When I admitted to openly weeping on college stairwells for reasons I chalked up to intuition-something in the world must have been catastrophically wrong for me to feel as I did-why did no one think that I might be having problems beyond a late and frustrating class? I am many unenviable things, but secretive was never among them. Scrolling through things I posted fifteen years ago, I find it uncomfortable how many of my quirks now read as symptomatic to me. Could no one tell that I was crying out for help? Couldn't I figure it out?
But I might not have accepted the help had it been offered. I might have labelled myself as someone who needed medication to be normal. It might have affected my ego formation in a way that needing braces or glasses had not, though the correction is little different-straightening out crooked growth and letting me see the world as it is outside my immediate grasp.
I dated a woman for years who was furious that no one took her scatteredness for the attention deficit disorder it truly was. Once prescribed a medicine that could compensate for her neurodivergence, the diffused light in her head focused to a laser brilliance, which only gave her perfect insight as to her prior haziness. There was nothing she could do to mend what was broken prior, but she couldn't linger over frustration for fear of spending a precious second more on remediated insufficiency.
I can never know what experiences I lost before I realized the imperfection of my biology. How could I have thought insomnia and depression were an integral part of me?
They were my normal, much as the world had gradually blurred until, I suppose, someone noticed me squinting from the back of the room. Once I had an unbecoming pair of glasses on my nose, I met the leaves on the tops of trees as though seeing them for the first time from the ground.
The day I accepted my allergies should have been when I allowed myself to acknowledge my mental wobbliness, but Claritin doesn't carry the stigma that psychiatric medications might. Allergies could be identified and avoided through trial and error in a way that my neuroses could not; pollen is never as ubiquitous as the fear I will never accomplish enough in my life and die unremembered. (Claritin had to be abandoned owing to inhibiting my mental sharpness. I would rather rub my pink eyes than be less cogent.)
I try to console myself that I couldn't have afforded the medication that allows my current mind when I was unemployed for years, but perhaps I would not have been so long out of the full-time job market if I had the clarity and assertiveness allowed by my current chemical cocktail. I can't indulge these hypotheticals, though.
In part, my wife Amber gave me the courage to try for something more than a therapist who would seek to reassure me, someone whom I would unconsciously try to outsmart as a means of maintaining control. Amber spent much of her life in the grips of social anxiety, only noticing how it affected her when trying to choose between meats at a grocery store without my steadying influence. Once she got the prescription she needed, she became the woman I love now, one spirited enough to tell me that we would be getting married and I had better propose soon. If a little pill a day could catalyze this fulfillment of her potential, it had to be worth trying.
In a sense, releasing this retrospective speculation now is akin to letting go of any other factor from my past-the insults I bore and perpetuated, the girls I didn't kiss and those I wish I hadn't, opportunities I let slip through my fingers-since I cannot change what I didn't know. How can I blame those around me for not diagnosing what I took for my baseline? How is a mood disorder unlike being a teenager in the tumult of adolescence?
I cannot productively resent the path my biology urged me down, telling me to keep my mouth shut when it mattered, though I can't help but mourn the person I might have been sooner had I been proactive about my health. I would have had the confidence to leave the wrong relationships, fought for myself when it would have counted. I might not have let myself be abused and taken advantage of because I would have better known my worth. I would have not licked my wounds so long because I would have known what I was doing.
Prior to the addition of this pill to my daily regimen, I am not certain when last I was fully present in my life. Physically, I was there, but my mind tended to be turned inward as I analyzed myself vanishing into distraction. Now, I am less self-obsessed and, conversely, more aware of how my mind is working at any given time. I know when my mind is judging people on things they cannot help and embrace them as strangers having a parallel experience to mine. The pill does not solve my problems. However, it does stop some of the racing cycles long enough that I can observe where problems actually exist and confront them.
It is still not a perfect system. I am a born writer, but some of that grew to compensate for how in my head my chemicals made me. There were times that the only thing that kept me from implosion was sitting and writing until the pressure eased. Now, writing lacks its direness. I can choose to write and my internal impulses lean more on guilt and ego-gratification than strict necessity. Writing isn't therapy to the same extent, since a portion of that therapy is accomplished by a nightly pill that actually lets me sleep without panic.
Soon in Xenology: Criminal youth.