Better Living Through Chemistry

“It’s time to get off Abilify,” I thought to myself some time ago, and began the (supervised) process of titrating down. Abilify is the miracle drug that keeps me together like glue. It’s also a $500/month prescription that’s only available in brand-name. I mean, I could lease a really nice car for that much money, or rent a second home somewhere in Alabama. Priorities.

15mg down to 7mg? No problems whatsoever. Vitals were fine. Then, this past weekend, I forgot to take my dose for two nights in a row. Ever the overachiever, I decided to ride that wave and try to ditch the helper drug entirely. “What’s 7mg?” I speculated.

What, indeed.

Yesterday marked the 4th day of withdrawal. Waking up at 8:20am, having dead-slept through two alarms, I thought something might be off… just that feeling when you know there is no way you’ll ever be able to get out of bed. Driving to work, I noticed a distinct edge to things: my skin felt too tight, my jeans were itchy. As the day progressed it became clear that my mood was not just dark, but flattened as well – a patina of disaffection shielding the turmoil in my mind. Coffee? No thanks, I’m so over everything.

Small problems began to seem insurmountable. Answering an email became a sisyphean task. That familiar numbing of the brain and extremities that requires you to take life breath by labored breath. I recognized these signs. I knew them. And, though I’ve worked to become strong, I still don’t know how to manage these moments when I can’t pull myself up.

It is a related truth that my car is a disaster area. Unpaired high heels, a video tripod, and a pile of Diet Coke cans that would be shameful if I weren’t so excited about the eventual bottle deposit – people have stopped asking me for rides. Lucky for me, a quick rummage through the mess turned up a half-full bottle of my wonder drug. I knew it would take awhile for my body to absorb the medication, but just knowing I’d taken it made me feel better. And then, later, it made me feel worse. I’ve never had any illusions about being able to go med-free. But I did think I’d really be able to do it with this one thing, this one time.

Kind of disappointing, if not entirely unexpected. Sometimes, I guess, 7mg is at least 5mg too much.

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