Meds Changed My Life, and Now I’m Happy

It’s rather exciting, getting a lot done in one day:

I wrote a good chunk of a nice song.

I taught a 2 hour violin lesson.

I recorded some music with a family member.

I cooked shitty brisket.

I worked out to Tony Horton, P90X3

It feels good.  It feels good, being productive.  Damn good.  But… for years, I wasn’t.  I was depressed, and then… psychotic.  Lost in an alternate reality, and imprisoned within walls of negativity.  I couldn’t work, or enjoy my talents.  I couldn’t even smile.

And… I’m thankful now.  I’m thankful because I am now a normal person.  Even since babyhood, I never seemed to “get” life.  I’d see people around me, laughing, socializing, being close to one another… and I felt like it was all foreign to me.  What is there to smile about?  I felt lonely, as if no one understood me.

For many years, I thought there was a “key” to life.  Some sort of secret that, if only I had it, I would understand happiness.  I would understand fulfillment.  I searched and searched for many years.  I tried several religions and spiritual practices, trying to grasp at straws to make my life meaningful.

That’s another thing.  Mental illness caused my life to have no meaning.  After developing schizophrenia in my early 20s, I couldn’t work, and I couldn’t forge friendships in the way I wanted.  I took medications that were not ideal for me, and I suffered from it.  I gained 90 pounds in 2.5 years.  My psychiatrist would say “get a job.”  I’d say, “I can’t.  I’m a violin teacher, and it’s impossible to find students these days.”  In response to my weight gain, he’d say, “You should exercise.”  I’d say, “I’m too depressed.”

And then… end of conversation.

A tangent: it baffles me that this MD told me to “exercise” to lose weight.  In my journey of weight loss, I learned that weight loss largely relies on DIET.  And yet this doctor didn’t make that suggestion to me.  It’s absurd, really.

Anyway.

My life was without meaning.  Even though I had many acquaintances, I felt isolated.  My facial expressions and my overall “aura” was not inviting.  It was instead “intense,” “tortured,” and just ugly.  I’d have a perpetual frown.  I was… shy?  Disinterested, rather.  And I thought that everyone around me was shallow, vacuous and immature.  Because only “immature” people have something to smile about.  To me, life was a dim experience.

But then… my perspective changed radically.

In November of 2012, I experienced the second worst mental breakdown of my life.  I was hospitalized and then sent home about 3.5 weeks later.  That night, I had the worst breakdown of my life, and then was hospitalized 2 months after that.  And… this hospitalization changed my life.

What happened?  Well, I was put on Clozapine.  Clozapine is an incredibly powerful drug, and is usually a “last resort” for treating psychosis.  Doctors are cautious in prescribing it because it can cause agranulocytosis, or a reduced white blood cell count.  As a result, regular blood tests are necessary.  For the first 6 months, you need to have a blood test once a week.  For the next 6 months, a blood test every other week.  And then, if all is well, every 4 weeks.

After starting Clozapine, my life radically changed.  Finally… I got it.  Those dark and gloomy thoughts that I’ve had for my entire life… they’re gone.  Completely gone.  And I realize now that those thoughts are not me.  That’s right, I used to think that I, Neesa Sunar, was my thoughts.  That those thoughts were my identity.  But when they disappeared, I was then able to realize that I am something much more than my thoughts.

Many people decry the psychiatric system, and say that medications and treatment stifle the human right of mental freedom.  Many say that their problems started only after starting medications.  I respect these people, and applaud that they speak out without fear.  But, we shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.  For me, and for many others, life was unbearable until we started medications.

I wonder though.  So many years of my life were tortured.  What if I had started Clozapine at an earlier age?  What would have been my destiny?  Would I have written more songs?  Would I have been able to get a job and keep it?  Would I have more money?  I am frustrated at my psychiatrists’ conservative prescribing habits.

I think a problem that I encountered over the years, was that I was always labeled as “high functioning.”  In general, I present myself as a very articulate and intelligent person.  Well-educated doctors see me, and think that I am well, and “not that sick.”  Even in my sickest moments, I was able to speak and articulate precisely what was happening to me.  And as a result, they were conservative in prescribing medications.

It saddens me also, because for those who are less savvy in conversation, or simply those who are less articulate or intelligent (dare I say), doctors assume they are lower-functioning, and so they take more aggressive measures to treat these people.  It saddens me, how those with borderline mental retardation are pegged as sick, and suffer from terrible tremors or incomprehensible drooling.

I mean, what makes me different from them?  We have the same sicknesses.  We have the same right to being happy.  Why is it that they get the stronger medications, and I don’t?

I’d rather not dwell on the “what ifs,” though.  My life is happy now.  Better late than never.  I should be thankful that I have what I have.  A roof over my head.  Air conditioning in this terrible heat.  Enough money to buy healthy food.  A family.  A career.  And many gifts.  I’m a violist, a violin teacher, a songwriter, an articulate blogger, a conversationalist, an enthusiast for the German language and a loyal and loving friend to many people.

My hope now, is that I can share my wellness with those around me.  Especially as a mental health peer specialist.  I work at an agency that provides housing for those with mental illness disabilities.  When I interact with our residents… my greatest hope is that I can forge poignant relationships, which will cause them to learn things about themselves that they didn’t know.  And in this process, they may discover a well-spring of confidence, and then forge ahead with greater independence and fulfillment in life in general.

I also have other aspirations, regarding the direction that I want to take my career.  But that is for another post for me to reveal.  As for now, I am satisfied with where I am in my life, and I appreciate the slow process of it all.  I am not impatient to get “promoted” or to “get a masters degree” overnight.  I find that the true joy in life, is to learn how to appreciate each little baby step.  If we can do this, then we will find happiness in every moment of life.

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