One thing our culture has not done particularly well, if you ask me, is to differentiate between the "mentally ill," the lunatics who stand on the corner and tell you when the world's going to end and the exact temperature of the molten lava that's about to engulf us, and the "mentally ill," Joe or Susan Sixpack with maybe some minor differences in brain chemistry, just enough to make either of them scream into the night.

Here, one of the Susans speaks up:

I take both Abilify and Wellbutrin and they combine to stabilize my moods and keep my anxiety and depression at bay, among other things. They work well for me. The though of living without one of them is just short of terrifying.

I don't want to be dependent on medications. I don't want to have to swallow two pills every morning (and one at night) just to be able to maintain some sort of normalcy, to exist at an even keel. But I am. And it's nothing I did wrong. I didn't bring this on myself. Maybe it was just bad luck that the DNA dice rolled the way they did. Yet sometimes I feel guilty about my mental illnesses. Sometimes I feel lesser for them. Sometimes I feel like there's something else I should be doing to overcome them. The medications I take every day are a reminder that I'm imperfect. I'm flawed.

We are all imperfect, all flawed. I spent some time on industrial-strength antipsychotics half a lifetime ago, largely because I was making noises about making that half into a literal whole. One amusing aspect of it all, I discovered later, is that after twiddling the prescription for several weeks admittedly, more easily done when one is institutionalized the dose that actually worked turned out to be just this side of Major Toxicity.

We really don't know enough about the probabilities of the DNA dice. And I suspect that once we do, health insurance as we (used to) know it will be deader than dance wax, because they'll know what's going to happen, and that knowledge will not be retconned into pre-existing conditions because that costs money.

And the number of pills I have to take well, two Pharmacy Rewards certificates arrived from Target yesterday, payback for ten prescriptions filled. I hadn't gotten one of these since, oh, a week or so after Thanksgiving.

I'm constantly receiving messages that I'm weaker for taking medications. I hear over and over again the message "just get over it" or "try harder to be happy" or "it's all in your head." I hear that taking meds are a crutch. I've internalized all that and it hangs over me every day as I gulp down my "quick fixes."

"Just get over it" works exactly as well as "get up and run" works for someone who's just been hit by a bus. And I suspect that every last one of us has a crutch of some sort, though we're programmed to deny its existence; the louder the denial, the less I believe it. The Apocalypse Soon guy on the street corner? He's probably had some, let's say, bargain-priced crutches over the years, but I'm not going to denounce some poor soul for seeking out the little bottles containing the magic words "Kentucky Straight" while there are nine liters of Royal Crown Cola only a few steps away from me.

None of my fixes have been quick; while I'm no longer on the antipsychotics I have one tablet left, long past its expiration date, which I keep as a reminder most of the stuff I do take daily, I've been taking for years and years. And said stuff does include a couple of things that work on the brain, albeit at somewhat lower levels. I figure, as long as I don't have to increase the dosage, I'm, if not exactly fine, at least not as bad off as I could be.

Still, all these pharmaceutical wonders cost money, and fortunately for me, I've only dealt with two brand-name tabs in the last couple of years, one of which I abandoned for lack of perceived usefulness. My physician doesn't fuss over these departures from ritual, now that he's noticed that, for instance, the difference in cholesterol level between heavy statin use and zero statin use has proven to be negligible. (I think I've hit over 200, the alleged warning level, exactly once in the last two decades.) Statins, however, are mostly cheap. The tab I gave up was $300 for a bottle of thirty, which, incredibly, is fairly cheap as such things go:

Turns out the patent for Abilify had expired, and the generic wouldn't be available until April. Meanwhile, [insurance carrier] wouldn't cover it anymore, pending a switch over to the generic. That I couldn't get for three months.

Three hundred bucks at her local pharmacy would buy nine of those tabs almost. Stretch that to ninety days? Not a chance in the world.

It's like anything else you have to have: a roof over your head, food, utilities. You write the check and you go on. And once you've written enough checks, you don't think about it quite so much: it's just one more expense in a life that's full of them.

The Vent

  6 January 2015

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 Copyright © 2015 by Charles G. Hill