Monday, January 14, 2013

My Mind Off Medication

I did not stop taking sertraline (better known as Zoloft) as part of a New Year's Resolution, the timing just happen to coincide with the changing of the year. The real reason I stopped is because I could no longer get a 90 day supply at one time for $12, and the new $8 for a 30 day supply was seriously gouging into my finances. $8 doesn't seem like much until you consider a gallon of gas can cost up to $3.89 and it takes at least that much gas just to get to work every day, then another gallon to get home. And I work 6 days a week. The 7th day is devoted to Game Night, which sometimes involves driving twice as far as the drive to work. So although $8 a month for medication doesn't sound like much, that is money best spent elsewhere.

I've been taking sertraline pretty much every day since the fall of 2010. The first dosage left me unable to sleep for three days, despite the most common side effect being sleepiness. I was so strung out that it is a miracle I did not crash my car. Road signs ceased to have meaning, and oncoming traffic made me giggle. Returning to my doctor, the dosage was cut in half and I was assigned a sleep medication that also acted as a antidepressant. I was finally able to sleep a little, but in the morning, I felt so lethargic that it took at least two hours of psyching myself up and my cat crying for food to crawl out of bed. Then I only had enough energy to feed Memphis; it was another hour or two before I mustered the energy to feed myself. I stopped taking the sleeping aid.

Sertraline is an amazing drug, much, much better than Prozac, which I took in high school. Prozac left me unable to think anything beyond the most shallow of thoughts, making simple math a challenge. As one friend put it, I seemed happier, but I was a lousy conversationalist. Sertraline didn't do that to me. It stopped the thoughts that I was having from getting caught in an endless spiral. It also slowed things down. I could handle situations before my mind had spun them off in some crazy direction. Perfect example: my car accident in October. I was able to cut out the noise of being angry, frustrated, and having to deal with countless strangers in a still unfamiliar city and do what needed to be done. In short, sertraline allowed me to make decisions. (I'm Libran; we're short on decision-making.) 

So what is the world like now that the sertraline is out of my system? It still seems slow, but that's because I feel like I'm moving so fast. Typing is difficult because my mind is thinking so fast that my fingers can't move fast enough to keep up with it. I make at least 10 times more typos than I used to. This makes my job at the bookstore a little frustrating since a good bit of the job is entering information into a computer whether it's creating new files for books, or simply looking up a title for a customer. Writing is much easier, though the quality of my handwriting has gone back down. 

Driving is extremely difficult. I used to be able to turn on some music and drive, no problems, no distractions. Now I have distractions galore. My eyes constantly dart around at everything, like I haven't seen the same scenery hundreds of times already. And when that settles down, my mind drifts away and I have no recollection of driving entire stretches of road. I get in my car, I turn onto the road, then suddenly I'm parked and getting out. This disturbs me slightly. Obviously, nothing happened, but what if something did? I hope the part of my brain that is concentrating on driving and getting me to where I need to go (I have yet to turn up at the incorrect destination) would bring the rest of my consciousness back should something occur.

This isn't to say that I black out. I have memories of thinking about errands I need to run, things I need to buy, or how long I can wait until I have to buy them, what TV shows I've been watching, which DVDs I have and which need to be secured from the library, what books I've been reading and when they need to be read by, the story that I'm working on, the stories that I am not working on, what I should work on next, new ideas for scenes or dialogues, can I turn this into a haiku?, turning things into haiku, etc, etc...

My mind won't shut up. Worse, it has trouble keeping up with itself. I often feel like I live in the future, and the present is taking its sweet time catching up. When it does catch up, it's usually disappointing. I'd much rather be sleeping than toddling through my waking hours. When I sleep, I dream, and there are no limits to my thoughts when dreaming. It's beautiful and refreshing. I can go through dozens of stories a night as I come up with them, no distractions, and no slow fingers to write them down with or faulty memory to forget them. Dreaming is the best part of life. I see more, do more, think more, and feel more than while awake. I'd rather be dreaming than doing anything. 

I once lived with a guy who was what you might call a wake 'n bake. The first thing he did when he got up in the morning was get high, then he went to work and got high on lunch, then came home and got high, and got high again before going to sleep. I asked him why he felt the need to be high all the time and he said that being sober scared him. The real world was too serious. Being high made it easier to cope with the demands. That is precisely what sertraline did for me, and I honestly miss it. 

I'm more emotional without sertraline. I was reading an email our store received about the great customer service a friend there had given their family (the email called her an angel), and I cried because it was so beautiful. I read random greeting cards that we sell now and I choke up. TV commercials can move me to tears, and I cried at least once during every episode of Detroit 1-8-7. I don't like crying at everything - I don't like crying period. To be constantly overwhelmed by emotion is tedious and frustrating. 

This also leads to feelings of apathy. It takes too much effort to change things, so just let them be. Just the thought of doing most things is exhausting, so I put things off, sometimes indefinitely, because my mind has already played out every angle, every possible scenario twice before ten seconds have passed from the first mention of the thing. I've run through my entire day multiple times before I put one foot out of bed. If I've already lived it in my head twenty times over, what's the point in getting up and actually doing it? Isn't better to move on to other things?

That's the constant battle. That's why I miss the medication. 

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