It’s hard making a switch with a medicine you’ve been taking for 20 years, but I felt good about it. I’d be sleepy, maybe even crabby while I worked my way down from the one so as to ramp up the other. I knew that. But I might be able to actually be out in the sun for an hour without getting itchy spots. Maybe I wouldn’t have dry mouth or the facial flushing… Who knew what else could change for the better when I got that dirty drug out of my system.
And I was crabby as I worked down. No wonder, I was talking a lot in my sleep, I remember scratching at the air, I yelled out people’s names, I kicked and I remembered the passage of time through the night. I woke up tired.
When I started to add the new clean drug (Klonopin) to my very reduced dose, I did fall asleep faster, but I didn’t stay quiet through the night. I hung in there for a week then called the sleep doctor who wanted me to come in, which I did. I was tired and crabby, sleepy all day. The doc breezed in, looked at my chart, verified that I wasn’t sleeping well and made a decision.
“You’re down very low in the Imipramine, now. I want you to go all the way up to a full milligram of the Klonopin. Lower your Imipramine one more time for a week then get off that altogether. Call me in a week. We have some options after that. We put you back on the Imipramine, we can switch to another drug similar to the Klonopin or one close to the Imipramine.” He was in and out in 5 minutes or less. Great, we had a plan.
I went up to the full 1mg of Klonopin and had my first night of black sleep. A couple more of those and I’d be a new woman. I felt dopey, but sometimes that happens when people haven’t been sleeping well. A couple times in the morning, when I was standing at the sink or putting on a sock, I started to tip over. Like I wasn’t quite awake yet. But I did indeed sleep like the dead. Good for me.
I was still low energy. My life felt hard. My husband was having a difficult time at work and when he came home, he’d plug into a computer with headphones and go off into the ether. I hated him. I was sick of him ignoring me, sick of feeling like I wasn’t important enough to talk to. My 15 year old was snotty sometimes yelled at me. I didn’t like his recent choice of friends, and had no idea what to do about it. His school didn’t feel supportive, either. I was totally sick of parenting. I wasn’t good at it, it wasn’t good to me.
My oldest son wasn’t doing well at all, at least I didn’t think so. Not based on the mail from people he owed money to, or who threatened him with police action for fraud, or cigarette companies who wanted to send him coupons and special deals. I wouldn’t know how he was really doing, because I never saw him or heard from him. This was especially disheartening because it’s such a lame thing for a mother to complain about. Ick, who wants to hear that? Of course he doesn’t call, he’s 20!
I was doing well in my class, but I hated it, and felt like there was no way I was ever going to be a good interpreter or qualify to get into a graduate program I’d be really good at. One thing I could do well was write, but I didn’t have anything to say when I did write. At least nothing that didn’t sound like self-indulgent whining. Nobody wanted to hear that crap. I’m an amateur, I’d always be an amateur, and people were tired of me and my drivel.
All of these things, and more really weighed on me, drgged me out. By mother’s day I was in trouble. Shortly after waking up, I thought, “I wish I were dead”. I couldn’t get through the day without crying. We went out for dinner on mother’s day and I had to excuse myself and go cry in the bathroom after an unpleasant interaction with my kid. I hated my life. The rest of what should have been my support network seemed to me like they were way too busy with their own stuff to be burdened with my troubles.
I got home and went to bed. I lay in my bed while Jasper and Andy plugged themselves in. I cried. This was my life: Crappy mom (proof is in the pudding), neglected wife, decent student but nothing spectacular, mediocre Spanish speaker with the nerve to try to do interpreting, undisciplined writer, shoddy housekeeper, aging, gaining weight, disappearing jawline… going nowhere. By the time Andy came up for bed, I was utterly bereft, and could only come up with, “Why can’t you be nice to me?” between very wet and sniffly sobs. He didn’t answer, just patted my back.
The next day I told him I was feeling really bad that we really needed to talk. He assured me we would, but went all but underground. He left town for a couple days, and when he came back he was very busy. He didn’t come to bed until I was asleep or almost asleep, just generally stayed on the down-low.
Somewhere in the middle of that fog, I realized I had a medical problem, and I should get professional help. What was happening to me was that I had slid into a depression. I had been depressed before in my life for short periods, or because of some bad event. I had never just slipped into this feeling and not had it go away after a couple days. It was oppressive, like walking around with a heavy wet blanket over my shoulders.
I did all the stuff I tell people who are battling depression to do. I didn’t go back to bed, I got up and walked outside every day. I exercised and ate good food. I tried to be grateful for the things I have. That just made me feel like more of a schmuck for feeling bad. Or it made me feel terrible for the people who didn’t have all my blessings.
A friend asked if I had looked into side effects of my new medication, and a light-bulb went on in my head. I went to take a look. Depression turns out to be one possible side effect of Klonopin. On top of that, I was coming off an anti-depressant (albeit a very low dose). After a few more bad, sad days, I got an appointment with a psychiatrist who could see me quickly and help me reverse the process of medication switching I had started. She agreed that this was a medication induced depressive episode, and that I should get off the Klonopin
What I learned was this: Depression is very chemical, and very real. When it talks to you, it uses your own voice and it is very convincing. It seems to me, one of the most dangerous things it told me was that no one wanted to hear me whine. This kept me from telling people that I was in trouble. I complained about my husband, my kids, my life… But I didn’t talk about feeling sad all the time, feeling down and wishing I were dead. I understood for the first time why people I love who are depressed don’t always talk about how bad they feel.
It made me understand how real the skewed perspective can look when the chemicals in your brain aren’t mixed quite right. It looks real because it’s based on real existing fault-lines in your life. It isn’t totall made up crap. It’s an inability to deal with real crap. And since the crap is real, the rest of it must be real. I believed that nothing could get better, and any attempt to make it better was just me trying to get out from under my responsibility for the miserable life I had created.
I have started working back off of Klonopin. It’s not a high dose, so I’m not having any problems doing it. I’m quite happy going back to my dirty drug. Turns out that tipping over thing is another side effect of Klonopin. So was my utter inability to come up with the right word. It felt like half of my sentences were ending with “That thing”.
I’m feeling better. Mostly, but it was really icky. I’m usually fascinated with reading the side effects of drugs, I don’t know why I didn’t do it this time. Another lesson learned.