I went to visit my daughter this weekend. She lives about 2-1/5 hours away. Half way there I realized I had forgotten my medications.
I take three medications, two antidepressants and mood-stabilizer. I have been taking them for 7 years. Every day. Morning. Night. I don’t mess around and skip a day here or there. I take them without fail.
I did the math in my head. I took my last dose at 7 am Friday. I was not planning on getting home until at least 7 pm on Sunday. That would be 60 hours without my medications. Once I forgot to order a three-month supply of one of my antidepressants and ran out for about three days so I knew what it felt like to skip a few days without one of the medications.
I had never gone as long as 60 hours without all three. I knew I would feel some kind of withdrawal. I just didn’t know what to expect.
I could go back and get the medications but it was Friday evening and turning back and then starting my trip again would mean a total of 5-hours of driving with the last two in the dark. I decided to keep going and face whatever 60 hours without my medications would feel like.
Saturday I didn’t notice anything. But late Saturday night, after watching an Orange-is-the-New-Black marathon with my daughter, I started to feel weird. The dull headache behind my eyes started. I had trouble falling asleep. I was scared of something but didn’t know what. Everything in my life was swell. I couldn’t sleep, then realized I was dreaming that I couldn’t fall asleep.
My dreams were vivid and strong. Visceral and real. I remember snippets. An ex-boyfriend jogged by me with his shirt off but didn’t see me. Something about dogs and some pro-basketball players playing a game of pick-up with a guy who is the focus of a newspaper story I’m working on. They wanted me – a 55-year-old woman – to join in.
I woke up Sunday feeling confused with a very strong dull headache. Caffeine didn’t help. I started feeling flightier. I knew I was acting normal but it was getting harder to focus. Everything was getting thicker and thicker.
After going out to breakfast and then fulfilling the motherly ritual of filling my daughter’s gas tank and taking her for a good grocery shopping I decided to head home. I tried to listen to TED talks on the drive but couldn’t focus. Something about religion not being real and the logic behind making hard choices.
When I got home I took my medications. But should I take all one the ones I had missed? Or should I just take today’s medications? I decided to take just today’s.
That was nearly 5 hours ago and the thickness is thinning. The headache is dissipating. The dull ache behind my eyes is receding.
I’m telling you this so you understand why when someone with mental illness says they need their meds or they’ve run out of their meds – it’s a problem. A really bad problem. We know ahead of us lies the potential for a manic swing or a leap into our black holes. But before we get there, we will go through withdrawals. Painful, confusing, scary withdrawals.
I don’t know what kind of withdrawals accompany cold-turkey from Nexium or Zestril. Heartburn and high-blood pressure?
“Are you going to have to take them the rest of your life?” my daughter asked.
“I don’t know,” I said.
I just know I need to take them now.
As in now.
Hands holding pills available from Shutterstock.