The lack of sleep shapes me into a bent blade dulled along the once-serrated edges. It is 6:00 a.m.. I place my hands on either side of the porcelain bathroom sink and drop my head until the cold mirrored glass makes contact with the bald spot atop my crown, so to speak. My doctor says I’m on the mend; so long as I don’t have thoughts of “doing myself in,” there’s reason to be positive. Doing myself — in.
The charade hinges upon the two amber bottles hidden behind the bathroom mirror. As I brush my teeth and wash my face, I’m thinking don’t forget the pills, don’t forget the pills and while I trim my beard and apply deodorant, I’m thinking don’t forget the pills, don’t forget the pills because to forget them is to ruin the charade. How can I possibly feign good health if I’m suffering from withdrawal symptoms, the price I pay if I miss daily dosages? I remind myself to not forget; the refrain don’t forget the pills is not, however, a sign of faith in modern medicine.
There is the half capsule, the whole capsule, and the oval blue pill in my hand. The cocktail is meant to boost my dopamine and serotonin (my energy and “happy feelings,” respectively). This is important, my doctor says because I can’t stay in bed for the rest of my life, nor should I meander through the world feeling down — feeling sad, but not hopeless — so I pop the pills into my mouth.
Here is where, in the name of mental well-being, I hand myself over to side effects. I think to myself during sex the slight decrease in sensation is worth not wanting to hang myself and this is true since, thank God, I’ve escaped the more brutal sexual side effects, namely impotence and ejaculation failure which, frankly, sounds painful. Besides, there are benefits to slight decrease in sensation which, for the purposes of this essay, don’t require further analysis. Although — although — I will say, in this context, I am grateful for the antidepressants. Let’s leave it at that.
The spasms annoy me the most. My muscles twitch at random — small, painless twitches — and I never know where they’ll hit. For some patients, the spasms are centralized or contained within one area of the body — legs or arms, for example. I, on the other hand, experience them throughout my body. A spasm in my right leg while driving 80 MPH on a four-lane highway is, if nothing else, disquieting, but I manage to keep the car on the road. At my desk, I sometimes feel them in my hands and on occasion, it’s difficult to grip a pen without it falling from my grasp. There are moments, however, when the spasms stretch beyond the small, painless twitches and become more severe, usually as I try to sleep. My torso randomly contorts as if I’m turning around to see who’s calling my name.
The medication represents a tipping point of sorts in the ongoing awkwardness between myself and my family. My father was the only one who, up to a point, knew the severity of my depression; my mother and brothers and sister knew nothing, or very little, so I can imagine their shock when I told them about my depression in detail. The medical term, its definition, how long I’ve been in (and out of) therapy, what medication I took and the dosages and what they, the meds, will do for me should they work as prescribed. I told them all of this as a means to push them away, to say I’m sick and I don’t want you hovering over me, so respect my privacy.
They’ve done so, as has my extended family, who I haven’t seen in almost two years. What is there to say? How can I hold up my head and present myself as myself, a depressed, once-divorced man now free-falling toward divorce number two? I don’t want to hear their questions or worse, their pity. Love and pity aren’t distant relatives; take them at face value and one begins to look like the other.
I want my family to care, but I don’t want them to care, so when they play their part and stay away, I am both relaxed and lonely. I don’t have to answer questions; I don’t have to make small talk or pretend as if I’m okay — really, I’m okay. There are no questions, no small talk, when you’ve jettisoned all the voices out of your life and only the spectral bellow reverberating somewhere deep within your brain remains.
There is no end in sight. Neither my doctor nor my therapist can tell me when, exactly, I can ween myself off the medication. It is to my benefit to feel better, they say — I agree — but I never wanted to become dependent on antidepressants. I wanted to feel better on my own by changing habits, by altering my behavior just enough so I could stop feeling so abandoned by everyone, and feeling as if I deserve nothing good, and feeling so trapped in life: not wanting to die, not wanting to live.