In her final installment of the “Going Off” series, New York Times columnist Diana Spechler listed 10 things she’d tell her former (medicated) self. I must confess. I was prepared to hate the list, as I disagreed with much of what she wrote about in the previous columns, like choosing between medication and creativity. As I mentioned before, I do worry that the series will provoke many people to ditch psychotropic drugs without the supervision of a physician, and I pray that no lives are lost as a result.
However, I think she did a good job with her list, which includes everything from making sure you have 24-hour support, tapering slowly, cleaning up your diet, trying out meditation and relaxation techniques, protecting your free time, guarding yourself against the barrage of opinions on depression and how to treat it, and anticipating small pockets of hell here and there. Her last paragraph reads like someone who has been off medication for 20 days, not 20 weeks (because that is the case) and so as a veteran medication-taker, I wonder if her picture will be as rosy a few months from now — “The time will come when you wake each morning not woozy with dread, but excited that the sun is shining “—but maybe I’m just jealous.
I can’t write a column like Diana’s because I have yet in my 25 years on psychotropic medications to be able to go off of my drugs completely.
I tried once, when I listened to some well-intentioned friends and family that promised me the land on lollipops and unicorns on the other side of medication. Instead I ended up being hospitalized, donning a paper robe that hardly covered my butt.
Ten years later, I can see where I erred.
I began my second attempt in January of last year. In 18 months, I have successfully weaned off of two of my medications. My hope is to continue this process … gradually … until I’m off of everything. It may take another two years. Or it may not be possible. I’m prepared for the latter, as I know that some people simply need to stay on their meds in order to function as decent human beings. I think we should all–as family members, friends, and co-workers–exercise tolerance, understanding, and compassion in wrapping our brains around that concept.