sober lifestyle

Medication

Probably the saddest storyline I’ve ever watched play out on a TV show — and I mean, even worse than the tragic Adriana arc in “The Sopranos” and what happened to poor little Randy in Season 4 of “The Wire” — followed Wendy Byrde’s bipolar brother Ben in the Netflix series “Ozark.”

So, it probably wasn’t a great idea to watch his final few episodes on my wedding anniversary earlier this week. Just what my husband wanted to see when he came downstairs from the work day was his beloved wife wrapped in a blanket, swollen-faced and sobbing on the couch.

(He usually finds me in such amorous poses as “face buried in a salad bowl,” or “asleep and drooling,” wearing come-hither house coats and pajama pants, if you’re looking for the secret to our successful 13 years.) 🤣

“Ozark” is one of Hubby’s and my shared obsessions of late. I won’t bore you with a whole long character study of Ben, whose severe mental illness became a major plot point and whose decision to go off his meds — side effect: impotence — ultimately precipitated his devastating downfall. But his story touched me deeply, especially since I’m in the process of (possibly) procuring medication for my own mental health struggles.

After months and months…OK, years of talking about it, I finally made an appointment with a new psychiatrist in early August.

Anxiety and depression have been kicking my ass all my life, but especially since I quit drinking a year and change ago. Maybe you’ve heard me mention this on the blog every single week a few times.

Quick history: I was a Highly Sensitive kid who grew into an emotionally unstable adult, learning to self-soothe with harmful substances and unhealthy behaviors along the way. Cold-turkey sobriety and middle age “changes” conspired to put me in full Tasmanian Devil mode, 24/7. And although I see a great therapist and have a stellar support system at home and in the recovery community, with the demands of my new job, the unceasing inner turmoil has become too much. I decided I can’t continue to live this way without jeopardizing the progress I’ve made — not to mention I’m actually trying to be happy — and drastic measures are in order.

Yes, I somehow consider taking drugs to manage my anxiety “drastic,” even though I casually did that very thing for 20 straight years. Alcohol, you know, is one of the most addictive drugs there is.

So my feelings on this subject are complicated, and I’m still sorting them out. While I don’t “need” meds to treat something as severe as Ben Davis’ (or Kanye West’s, if you prefer I stop referencing fictional characters) bipolar disorder, I’ve been searching, consciously and unconsciously, for something to help level out my extremes for as long as I can remember. Nothing has worked.

A psychiatrist I used to see back in my mid-30s said I exhibited “mild bipolar tendencies” and gave me two prescriptions — Lexapro and something else I don’t remember — and told me to cut down on my drinking. Which I didn’t, so I can’t say whether those drugs were effective. My alcoholism only got worse (as it does) between then and age 41, and drinking ultimately canceled out all other coping strategies. I haven’t taken any type of mental health meds since 2016.

Should a sober person who’s “functional” cross that bridge? I asked my therapist this question — she is a psychologist; she can’t write scrips — and she basically said it depends on the type of drug. She said there are many, many choices when it comes to anxiety medication, and some are addictive and others are not. She said that some will add to my current issues with weight gain and others supposedly won’t. Et cetera, etc….

It’s trial and error.

The psychiatrist charges $300 for a consultation and $100 for each follow-up visit. 😳

I mean, guys, it’s not hard to understand why people self-medicate mental health, or just general coping, issues. Or why some just say “f*ck it” and roll the dice with life, untreated.

I’m very fortunate in that right now, my health is a top priority for both me and my husband, who is our household’s primary breadwinner and the undisputed hero in our marriage. He believes that improving my situation improves his, and he is willing to help me do whatever it takes to feel better and be happy. So, as scary as this medication experiment might seem, we’re going to give it a try. 🤞🏻

You want the real secret to our successful 13 years? Ask my hubby to explain the inner-workings of his amazingly ginormous heart.

Happy anniversary to the Best Guy In The World! 😘

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