…life on the synaptic firing range

Location: Los Angeles, United States

Bent but unbroken Southern California native seeks understanding, companionship, and resonance along and off the beaten path. Teresa plays well with others and makes every effort to perform to her potential. Usually. *processed in a facility that processes nuts and nut products

Thursday, August 03, 2006

on the couch, on the porch

"No one in our family takes meds," my mother-in-law told me. "Not voluntary meds, anyway."

We were sitting on the porch at the beach house, rocking actually, a couple of nights in to our vacation. She had just paid me a great compliment, in my estimation, noting that I'm a welcome even keel amid an often turbulent family, the dynamic of which can best be described as...competitive? Contentious even? She had tsked some wholly unnecessary tension that had lately occurred, and I joked that everybody just needed better meds, which begat the above statement.

I suppose the meds I take could be described as "voluntary," inasmuch as I chose to begin taking them rather than following through with plans to end my life. Still, the statement hit me funny, especially since it followed an observation that had my in-laws chosen to take psychotropic medications, sure, they might be more even-tempered, but they would also likely be less ambitious and accomplished.

I've fought feelings of inadequacy throughout much of my relationship. I'm a blue-collar girl who married into a blue-blooded family, and I have frequently felt like a fish out of water--I'm not even sure the land mammals any longer expect me to adapt. "This is our daughter's partner, Scout," they may say. "Please try to ignore the gills."

But since going on meds I've felt less and less pressure to fit in and ever more freedom to be myself. Time with my in-laws no longer casts a thoroughly opaque shroud over my personality. Upcoming visits no longer fill me with quite so much dread that I'll never be worthy of their hospitality--or their daughter.

Whenever my therapist catches me stigmatizing myself for my reliance on meds--such a difficult habit to break from within when it's constantly reinforced from without--she reminds me that meds haven't shut me off from the world, they allow me to make myself available to it.

Depression that first expresses itself in chronic sadness acquires a hard patina when the misery becomes too much to bear, leaving the soul a numb void that can no longer be touched--for good or for ill. Once I realized I no longer found joy in anything that had previously given my life meaning, I knew I'd have to get help or get out. I got help.

I think it's good that I found my mother-in-law's remark about "voluntary meds" jarring. A lack of surprise may have indicated an unwanted level of agreement, some acknowledgement on my part that I am weak, "less than," for choosing the easy road. I hope I don't sound like a T-shirt when I say that what I have chosen is life, and anyone who thinks that's an easy road simply hasn't met me on a fair playing field.


Blogger treecup said...

I know about the stigma thing. I'm always hesitant to admit to folks I'm on meds -- you can see the disapproval or condescension in their eyes almost immediately. It sucks.

2:35 PM  
Blogger WenWhit said...

Well, thank the moy for your mental victory. I'm all for chemical compensation when the brain is in need. :)

7:18 PM  
Blogger WordsRock said...

Great post on what can be a sensitive subject. I'm not one to talk about my meds. It's the southern mentality of secrecy so strongly ingrained, I think.

I'm glad you chose the road you did.

5:25 AM  
Blogger weese said...

You made an excellent choice. Its nice to have you around.
I think between the meds and having jesus as your barista -you are really in good shape.

6:08 AM  
Blogger sporksforall said...

I couldn't agree more. And with my mother around, meds would be good for anybody!

12:20 PM  
Blogger Slangred said...

I'm grateful for the meds you are on, as they clear the path to life and more peace for you, scout. I know depression, if in the clinical sense only from the outside, from members of my family, and it's scary and horrific to consider how thin the line can be between choosing life and choosing life no more. I love you to bits and am glad as hell that you're here. Thank you, meds!

11:06 PM  
Blogger bryduck said...

If I could be assured that any side effects from anti-depressants would be mild (or at least that I'd be on balance better off, I'd be on 'em in a sec, as almost all who've ever known me would (have) advise(d). I applaud your bravery in "mixing up the medicine" in your chemical storehouse, and screw anyone who thinks any the less of you.

11:19 AM  
Blogger alice, uptown said...

Everyone does need better meds, scout. Even those of us with 25+ years experience on the pharmaceutical chain gang. I remember the first time a doctor/shrink said I had a "chemical imbalance," I felt a huge sense of relief. To me it meant that the depression wasn't, as I'd previously assumed, my *fault.*

That also meant I could stop spending hours and days trying to analyze why I felt so bad, what had I done to deserve it, and why wasn't I happier given that on the outside, my life looked just groovy.

Whatever saves our lives isn't "voluntary"; it's mandatory.

12:39 PM  
Anonymous hopskipjump said...

With your mother-in-law's attitude, who in her family would TELL her if they DID take meds?

On another note entirely, please tell me you will soon get an agent and write a couple of novels. If not, what will I read?

hopeful hop

3:38 PM  
Blogger TDharma said...

oh bless you for your honesty and open-ness. i am currently in the throws of chemical imbalance, and have suspended blogging because of it.

and, alice, uptown, yes indeedy. knowing what I know, and having been through this many times in my life, I know I don't have to mentally berate myself for how i am feeling...i just need to up my meds, simplify my life, and cut myself a friggin break for awhile.

viva la meds!

9:40 PM  

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