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Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Battlefield

I waited 24-hours to fill my prescription.

Handing the slip to the pharmacist was letting someone else in on the secret, it was another admission to the world that I was sick, it was another admission that this was really my life.

I didn't like needing help whether it be from a person or a drug. I was a strong, independent woman and everyone agreed and strong, independent women didn't need help. I was the help giver. The shoulder to cry upon. The one everyone else told secrets to without me ever having to reveal too much of myself to be considered a dear friend. That woman didn't need help.

I certainly didn't want to think of what the person behind the counter might be thinking when they filled the script.

Letting go of that piece of paper in exchange for a bottle of pills was also the height of my hypocrisy. So often I would think that people just needed to get their shit together and be done with it. In some ways it didn't surprise me that the judgement that I'd cast for the "weak" was one of things that terrified me most.

Parts of me wondered if I could just keep walking into my appointments and pretend that I was taking my meds - I mean I'd already proved that I could act what was one more performance?

I drove up to the pharmacy's drive-thru window and put that small white piece of paper in and watched the person on the other side take it and my insurance card out and tell me that I could pick it up in an hour.

I like to think that I imagined the disdain that I saw in his expression. Just another crazy person in the world in his eyes. I knew those eyes. I'd peered through those eyes and judged the person that I saw. Now I'd have to look into my own and see that person that so long I thought was weak. I was weak.

An hour later I picked up the script, signed the forms, dismissed the pharmacist when he asked if I had any questions about the medication and drove home.

I sat the pill bottle on the coffee table and stared at it. I waited and then waited some more. Finally I threw caution to the wind and swallowed a pill. My first half-dose of medicine was in my system. There was no turning back now.

 I laid on the sofa and stared at the TV and wondered "when will I begin to feel them working"? My answer would come within the hour only not in the way that I anticipated.

Mindlessly watching some show and dozing on and off I awoke to a headache like none I'd ever experienced. I've had a few migraines in my life but this was not like one of them. It didn't build slowly it just arrived as the sharpest stabbing pain I'd ever experienced. It was attacking from all sides of my head. It radiated in a strange pattern that I envision was following the blood flow through my brain.

Something was attacking my mind and the game that it was playing with it was not a fun one at all. Stabbing myself repeatedly with a sharp object would have felt better than this.

Posted very clearly on the bottle was a bold neon yellow label warning that taking ibuprofen with this medication could cause a severe reaction. I wondered if the reaction would be worse then this pain? If I thought I could drive through the blinding, intense bolts of stabbing pain I might have returned to the pharmacy to see if there was anything I could take or if this was normal.

And then the headache tried to cure itself by taking every bit of moisture from my mouth. I drank a glass of water. It was no help. I filled the glass again and downed the contents. Still the same. I repeated the process. Four glasses of water later and I still felt like I was walking through a sandstorm for hours with my mouth open. I took another sip and this time I didn't swallow. I swished the water around my mouth and even then with a mouth full of water my mouth still felt dry.

A knife stabbed through my head again. I envisioned that this might be what it feels like if a bullet passed through the back of your head and exited through the forehead. I couldn't anticipate where the next burst of pain would come from, what path it would travel or where it would exit. And when there weren't these arrows and bullets flying they only yielded way to a constant throbbing pain that never left.

I endured hours of this. I'd be surprised by a few bolts here and there but for the most part it was now a more consistent, albeit constant pain. What would it have felt like if they started you off with a full dose of medication and was it always going to be this way?

If it were possible my mouth became drier. No telling how much water I'd consumed. I think I could feel the blood traveling through my body. As the medication coursed through my veins I'd feel dull aches where it passed.

Never in my life had I wanted out of physical misery more than this one. Misery and happiness (via pharmaceuticals) were battling for possession of my mind and I had no choice but to sit back and watch the fight. Not really an innocent victim, but a victim of the battle no less.

The headache lasted almost 24 hours. It left around the time I was due for my next half dose. The dry mouth had not ceased.

Who knows how or why I did it, but I took a second pill. And I went through the same reaction. Arrows of pain flew through my head. And well, I might as well have been drinking glasses of dust.

Somewhere in the midst of this I'd looked at the papers that accompanied the script; dry mouth and migraines were listed as possible and probable side effects. So this was what I had to look forward to every day? Was I just replacing my mental anguish with a physical one?

The next day the headache was duller until I took my first full dose. The battle was not as intense, but it was still there. Less bullets exchanged between the depression side and the sane one, but gun fire was still present.

I could still feel the medicine course through my blood stream. I could feel it traveling. Maybe I was replacing depression with psychosis. Who feels their blood moving that isn't full-blown batshit crazy?

It took three and a half days for me to feel normal - and by that I mean my own version of depressed normal. It took a few more days for the dry mouth to cease.

I kept waiting for the pain to yield happy thoughts along with sunshine and roses. It didn't deliver. It's power to heal was apparently going to be more subtle.

I'd endured the entry of this chemical compound into my system. The medicine had won the battle. In it's aftermath I waited for the healing and better life begin.

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