I ran out of my depression medication about two weeks ago, so I am officially off my meds. It’s been tough, but I think I’ll use it as an excuse the next time I’m at the front of a long line at Walmart trying to pay for diapers and groceries with a four-year-old asking for gum and a two-year-old crying to be held. When it takes me 10 minutes to pay for my items due to the constantly changing credit card system that I can’t keep up with and people behind me are growing visibly restless, I’ll just sigh and tell the cashier, “Sorry, I’m off my medication.”
Then the sweet, grandmotherly lady behind me will smile sympathetically and say “Here, honey, do you want a Xanax?” because every other person in America is on Xanax. And I will smile gratefully through my just-forming tears and accept the kindness of a stranger, but if anybody ever asks me later about the incident I will swear up and down I never did, because sharing scripts is illegal.
I didn’t mean to go off my medication. I received a prescription for Zoloft last year from a doctor in Nevada, and when I tried to refill it a couple weeks ago in our new home of Arizona the pharmacist said I was out of refills. So, I called my new doctor’s office, who sent over the wrong prescription refill. I didn’t realize the mistake until I was at my home, which is located 2 1/2 hours from town.
Another week went by, during which I called the doctor’s office multiple times. They took messages, contacted other people within the office, painted their nails, did each other’s hair, played gin rummy, and washed the neighbor’s cat while I sat at home, watching my serotonin levels drop and hoping like hell that they would call me, or at least come wash my cat, because God knows that’s next to impossible even if you aren’t super sad for no good reason.
Finally, I got ahold of a receptionist, and she discovered a note in my chart that said I needed to come in for an office visit to get a refill. I immediately scheduled an appointment for my next town trip, which was a full week away. Now I’m just counting the minutes until Wednesday and praying the doctor will give me a refill so I can smile and mean it again.
Because even if I’m depressed, I still have to take care of my family. And my kids are young and demanding – for example, they expect me to not only wake up every day, but to also get out of bed. Changing out of my pajamas is optional, but I make myself put on daytime clothes in the futile hope that it will make me feel better.
I brush my hair and put on a little lipstick, but that only makes my outward appearance look brighter. Inside, I still feel empty, like a hollowed-out gourd that is made into a bird house. You can put foundation and eyeliner on a bird house, but that doesn’t make it happy. You know what the gourd really needs to feel happy? A prescription antidepressant.
Drugs seem like a last resort to non-depressed people, many of whom like to say things like “Just think positive!” “Go for a walk!” “Cheer up!” “Listen to music that makes you happy!” “Smile more!” and my personal favorite, “Fake it till you make it.”
I smile, but it doesn’t reach my eyes. I crack a joke, and I mechanically recognize that people laughed at it, but it doesn’t make me any happier than a bird house wearing mascara. I laugh, but it sounds out of place. I sigh, and that feels about right.
Going for walks temporarily helps, especially on sunny days. But I have to stop walking eventually and return home to my children, who will by then undoubtedly have upped their list of demands to include food and drinks. And then one of them will hit the other one, or steal a toy, or pull hair, or scream, and my body will freak out and yell obscenities and slam the door and they will cry. Meanwhile, my mind will hover in the corner of the kitchen, wringing its hands and watching the whole scene while silently pleading “Stop, stop! This isn’t the kind of mother you are! You don’t want to be like this!” but it won’t be able to do a goddamned thing about it.
I give myself pep talks to feel better about taking medication so I can feel the basic human emotion of happiness. It seems so lame, and some people are quick to point that out. Others compare it to a heart patient taking medication to keep their ticker ticking. I appreciate the sentiment, but no one ever says “That heart patient is just taking the easy way out. If only she tried a little harder, she wouldn’t need those drugs, undoubtedly pushed by Big Pharma, to stay alive and participate in everyday activities.”
But I know that I am taking my meds not only for myself, but for my family. I grew up with a depressed dad, and he was much better able to take care of me when he was taking his medication. Today, he is on a stable dosage and calls twice a day to check on me when I’m struggling. I want to be a good mom for my kids and not freak out because they are fighting and dumping Cheerios on the floor and whining for another piece of Halloween candy. You know, normal kid stuff.
I also take my meds for the sake of my marriage. When I’m out of Zoloft, it’s pretty much guaranteed that I will pick a huge fight with my husband. I don’t want to, but I know I will. This time I freaked out about not having enough money, which is weird because we’re a cowboy family and I’m cheerfully accustomed to not having enough money.
So, my husband and I yelled and screamed and cussed at each other. I slammed a door and cussed some more. Then the rage left, and I felt bad and apologized. We chatted about pleasant topics, like what to get the kids for Christmas and when we should get the dog spayed. I felt embarrassed over my freak-out, then sad that we’d fought, then drained and exhausted.
That night, I crawled into bed and pulled the covers over my head like a child, praying for the respite of sleep but knowing I had to wake up and get out of bed in the morning again. But at least it would be one day closer to Wednesday.
Is Milo off his meds? Nope, he’s just doing his impression of his mama.