Firing One’s Shrink (part four: finale and comic relief)

I have apparently been bumming you guys out for the whole week, forgetting that you don’t see the future (of the notepad document) like I do. However, I think we’ve had a good run here, and it seems that we’ve started a teensy bit of a conversation about this whole thing. Not to sound “art school,” but part of the reason for this was to start a conversation about some stuff that is considered a bit of a party foul in bar/work/party situations. The other part was to get it all out, wrap it up in a nice red bow, and slide it to the back of the closet. And so: the red bow.

Some quick tips if you want to go off your brain drugs:

1. Exercise.
We all know how questionable “studies” can be, but studies have shown that regular exercise may be as good as taking anti-depressants. Exercise forces you to care about yourself for at least an hour a day. If you’re into thinking, you can get a lot of that done on a treadmill (I, however, am into vampire books, not thinking, ha ha). If you’re anxious, exercise will help wear you out enough to get some sleep. If I do a good job at kicking my own ass, I pass out around 10:00. It’s a hard pass-out, where you wake up with your glasses next to you in the bed and don’t remember what was on tv when you fell asleep. It’s a lot like vodka, but without making you fat, giving you wrinkles, using up your money and making you forget where your phone is. Speaking of vodka…

2. Don’t drink.
I can hold my liquor remarkably well. I love Drunk Amy. My friends love Drunk Amy. Drunk Amy loves everybody, thinks everything is hilarious and is generally much more pleasant than I am. Trouble is, when Drunk Amy disppears, she sends bi-polar, panic attack Amy, who sticks around all the next day. Who told that bitch where I live? I HATE THAT BITCH. (At least Sober Amy just obnoxiously refers to herself in the third person.)

3. Eat Well.
Stay away from carbs and processed sugars, because they might make you a tad bi-polar. As in “I was having such a good day, and now I want to die for no good reason. What the hell? Oh…my bagel is wearing off.” I know this sounds like crazy talk coming from me because I never met a dessert I didn’t like, but I try to only eat crap rarely and in small quantites. I pretty much live on tofu and vegetables and give myself the “I’m watching you, don’t try any funny business” look if I’m about to eat cookies.

4. Watch Yourself
Going off your drugs is not the time to run around thinking that you’re all better and you don’t have to keep working on whatever got you on those drugs in the first place. You have to watch yourself closely and make sure you don’t backslide. Strangely, going off the meds has made me a lot more active in doing things that I avoided doing for a long time, just out of fear that not challenging myself will lead in some kind of unforeseen downward spiral. Friends, I give you permission to start offering to drive. (The friends are laughing right now, as this is the equivalent of saying “let’s go shopping at Abercrombie.”)

So, yeah. That sounded like it was written by one of those obnoxious “Oh, you have to take good care of yourself” people. Unfortunately, it’s true, obnoxious or not. If nothing else, taking care of yourself is an outward ritual of respecting yourself. When you have a daily ritual of treating yourself well, you are less likely to destroy yourself or let other people destroy you.

But alas, you are wondering about Paxil withdrawal. You have come for gory details, not Dr. Oz-style life coaching.

When I went down to 75% power, the only thing I noticed was some stomach upset and some very angry intestines that lasted about a week. Another week of angry stomach and intestines came when I went from 25% power to nothing. The real fun started about two weeks after I stopped completely.

It’s hard to explain, but I guess the most accurate description would be that I feel like I’m losing my mind in the most fabulous way possible. Or maybe that I went from a 19-inch CRT to a 60-inch HD flatscreen. I never felt like I was drugged into submission, I never felt like a zombie, but I guess I’d also forgotten what technicolor looked like. It had been twelve years.

