One pill helps keep depression at bay. Another keeps the anxiety in check. The third, and most important pill, keeps my delusional thinking at a minimum, keeps the voices I hear at an all-time low, and helps with the general upkeep of life. So we’re all good, right? Had a checkup this morning and the health is pretty much stellar, save for the fourteen pounds I’ve put on since I was in the hospital five months ago. Due to my eating disorder, I had room to spare. Besides, it’s summer now and I can get out for more exercise. I can drop a few or tone up, no big deal. But what about the rest of the picture?
Well, first thing besides the weight gain is the risk of developing diabetes, hence the doctor visit and blood work. That’s a very real concern when using these medications, and one I’m not taking lightly. There’s the shortness of breath from the lowered blood pressure, but I can work with that. I’m a former runner and a current power-walker, so I can log in a few miles and gradually build up my lung capacity. Being sedated to the degree that I am does not preclude a regimen of healthy habits.
It’s the little things that start to bother me, like increased anxiety due to the anti-psychotic, and the loss of libido, which would be even more of a problem if I had a romantic interest in my life. I guess it’s best that I don’t for now. Leaves more time to focus on other things like writing, diet, and exercise.
There’s the shaky hands syndrome, which is always interesting. My signature alternates between its usual artistic scrawl and something a toddler might have scribbled. The opposite hand’s worse—I pick up a glass and start to quiver to the point where I begin to spill before I get the rim to my lips, forcing me to hold it in both hands like a Tommy Tippy mug. [Note to self: when the mythical date actually happens, pick up your cup with the stabler hand…it’ll improve your chances of rekindling that dormant libido.] Of course there’s the drooling, which is new, and only at night, but ask anyone taking any form of a benzo and they’ll give that all-knowing nod. Yep. Drooling on the pillow. Or sometimes when there’s food. Open the mouth, excess saliva. Very attractive.
Tossing and turning? Don’t worry about it. You’ll sleep until noon and the covers will weigh a metric ton. Stiff muscles? Well, there’s a pill to counter that, but, of course, it comes with its own side effects. Lots of trips to the bathroom. Better cancel that wildlife expedition. Or just stop drinking. Put that glass of water back where you found it.
On the other hand, I can focus like never before. All of my ducks are not only in a row, they’re driving the bus and, for once, I’m not under it. The disordered mind has had a makeover. Complete sentences form in my head, lined up one after the other in a nice, sequential fashion, just like real people only more so. Train of thought not derailed? Unheard of until now. Full steam ahead. And listening? Following along? Gotcha covered. I’m all ears. Making me spectacular date material. Nobody “Friend Zones” a good listener. Unless drooling and frequent potty stops are deal breakers.
So, yeah—not in love with the side effects smorgasbord to date, but not complaining, either. Just poking fun at myself while I learn to solve problems, keeping a healthy sense of humor in place when I’m anxious.
The positive effects far outweigh the negative ones. I’m stable for the first time in my life, and that is remarkable. Why I ever resisted medication is beyond me, save for my innate paranoia and the symptoms of schizophrenia which directed me elsewhere in my quest for balance.
My friends with their own mental health diagnoses talk about many of the same side effects, but agree that their lives were more difficult without the medications, which is comforting to know being a relative newbie. Not to the illness, but to the inclusion of medicine in my daily regimen.
My only concerns today, besides those founded in medical science, are more of the emotional variety. How am I perceived now? How does the outside world see me? I’m not shouting at traffic or talking to myself in the cereal aisle, so I’m giving them nothing to stigmatize, speaking from appearances only. It’s when the conversation comes around to my diagnosis that things might get just as sticky as before. I haven’t tested those waters much. I want to work with my psychiatrist and get that clean bill of health before I venture into the scary territory of social interaction, the one place where I least excel. Because, medicated or not, my challenge is to get past my own self-stigma and present the best me that I can be. This new guy with the shaky hands and the welcome smile. Love me, love my unicorn.