For the past five years, I've been on one sort of psychotropic medication or another. That medication has become as routinized and familiar to me as my morning coffee. There have been times when medication has most definitely been necessary, but for the past few weeks I've found myself wondering if the time hasn't come for me to take off the training wheels and re-learn how to deal with life sans chemical assistance.
My doctor has been making noises about trying to wean me off Wellbutrin and Lexapro for awhile now, but until a couple weeks ago, I was not at all pleased at that prospect. Frankly, it scared the Hell out of me...and it was a lot easier to not have to think about having to face what might be lurking on the other unmedicated side of the fence.
In the six months since I moved to Portland, I've managed to move from a place of extreme emotional fragility to one where I'm beginning to wonder (and even eagerly anticipate) what life might look like without my chemical training wheels. I don't see my doctor until next week, but about 10 days ago I made the decision that it was time for me to get back to being myself. After five years, it's time for me to deal with life on my own terms- and so I began to slowly wean myself off first Lexapro and then Wellbutrin. Surprisingly, it's been a far easier and more rewarding process than I'd expected.
Initially, I promised myself that I would do it slowly, in order to allow my body to adjust and my emotions to keep pace with the changes. In doing so, I think I've been able to adapt to my new reality surprisingly freely and easily. I've kept a close eye on my emotional state, and in general I really have been pleased with my progress. I'm enjoying life again, and I feel as if I can experience that anticipation, the anxiety, and yes, even the joy that makes the package a coherent whole.
The most immediate and pleasant change I've noticed is that my emotions now have a depth and a richness that hasn't been there for the past five years. There's an edge to what I'm feeling that, as I'm rediscovering it, I'm learning to like. It makes for some higher highs and yes, some lower lows, but I'm relearning the truth that truly experiencing great joy one means that there must also be a willingness to experience great pain- for without one, how can you truly appreciate the other? I want- and I need- to be able to experience the ups and downs for what they are. Right now, there are far more ups than downs, and after the past six months that's a very satisfying place to find myself in.
If I stub my toe, I want to be able to feel it. Likewise, when something good happens, I want to be able to close my eyes and feel it percolate from my head to my toes. I guess that's what they call "living", no?? Funny how I've managed to lose track of that over the past few years....
As of this morning, I'm completely off the medication I've depended on for the past five years. It's guided me through rough waters- and Lord knows there were more than a few instances where I felt close to drowning. Lately, though, I've come to see that what was once a support had become a crutch. I now find myself wanting to be able to learn how to swim again, even if it means swallowing some pond water now and again.
For the first time in a long time, I feel as if that really IS a light at the end of the tunnel instead of the headlights of an oncoming train. Of course, there may really be a train there from time to time, but I'm enjoying the simple pleasures of seeing daylight again. I'd almost forgotten what that looked like.
To stretch the train metaphor to (and probably past) its breaking point, there certainly is the chance that I'll jump the tracks again, but I suppose that's the risk one takes when deciding that life deserves to be lived- if only because it beats the alternative. Now I'm looking forward to seeing what the future holds for me, which isn't something I would have said last October.
Stay tuned, 'cuz this flight just might experience some turbulence. In the event of a water landing, you'll be instructed to bend over and kiss your @$$ goodbye, because there are no longer any flotation devices on this flight. I might finally have to learn how to swim.... ;-)