I went to see my psychiatrist yesterday, and it turns out that the 20mg of Prozac I had been taking for the last month or so was nowhere near enough. Back then she had given me a second prescription for 40mg, and I was supposed to start taking that after a week of being on the 20mg dosage, but I forgot about that, and just continued taking the 20mg capsules. Oops.
I went home, and immediately took a second 20mg capsule, and I have to say I am feeling so much better today. It could be entirely unrelated, and perhaps it’s just the placebo effect of having the hope that an increased dosage will make me feel better. But who the fuck cares what it is. All I know is that when I woke up this morning, I didn’t have a horrible sinking feeling. I actually wanted to get out of bed and do things. I actually feel hopeful! All the household chores that I have to do today don’t feel insurmountable. Unpleasant, yes, but not insurmountable.
When I first started meditating again, and going to the Zen center, I had been on Zoloft for a couple of months, and I didn’t think it was working because I was still struggling with a lot of perfectionism-related issues (which may or may not be a symptom of OCD or OCPD). However, I did notice that I was much better disposed towards my fellow human beings. I wasn’t thinking so much in terms of “us” and “them”, or judging other people in a black and white way. I felt more connected to other people, and less inclined to distance myself. At the time, I put this down to my newfound interest in Buddhism and meditation, but, in retrospect, I think the tiny buds of my “spiritual awakening” were only able to grow because I was on the Zoloft.
Now, I’m absolutely not saying that Zoloft (or any other antidepressant) can actually cause somebody to embark on a spiritual path completely out of the blue. What I am saying is that antidepressants can allow depressed people who are already spiritually inclined to find the motivation and energy to explore their spiritual side. Before taking Zoloft I was still interested in spiritual matters, but I would often lose interest after being unable to find a satisfying intellectual answer to certain issues that I would ruminate over obsessively e.g. “How can I put my trust in a God/Higher Power/whatever the fuck you want to call and believe that He/She/It has my best interest at heart when such terrible things happen to other people?!” These questions still interest me, but, right now, I don’t have an obsessive need to analyze them to death in the vain attempt to find an answer. I’m more comfortable with grey areas.
What the fuck has this got to do with the title of this blog post – “Free Pass” – you might ask? Well, yesterday I wrote about how people should stop hating on poor Amy Bouzaglo because she clearly has some serious mental health issues. Xul, who actually managed to drag herself away from watching Game of Thrones, posted this response in the comments section:
As someone who also has parent issues, it’s sometimes hard for me to sympathize with the negative behaviors. I find myself vacillating between the notion that they can’t help the behaviors because they are disordered and the fact that they are willful and deliberate in their actions and can damn well choose to behave the way they do.
I think that there comes a time when you have to make a conscious decision about your life. Yes, I had a screwed up childhood. Yes, I had my own disordered behavior. Yes, I reached the point in my life where I no longer wanted to be that person and I’ve done the introspection and self-work that it took to be better. It’s still a work in progress. It’s hard for me to give a pass to someone else when I’m proof positive that change is possible.
I’ve struggled with such thoughts myself because, like Xul, I grew up with a mother who was a controlling, critical bitch. My mother had an awful childhood, and so, intellectually, I understand why she is the way she is. She’s a victim of child abuse. She’s also a working-class woman who grew up in a time and place where mental health issues were never discussed, and where it would have been taboo for her to acknowledge she had an issue and to seek help, and take medication. Unlike me, she did not have access to the internet and the ability to google non-stop to try to find answers. Unlike me, she is also a mother, and it must be so hard for a mother to admit that her mental health issues made her, at times, that most unsocially-acceptable of all things – A Bad Mother. Because then it’s not just about admitting you have a mental health issue, it’s about having to re-construct your own identity and sense of self. Can you really blame her – or any mother like her – for just burying her head in the sand?
It’s easy for me to have compassion for my mother, though. When you haven’t seen or spoken to somebody for eight years, the jagged edges get worn down, and it’s easier for compassion to grow. I don’t think I would be so understanding if I had to deal with her criticisms and put-downs again . I’m pretty sure I would just react like a hurt child, who doesn’t understand how a person who’s supposed to offer unconditional love can be so fucking cruel.
As I said above, I’m not a mother, so I’ve never been a Bad Mother. But, oh, I have been a Bad Wife, and this is something I also struggle to understand in terms of the “free pass” I’ve been discussing. I don’t think that I’m a “bad” person, but I did a lot of bad things to my ex-husband: hit him; kicked him; spat on him; smashed his things and told him he was a worthless piece of shit. How much of this was “me”, and how much of this was mental illness – and does it even matter at the end of the day when then cause of the harm doesn’t lesson its effects?
Am I trying to let myself off the hook when I mention that I do feel more capable of being calm, rational and loving when taking an antidepressant? Is this just me saying: “It weren’t me, guv. Honest! It was my brain chemistry!”
I do feel terribly sorry for the things I did to MM but, sometimes, honestly it’s really hard to feel remorse when he sends me mean texts telling me that I am “barely human”, “a demon”, ” a fucking monster” and “I’m sad, because you’ll drown in that”. He told me all the time during the relationship that I was a “bad person”, and, even though I don’t blame him for having that reaction, how on earth did this make it possible for me to change? And, you know what, I didn’t want to change then because I was sick of being the crazy one, the “identified patient” who was to blame for everything. Why didn’t he have to change his drinking? Why was it apparently my fault that he’d started drinking more? When he started being violent towards me, and I pointed out that it was only a matter of time before he broke one of my bones, why didn’t he care and why was it me who had “provoked” him? When I told him that he scared me when he got drunk, why did he say that I was such a bully that being drunk was the only time he had the courage to say what he really thought? People have told me that MM was abusive to me, too, and I have a hard time wrapping my head around this because I am deathly afraid of giving myself one of those “free passes”.
When the relationship was over, I felt horrific pain, but there was also this little tiny voice deep inside me that said excitedly “You can change now!”. If I was still married, I would still be stuck in the role of the “bad person” and I don’t think I would now be meditating and interested in finding out more about Buddhism. It’s like there was a terrible hurricane, which stripped all the trees of their leaves, but there’s one tiny bud sprouting hopefully on a branch.
I’m sad, though. Whatever happened to “Until Death Do Us Part”? Maybe the pain I caused was just too much, I get that, but I don’t feel that MM ever wanted to help me change or support me through it. It was me who bought him the book Stop Walking on Eggshells: Taking Your Life Back When Someone You Love Has Borderline Personality Disorder. He read it, and his attitude appeared to be “OK, cool. Now off you go and – change!”. He never did any internet research about how to cope with having a partner who was mentally ill. In fact, the only research he ever did appeared to be after the break-up when he “diagnosed” me with Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
Oh, how things could have been different. We loved each other, and it didn’t need to turn to shit. I could spend a lifetime regretting this, and obsessing over what went wrong. But I’m not going to. I just need to accept that neither one of us was ready or right for the other. He wasn’t “the one” and I wasn’t “the one” for him. It’s that simple.
All I can do is remember that, and work hard to be a better, kinder person in the future. And I don’t think that’s giving myself a free pass.