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Monday, January 09, 2006


comfort zone

"one must still have chaos in oneself
to give birth to a dancing star." -nietzche

about 6 months ago i looked around at my life and realized, "hey, all that stuff that used to bother me isn't bothering me anymore."

somehow the stars had aligned - or i'd aligned them - bathing me in perspective that kept old worries and hurts at bay. my job wasn't awful anymore - i had reached a point in my organization that "fit," and i'd realized (finally) that so many of the woes that felt unique to my company were in fact universal (read: all companies are dysfunctional in some way). people who had pushed my buttons now pushed but got a different response - i'd finally internalized the mantra that what other people do is about them, not me. in improv, we try to identify a character's triggers - what makes her anxious, or angry, or calm - and i was identifying mine, learning how to prepare myself for situations likely to stress me out or bring me down.

i felt grateful, and relieved, and after a little while, a bit too smug. "ah, my 20s - glad i survived them. glad all that angst is behind me." (i have a habit of feeling like i'm a year older than i am, which currently means i think i'm 30 even though that's not the case until 2:45am on the first of may.) i found myself playing buddha with younger friends, the peaceful guru smiling down on tortured souls - "oh yes, that's a common feeling in one's 20s...(glad i'm done with it)."

then, lately, the stars have started spinning again. suddenly my dreams are loud, my subconscious clanging to get my attention. i'm dreaming of all-out screaming fights with my mother. last night i had a dream i've had before about being taken prisoner in a foreign land.

so here's the thing: the alignment of the stars 6 months ago wasn't coincidental. it had a little something to do with being diagnosed with depression and anxiety, and with starting medication. which has stopped working. so now we're tinkering with me, the doctors and i, like trying to perfect a recipe - a little more salt, less sugar, bake longer.

it's a relief to share this, but slightly terrifying, too. when my doctor first said to me, last winter, "i think you may be struggling with anxiety and depression," it was like having gauze pulled away from my eyes, and my life since the age of 18 suddenly came into focus. i never would have come to that conclusion myself - i still had an image of depression as being curled up in the fetal position, unable to get out of bed in the morning, even though i knew people who were depressed and were not that way; i guess i assumed that's how they'd be without medication. and anxiety, in my mind, again meant the far end of the spectrum - dehibilitating panic attacks, etc. and yet, when my doctor said, "...anxiety and depression," i knew instantly it was right.

when i started taking medication, i asked my doctor, "how will i know if it's working?" he said i would feel like my old self, and i'd know. i was dubious but sure enough, after a few weeks, something clicked, and there was a lightness i hadn't felt in years. people commented on it. it makes me sad just writing this, to think of all those years stuck inside myself, not realizing how much my perspective was being skewed. i try to make peace with it by saying it was part of my journey in this world - it makes me more compassionate, and controversial though it may be, i think there is a way that depression lets you see certain truths about the world; unfortunately, it made me feel siezed by them.

having medication work, and then stop working, is what i imagine it would be like to be sent down to earth after being in heaven. maybe the universe recognizes when you get too comfortable.

in my dream last night about being taken prisoner, i remember i was more prepared than i'd been when i've had the dream before. i had a bag full of things that could help with my escape. i was confident, but scared. i knew i had accepted the risk of being captured when i decided to take the journey to this foreign place.

A question to think about. This is one I've thought a lot about (since I've been on SSRIs for a while), but certainly don't have the answer. Do anti-depressants make you the person you are supposed to be, or do they change you into someone else? What do you think?
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