i haven’t left the house in two and a half days.
this behavior is typical of me on occasion, but this time it’s not me, it’s the weather. here in austin we’re having all kinds of rain and freezing rain and snow and sleet â€” the kind that makes schools and jobs and overpasses close, the kind that makes your dog slide down the sidewalk when you take her outside. this morning a coworker emailed me and asked if i was bored yet. “no way,” i wrote back. “i’m very, very happy. i’m going to sew!”
and i did sew. i’ve made two shirts, fixed a sweater and a pair of pants, and made two freezer-paper stencils, in addition to all the jewelry i’ve made. while it’s true that i have enough indoor hobbies to sustain me for weeks, i was a little surprised i didn’t go stir-crazy. you see, i’ve gone off my anti-depressants.
i’ve been taking anti-depressants for almost ten years. for the last five of those i’ve been taking effexor, a drug with some well-documented side effects. in low doses it didn’t work, in high doses it made me feel numb, and failure to take any of those dosages by noon on any given day would ruin that day completely. if i was at home i’d have to spend the rest of the day on the couch. if i was at work i’d barely be able to pretend to function. i was dizzy and light-headed and irritable; once i almost passed out in the lobby of my office building. i know that most anti-depressants can give one withdrawal symptoms, and i used to feel funny if i didn’t take my zoloft after a few days, but withdrawals after four hours? come on. a few missed-pill days made it seem like the pills weren’t worth taking at all, especially since i wasn’t sure they worked anymore.
mentally, i went off my medication because i wanted to see what it would be like. everything i’d read told me it would be really hard to wean myself off effexor, and it was hard. i took myself down from two pills a day to one pretty easily, but from one pill to zero was downright dizzying. every day felt like a missed-pill day times two. i was tired and listless and angry and it was all i could do to hide it from my friends and coworkers. when i got down to my last effexor capsule, i broke it open and poured all the little grains into an old plastic sauce cup from the restaurant. whenever i felt withdrawals, i’d open the cup, wet my finger, and press a few little grains onto my tongue. every time i did it i pictured my drug neighbor wiping a leftover dusting of coke onto his gums.
i’d taken effexor for so long i’d forgotten what it was like to be off. would i be giddy and weird? angry and sad? lifeless and unproductive? it turns out i am none of these things. i feel, in a word, normal. i’m no more depressed than i was before, and if anything, i’m more productive. when i come home from work i’m less inclined to spend the rest of the evening curled up in a ball in front of the television. the tv’s still on, sure, but i’m almost always doing something at the same time.
maybe the pills were part of the problem. i still don’t like my job, and i still don’t like where i live, but without the anti-depressants i feel like i can handle those things. funny, i used to say the exact opposite. anyway, i’m glad i did it. human brain chemistry may be as fragile as a melting icicle, but if i continue to treat my mental state as fragile, i’ll never get anything done.