One night, I lay on the couch reading – just as I’d done many other nights.
Wolf was curled in the chair opposite me, just as she usually was.
Then the thought popped in my head to kill her. I saw it clearly: I’d rip her head off.
The thought was beyond reprehensible, beyond unconscionable, beyond anything I’d known before, and it terrified me to think that I could be capable of thinking it.
I sat up, told myself there was no way I was going to do that, but the violence and aberration of the thought remained, washed over me in a way that I couldn’t clean myself from it. I was too scared to look at Wolf, fearful seeing her would trigger me. This was like all those times years ago when I’d had violent thoughts, but magnified until it felt a breath from reality.
Again and again, the thought struck.
I switched off the TV, packed up for the night. Wolf was used to my nightly routines. She got off her chair, stretched, then ran to the kitchen door – a sliding door she couldn’t open with her paw.
She looked back at me. Let me out.
I forced myself to look at her.
She continued to look at me, all innocence and doggy adoration. I threw my arms around her neck and hugged her.
See, I told – if not challenged – myself, I’m not going to hurt her.
But the thought remained, like a certainty that was as everyday as getting up in the morning.
Letting Wolf out, I locked the back door, and went to bed but still couldn’t get the compulsion out of my head. I shook myself, tossed, turned, but there was no escaping the inside of my head, the images that struck me, rocked me, cut through me until I was left with nothing but uncertainty.
I told myself over and over that I’d proven I wouldn’t hurt Wolf – I’d hugged her, looked at her, challenged myself. And I hadn’t done a thing. That simple. I hadn’t. And wouldn’t. I built my case, attacked myself with my rationale, thought my way through it, and it did nothing but amplify the compulsion, until it was resonating in my head, like the chime of some hideous bell that continues to echo.
This was useless. I got out of bed, opened my drawer and pulled out my Xanax. Despite what was going on, I was reluctant to take any, but resigned myself to one half of a tablet – not because of any reluctance to take medicine (as might’ve usually been the case), but the fear that I had nowhere to go if a full Xanax did nothing. I’d take the half, keep the other half in reserve.
I dry-swallowed the Xanax, and gradually, slowly, my mind quieted and I fell into a restless sleep.
The next day I saw Dr Warren to tell him what had happened. He said it sounded like Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, which was the first time I’d heard the diagnosis applied to what was going on inside my head. I’d always thought OCD was compulsive behaviours – and I had a few of those, like counting Xanaxes. Other times, I’d repeatedly – two or three times – check that I’d shut off the lights of my car, or the heater in my back room. My solution to these problems was a verbal affirmation which I could remember I’d said if the compulsion re-arose.
I asked Dr Warren why there were never any helpful compulsions. He told me that in some people, they were constructive, and used the analogy of a surgeon who had to cut to perfection in surgery. He went on to say I’d handled the episode correctly by talking myself through it and taking an extra half of Xanax, but those treatments weren’t cures, and he didn’t know how futile those treatments had seemed.
Something was going on in my head, something that was unravelling unlike the other times it had unravelled. I was okay with Wolf, but harboured the self-loathing and fear about how I’d thought about her. I don’t know if that was the trigger, but the anxiousness as a general state of mind escalated. It wasn’t long before the panic resurged like all the other times, and Xanax became helpless against it. Whenever I got in the car, I was immediately short of breath. I rushed through everything. Panic attacks battered me again and again and my head felt pulped.
Around this time, I had a public hospital appointment for a check-up on my knee, which sometimes locked and meant the cartilage was frayed or something – probably wear and tear from my indoor cricket years. The appointment had taken a year to get. If I skipped it or tried to reschedule, I’d have to wait forever to get another.
But as I sat in the hospital waiting room, panic attacks wracked me. Every now and again there was a lull, where I’d think I was back in control. Then it would punch through and I wanted to rush home. Just as I was about to surrender, I was called in to my appointment and the doctor examined me. He agreed I needed an arthroscope, although that meant getting back on the waiting list. That didn’t bother me, though.
When I next saw Dr Jarasinghe he recommended going onto antidepressants, but I refused. Antidepressants, again? I’d been on antidepressants from 1989–91 and from 1995–1999 – that was eight of the last ten years. I’d just weaned myself off them. Going back on them felt like an admission of failure. It was like my brain, like me, couldn’t function without them. I hated that. I wanted to be like everybody else.
Dr Jarasinghe agreed to try another short-term medication called Mellaril, but they did nothing. Later, I found out Mellaril was just another name for the Thioridazine, the same drug Dr Victor has prescribed me over ten years earlier. It was generally used (for panic attacks and such) when conventional medicines failed. But now, like then, the anxiety and all its symptoms marched right on through and grew worse and worse, until each day became an unending torment, and I had no choice but to surrender.
Back onto the antidepressants it was.