Tuesday, December 1, 2009
I do not remember Neurontin withdrawal being this awful, but it is for some people. Google the phrase and you get 25,800 hits, about half as many as for heroin withdrawal, which was the gold standard for suffering when I was young and saw the film "The Man with the Golden Arm." As I recall, the star actually tried to climb the walls when he was locked in a room, in withdrawal.
It was prescribed earlier this year for the peripheral neuralgia that set in so fast, and it worked surprisingly well. This stuff seems to be the first drug of choice these days for nerve pain, but was formulated to act on epilepsy. It is so good it helps people through meth withdrawal. It smoothed me out emotionally, it helped calm down the neuralgia, it shut down my GI tract. I soon decided to cut back from 300 mg. at night to 200. Unfortunately, I didn't make many notes about it in my health log, how long it took, how bad it was, and I really can't stand the idea of cruising my journal from that time to see if I can tell.
So this fall a new medication shut down my GI tract again. I take several medications that contribute to constipation, and the others are essential. Neurontin was the only one I could ease off on.
The neuropathy seems worse, but tolerable, very cold feet and a sock of strange neural sensation halfway up my leg. I can take my attention away from that, though. I even sleep through the night sometimes. The depression is another story. It is not your everyday holiday blues, though I have had a problem with that for a long time, the way children of alcoholics do, because what is a worse time of year to be miserable and alone than when all the people in the commercials are having a great time? This is the kind of depression you may experience when your whole life falls apart, clinical depression. The kind where you wake up each day with a groan, sorry to see another day, sorry to wake up, feeling that a day is just something to get through until at last it is night and you can (you hope) fall asleep. It is real, chemical depression, something that happens to people like me with a genetic susceptibility. It goes beyond dissatisfaction with my life to dissaisfaction with the very nature of life itself.
Now, my left brain, my reasoning self, knows that it is sunny outside. I see red berries on a wild honeysuckle outside my window, the giant old sycamores in the ravine white in the sun. But I see the berries in the shade, I know the branches will be picked clean by the hungry robins before long.
My left brain, my reason, knows I will feel different some day, maybe even in one minute. Right now it is high noon, the hours of high fire according to Eastern ways of thinking about the energy of the day, and I feel more human than when I woke up. More alive. I have had over a cup of real coffee, the kind with caffeine, and I think it helped. Cried a little, it seemed to help. A brisk walk in the brisk air might help but I am just too what? tired, apathetic, unmotivated.
This is like having on my face a scuba mask (something I hate) made of the most brilliant optical glass, but subtly tinted gray, so that I see everything clearly, and everything is gray. We all die. What we do doesn't matter. None of what we did will last very long or make any difference. Our love for one another is tremendously faulty, our relationships shallow, able to wash away or held in place by creaky cultural locks.
Is all this true? Sort of. Or yes, a partial truth, my reasoning self knows. But in a fully awake state, I also see a beauty of constant birth and creation. I feel an eagerness for life while I have it. I enjoy. Not enjoying anything is one feature of profound depression; it is called anhedonia.
One thing I am glad about is that I know enough to avoid situations in which someone has made me angry. Over the years I learned that. When my mood is this bad I could say anything. Even if I don't lose control, to be around people is too demanding. I can't keep my end up. I don't want to.
I know a couple of people who have been stuck in this state, for decades. Even to me, and I should know better, they do things that look like the exact wrong thing to do. But these actions make sense from inside you. You seclude yourself, because you're just not up to social interchange, to reaction and conversation. You do know that no one wants you around if you're not in "a good mood." You stop drawing or writing, the things that usually make you feel like yourself, but that have to come from somewhere inside that self. You skip social events, skip class, skip church. What self? You don't seem to have one, you are so flat.
Doesn't it seem like a bad deal to have chemistry like this? That's in the midst of the generally bad deal that is life.
I have to wonder, how is it that people who don't have this chemistry can suffer so much, as if their lives were always tuned in to a low hum of a song in the background, a voice singing This isn't it. Right now I feel that if I could wake up feeling like I sometimes feel, just human, just awake and rested, - I'd be in a chorus line singing "New York, New York" and kicking up my heels.