Taken as directed
I don’t exactly remember the first time I had a panic attack. The last several years sort of bleed into each other and most of the time I am grappling with something “monumental” to be conscious of where I was or what year it was. Most probably it was during one of those MRT rides. I remember the train stalling between Quezon Ave. and Trinoma. The train wasn’t even that full but I could see several people crowding at the exit. That made me worry. No, it made me panic. Suddenly, I was scrabbling to grab a hold of myself. I felt suffocated. I put the volume up on my mp3, took out the book I was reading, and nearly started enunciating the words aloud.
There was also that time when I was left alone in the house. I drank a lot of alcohol the night before and when I woke up at around lunchtime I thought I was going crazy. First I thought I just needed to eat. I went to McDonalds and ordered a meal. The burger tasted like dirt in my mouth. I started dialing psychologists but the secretaries could only book me after a week. I don’t know how I survived that afternoon but before the day ended I got hold of klonopin pills from a friend.
When I first started seeing a psychiatrist my real intention was to get a prescription, not a diagnosis. I did get one. Klonopin. My preferred anti-axiety/ anti-panic attack pill. But I was also prescribed with an ADD pill. I was told to have a comorbid disease: major depression, ADD and something else. The first day I took my Strattera it was as if a fog was lifted. I was walking my dog in the park and for the first time I could see the sun, the clouds, and my dog happily enjoying our walk. It was a revelation. However, after a week of total bliss I slipped into major depression. It felt as if I was coming off from a high. I would hide in our bathroom, clutch my head and try to pull myself together. I couldn’t handle it. I kept wondering why I was still so messed up? So I went back to the doctor and asked for a higher dose. Now, this was where things became really interesting. The higher dose threw me into a menacing spiral of fear and anxiety. I couldn’t leave the house. I couldn’t get inside buildings. I couldn’t take the elevator. I couldn’t stand being stuck in traffic. If I so much as go to Cubao I start to panic. There was one horrible afternoon when after a few glasses of wine, I started to get antsy. Suddenly I was scared. I was scared of taking the bus, of being trapped inside the bus. I was scared to taking a cab for fear that we may get stuck on the flyover. I couldn’t even cross an overpass for fear of something that it is totally alien to me. And the k-pins, they weren’t helping. So that evening, I walked all the way from Cubao to SM North trying to calm myself by counting my steps.
I had since been back to my psychiatrist and I had admitted that I was initially there to, well, basically get drugs. Now, I’m taking things as prescribed but on top of Strattera and Clonazepam, I am now also on Lexapro. I still get bad days, really bad days when I’d obsess over things. But Lexapro kind of took away some of the edge. I am kind of calmer but boy do these pills give me a headache. Usually in the morning after drinking coffee and my Lexapro and my Strattera I’d have a headache which lasts for an hour or so. I’d like to joke that now I am on crutches. Three crutches to be exact just to, well, appear normal. I have lost interest in going out with most of my friends though and mostly prefer to be alone at home. I have also stopped writing and have lost pretty much interest in most things. I am 39 years old and I don’t know where my life is headed. There are days when life comes to me in total clarity, like in that Bon Iver song but most of the time life is like this puzzle, these garbled messages from the universe, which I couldn’t understand. But I’m following the strict orders of my doctor in the hopes that I would get out of this maze sooner than later. I am taking the pills as directed.
But of course the pills, like the tasteless, brittle bread one takes during communion, do not guarantee a life of happiness. I know that. I would be foolish to assume that everything would be okay with just a pill. Earlier, I was at the park smoking my cigarettes in the darkness. I observed the buildings around me with their fluorescent lights blazing through the window. I would try to catch the muffled sounds of cars driving through the side roads of the complex. It stirs something in me. The darkness, the sad buildings, the lonesome cars driving through the dark roads. I try to look at the moon. I try to open myself to something that is bigger than me. But my mind just gets sucked in deeper and deeper into the menace of my own imagination. I am struggling. And I acknowledge that I am struggling. But I think that is progress enough.