Thursday, April 25, 2013

Self & Prescribed

Three days ago I switched from taking Effexor to Pristiq, or venlafaxine to desvenlafaxine. The latter is a sort of 'remastered' release of the former, in order to keep the pharmaceutical patent alive, but although the molecular difference is cosmetic, the actual affect is quite marked. All anti-depressants have dulled my mind, bruised my memory capacity and generally made me vague and scatterbrained, but Effexor takes that dumbening to new depths. Unfortunately, Pristiq is not available in the EU/UK, so for the past year I have been endumbened.

It's amazing how little it takes to shake an awareness up and down. Mere milligrams is what I, we, the medicated sorehearts, take. Measures so small as to mean absolutely nothing in that small terracotta pill in the palm of your hand, which you're sure is comprised mostly of chalk and hope. Molecules, a mere additional arm, nothing, and these three days you've felt such an upheaval in your nethermind. Tearstorms and rotten softness where once you thought you were strong. You tell your friends and you tell your family; it isn't me. It's just chemistry. It'll be done in a week or so.

You tell yourself it isn't you.

We, you, I rarely speak of the faith required of medication. The invisible substance you take will alter you, and alter your ability to perceive this alteration. It will gift you with an emotional vertigo unwarranted by your surroundings. It will make you worse, so much worse, and the only thing you can do is trust, believe, hope, that it will get better. It must get better.

Please let it get better.

Last week I attended a PostSecret event at the Arts Centre. I've been following PostSecret for years, and so was not unprepared for the heartstring tugging that those hours contained. Strangers stood before a crowd of hundreds and confessed to personal crimes that stole their voices, a powerful and what should have been liberating and uplifting act, but when I left and stood at the station waiting for my train, I felt tired, deeply worn, helpless. There is so much hurt walking around these ordinary streets behind these ordinary faces. Tasting the scope of this suffering is to stop where you stand, close your eyes, and lie down right there.

There was one secret shared - the only man to stand and bare himself - in which the words spoken were a carefully crafted fish hook on a very long line, and I didn't realise I was caught and leaving a tangled trail behind me as I walked all over town.

He said that anti-depressants saved him,  have made him so much better, but it was before he started taking them that he has never felt so alive.

It's been years of medication and health obstacles, and nothing has changed except my perspective. I want to write, now. I'm not scared any more. Actually I've been bashing my head at writing for some months now, and a growing part of me suspects that this medication truly is interfering. Or is that the excuse I've come up with to hide behind? I don't know. I can't tell.

Still, strive for this. Stretch and strain. My application for part-time has been approved, and now every Wednesday is mine. The driving motivation for this was pain management, as the last three Fridays I've had a major meltdown from the stress of trying to hold myself together through the working week, as the pain signal gets steadily louder and more ragged. Fatigue has continued to dog my heels, so I must assume it is not merely the rigor of travel that was flattening me previously. Hopefully breaking the week in two will offer enough respite that I shall be able to keep on top of things, whatever those things may be.

Sadly that old paradigm remains in place, and on what should be a day of rest I will feel guilt for using my time for myself.

But maybe that's the medication talking. Maybe it's all just chemistry.

What I want, what I miss, what I long for more than anything else is Loch Broom.   I want that cold North Sea water, a finger of the Minch sneaking into the west coast of Scotland to lie lazy between the hills. A beach of rocks worn delightfully smooth, older than dinosaurs and covered in lost kelp and discarded crab shells. The languid wail of herring gulls punctuated by the piping of oyster catchers. I miss the constant salt in the air, air that has been tossed over the isles and mountains and seas. I miss the hills, barren of trees but so full of hunched life, heather and gorse grumpy and gorgeous. I miss the way the sun  would play through the mountain passes and the clouds would curl over the peaks as though suddenly shy. I miss the certainty that, no matter how much turbulence I carried in my heart, I could look out a window and see-

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