Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Riki's History Part 3: Ups & Downs

Well, like I said, the rest of high school was fairly uneventful.  Toward the end of my sophomore year I started dating a great guy (thanks to my old camp friends, we already have a nickname for him - Beefy).  We were together for a year and a half (until I inevitably messed things up), and he treated me like a princess.  

My mom's side of the family has a history of severe headaches and migraines, and sadly, I didn't escape this fate.  Sometime during my junior year, Mom took me to the doctor to see what they could prescribe for my headaches.  At one point the doctor asked, "Do you have any symptoms of depression?"  Without hesitation, Mom and I both answered yes.  Based on that and a few other questions, I was prescribed Celexa.  

To this day, one of the most meaningful gestures a significant other has made for me was shortly after this.  I had told Beefy about the appointment and the name of the medication, and told him I'd be starting it soon.  The next day when he picked me up for school, he handed me a bunch of paper.  He had gone online and researched Celexa to learn more about it and gave me the results.  He wasn't exactly someone who goes out of their way to read a lot, so it was pretty amazing to know he cared so much.  I'll never forget that.

Eventually, my dosage got bumped up.  And again.  And again.  It would help for awhile, and then slowly taper off.  Beefy stuck with me through a lot of ups and downs, as did a few really amazing friends.  The real problem came if I didn't get the pills refilled quickly enough (and, being a teenager, I was terrible at being on top of things).  The results weren't pretty.  At one point I went three days without my meds and found myself curled up under a desk in an empty classroom, crying and talking to my friend's mom on the phone because my own mom wasn't being any help (so I thought).  Part of it was anxiety about getting things back in line, and part of it was my system being fairly dependent on the Celexa to function.  

I was on Celexa for a few years.  Before I started college in fall of 2002, I went to see my first proper psychiatrist, who threw some wellbutrin in there as well.  Even with that added in, things didn't go so well.  

I don't want to bore anyone with all the details, so I'll just hit on a few things.  The first is that I became an insomniac.  I would be awake for 22 or 23 hours of the day, crashing just long enough to get wired up again.  I was always online, and as much as my roommate tried to involve me, I preferred the world wide web to the actual world around me.  I was dating First again, but he never came to visit and around October I broke things off for good.  (When I broke up with him, he said he had been trying to find a bus out to see me before getting the crap beaten out of him.  I do know that he was severely hurt for awhile, but in my eyes, it was still too little too late.)

Worst of all was the suicidal thoughts.  You know that disclaimer on commercials?  The one that says children and young adults are susceptible to worsening depression and thoughts of suicide?  Yeah, they're not kidding.  There were times I would find myself sitting on the floor in the showers, holding my razor and thinking about how easy it would be.  There were other times when I would lay in bed for hours, missing class, not eating, not sleeping, just crying or aching.  I started burning myself with my lighter (I had recently started smoking at that point).  Things were bad.

They reached a peak in late October when I decided it was just time to do it.  Bestie (who was at college about an hour away) had been wonderful to me, and I felt I owed it to her to say goodbye and to let my boyfriend (who went to her school) know what was going on.  I don't know if I was hoping she could talk me out of it or if I just wanted to talk to someone who loved me or what, but I pretty much scared the ever-loving life out of her.  She told her mom, and they were telling me they would call the police if I didn't stop talking like that.  So, on Bestie's advice, I took my knife to my downstairs neighbor and told him to hold onto it for awhile.

I was too late, though.  Her mom (I think) had already called the police, and soon they showed up at my dorm.  An officer peaked into our room (our door was usually open) and said, "Do you know where I can find Emily?"  Since we actually had an Emily on our floor, I pointed him down the hall.  I was trying to decide if I should make a run for it when two more officers came into my room, asking if I was Erika.  Within 10 minutes there were 4 officers (with 3 squad cars; don't you people carpool or work in partners?) and an assistant dean in my room, all asking me questions.  They almost took my scissors away (until I showed them just how dull they were), and then asked if they should take my pills away.

"My antidepressants?  Uh, I need those so I DON'T hurt myself..."  They weren't thrilled with my response, but they let me keep them anyway.  As the crowd was tapering down, my RA showed up.  He'd been at the library studying, and noticed the cop cars.  He was just curious until he realized they were parked in front of his dorm; then he was alarmed.  He was a great guy, and he made me laugh when he came in and we had this exchange:

RA: I saw all those cops and you know who I thought they were here for?
Me: [Insert other resident's name here.]
RA: Yep.  And for what?
Me: Drugs.
RA: Yep.  

When my roommate came back, she guessed the same things I had, and we joked about it, saying next time they'd be here for the other resident.  After reassuring him that the night's events were over, my RA told me to watch The Muppet Movie (I did) and that the next day he'd take me for ice cream (he did).  Best RA ever.  

The very next night a friend committed suicide.

All I could think was, "That could've been me."  My world was shaken and I finally realized that I didn't actually want to die.  A few weeks later, my roommate helped me tell my parents what was going on and that we thought I could use some time in the hospital.  Mom and Dad didn't agree, but they did agree that I should come home.  They took me to a new psychiatrist, who tried a few different meds with me and referred me to a therapist.

The combination of behavioral therapy and Fluoxetine (generic Prozac) were good to me, and in January 2003 I went back to school.  I kept going through fall of 2004, at which point, I started falling apart again.  This time, my major problems were migraines and falling asleep at the drop of a hat.  I honestly couldn't stay awake, and would find myself sleeping while sitting up with my laptop trying to do homework.  (Eventually, we found out I had sleep apnea, and that was a big part of the problem.)  I was missing classes left and right, and in late November, I decided that it was time to leave again.

But just before this happened, I met Shane.  And that, my dears, is for next time. 

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