‘Hello, Panic, My Old Friend’
Dr Warren had an analogy that the anxiety was like a snowball. Unhindered, it would gather momentum and grow bigger and bigger, but put a big enough block in front of it, it would hit that block and splatter. That sounded good to me, but right about now, anything would sound good to me.
With that in mind, Dr Warren prescribed me a sedative: .5mg of Xanax three times a day. Unfortunately, Xanax wasn’t a medicine you could get with a prescription over the counter. You needed government authorisation. Dr Warren said he’d file the request and the authorised prescription would come to me in the mail.
Since I still had so much trouble getting to sleep, something else Dr Warren prescribed was the sleeping pill Imovane. Imovane was new and meant to be revolutionary in that it didn’t give you a hangover the day after.
I took one, but it didn’t help. I just lay there worrying until I drifted off. In the morning, when I woke up, I was light-headed. Another bad experience. It was the one and only Imovane I ever took.
Xanax would have to be the way.
Over the next week, I stalked the mailbox until the prescription arrived, and then rushed it to the pharmacy on my usual countdown. The moment I got home, I opened the bottle. Xanaxes were small oval pills with light pink-orange tones. A seam ran down their horizontal centre, so you could break them in two if needed. For me, the whole would do. I popped a pill. Within fifteen minutes I had calm – not like the Ativan, which had made me feel euphoric. It was like the Xanax had silenced my symptoms and that was it.
For a while, the Xanax was everything I needed and life got back to normal, bar for the drinking, which I stopped. This is all it took. But then the anxiety countered. It was like the Xanax was a wall holding back a flood – the flood kept hitting the wall over and over, but the wall was unassailable. Unfortunately, the flood continued to raise, until it began too spill over the wall. Anxiety symptoms grew resurgent until the flood was, once again, torrential.
When I saw Dr Warren again, he suggested another medication, Stelazine, which might help where Xanax had failed. I told him that I didn’t think I’d survive a trip to the pharmacy, even though it was only a couple of minutes from the clinic. Every moment at home was panic; but every moment away from home set the panic to blow.
Dr Warren considered giving me a shot that he said would calm me, but he was afraid it would hit me before I got home – dangerous, if I was at the wheel. I tried assuring (or perhaps I was begging) Dr Warren that it was worth the risk, but he decided against it and convinced me to go with the prescription.
The moment I got back in my car, I told myself over and over that I could do it, that I’d soon be home. The problem was the detour I had to take to get there. Trying to push that from my mind, I swung out of the clinic and drove to the pharmacy.
I handed over the prescription and while I waited for it to be filled, read labels on other products, read pamphlets, and studied the décor. I was so sick of this. Then the most amazing thing happened. Everything just switched off. All the panic. All the worry. All the symptoms. Suddenly, I was confident – not just confident of handling this situation, but handling everything.
I went home and popped a Stelazine, which was a small, round blue pill. It knocked out the anxiety, but left me with a feeling of restlessness. It wasn’t bad; but it reminded me that something wasn’t quite right. I felt like I always needed to move.
Two nights later, I was watching television when I had another explosion of anxiety – right through the Stelazine. The next day I saw Dr Warren and he told me to double the dose. I did and it worked for a very little while, but again the anxiety punched its way through. By now, I was nonstop anxious.
I saw Dr Warren again, who posed going back to PANCH as I needed to see somebody who specialised in these problems. No way. Dr Victor – even though he was no longer there – loomed as a figure of ambivalence and medication. I’d rather have a general practitioner than another Dr Victor and the monster he’d make out of me.
The other concern was distance. I barely made it down the road. How would I go to a hospital fifteen minutes away by car? Dr Warren suggested another psychiatrist, who rotated through local clinics and operated not far away. That would mean a drive of only a few minutes.
I agreed and Dr Warren wrote me a referral to see a psychiatrist, Dr Jarasinghe.