I’ve been taking the antidepressants for a week now, and the one thing I can tell you with some degree of certainty is that my inside is getting flatter. The waves of moodiness are smaller, the turbulence is receding, things are assuming their appropriate proportions, or at least what I assume to be appropriate proportions. People don’t freak out about random aches and don’t hyperventilate when someone raises their voice, after all, so I’m just going to go ahead and claim that the medicine is already working.
When you’ve lived in a state of constant inner turmoil for a few years, reaching a state of relative mental calmness can feel like a wasteland where emotions go to die. It makes sense: when all you’ve experienced are untameable passions, deep anguish, great exhilaration, to stop being whipped about by internal forces can feel like you’re losing a part of yourself. What to others is a meaningful emotion, to you is just a gentle hint. You start to wonder: do you love your spouse enough, are you committed enough to your relationship, are you a good enough mother if you’re not terrified about the dangers your children face on a daily basis?
Renormalizing your inner self is quite a process. And I’m not talking about the past few days—I don’t have enough experience with antidepressants yet, and the doctors say their full effect will be felt in another one or two weeks. I’m talking of what you’re left with after years of taming your brain’s quirks, what remains after you’ve become more capable of dealing with everyday stimuli, and I think I’m getting an enhanced version of this with the antidepressants. Yes, life becomes more bearable, and not everything you experience challenges you to the extreme, but you might also feel like you’ve become less of yourself. And that doesn’t really matter, as long as you’re happier, calmer, able to finally sleep at night, able to function like “normal” humans around you seem to function, almost effortlessly. Actually, having a more even mental background—I’m coming to discover—is such a blessing: day by day, I’m becoming more stable in my reactions and more capable of dealing with small disturbances. Man, the drugs do help.
But what about art? The tortured artist is a well-known stereotype: can you truly create good, moving art if you’re not suffering, if you’re not constantly processing layers of deep emotion that color your life experience? For my kind of writing, the writing that’s meant to put you in a character’s shoes, make you feel their agony, shake you and take you as far out of your comfort zone as possible, not being able to feel—or translate the emotion to words—is a big impediment. What will become of my ability to write, then, if the medication balances my mental state?
It’s true that, sometimes, the anguish of the moment transforms itself into words that serve to ease my mind—On a night like this is a good example, as well as the poetry I wrote as a teenager—but I think for a novel it’s enough to be able to relate to those emotions, to access them in your memory, or to extrapolate from what you’ve already experienced. I’m not absolutely sure about that since I haven’t been able to write much—except blog posts, obviously—since this adventure started, but it seems plausible, right?
In any case, the fact remains: I’ve never felt so balanced before in my entire adult life, if not longer. I asked a friend the other day, “how did I not know I’ve been anxious all this time?” and she answered, “because you’ve been anxious all this time.” It makes sense: I trained myself to a different baseline, and now that baseline is changing.
Yesterday, I tried to write a paragraph in the book I’m currently writing, just to see if I could. Dimitra—always my first beta reader—said it was fine, it was Nora-worthy. In this, as in nearly everything else, I suppose I’ll just trust her judgement.