6. To take, or not to take (the drugs)

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If you ask me, one of my greatest flaws is being such a good, obedient student. When figures of authority give me instructions, I have to take them seriously. Not because of the merit of the advice—I do examine its validity by cross-checking, asking for second and third opinions, researching on my own—but because I don’t want to disappoint them. Somewhere inside me the little goodie-goodie student still wants to be the teacher’s pet and would do anything for their superiors’ approval.

This is me, and damn me if I know why. It’s disappointing, really.

German doctors are frustratingly conservative when it comes to prescribing medication. I know the reasons: they’re liable, and they don’t have a way to know exactly how responsible each patient is. So, on Friday, after my breakdown of Thursday evening, and while I and my husband were trying to explain to the very understanding lady doctors the seriousness of my situation—my blood pressure was already at 150 at 9:30 in the morning—they advised against taking anti-anxiety meds.

This drove my stress to new levels. I didn’t necessarily want to take the sedatives, I just wanted a safety net, a way to know that, should I get another panic attack, should my blood pressure spike again, I could at least take a pill and relax and know that this wouldn’t be the day I got a stroke (long history of strokes in my family, by the way—you understand my fears).

They were reluctant. Potential for addiction, they said. You have to go to a mental health professional, they said. Lorazepam is only for emergencies, they said. But it was 9:30 in the morning, and I was already freaking out. Wasn’t this a fuckin’ emergency? They basically wanted to send me home, after a serious breakdown, with the instruction to “relax.” And I am a goodie-goodie student. I don’t want to disappoint my doctors. I want to be brave, to do the right thing. I want them to be proud of me.

The flaw in their reasoning, though, was that the factors which had made me unable to “relax” didn’t magically disappear just because relaxation was prescribed by my friendly physicians. My contract is still ending in five weeks, after which I’ll be unemployed and, in light of the newest developments, unable to apply for unemployment benefits because I won’t be actively looking for a job. I physically can’t get out of the couch right now, I’m certainly not going to start sending out resumes. My brain is mush. I need rest. I’ll be needing rest for a long, long time, after the decade I’ve had.

I have some experience in advocating for myself when doctors think they know me and my body better than I know myself, so I suppressed the obedient child I hide inside and insisted on the Lorazepam. In the end, they relented. “Only for emergencies,” they repeated, as if breaking down after fifteen years of constant, debilitating emotional and work stress wasn’t an emergency.

At home, I still had difficulty justifying to myself taking the Lorazepam. Both Dimitra and Chet tried to talk some sense into me: you have to take it, they said. You’re still in shock. Your sympathetic nervous system is in overdrive, you can’t calm down on your own. You shouldn’t have the extra burden on top of actually healing. “Listen to me, take it!” Guardian-Angel Dimitra said, appealing to her authority as my newly-appointed life coach (I only do what she allows me to do, at least until I get a grip on the situation). “I’m totally not worried about you and addiction,” Chet said, and I totally believe him. Why should he be worried? I’m not worried either. If anything, I’ve been constantly downplaying my symptoms. Even yesterday, after three days of high blood pressure, valerian, Lorazepam, uncontrollable crying at the sound of the telephone—it could be my aunt, that’s no small trauma, lemme tell you—I was still telling Urban that I probably exaggerated, and that calling the paramedics was an overreaction.

Urban laughs at me when say these things. He laughs and hugs me and tells me “all right,” but in an adorably, lovingly condescending way. The message is clear: “You can’t judge the severity of your situation.”

And, of course I can’t. Two years ago, I was trying to learn Arabic, be a geriatric ballerina, raise happy and healthy kids, contribute to science, lose weight, and fix my husband’s emotional development issues, all at the same time, while doing my best to cook healthy meals for my family and keep the household in order. A month ago, I was recording and editing podcasts, doing beta reads, editing full novels, planning and writing novels of my own, decluttering the house, homeschooling two children—one of whom has a slight learning disability, for which I organized therapy sessions with a psychologist at the local family center—and taking care of shopping and meal planning, (you can’t possibly imagine how much my seven-year-old eats), while trying to keep the other adult away from the children so that he doesn’t freakin’ lose his patience again and undo all the good work I was doing.

Well, it catches up with you, doesn’t it? I’m not a good gauge of my strength anymore.

So, bring on the Lorazepam. Just for a little while. Just until I can put these things in perspective and realize what I’ve been doing to myself.

Dimitra decides when I take it and when I stop. I’m not the boss of me anymore!

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