When I Can’t I Do

Nearly a month ago, I was taken off the medication I’d been on for ten years – citalopram and quetiapine – because the combination of the two was having a worrying effect on my heart. My mood was also as low as low could go, so my doctor wanted to see if something else could work better.

So I was put onto (I need to check the boxes because my brain isn’t working as it should and I still haven’t got used to the names yet…) aripiprazole and sertraline. After the initial week of nausea and sweating, I started to feel sort of ok. I wasn’t sleeping but my mood was a tad better than what it had been.

When the dosage was increased, however, quick as a whip I wasn’t myself anymore. Terrifyingly, I couldn’t recognize the mood I was in. It felt like my mind was somewhere else entirely. I’m struggling to write about it now as I’m still experiencing this bizarre ‘away-ness.’

Two weeks ago, thoughts of suicide started to stab persistently at my brain. I felt oddly calm as the thoughts attacked, as though killing myself wouldn’t be such a bad idea. The thoughts eventually subsided but I could sense they lingered not too far away. I tried to hang on, to see if the side effects would wear off and I’d find myself again. But it didn’t happen.

Everything felt too difficult. Making a cup of tea, washing my face, walking anywhere, even a couple of feet. In my head, it’s usually illuminated 24/7 but on the increased medication, it was dark. I couldn’t locate ideas, I couldn’t concentrate. It took all the effort in the world to interact and act like a human being. It still feels that way now. I’m having to search and scrabble for these words I’m writing to you.

Yesterday I saw my psychiatric nurse – not for long because I could hardly communicate – but she immediately suggested decreasing the dosage starting from today, which is what I’ve done. I’m trying to feel something about everything that’s going on – or rather the lack of everything that’s going on – inside my head, but I can’t. I can’t move past this numbness, this nothingness.

I’d been really looking forward to using the bones and stones I’d found on a recent trip to Norway. But today it felt like I was asking too much of myself. I didn’t want to make jewellery. I didn’t want to take photographs. I didn’t know what I wanted to do other than sleep away the days until I could wake up in my own head again. But I knew that would be a fucking stupid idea as I’d just end up lying there staring at the ceiling.

So I pushed myself – fuck did I push myself – to make the jewellery. And I pushed myself – that took even more effort – to stand in front of the camera. And while I couldn’t feel the usual joy I experience in such moments, I did feel the slightest touch of accomplishment. That despite everything, I still can, I still can, I still can.

2 thoughts on “When I Can’t I Do”

  1. After a (first) heart attack several years ago, I was given an antidepressant to take every day (escitalopram, which I think is the generic). A standby medication for anxiety is atavin (again, I think the generic). The daily pill helps, I think. I’m not sure how effective is the anxiety pill, which I now take with a pain killer whenever I’m in the hospital, because I became claustrophobic after one too many stays. I guess it all keeps me calmer, and I guess that’s good. I’m still struggling with the latest visit to the hospital, which I wasn’t expecting. All of which is to say that I can’t relate exactly but I believe sympathetically with reason. What would be so hard for me, though I wrestle with the energy to do things too, is inhibition or prohibition to create. I can imagine (I believe) how hard that must be for you. Creating isn’t everything, though it’s a lot, isn’t it?

    I hope you get the dosages you need. This to me, for what it’s worth (because it’s only me), seems paramount.

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