I don’t remember a lot of the details of this story.
I remember that the doctor prescribed the medication in the fall of 1986, when I was in graduate school in Ohio.
I first saw the doctor who took me off the medication during the winter of 1989. I know this only because I dated a book that he recommended to me Feb. 20, 1989.
In between, the details aren’t so clear.
I started having bouts of diarrhea in 1986. I could not predict when they would hit me. It seemed not to matter what I ate or didn’t eat. The bouts hit hard and suddenly.
When I decided to take a trip with classmates to New England that would involve about a 14-hour drive, I panicked. What if I got diarrhea on the van and couldn’t make it to a bathroom? I would have to use public bathrooms. What if they weren’t clean?
My obsessive-compulsive disorder had me obsessing over the possibilities.
Finally, I went to student health on campus and a doctor prescribed a drug for me. It worked.
During the trip, I wanted to insure that I wouldn’t have any diarrhea. So I took extra pills. I figured if one would help, more would help more. And I didn’t have any stomach problems on the trip.
I continued to take the medication, and if I was facing a situation where I wanted to be sure not to have to worry about having diarrhea, I took extras.
The pills made me sleepy and dopey, but the side effects were worth it to me not to have to face a potentially embarrassing episode and not to have to worry about it.
At some point, I discovered when I tried to get the medication refilled at student health that I was making the request too soon. In other words, I finished up a prescription before I should have.
The pharmacist expressed concern, I remember, but I revealed nothing to her.
I didn’t reveal that I took more of the medication than I needed. I didn’t reveal to her that I panicked inside when she told me I couldn’t get the medication refilled.
I didn’t want to be without the drug.
I don’t remember how I ended up in the office of the medical director. Isn’t that something, that I don’t remember those details?
I suspect I can’t remember because the medication was blurring my thinking. And I wanted to put the whole episode out of my mind when it was over.
I was in talk therapy at the time with a psychologist on campus. It would be another year before she referred me to a psychiatrist, but perhaps she referred me to the medical doctor for my depression.
Regardless of how I ended up there, I found myself telling the medical director about my depression without sharing any details about it.
I also didn’t share with him my dependence on the medication.
I didn’t even admit to myself that I was addicted to the medication. I told myself I needed it to keep from having diarrhea, and that if I stopped taking it, all my problems would start again.
The medical director told me that he didn’t want to prescribe anything for depression until he knew whether or not I was depressed. The medication could be depressing me, he said. And there was another medication that would help my stomach problems without presenting the same dangers.
He worked out a plan for me to wean myself off the medication and start the new one.
He also talked to me about the importance of exercise and introduced the idea of meditation to me.
And he told me to come back in six weeks.
I didn’t wean myself off the medication. I took it in extra doses until it was all gone. I had no refills left, just the new medication for my stomach.
I didn’t sleep well or much at all in the weeks leading up to my next appointment with the medical director. When I remember that time, I picture myself figuratively “walking on the ceiling.” I couldn’t relax. I never felt sleepy. I felt like I was on high alert all the time.
My body was reacting to the removal of a depressive medication that I had taken for over two years.
My depression didn’t lift. The doping of my physical system and my mind lifted, but the clinical depression remained.
When I went back to see the medical director, we didn’t talk about addiction, and he didn’t prescribe anything for my depression.
But with his encouragement, I did begin to think about starting a running routine, which I eventually did later that year. And I tried meditation for the first time, based on the book The Relaxation Response, by Herbert Benson, MD, with Miriam Z. Clipper.