‘The Long Hard Fall’
Allie was a girl who’d had a crush on me in Grade 6 (twenty-five years earlier) and chased me through high school. Then she married some guy and that was it – until she rang me unexpectedly and we swapped stories. She told me she’d had three kids and was unhappily married. I told her I was pretty much where I was when we’d last spoke over fifteen years earlier.
As her marriage disintegrated and she separated, we became friends, and then later developed our own relationship – much to the disapproval of my parents. They saw danger: I wasn’t working; she had major financial responsibilities; and, worst of all, kids. What would people think? That’s what my mum told me. I should be off making my own kids.
Allie was a tornado in my stagnancy. She pursued writing courses for me, looked into Cognitive Behaviour Therapies, and pushed me to pursue material aspirations. I felt happy as I hadn’t known before.
My ability to interact with her kids also surprised me. I played with them (often letting them win games in spectacularly close fashion to escalate the excitement), babysat them, did homework with them, and all that kind of stuff. Kids were something I’d thought about when I was young but, like a lot of my dreams, neurosis had gotten in the way.
At one point, Allie’s eldest (who was about seven) went through a period where he’d awake and be terrified, and even though he interacted with those around him, he wasn’t aware of his actions. These episodes lasted minutes. Allie would settle him down and he’d go back to sleep, but have no recollection afterwards of what had happened.
I scoured the Net, finding out that these episodes were ‘night terrors’. They were like nightmares, but the person acted and interacted like they were awake. They were common to kids (and particularly kids who were dealing with stress, as he might’ve, coping with his parents’ divorce), but not limited exclusively to kids. Adults suffered them, too. Now I finally had the answers to my own episodes when I was a teenager – again, it was a case of finding out that something that had happened to me was actually common.
Something else I learned with Allie was the effect of Aropax on sex. Aropax killed my libido. Sex (through no fault of Allie’s) was unappealing, it took me forever to respond and all feeling (down below) was dulled to the point of going forever, (not really as enjoyable as it seems). I later learned that Aropax can be prescribed to people for premature ejaculation.
While I was with Allie, I cut down Aropax, getting to ten milligrams. I hoped it would decrease all the side-effects but there was no change. Maybe now that they were there, all they needed was the presence of any Aropax to sustain them.
I worried the reduction in Aropax might let my issues get a peek back in – especially the OCD. In preparation for the possibility, I checked the library for books on OCD and settled for one entitled Overcoming Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: A self-help guide using Cognitive Behavioural Techniques by David Veale and Rob Willson.
I wish I’d found a book like this in 1989.
Amongst the intrusive thoughts and impulses the book listed OCD caused were saying something heinous to somebody, hurting somebody, wishing somebody dead, engaging in violent sexual practises, fearing committing paedophilia or incest, that one would snap and go berserk, attacking and killing a dog one loved, having religious thoughts about the devil, becoming obsessive about illnesses, and on the list went.
I’d experienced all these (and others). Thanks to Dr Victor, for years I’d believed they meant I was on the verge of a psychotic breakdown. Dr Jarasinghe had treated these thoughts like they were commonplace to anxiety. Now, I knew they were OCD.
The book suggested ritualising habits enforced them. If you feared you left the door unlocked, checking it gave you temporary relief, but reinforced the fear because then you had to do it again. The best thing to do wasn’t to check and deal with the consequences – if there were any.
That made me think about all the ways I’d handled my intrusive thoughts over the years, like my mantra, or the times I’d challenge the TV to communicate with me to prove that it wouldn’t. They were rituals. By doing them, I’d give myself temporary relief, only to reinforce the compulsion.
My relationship with Allie continued to the point I was with her more than I was at home. About nine months in, Allie marvelled at the side-effects of Aropax in my life. She asked why I persisted with it, acknowledging I might need to take something, but why Aropax?
I’d come to simply accept its existence in my life. Once when I’d spoken to Dr Warren about Aropax, he posed that I might have to always keep some small dosage of it in my system, just in case problems flared and I needed it. Dr Warren analogised that like a diabetic who needed insulin, I might have a chemical imbalance that needed correction through antidepressants.
But Allie was right. Aropax had been nothing but side-effects. I lived with them because they gave me peace from the anxiety, the panic attacks, the OCD, the depression, and everything else. Like Suede lived with no sex life because the alternative was anxiety and depression. This was the price for peace.
I told Dr Jarasinghe that I wanted to give Aropax the flick and go back onto something else – possibly Tofranil, since I’d never had a single problem with it. Dr Jarasinghe told me (just as Dr Warren had told me when I’d asked to swap from Aropax years earlier) that I would have to be off Aropax for five days because of the danger of serotonin poisoning.
Instead of Tofranil, though, Dr Jarasinghe suggested a different antidepressant, Anafranil. It was an upgrade on Tofranil. I reluctantly agreed. In anticipation of issues I might have, he also prescribed me Xanax and a sleeping tablet, Stillnox.
Taking my prescriptions, I went to the pharmacy and got the Xanax one filled out. If I needed anything short-term, it would be a Xanax. I wasn’t keen on sleeping tablets given my over-reliance on them in the past. As for the Anafranil, well, I’d get it when I needed it, although I had some tiny hope I wouldn’t. I didn’t want to use meds anymore. I wanted to go on without them.
Now, I had to get off Aropax.