Mondays on the Margins. Sort of.

I'm weaning myself off of my anti-depressant. People close to me have received this information with a variety of reactions verging from mild alarm to outright panic, sometimes accompanied by a subtle and polite edging away.

Kidding. Mostly. I'm not doing this lightly, or without consideration, or out of any misplaced sense of detoxing or anything. It's just that, when I finally reached a short space of calm and insight a few months ago, I thought back and couldn't really say with any confidence that I've been, on the whole, better on this medication than off it. I don't think there's any question that my brain chemicals don't always play nicely with each other, or with my other bodily processes, or with the way the world works. It would be nice to think that there was medicine that would help with this, and it's entirely possible that there is. I'm just not certain that I've found it yet.

Years ago, when I didn't really know what was wrong with me, and I was fast coming to the conclusion that I was probably just lazy, or unintelligent, or overly dramatic, or just a bad fit for, well, everything, I think medicating was the right way to go. But now that I actually know what the general problem is, I think I tend to have horrible mornings and better afternoons and evenings, and horrible winters and better every-other-seasons, and the medication doesn't seem to change that. Besides that, the medication makes it extra hard to lose weight, and I never want to have sex (sorry for the overshare).

Besides that, I have a somewhat simple wish right now to see what I'm like without it. It's been a good few years now, and every now and then somebody else mentions a side effect that they find they experience from their anti-depressants - memory trouble, or an inability to cry, for example - and I think, holy crap! My memory sucks and I hardly ever cry any more - I thought that was because of getting older and, well, getting older. What if it's not? I'm fully willing to admit that I might be mis-remembering how bad I was before, and if my husband is as bad at monitoring me for this as he was back when I tried that low-estrogen birth control pill we might all be royally screwed, but I can always start taking it again. Well, not this one. Another one. I really think this one sucks.

So anyway. I've been down from 150 mg to 50 mg for about a month now. I definitely feel more inclined to exercise and leave the house, but that could be because it's June instead of February. I don't think I've lost any weight - in fact, I had a total fat day today, but it didn't prevent me from going to the school library to shelve books, so that's good. I still have to go and talk to my doctor about it - I meant to talk to her before starting the Grand Experiment, but I think taking the pill actually made it impossible to pick up the phone and make the appointment, so I'm pretty sure I could make a case for the fact that I couldn't actually go see her until after I stopped taking it. Yes. I'm sticking to that.

For the past couple of days I've been in a bit of a reading rut. I still read, but when I get into bed at night I stare at the tremendous pile of books on my table and nothing really calls out to me. I have to force myself to pick something up. This always scares me, because when I'm really depressed one of the scariest things is losing the joy of reading. I've never been so low that my children don't make me feel better when they show up, but I have been so far down that books are suddenly a giant So What - and I don't want to live in a world like that.

So this is my Remedial Reading Program, beginning tonight:

Michael Chabon. Everything I've read by him, without resembling in the least any other book I've read by him, has proven to be surprising, insightful, full of wonder and sadness and incomparable delights. I've had this book on my pile for a while, but something keeps stopping me from picking it up. I'm sure if I force myself through the first few paragraphs, I'll be hooked. I will force myself.

Zombie stories. I really need to do a whole zombie story post at some point. For now, I just put this book on hold at the library.

Missed classics. I've always meant to read Trollope. I looked at a few message boards for recommendations on which book I should read first. I have to admit, reading the description didn't exactly make me giddy with anticipation, but if nothing else I'll get a certain sense of elitist satisfaction - oh, don't look like you don't know what I mean.

Re-reads. I suck at rereading. I always mean to, but then my ludicrously long to-read list stares at me accusingly and I plow on. I suddenly realized last night that this completely misses the opportunity to read something that I ALREADY KNOW I love - with the added bonus that the number of books I read and my crappy memory (which may be radically improving any day now, who knows, I'll keep you posted) still allow a sense of discovery, since many of the details will have escaped me since the first reading. So, this, this, and this have been placed at the top of the pile.

So yes. Please admire my brilliant plan. Replacing my present pile of books with.... another pile of books. I'm feeling pretty confident. Besides, if all else fails, I have a secret weapon held in reserve.

Regular Mondays on the Margins posts will resume. At some point. Probably a Monday, but really, who the hell knows.


Lynn said…
Sending you all the love and happiness I can. Good for you for braving the experiment - I'm sure the books will understand the shuffling of the order.

