Last Weekend I Failed to Take My Meds. This Is What Happened
It is never a bad thing to, from time to time, have a friendly reminder of where you came from, how far you’ve gotten and how easily it is, if not careful, to fall back into the darkness. As a matter of fact, sometimes it is absolutely necessary to have a stern refresher, and to appreciate the tools you have at hand which allow you to navigate the waters of mental illness with a degree of success.
Last weekend I decided that I would drive an hour to Orlando and surprise my friends, who were really excited about getting together and celebrating, in some fashion, the upcoming release of my book. My plan was to show up early in the afternoon, go to our favorite sushi place and then watch a movie at home. After the heavy traffic of Disney goers leaving the park receded, I would head back to where I came from.
The plan, however, was not executed exactly as I had expected, since we stayed out until late, walking around after dinner, enjoying the lively buzz of the number one tourist destination in the world. By the time we got back to my friend’s apartment none of us had the energy to sit through a movie, and I had even less desire to drive back to my house. So I made a nest on her couch and chose to head back the following morning.
Not having planned an overnight stay, I had failed to pack my meds—The Seroquel before bed and the Effexor for the morning. I wasn’t worried though; it would only be a slight deviation of the routine, one that would promptly be corrected as soon as I got home. So I went to sleep on the couch without a single care in the world.
The past few weeks had been particularly stressful for me. I had been fully committed to getting my book finished, edited, reviewed and finally ready for publication. I had also been working hard on getting the word out there and getting feedback on the Advanced Review Copy. On top of that I still had my everyday responsibilities; a full-time job also packed with stress, a long, traffic filled commute home and the careful juggling of time to also take care of my family responsibilities.
I knew that, although I was chugging along like a well-oiled machine, I was pushing myself really close to the edge. For someone who suffers from a mental illness, this can be dangerous. Yet I was doing generally well; I had been able to deal with the stress without feeling completely overwhelmed, staying active and taking my meds on a strict schedule, which hadn’t failed me yet.
Until that night, when I failed myself.
That night I attributed my difficulty sleeping to how uncomfortable the couch was, but deep inside I knew better. Frustrated and tired, I got at 5am and began browsing the web like a zombie, until my friends woke up, rested, several hours later.
After breakfast we decided to watch the movie we had planned for the previous night. Wonder Woman is an action-packed film with an emotional ending, but not the type of movie that will have you sobbing before the end-credits, yet there I was, trying to blame my swollen red eyes to unusual allergies. I knew something was really wrong when that emotion became a knot in my stomach and refused to go away on the drive back home.
When I arrived at my apartment I took my clothes off and flopped on the bed, hoping to make up some much-needed rest. A few minutes later I was engulfed in sweat, shaking, an intense feeling of hopelessness and sadness spreading throughout me. The world was turning dark again, like it used to, back in the old days. I now remembered the insufferable pain that I had no option but to kill with alcohol and drugs. Back then, but not anymore. Then I finally remembered.
I ran over to the kitchen cabinet, opened the pill caddy and popped the Effexor in my mouth, breathing so heavily that I almost spat it back out. Thirty minutes later I was finally calming down.
The whole experience was a much-needed reality check for me. Sometimes we feel so well that we forget that we are chronically sick, and we can never forget or put aside our illness. It requires constant effort, constant tweaking, awareness, education, understanding and comprehension. A solid medication routine, as I have said before, is the connecting bridge that allows us to walk to the other side, the better side, the happier side.
You must do the same. Stick to your meds, give them a chance to help you, and when you decide to sleep over a friend’s side, always have some back up with you.