I used to consider myself a “nature girl”. As a teenager growing up in West Los Angeles, I worshipped nature and I hiked in the beautiful Santa Monica Mountains with my Irish Setter Amber. I loved having lunch at hippie-style restaurants such as the Good Earth and the Rose Cafe. I was envious of those born in the heydey of hippiedom, the 1960’s. I felt I should have been born earlier so I could have participated in the Summer of Love in Haight-Ashbury. I moved to Santa Cruz, California, to attend college in part because Santa Cruz had such a spectacular environment that combined the ocean and redwood-forested mountains that were perfect for any nature-loving girl.
When I was twenty-six I suffered my first clinical depression after a relationship break-up, and I couldn’t function. I quit my full-time job of four years and out of pure desperation I met with my first psychiatrist “Dr. C.” To this day I don’t know how I got into my Jetta to drive alone to his office in the grim state I was in – that drive was one of the miracles in my life. Dr. C. was referred to me through a family friend, and he was very kind. We discussed the importance of circadian rhythms and exercise, and I left our session with a prescription for Paxil, my very first psychiatric medication.
I only took Paxil for less than five months, and I never thought I would need to take psychotropic medication again.
I was wrong about that assumption…very wrong!
I have taken over twenty psychiatric medications and I’ve undergone lengthy rounds of unilateral and bilateral electroconvulsive therapy since that first, innocuous-looking Paxil pill crossed my lips. I have also tried going the medication-free route with totally disastrous results in which I ended up in the hospital. I’m currently taking three medications each day – a “cocktail” if you will – for bipolar one. I take one of these medications, the monoamine oxidase inhibitor Parnate, three times a day, and each Pepto-Bismol pink-colored pill reminds me that I am dependent on meds to function.
In some ways taking pills frequently is not a big deal. At all.
But in other ways I am deeply troubled by my dependency upon these teeny, tiny circles of chemicals.
I have some catastrophic thinking patterns that go like this:
“What happens if there’s some kind of natural disaster and the pill manufacturers can’t make my medications, or they can’t reach me? I’ll fall apart! I’ll have to go back to the hospital! Ahhhhhhhh!”
If I dwell on negative thought patterns, I really will drive myself nuts, so I try to nip these kinds of speculations in the bud, but it ain’t easy to do. The dark thoughts also include “What happens if a meteor crashes into Earth?” or “What if aliens take over our town?” (Some of my neighbors claim aliens already are in charge around here!) I’ve gotten a little better about my fixation on cataclysmic events even though I’m taking more pills each day than I ever have before. (One of my pills, lithium, is technically a salt found in nature, so that comforts me a little bit. It’s silly, but true.)
I’m a big fan of our local weekly papers, so much so that I used to write articles for some of them. These papers advertise workshops presenting a wide variety of healthy living modalities. Each Thursday our biggest weekly, the award-winning “Good Times”, features articles about alternative health and advertisements. These ads include ThetaHealing, Hot Yoga, Emotional Freedom Techniques and many others. The advertisements and features remind me that I am not part of the 100% all-natural club, and most likely I’ll never be a member.
I am resigning myself to the fact that I’ll be a permanent walking pharmacy. I should be grateful for the fact that the pills are helping me, plain and simple. No one on our planet is truly devoid of some kind of nasty environmental toxin. You can’t really escape that fact, even if you live in the middle of the Kalahari Desert.
I will do what I can to buy organic foods (we can’t get everything organic, otherwise we’d go broke…), and try to practice “clean living” as much as possible, but I’m taking my self-induced pressure to be Ms. Nature Mama. I think what is most important, for now, is to work on cleaning up my toxic thoughts rather than worry about every item I eat or every particle of air that I breathe.