This week has presented me with a change in a once essential routine in my life: though I remain cautious, I'm also feeling optimistic about what might come next.
Since 2005, I've been on medication for obsessive compulsive tendencies. Though it may have been lifelong, my OCD began showing itself more obviously back in 2002, after my sister had a nervous breakdown, was hospitalized and then diagnosed with bipolar disorder. It was a nervewracking experience for me: at the time I had recently moved to DC, was living on my own and knew very few people, while she and my family were here in NY.
I entered therapy then and a lot of the talk was about feelings of insecurity about my identity and my future, and my family. Then in 2004, a college acquaintance of mine, Leah Deni, contracted a fatal staph infection, and despite weeks of prayer by me and many of her friends, she died within a few months.
Leah's death began a new worry for me about germs and the prospect of dying young. I worried about not accomplishing everything I wanted to, and became increasingly paranoid about food surfaces, handwashing, stove burners, unlocked doors, germs from poor people (at the time I was doing social work), and contracting STDs and AIDS.
In 2005, I finally accepted that medication could help me cope better, and I began taking Paxil. Over the years, it helped me let go of my worry, and surrender the need to be sure about things, to move forward by trusting my decisions and hoping for the best.
This worked for years, despite tough times economically and socially.
However, this year since getting my current part-time job and graduating from NYU, I began to find myself in a depression. I'm 30 years old, working part-time, living at home, and still often split over which of my passions is the one to go after. I know reporting is my biggest interest, for example, but I still can't figure out whether the arts or local reporting is a better fit.
This summer, I entered a dire obsessive thought process often thinking, "God, I want to kill myself," when leaving work. These thoughts kept on repeating, as often happens with OCD. So my psychiatrist switched me to a medication called Zoloft, a similar anti-anxiety drug but one with more anti-depressant force. Zoloft helped at first, but when I recently got a virus, I found all it did was make my heart beat faster while I remained tired and out of sorts.
And so last week when I got my antibiotic and meds for my infection, I got an odd piece of advice from my psychiatrist: stop taking the psych meds altogether for now. In his words, "Go back to NOTHING."
This is the first week since 2005 that I haven't taken a single psychiatric medication to maintain myself, and overall, I feel damn proud and happy. While I was ashamed at first of taking psychiatric medication, that eventually just became a wonder on my part as to if and when I might be able to no longer need them. The only answer that ever made sense to me came from my friend Katie who said it would probably be when things were "stable" enough in my life. That's certainly not the case now externally, but maybe it is the case for me internally.
So, I have an appointment with my psychiatrist this Thursday, and I'm planning to ask to remain off medication. This week has made me believe I'm ready to give it a try.
I ask for your prayers for that meeting. And meanwhile I give thanks to God, because this week has given me a new sense of inner confidence.
For some of us, psychiatric medication may always be a necessity, and there is no shame in that. However, if I am able to live my life without it, I am all the more grateful.
I'll let you know what happens, and in the meantime, I wish you all the best.