I had been in Paris for less than four days, when I found myself curled around the toilet. I was huddled against it as if I were trying to gain warmth from the cold. My legs encircled the bottom like a make-shift Christmas wreath that someone forgot to decorate, and I gasped for air.
I had been sick all day. I thought I was hungover, but that didn’t make sense. I chalked it up to a flu I picked up on the plane, but with the shaking, and inability to hold a glass, it seemed like something worse. I emailed my esteemed colleagues at TheGloss, told them I was sick and they should find someone to cover for me. And so I laid there, shaking, my stomach burning; throwing up bile and shitting (pardon this part) out my insides like nothing I’d seen since a bad attack of food poisoning. I realized France doesn’t have 911, and not knowing the French equivalent, I assumed I would die there on the floor and my parents wouldn’t find out until weeks later. I imagined it would be Jennifer who would tell them when I didn’t show up on the site for days; I thought it was the end.
When I was finally able to pull myself from the floor, I realized I hadn’t taken my anti-depressant that day. I spilled the pills onto the bureau and counted them out (since I’m in Paris and insurance only allows a certain amount, I have them down to an exact number.) I had missed the past three days.
I never miss taking my pills; it’s part of my daily routine. No matter what time I get up; I go to the loo, stop at the sink and take them. But my routine had been disrupted. I had gotten up too late the day I was supposed to head to JFK, I had been wide awake the whole flight here, including the layover in Reykjavík, and when I finally reached Paris, I made my way, sleepily, to the apartment where I’m staying, and passed out.
I didn’t wake until the next day, Paris time, but it was late in the afternoon. I immediately got to work on what I had to do, and alerted my friends and family that I had arrived safely. Then I got sick.
It was a sickness that I had had before, but it had been so long that I couldn’t place it. So, as I said, I dismissed it as having drank too much the night before (four glasses of wine wouldn’t do it), or a flu I picked up. But once I counted the pills, the truth was clear: it was withdrawal.
In many occasions in my life, I have gone off my anti-depressants, but only so I could get on another one. It was a weaning process. I have also kicked my body’s addiction to Xanax; I know what it feels like, I’ve been there. But this was wrecking a havoc on my body that I didn’t even know possible. I had given up – unconsciously – the two meds that keep me alive and stable, cold turkey, and my body wasn’t having it.
I have been on anti-depressants since college. At the time, it seemed to be the only answer to my anxiety issues. But as I got older and realized my anxiety coincided with depression, the pills kept coming. I embraced them as a food I’d been dying for my entire life because I knew they would keep my head above water. I knew they would keep me out of the hospital, and I never want to go back there again.
I never wanted to be one of those people who had to take a pill everyday. Even though I know I need them, I have argued with both my therapist and psychiatrist about getting off of them. The answer always comes in the form of a condescending, “let’s wait and see how you feel in a few months,” as if, miraculously, my brain will all of a sudden start making sense and functioning without an aid.
It’s hard to admit that you’re subpar, that something in the make-up of your serotonin levels is off balance; that you are, literally, broken. No wants to play with the broken toy in the toy box; broken toys just take up space then eventually get thrown out.
However, I’ve come to accept that I am a broken toy. And while a doll with missing limbs can be sewn, halfheartedly, back into place with thread and a needle, my thread and needle is the medication I have to take everyday of my life. I’ve stopped trying to fight it. I’ve stopped hoping that someday I’ll be able to shake this depression from my bones, because it’s not going anywhere. It’s part of me and something I struggle with on a daily basis, and part of keeping that struggle in check and me out of harm’s way, are those damn pills. I accept it. I don’t like it, but I accept it.
I know I’m not the only one who’s hopped up on anti-depressants. I can say at least 50% of my friends are as well. And while some of them are fine with the idea of pill-popping until the day they die others, like me, think they got a bum-rap. Especially those of us who come from families where we’re the only ones on them. But it beats being completely miserable, standing on a bridge somewhere trying to talk yourself into either jumping or not. It’s better than hurting those around as they sit by and are unable to help you with your disease. It’s better than a lot of things.
So, yes, I’m a broken toy. My brain is misshapen and refuses to act “normally” without a medicinal babysitter; it’s a wild thing that needs to be taken down several notches with pills… and so be it. There are far more important things in the world over which to stress; focusing on one’s imperfections is exhausting. Besides, a bit of madness can be quite a charming trait if used correctly. I’m sure my fellow “crazies” will agree.