I used to laugh cynically that the place I went to see my doctors and pick up my meds was called “the Recovery Center.” Like that was ever going to happen, I thought sarcastically. I had been living with these symptoms for seven years, and while my panic attacks had seem to have disappeared while I had been going there, I attributed that to a fluke, not to anybody’s – mine or the doctors’ – hard work. In the meantime, I thought to myself, I would muddle through, taking the drugs that didn’t seem to be helping and going to my therapy appointments to see if changing behaviors or thoughts could help. It was all well-meaning, I knew, but I also wondered how much of it actually helped.
But it turned out the hope I felt on New Year’s morning of this year wasn’t just hope – it was Prozac. I’d gone up on my small dosage because my doctor said I was having serotonin withdrawal as I tried to go off another drug – Burspar. The small uptick in Prozac had made a huge difference in my mood. I was more confident, more content. My psychotic symptoms didn’t bother me as much. I vaguely remembered the last time I had met with my doctor and she suggested that maybe, after all, the illness I had might not be a thought disorder but a mood disorder. That would explain why the Prozac was making me feel better, if the psychotic symptoms were stemming from depression. Maybe depression, and not the antipsychotics I was taking, was the reason I had felt bad for so long. I called the nurse’s line to ask if I could increase the Prozac even more and try going down on my antipsychotics in light of this development. The message back was … “give it a try.” I expected my recovery to be slow, but this part was not slow. Almost overnight, I began to feel better. The voices and delusions that had plagued me became thoughts I knew weren’t real. As soon as I felt better, I could begin to identify that although I hadn’t had the classic textbook symptoms of sleeping all the time and eating little, I had been depressed. I had been hopeless, fairly convinced my situation was not going to improve. I finally saw there was improvement, and I also felt that, at long last, I might actually recover, not just learn to manage.
At the same time I was coming to terms with a new diagnosis, new meds, and the prospect of recovery, a 13-year-old boy at the school where I had attended eighth through twelfth grade went missing. A search party was dispatched. Pleas to spread the message of the missing boy filled my facebook page. He had last been seen leaving his house in a down jacket, ski pants, and hiking boots, without a phone or wallet. His parents said he had been upset about an email he had received from a teacher nagging him for late homework. The search went on for days, and my parents, who still live in the area where I grew up, said the story dominated local news. Finally, the search party found him … deceased, in a creek bed, not far from his home. The parents and his sister asked the press to leave them alone for a day, but the following day, the press announced he had committed suicide, shot himself in the head with a gun from his parents’ home. His parents said there had been a safety lock on the gun, but the boy had managed to fire it anyway.
Everyone in the area where he lived was shocked. A thirteen-year-old? The news of his suicide hit me hard because I knew the darkness he had fought with was one I was quite possibly finally escaping, despite the fact that it might not be forever, and it might not be completely. My family would welcome the new diagnosis and prognosis – that perhaps I would not have a life-long disability, only a medical condition to be monitored. His family, however, would never be the same.