Coming down

So the medication game isn’t going too well, and after a few rounds of entertaining side effects I’ve decided to give my body a break for a while. I’ll get the current cocktail of drugs out of my system and see where the anxiety settles before setting myself up for the next round.

It’s a strange place to be. Every set of pills I’ve tried has dealt with anxiety, in the same sort of way you might support a sprained ankle in a full body cast. (With hints of steamy hot tub infused with heady perfumes and surrounded by pink floating bubbles…) It’s a question really of whether you can accept total plaster-coated or heady-hot-tub-induced immobility to alleviate that single, focused point of pain.

(I’m not making any serious analogy between the intensity of my anxiety and a sprained ankle here. Although if you do walk around on a sprained ankle for a while pretending nothing’s wrong, it does get pretty bloody painful.)

Given the side effects, I stopped taking the latest magical brain-fixing substance a few days ago. It’s testament to the horrendous paucity of research supporting mental health medication, appropriate dosage and the like, that I wasn’t fully free of those side effects (not withdrawal: honest to God side effects) until today.

So today I’m leaving behind the fluffy cloud of fearless, drug-induced optimism that has buoyed me up over the past few weeks. The perspective is exquisite, and unique. For the past few days it’s been like floating slowly down from some incredible height, drifting gently towards my real self, somewhere on the ground below. I can see myself down there, coming more clearly into focus. I’m re-establishing the limits of my body and rejoicing in the physical wholeness of what I’m returning to.

But at the same time, that woman on the ground is broken. She stands up straight and can run for miles, but when she’s close to another person or sees a thing she doesn’t expect, she cringes. I had a really good run today, for the first time in weeks. But then I went back upstairs and walked out onto one office floor, forgetting the one I wanted was on a different level. The wrongness of the different layout when I opened the door hit me so hard I almost squealed. The little startled noise you make when you see that one truly awful costume at Halloween: the guy with his head tucked under his arm, unexpectedly encountered in the shadowy light of a street lamp. Or a REALLY MASSIVE SPIDER! That jolt and recoil that’s almost physical. It’s such a little thing. But when little things like that are an everyday reality – sometimes many times every day – they start to have an impact.

I want to get back on a level with that girl on the ground. I’m almost there. I can help her out with some of that strength and resilience I’ve regained from being seeeeeeeriously chilled out recently. I love her the way she is. I know it’s only a matter of time before she’s out of spoons again; she can’t do what’s being asked of her at this point without help that’s just not there. But from up here it seems like maybe, together, we’ll be able to face that when it comes.

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