(Or you may have a book mutiny on your hands. In which case, I suggest a locked bookshelf. I smell new horror novel - I'm off to sketch an outline!)
Sasha said…
First of all - ONE GREAT BIG HUG! Really, really hope this works out for you. I didn't know about the memory side effect (or hell, maybe I just forgot), but you may have something there.

FWIW, I've found that decent food and exercise has helped, probably even more than drugs, but that's easy for me to say, given that I've been doped since the fall (and was ready to drop it after 2 months, because I felt Tony-the-Tiger GREAAAT! even though it was a totally stupid time to stop, what with winter coming and all, fortunately my doctor has more sense than I do), and of course now I am terrified to drop it, because, you know, and I KNOW you know, I don't want to stop loving things. Like reading and people and stuff.

So, like, anyways, now that I've totally co-opted the conversation and made it all about me, lets talk about YOU for a minute. Actually, lets just talk, period.

Ms. G said…
I think it's ok to try. Particularly if the benefits aren't outweighing the drawbacks. I've had a cyclical depression every 2-3 years my entire life. Sometimes the meds helped, sometimes not. My last issue was that they always made me fall asleep at 3 in the afternoon, which is of course when it was time to pick up the kids. Now, one of the ways I deal with it when I get stuck is re-reading my favorite books : )
StephLove said…
I hope going off the meds works for you or if it doesn't you find something that works better than your current meds.

Of course I know what you mean about the elitist thrill of the classics. I belong to a book club that called the Big Book club that only reads long novels, preferably from the 19th c or earlier, though we did read some John Fowles last fall. And I'm re-reading Poe's The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym right now, not for book club but so I can read Pym and get the references.
Nicole said…
Tough decision. But it sounds like it might be the right decision, going off the meds. I mean, if they are not helping you and you feel like the side effects are worse...well...then maybe it's time to go off them. Summer's coming and with all the sunshine and Vitamin D, maybe it's a good time to go off? I don't know. I'm not a doctor. I'm just talking out of my ass. But it really does sound like you've put lots of thought into things and I wish you lots of happiness. Do the antidepressants maybe interfere with your sleep as well? Because I know you haven't been sleeping and if there is one thing that contributes to feeling ugh and sad it's exhaustion. So will be better?

Re-reading my favourite books is my favourite thing to do. I love picking up something and remembering why I loved it in the first place. I'm re-reading something right now!
Julie said…
if it ain't broke, don't fix it. but if it ain't working then haul ass and get a move on. glad to hear you are taking steps to see what works for you. you are the only you, you know. the answer might be no meds is good, or might be that different meds are the way to go. only way to find out is to try, which i think is a huge step. awesome. hugs and whatnot.
Mary Lynn said…
I don't feel alarmed at your decision, but I do feel concern because I think you're an awesome person and I want you to feel happy and positive about yourself. Clearly, though, the existing medication isn't doing a great job of helping you feel that way, so it does sound like a change is in order, whether to wean yourself off the meds altogether or try something new. I think, actually, that the part about you feeling indifferent to reading alarmed me more than the fact that you're weaning yourself off the anti-depressant. But then I realized that I go off reading for weeks at a time fairly often (as do a lot of people who normally like to read), so maybe feeling a bit of indifference towards your books is actually a good sign? If it's a short-term thing, anyway.

I dunno...I'm just babbling really. I don't have any real wisdom about such things. I just want you to feel well.
Amber Strocel said…
I'm sending good thoughts on going off antidepressants. My husband was on one that totally didn't work for him. He was depressed. He went off it. He was still depressed, and then he got a little more depressed. But this is what led him to try another med that actually works for him. Imagine that!

So however this turns out, I'm sending good thoughts, and I hope you find something that works for you.
Finola said…
Hugs to you and can we have coffee together one day soon??
Betsy B. Honest said…
Good luck, Gorgeous. My sister went through something like this, and it was the right thing to do. She didn't stop taking her meds, but she got to a very low dosage and it has made a really positive difference. Before, she was in such a fog and had zero empathy, and now interactions with her are so much more like normal. It was hard though, because she went through a period of blaming everything she did in the last decade on the meds. Which is problematic in relationships because... well, because if you blame all the loving, caring, bickering, problems, EVERYTHING on the meds, than the relationship feels like it didn't happen, and wasn't real. Which is okay for the crap, but not so much for the good stuff. That doesn't sound like something you'd do, though. You seem like someone who is pretty solid with relationships.

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