Those Damned Little Pills


For the very first time since I swallowed my first 20 mg. tablet of Paxil four-and-a-half years ago, I finally understand why so many people living with mood disorders stop or want to stop ingesting those damned little pills. Those little pills, like slap-happy lovers, amend their  promises of change immediately after they’ve failed you once again.  One more chance?  One more try?  We’re narrowing the field; one day we’ll strike the right chord, just have patience.  Patience?  What patience?  NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) reported that adults who live with serious mental illness die 25 years earlier than other Americans . . .

Imagine yourself standing next to the Greyhound bus to say good-bye to Hope as she takes a window seat, looking at you detached and hopeless2indifferent.  Your worst fear is happening: That Greyhound bus is leaving you utterly Hopeless.  Hopelessness is a loaded .38 in the nightstand on your dad’s side of the bed; hopelessness is impressionable and interested in alternatives; hopelessness implies that the rough-housing and agonizing conflict you’ve accepted as life is all yours, pal, so grab some gloves and climb into the ring!

Eighty-sixed and cast aside, people with mood disorders are often adrift and desperately clutch to any buoyant object to preserve the credo of the awringingdowncast, that missing people like you are rescued.  But there is no rescue.  Or search.  No one even noticed you were gone.  But then serendipity zips past on her jet-ski waving and reassuring her return. Immediately you squeeze and squeeze again until every bit of blue sky is wrung from her fly by.  You weave strands of hope into bonds of promises and cling to them for their six-week trial, hoping your wholeheartedness created the perfect environment for the mood stabilizing drug to speed down your arterial on-ramp and slide into your bloodstream, easy-sneezy!

Nope.  Nothing.  Nada.  That bitch Hope and her batty cousin, Serendipity played you once again for the hapless Sad Sack, the lunatic adrugcompdesperate for clemency, the believer of broken promises in the form of a pill.  Those damned little pills!  The pharmaceutical industry’s great hoax endorsed by psychiatrist’s, dispensed by Pharmacists, and dutifully swallowed with some water and a handful of hope.  Hope that it’ll take; make a difference; do something; ease my burden; make me laugh.

At my desk 30 minutes after waking, the gravity of hopelessness, fatigue, and apathy plunge my mood underwater; the depressive side of bipolar ajetleads to chronic pleas for the manic cavalry to save the day.  Hold on, I mutter to myself, Just hold on for the pills; they’ll carry you far away from despair. Into my mind’s ground fog I wander further out on the pier when a carefully apportioned packet of dextro-amphetamine salts (think F-22 Raptor Fighter Jet in a mach-1 vertical climb); mood-stabilizer (think the F-22 Raptor running out of gas); and anti-depressant (think glider) are swallowed to ensure mood stability.  Followed by a pair of diuretics to reduce significant edema caused by heart failure and pulmonary hypertension.  At last I down two pain medications and one muscle relaxant for back and knee pain associated with recent weight gain caused by heart failure and venous insufficiency.

How did life become a scene from Soylent Green?  Not so long ago I’d lounge sleepily awaiting the skipping return to bed of my spouse.  Now mycomforter mornings are strict regimens in a very specific sequence to assure all medication has been ingested.  I too, would like nothing more than to flee from this pill-filled merry-go-round so-called Life and run back to that sanctuary of pressed sheets, downy comforters, famished pillows which swallow everything, and quiet, inside-joke laughter reserved for those blessed with wellness.

Instead, every morning I sit at our kitchen table despising those damned little pills. 


All We Want Is An Edge

I’m a doper.  Plain and simple.  I take performance enhancing drugs to edge out my daily opponent, bipolar depression.

I am resistant to conventional psychotropic medications which provide relief of mental illness symptoms from the inside out.  That is, they access your bloodstream after roughly six weeks, then their therapeutic effects begin to take-hold; and then (and only then), can your doctor begin the incremental step-by-step titration of your dosage eventually arriving at a suitable degree of efficacy.  So its fair to say that the management of your mood disorder is intrinsic or organic, as your body tolerated and is now escorting the daily ingestion of psychotropic drugs (prescription therapies) on the freshly paved path from mouth to stomach to bloodstream to brain.

I do not, unfortunately, enjoy the luxury of a pharmaceutical boardwalk.  My only relief is applied, like decoupages; like Zorro camouflaging his true identity with a mask, my mood is masqueraded by the uplifting properties of dextro-amphetamine salts which I ingest daily.  And while I experience my mood lifting like those Macy’s Parade balloon characters twenty minutes after ingestion, there’s a nasty bill to settle, a sheer cliff from which to fall, like the one from which Louise (Susan Sarandon) and Thelma (Geena Davis) launched their 1966 Thunderbird, and I drop like a lead balloon headlong into the Mariana Trench of despair and depression.  In order to avoid the cliff’s stifling fatigue I must remain dutifully conscious of my mood, and when it dips I must immediately swallow my next dose.

Each additional step of relief, each concomitant dose keeps me afloat like a life-jacket.  But it also hoists the height of my eventual crash higher still.  And predictably the rope snaps and my wakeful attention drops like a grand piano, crashing to the ground and splintering into a million irreconcilable pieces.

I’m in the company of fallen sports legends like Lance Armstrong, Barry Bonds, and Jose Canseco. We’re all guilty of willfully taking drugs designed to better our performance.

I am different in one respect: I’ve never beat my opponent to win the jersey or title or championship.  My opponent is bipolar depression and who has, unfortunately, all the bragging rights.