Sunday, May 19, 2013

MISSION FOUR: Adjustment

Alcoholics and addicts are supposed to go through 12 steps in the rehabilitation process to find honest sobriety. I'm not sure if there are equivalent "steps" that a depressive personality can or should take in conquest of honest sanity, but I would assume that the process may not be all that different. On the one hand, at least in my case, there was no substance abuse involved. On the other hand, I was shamelessly addicted to a drug called self-antipathy. Daily doses of "giving up" went down like shots of good, Kentucky bourbon. I could probably join AA and find a way to relate to every speaker at the meeting. I am certain that the frustrations of these same recovering, lost, and found souls would make perfect sense to me and my own demons, though we may be dressed in distinctly different styles.

I am still undergoing a lot of physical and mental changes as my newly medicated self. I have been forced to make my peace with certain things, forgive myself, ask others for forgiveness, admit my helplessness, and embrace my strengths. While one may not call it an exactly religious experience, it definitely is somewhat of a spiritual transition. As my brain chemistry re-works itself, I have gotten to know myself better, as well as the far reaches of my own mind. Life is more than I thought it was.

I would say that the first step in mental rehab, after admission and treatment  of course, is just adjustment. In this case, the initial adjustment to the drugs took some time. I remember vividly the first week that I was on Effexor, then the following week when I bumped my dosage up from 1 to 2 pills per day. The first couple of days, I wouldn't go so far as to say that I felt "high," but I definitely had a nice buzz going. It was like the monotonous motions my body went through on a daily basis got a supercharge. I felt very much alive, very aware of my body, and even a little loopy.

I remember feeling as though everything looked a bit different. Objects became more invasive or obvious-- more three dimensional. It was like looking at life through a fish lens. I noticed the second or third day on the pills that my eyes were extremely dilated-- a minor reaction my body had to the current changes in my system, which may have explained the odd visual phenomenon. I also got the sensation on more than one occasion that I was walking underwater. My mood had definitely been acquiesced to a better place. Stress did not reach me as easily, in fact, it seemed not to touch me at all. If someone honked at me on the highway, I would wave back happily: his anger is something he has to live with, not me. If my job was overwhelming and all over the place, I would simply whistle (mentally) while I worked: no one is going to die if something gets finished a minute later than they want it.

Toward the end of that first week, I started to feel more "normal," but I went through the same series of emotions and reactions when the dosage was increased the second week. All in all, I would say that the first month of my new life was simply about acclimating to the meds, which I did rather quickly. The only symptoms that remained, aside from my now constant good mood, were insomnia and lack of appetite, both of which I still battle. Still, my head was no longer pulled to a dark place when one of my triggers surfaced. I was... happy. I couldn't believe it!

Naturally, the second month was sort of devoted to enjoying this new pleasure as the new me. I celebrated a milestone birthday, reconnected with old friends, made some new ones, saw my family, and embraced the wide open spaces that now laid before me. A newly eclosed social butterfly who was experiencing an optimism that I hadn't felt since my youth, I kicked the iron door of my self-resentment shack open, took a breath of fresh air, and started wandering into the curious world of civilization.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

MISSION THREE: Relationships

It is easy to write articles regarding a compare and contrast between my once and former self. However, when the 'once' is a "still" (with possibilities), the discussion of my personal progress is more of a question than an answer.

Here's what I can say about the past. For the entirety of my life, I have never believed that I deserved anyone. The tiny, insidious voice in the back of my mind that began this whisper of self-doubt was unfortunately echoed by a series of life events that made my insecure impression of romance a concrete and unshakable ideal. The only member of the opposite sex that I can ever recall telling me that I was beautiful was my father. My rational self, while appreciating this reflection of his love, also deflected the compliment for the same reason. Of course, your parent is going to say wonderful things about you, but it's not reality. How long can you believe, and how long can you repeat the same words to yourself, when they aren't uttered by another, totally objective human being?

This opens a whole can of worms, for the argument accidentally adheres to the theory that a woman's sense of self is still very much attached to the way she is received by the opposite sex. In defense of the silent attacks of nothingness that I was receiving from the opposite sex, my inner Susan B. Anthony retroactively told me that the opinions of men didn't matter. On certain days, I would tell myself that I had evolved past a place of warmth, total emotional connection, and (the dream of dreams) life defining sex. I was a girl who did not need, because I had all the universe within me and that was enough. Other days, I would tell myself that love was still possible, but if I were going to find a life partner, I would just have to win him over with my wit and humor. No one was going to look at my skinny, shapeless self and be filled with desire. I accepted that.

This is not to say that men weren't occasionally attracted to me. I, like all young women, was encouraged by the heart-fluttering cat-calls of horny teens and overgrown boys hooting from their cars. This, of course, made me feel very special. I mean, you can start your day feeling like garbage, but if a man shouts "Nice ass!" or sticks his tongue out at you lewdly, sunshine suddenly pours through the darkening clouds of your inner torment. (I'll let that image marinate until you're sure that I'm being sarcastic). Clearly, I never found these objectifications enlightening or validating. When a stranger came up to me at a bar and made a pass or appeared out of nowhere, grinding against me on the dance floor, my initial reaction was definitely not, "Ah, a hero at last..."

Firstly, with my dangerous self-criticizing, I figured that the male interloper clearly didn't realize that I wasn't a real girl. I was a Meredith: a mysterious asexual unable to exhibit any form of intimacy with a man. Secondly, I fully understood that the male sex drive has an end game that goes from A-B (Aim---> Bed) which has little to do with truly taking interest in the creature that has assisted him in his night's cathartic release. Some women seemed to overlook this and let the erotic male gaze energize them. I took it to another place, which was composed more from pity than disgust. While I don't make masculine ego maintenance my problem-- sorry, angry honkers, that I didn't bat my eyes at you and make you feel powerful-- there was also room for compassion. I mean, the poor saps just couldn't seem to get it together enough to be human. (Watching a boy try to figure out how to become a man is like watching a flatulent giraffe trying to work a calculator).