forced play dates with people I don't know, not to mention having to find a place in a new community.) Then, I thought my new diet would make everything better.

The diet was an interesting experiment and I lost a little weight and I felt light and mostly happy. But I was still on the drugs, and now I really doubt that it's going to make me "better."

Also, my man is a lot less willing to be my constant safety net than he was during the early years of our marriage. He needs to have his own periods of emotional precariousness without fearing that it will send me over the edge. My fragility made him feel unable to ever let his guard down. Do I need to say how unhealthy that is for a marriage?

We depressed moms don't experience our depression in isolation. Our nuttiness cuts a wide swath through the family fabric. As an emotionally unstable twentysomething, the worst that happened is that I tortured my boyfriend and spent my lunch hours in the office stairwell crying. (No one ever took the stairs there. It was a perfect sanctuary.)Now, when I get pulled down to the doldrums, everyone suffers.

And it's not just the checked-out, zombie side of depression that hurts the family. My angry outbursts and simmering rage (picture PMS as a daily occurrence)keep everyone unhappy. The last thing I want is for my kids to be afraid of me. Also the anxiety that always accompanies the rage and the sadness can be crippling and can overshadow everything else about me.

It's a blast!

As I write this, I am thinking of a hundred arguments against everything I am writing. For example, proper diet and exercise can make all the difference. An acquaintance of mine, who is a therapist and a longtime depression-sufferer, told me about all kinds of research out there that says 40 minutes of cardio per day can literally replace antidepressants. Can I do that? It takes so much time! But the kids will both be in school, so maybe I can...and what if it doesn't work and I go into a tailspin and the next drug I try doesn't work? (Depressed people tend to become increasingly drug-resistant the more they go on and off drugs.)

I can talk myself up or down a hundred times a day. My action right now is to take no action.

Who wants to argue with me?

Somebody please argue with me!

*"The Eldest Magician" is the name of a Godlike character in Rudyard Kipling's story, "The Crab That Played With the Sea." I read it to my kids last night.