Pretty early on in my life I discovered there was pill for anxiety. Everyone knew such pills were only for housewives trying to numb out their lives (think Jacqueline Suzann and Valley of the Dolls). I never knew anyone who took them or where to get them had I wanted them. Still, I wished there were something to take away the pain. You know, a magic pill that would cure me. An “anti-me” pill: anti-anxiety, anti-depression, anti-everything.
I was living in married students’ housing in Ann Arbor, MI when I met Beth and her husband. She was another musician and he was a scientist in the field of pharmaceuticals. Beth and I hung out a lot. Seems we could commiserate on a lot of things. Having babies and raising kids while our husbands were busy working and going to school; being super-sensitive and hyperaware every moment of the day; feeling overwhelmed by it all, as well as being two wonderfully loving, if self-deprecating, women.
One day Beth told me her husband and his team had developed this new drug called Prozac, which was supposed to help relieve the symptoms of depression. Well, count me in, right?
Drugs? Me? Never! I should be able to deal with my own issues (from the panic attacks to the generalized fear to the postpartum depression) by myself. Otherwise, I was weak and unworthy.
Okay, so now it’s 15 years later. I’ve been divorced from that husband and remarried to a wonderful man who was at least as sensitive as I was. Incredible! He wasn’t scared off by my intensity or my tears. In fact, he could go there as fast as I could. It was a marriage made in heaven.
And yet . . .
I still suffered internally. I was afraid of being a bad mother and a bad partner. Afraid of not doing or being enough. And on and on and on. There was no stopping me. Just think of all the energy I used being so anxious that could have been put to another use. By then, Prozac had been on the market all that time and, in the back of my mind, I really, really wanted to see if it could help me. Still, “taking drugs” was a Very Bad Thing To Do. It meant you were really all those things people said you were. And none of them were good.
Finally, though, at some point, I realized I had reached a point that no matter what my external circumstances, my internal voice was struggling to stay sane. So, yeah, I went to the shrink and got myself some good old-fashioned Prozac. The incredible thing was that within days I was getting out of bed in the morning for the first time in my life that I could recall with actual enthusiasm. Gone was the “Omigod, another day, groan” thing. GONE.
My husband was horrified. I’d been so good at keeping my depression secret that he could not believe I “needed something like that” to fix me. Wasn’t I happy with him? Didn’t we have a good life?
I tried to explain my situation in terms of science. “You see,” I told him, “it’s just that it’s a chemical thing and there’s’ really nothing I can do about it. I was born that way. It’s not psychological, it’s chemical, and I need help to be okay.”
He was not happy. He felt he wasn’t enough.
I wasn’t happy. I felt I wasn’t enough. Plus, I knew now that I was truly broken.
I kept the fact that I was “taking drugs” secret, much as I’d kept my state of being secret. Inside I felt ashamed and guilty even though I’d never felt so free from the weight that had kept me down all those years.
In a twist of fate worthy of a fairy tale, it wasn’t until the death of my husband Randy that everything became clear.
To Be Continued . . . .
Read Part 2 of HSPs and Anti-Everything Drugs in an upcoming post.