Every Friday morning, I volunteer at the aquarium. There’s a little, under-the-weather pancake tortoise currently hanging out in the treatment room where I collect water samples. Besides his habitat, there’s a little sign that reads, “Medication: Sunshine.”
I would kill for that prescription.
Right now I take one, decent-sized pill every morning. I have no idea if it’s doing anything to me, good or bad. I’ve been on some dosage of this particular medication since the middle of December, so it’s been a minute. The last time I saw the psychiatrist in person, I let her know that I didn’t really know how to assess the potential progress of the medication.
She asked me, “Well, what are your instincts telling you about how to go forward?”
Holy shit, I wanted to screech and jump out of a fucking window. WHAT ARE MY INSTINCTS. YOU ARE A DOCTOR AND THIS IS THE SCARIEST THING WITH WHICH I HAVE EVER DEALT AND I. DON’T. KNOW. ANYTHING.
I feel horribly guilty most of the time, because I think I’m wasting the time of everyone in my life, including my health care professionals, so I said, “Oh, I think it’s okay.” If I’m a lost cause, what’s the point in taking time out of the psychiatrist’s busy afternoon, you know?
It did feel okay for a minute. My depression at least felt like a different shade of blue for a few weeks. But the past two weeks feel more familiar to me. The past two weeks have been decidedly a pretty grim black-blue. A still ocean that just promises a threat of being dragged down and down and down.
So, I don’t know anymore. I just want something to work.
The idea of not being here anymore is on my brain a lot. The past two times that I’ve thought so much about this prospect were the two previous times that I’ve been on some kind of medication. I know that doesn’t necessarily mean anything. I know I’m on a big wacky mental health adventure right now, and that I’ll need to try a lot of different combinations of things to determine what’s right for me BUT ALSO. These past experiences kept me really, really wary of psychiatry for a long time.
It scares me how logical not being here anymore has started to seem. I think of Kyle Kinane’s bit on Whiskey Icarus: “I don’t like this today. 40 years of this?”
Clearly, it’s funnier in context.
I don’t like this today. Imagining 40 years of this is absolutely a challenge sometimes.
I did like other things today, though. So far my day has been full of sweet potato beignets with a good friend, iced coffee, good live theatre with the promise of more on the way, and sunshine. Those things made me feel a little better. That tortoise’s doctor might be on to something.
When I want to mentally illustrate my depression, I imagine that I’m down in a dark, dark basement. There are old, mildewed boxes hiding in every shadowy corner, and each one is full of my secrets, my shames, my terrors, my furies, my nightmares, my demons. The things that one day I have to finally face and acknowledge before this journey can continue.
There’s a door in my depression basement. One day, after I’ve sorted through every last box, after I’ve decided that I’m ready and worthy, I get to open the door. On the other side of the door is a beautiful, sunny field. It’s covered in flowers and friendly dogs. There’s a nice hammock, and next to the hammock is a huge stack of the books I still haven’t gotten around to reading. There’s a picnic basket, and the weather is perfect. I’d really like to go there someday.
Maybe I’m not on the right medication for me right now. My instincts tell me to take time to pause and breathe, and to listen to what my brain and heart are telling me, and then to be honest with my doctors about what I hear.
That pancake tortoise didn’t do anything wrong, and neither did I. We just are. We just need a little extra sunshine sometimes, because it contributes to making us well. It’s not our fault that we need help. I know that in my soul, even if I don’t always believe it.
I’m all about a good musical anthem to propel me through rough times. Fortunately, there is no shortage of good song lyrics about sunshine.
you are my sunshine, my only sunshine
just waiting for this storm to pass me by, and that’s the sound of sunshine coming down
let the sun shine in, the sun shine in
good day sunshine
here comes the sun, here comes the sun, and i say
It’s all right. I think I’ll be all right