It started off with things I wasn’t sure if I was imagining. “Am I spazzier than usual? Oh, who can tell?” Then, I caught myself looking at a guy’s butt at Kroger. That’s not a gray area. That’s more of a “who ARE you? what are you DOING?” area. I sang in public. I have been social. It’s like I hate humanity 20% less than I used to. Oh, don’t worry, I still totally hate people. I just hate them 20% less. 🙂

It’s like somebody broke down a dam in my brain and everything (everything) is flooding out. It’s like Katrina hitting New Orleans, but with people just wind surfing instead of losing everything they own. 90% of the things and people in my life are people I had never really seen, because they arrived after 1998. I thought I was seeing them, but I was really seeing them through a thin layer of plexiglass. It’s like I had been wearing rubber gloves for 12 years and just took them off. This either kicks ass, or I’m losing my mind. Maybe a little of both. I’m new here.

“But Amy…you’re avoiding one of the issues.”

OK, fine. There are parts of me that might as well be attached to a 15 year old boy. If you want details, you can have them, but in person. My sister/mom/boss may be reading this, and I still have some decency left. I may be the queen of overshare, but even I am not okay with having my mom read about the goings-on of my girly parts. Warning: if you ask, I will tell you, and flesh may melt from your face. Sorry.

I now have what the shrinks would probably call “generalized anxiety.” In other words, there’s always a panic attack on-deck, bubbling under the surface. I look at it and say, “yeah, you’re going to need to put your back into that if you want it to do anything.” Having a panic attack on-deck isn’t what it used to be. I just ride it out. If anybody catches me taking my pulse or doing finger exercises, I’m just like, “yeah, I’m having a thing…don’t mind me…I just might need to go puke for a second.” What the hell do I care? I carry a toothbrush in my purse anyway.

Even as I type this, my heart feels sort of airy and hamster-like.

“Oh hey! Can I interest you in a freak out?”
“You know what? That’s getting really old. Fuck you.”
“But…would you like to freak out enough to make yourself puke?”
“Not since 1993, jackass.”

One last thing.

Many of you have repeatedly heard me championing the idea that people need to be on brain drugs in the same way that diabetic people need insulin. Like, people need brain drugs because some chemicals are wrong in their brains, not because those people are just pussies who need a crutch. Am I completely selling out everything I’ve been telling you for 12 years?


I fully expect that my brain will continue to misfire on occasion and make me feel like I’m being chased by a bear for no discernible reason. My brain chemistry probably hasn’t changed one bit since 1998. What has changed is the way I respond to it. In 1998, I lived in fear of the airy, hamster-like feeling in my chest. In 2010, I just look at it and go, “really, jackass?” It’s still frustrating, scary and hard to explain, but experience says that it can’t keep that shit up for any real length of time. You just have to ride it out.

It’s like the little fear voice just keeps trying to scare me, and I keep saying “I’m sorry. Have you BEEN here the last 4 years? Have you seen this? I fucking dare you to come up with something scarier all on your own.” Almost all of the things I feared most in the world have happened in the last four years, and I’m still here. Someone broke into my house. A parent died. A friend smashed me into a wall and then died. Another friend died. I did my best work and was told it wasn’t good enough and I was fired. I went on a series of dates with guys who all but told me I should take what I can get cause I’ve passed 30. It was like an endless parade of people lining up to kick me in the face. Every time you think you’ve gotten it back together and start getting up off the ground, life comes by and kicks you in the face and you’re on the ground again.

With all due respect, life, you didn’t get me. Oh, you almost got me. You had me drinking, stress eating, and thinking “what if I just drive right into that pole over there?” You put forth a really good effort, but you didn’t get me.

You. Didn’t. Get. Me.

Bring me my sword.

4 thoughts on “Firing One’s Shrink (part four: finale and comic relief)

  1. This is one of your best posts yet. The latest series hasn’t bummed me out, but made me feel encouraged! I know exactly what you mean about everything becoming intense and ‘technicolour’ – I felt the same way when I went off Celexa. Just seeing how many layers and feelings and nuances I’d missed while on my anti-depressant made me determined to deal with my issues non-chemically. I love your bad-ass attitude!

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