‘That Same Old Feeling’
During the next week I adhered to a strict regime: I’d wake up, do some editing or writing, finish at 5.00, and then around 6.00 I’d take an hour walk. In the evening, I would totally relax – no writing, no editing, not even any reading; I’d just lay back and watch a movie and switch off. A week later, the head pains went. Even Dr Warren was surprised by my improvement.
My victory was short-lived. Whilst the headaches didn’t return, the low mood creeped back in. Sometimes I’d feel bleak. Another night, I was drifting off in front of a courtroom drama on television where a knife was referenced, and my old intrusive thoughts flared. I had trouble shaking the unease for the next several days. Because of all the constant health issues, my mind was manic with hypochondria.
When I saw Dr Jarasinghe I told him what had been going on, and he remarked that the anxiety was now invading my life and suggested medication. I told him I didn’t want to go back on Aropax or any of that brand of medication – the SSRIs, or the SNRIs. I suggested Tofranil, and he countered with Anafranil – which he’d prescribed me when I wanted to go off Aropax. He described it as like Tofranil but ‘punchier.’
I took the prescription and spoke to Dr Warren, who concurred that Anafranil was the right medication for what I was going through. I relented, but decided if I was going to be on antidepressants again, it would be with a plan: I’d take them for six months (and a maximum of twelve months), get myself right, and get off them. There’d be none of this staying on them for years at a time.
Still, I was hesitant, not wanting to take the plunge. Thursday, I filled the prescription, feeling bleak and defeated. I went out to dinner with friends, had a few drinks – it was like a last meal before an execution. Friday, I woke up and felt good. I couldn’t explain it. I felt bright and optimistic, although I knew feeling this way could be a mirage. No, I had to stick with my plan.
Friday night, I took my first Anafranil, and for an hour – anxiously watching the minutes tick by on the DVD player’s digital clock – I lay there monitoring myself to see if I was experiencing any side-effects. But nothing. None of the horrendous troubles I’d had with Aropax. This might be okay.
The next morning when I awoke, there was no taste in my mouth. It was like I’d eaten Styrofoam. When I got up, I was lethargic and uncoordinated. Then, after breakfast, all I could do was sleep. I was meant to catch up with friends that day, and while I drove down, I kept feeling like I was going to fall asleep, so I went home again. To top everything off, I suffered hot flushes.
The next day – the Sunday – the side-effects hadn’t diminished, and I decided to hell with the Anafranil. I wasn’t going to keep taking them if they made me feel this bad. Side effects were one thing. This was debilitating. The hot flushes were the worst. Sunday was a cool day – about twenty degrees. But every time I had a hot flush, it felt twice that.
On Monday, I called both Dr Jarasinghe and Dr Warren and told them what had happened. Dr Jarasinghe – who was just about to go on his Christmas break – said I’d done the right thing, and I should come in to discuss other options, although what they might’ve been I had no idea. I’d had this reaction to Anafranil, Aropax had made me feel like crap and I refused to go back on it, and Aurorix had made me feel restless. I asked Dr Jarasinghe about the other SSRIs. Zoloft was meant to be the gentlest of them. He said if I had problems with Aropax I was likely to have problems with all of them, and the last thing I needed to be doing was to be calling an ambulance because I’d had a bad reaction to the medication. That wasn’t something I needed to hear. Dr Jarasinghe suggested coping using Xanax, and we’d discuss options when he returned – which was two months away. Quite merrily, though, he told me by then I might be over this.
Dr Warren was more sympathetic. I’d felt horrible since coming off the Anafranil – darker and lower than ever. Sleep also deserted me. I’d go to bed, sleep uneasily until 1.00 am, and then be wide awake. From then, I’d drift in and out of a light sleep for the rest of the night. Thoughts plagued me that I’d break down and somebody would find me catatonic in the morning. Dr Warren suggested taking a Xanax to cope, but I refused to use anything.
Just over a week later, my body re-acclimated to my typical sleep problems, and my head to the way I’d been before – joyless, lacking enthusiasm, and anxious. Each day became a torment. When I woke up, it was a matter of telling myself to get through the present moment and just get to the next. It was the only way to survive. If I thought any further ahead than that, I’d unravel and see the hopelessness in it all, that there mightn’t be any way out of this.
The tools of the past had failed. One of my friends suggested that my body was trying to tell me something, that antidepressants were no longer the answer.
But if that was the case, I wasn’t certain what the answer was meant to be.