Or can it?
Over the past 16 years, my medication history is longer than a typical Catholic wedding. A is for Abilify, B is for Buspar, C is for Clonazepam…and, well, you get the idea.
Medication, I naively hoped, would be a cure-all — a foolproof remedy for intrusive, tormenting thoughts. And while medication has, at times, lowered the volume on my depressive radio, it has come with its own set of challenges.
Speaking from firsthand experience — now 16 years and counting — medications have potent and, at times, debilitating side effects. From complaining about grogginess to bouts of irritability to general apathy, my panicked emails to my dedicated health care team bear this out. Pinpointing the right medication is trial-and-error — in my case, a 16-year trial replete with lots of errors (and lethargy and grogginess and irritability, among them).
When I first accepted the shiny white pill, at the university nurse’s gentle insistence, I had no idea I had just signed up for a 16-year medication joyride. In my naïveté, there was an implicit assumption — “just give the medication six weeks and life will suddenly become unicorns, rainbows, and free Beyonce concerts.”
Forget unicorns and a resplendent Beyonce sashaying in her yellow dress, I will settle for six weeks without a panic-stricken email to my dedicated health care provider (thank you, Dr. Neumaier, for your endless patience).
More than lamenting my own trials and tribulations, though, this article is intended for “Prozac Nation” — the millions of Americans seeking magic in a pill bottle, as we shuffle from one supposed elixir to another. I understand the frustration — even despair — because I have lived it: the dry mouth, the racing heartbeat, the mental grogginess.
After 16 years wandering in the (medication) desert, I believe I am inching closer to a long(er)-term solution. Knock on proverbial wood — or that Bartell’s counter that I have visited all too frequently. While Wellbutrin is far from perfect — and, yes, my mood vacillates more than Tesla’s stock — it is has provided a level of clarity and creativity. After years of medications numbing my mood, feelings, and, in some respects, life-enjoyment, there is a level of comfort knowing that there is a medication that, you know, actually works.
An estimated 40 million Americans now take a psychiatric drug; these drugs are as much of an American institution as the 9-to-5 and Thanksgiving family feuds. Despite the ubiquity of prescription drugs, however, their effects are deeply personal, even idiosyncratic (notwithstanding your health care professional’s calming reassurances that “you will feel better in no time”).
For some, Prozac Nation may be an accurate title. For others, including yours truly, Wellbutrin World is a more fitting descriptor. One unmistakable lesson (and revelation) during my 16 years of medication cat-and-mouse: the best prescription may be, well, another prescription.