Thrown A Life Preserver, I Took It

  • Each day, morning and night, I swallow colorful pills:


    1) the blue-and-white Geodon for peace of mind;

    2) the plastic-feel Co-Enzyme Q10 for my heart;

    3) the orange 81 mg. adult-strength aspirin, also for my heart;

    4) the maize-color Super B Complex pill;

    5) the round white vitamin D;

    6) and lastly, the tiny purple thyroid drug.


    The anti-psychiatry contingent would bristle at this regimen. I find comfort in these chemicals because they've given me a life worth living and goals to shoot for; keep my moods and thoughts in balance; and my heart and thyroid functioning well.


    For this blog entry, I wanted to write freehand about the everyday affairs of my heart. Maybe it won't be a neat or clever or witty exploration, just bare bones and offhand. That's my intention.

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    As I celebrate 15 years hospital-free, I marvel at this routine. What's changed since 1992? I embrace the meds; I see the beauty in taking them. They're a competitive advantage, because even if I'm not completely free of my worry, I can function and have mental clarity.


    One thing I've learned: not every symptom will disappear, but you'll be better able to manage the ones that linger if you commit to a drug routine. When Dr. Altman began to cross-taper my meds, I noticed something subtle yet real: I didn't beat on myself any more. Sure, a troublesome thought would insert itself in my mind every so often, but I no longer howled against myself when it popped in for a visit. So far, I'm able to let the thought go out almost as soon as it enters my head.


    In the long run, I know of no one who goes off his psych meds who's been able to remain pulled-together for very long. Tonight, at work, I swallowed my G. in the kitchen, where I ate dinner, not caring how it looked. Luckily, no one else was there, but if someone were, I would've done it anyway.


    In the fall, I'll have been in recovery 20 years. I feel in some ways that I'm questioning where I want to live and work in the next two years. I feel like I'm due for a change. My inner restlessness no doubt came on because of this uncertainty about the future.


    Here's something else I learned about the schizophrenia: it's a simply brilliant condition. Living so long with the illness, I've come to see it will mutate over time into something else, so now I readily bring up any unusual shift in my thoughts or feelings with my psychiatrist.


    Anything, taken out of place, could be a symptom. That's why I hadn't brought up with Dr. Altman what started to happen three years ago. I thought my self-critical thoughts were something I had to try to control on my own, because I wasn't classically paranoid and didn't have racing thoughts. The SZ, a slippery chameleon, had camouflaged itself as intense worry and self-hate.


    Max, my therapist, told me last week that he believed such harsh narrative was a symptom, and I agree, because I couldn't control it. I do my best to place one foot in front of the other on this recovery road. I want to re-assess my life goals in January, and take steps to move out of my apartment come next July when the lease is up.


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    I write about things from this perspective because I'm grateful the meds gave me back me, and gave me a life. One thing: self-reliance is the key to unlocking your recovery. As hard as it is now, doped up on the G. while he lowers the Stelazine, I can say it's worth it. Feeling blank is better than having symptoms like paranoia or irrational fear.


    This much I know: it isn't easy to live with this hardship. Yet the grass isn't greener over there. Each of us must look only at his own life to determine what the best course of action is. You may think other people have it easier, but that's not true. Everyone bluffs. I only make it look easy because I'm not a complainer; I'm a trouper.


    In here, I'm honest because that's my nature. I feel that to be in service to others is the best way to heal my pain. It's not the choice most of us would make, but it works for me. As a humble servant, I'm willing to dodge the tomatoes people could throw at me because I swallow all those pills every day.


    Thrown this life preserver, I took it. I chose not to drown.





    Note: I'm not a licensed professional. Speak with your psychiatrist about your own drug routine. Not everyone responds to the same medications equally.


Published On: July 19, 2007