(Thanks for the VERY kind comments and emails regarding my little hiatus. I'm doing okay these days. I was able to take time off from work and go into a cave, essentially. It was much-needed.
I'd been thinking of writing about my little drug habit for some time, and I took the opportunity last week. I was feeling especially depleted when I wrote this; please forgive me if it's needlessly depressing. I think some can relate to it. Please also forgive the length. If uninterested, don't read it. You are excused. This was written when I was particularly down.
I talked about this -- my struggle -- on the air this week, by the way. I'm glad I did, save for some of the response: "Well, you don't have enough faith, and..." "You're not living in Victory, brother..." and "You are giving in to a Satanic attack, and..."
Well, thanks, there, partner..
Most of the response was VERY appreciative. "I love that a Christian radio station is actually talking about this, instead of playing pretend, and..." I was glad I did it. Made for some great, honest radio, too. And I think the message was largely hopeful.
Honestly? I'm embarrassed that I take drugs. But you don't know my past, and I don't know yours, and the fact is, our neurology is dynamic. It's not a one-way street: Our decisions are shaped by our physiology, and our physiology is shaped by our experience. And -- duh -- we can't control our past experience.
My life was blessed before I started with the drugs. My marriage was outstanding, I was a good employee, had career "success", and I believe God used me.
But now? Now, I can rest. That's all I know. Lord have mercy on me, and I hope you do, too. Mostly, please know, if you take Prozac or something -- I understand you.)
And that is both the best first line, ever, on this blog, and -- distressingly --it's also quite true.
Fluoxetine, to be exact. 20 mg a day. It's for my brain, which isn't normal. Or, perhaps it's very normal, given the millions currently taking fluoxetine, or its name-brand equivalent, Prozac. I've been taking fluoxetine for the past year
(That last sentence was interrupted. I'm sitting at Panera, and a guy came up and said, "Brant, I love you. Awesome. I love you." I don't know who he is. I'm not kidding. Thus is small-time celebrity. You'd think that would help the ego.)
As I was saying, it's been a year. And there hasn't been a day I haven't struggled with the fact that I'm messing with my brain. And there hasn't been a day I've been as viciously angry at myself as I had been in my previous 37 years. Truth is, I suspect I was angry at myself when I was lying in a neo-natal unit. My guess: I heard the cries of other babies, and wondered why I was failing to help.
I remember sitting next a woman, and sobbing. My life had been wasted. I'd accomplished nothing, and the sorrow of it all was descending on me. The vanished years! I've done nothing! Where did the time go? Life is too fast, rushing by like a freight train, and I couldn't get on it.
The woman comforted me, and tried to understand, and I think she did, if only because that's the way moms are. But she may have wondered how a seven year-old could consider himself an abysmal failure.
I broke down again, years later, in front of my high school English teacher. Same thing: I'm a failure, I'd accomplished nothing, I've blown it. I was a freshman.
I started taking drugs because of this blog. I posted about an odd day, when my self-esteem was downright okay. Weeks later, some very good, and insightful, Christian friends told me they were taking anti-depressants, and I should look into it. So I did, and within a day -- literally, after a pill -- my mindset was different.
I know it's not supposed to happen that fast, and I can tell you I'm not given to the placebo-effect. But everything changed. I wasn't angry. I was patient. I thought about myself less. I didn't consider myself a failure. I was actually content with my station in life.
I could take naps, because I wasn't roiling with regret. I couldn't take naps before! I'd lie there and think about how I blew it on the air this morning; how I never should have quit talk radio; how I haven't written a book, how I shouldn't have said that one awkward thing five, 10, or 25 years ago; how I'd wasted whatever intellect I'd been given; how I'd failed to provide a yard for my kids to play in; how I should've gone another way.
A few years ago, I took the LSAT. Despite being, in so many ways, a doofus, I wrote a top 1% score, and got full-ride scholarships to some top law schools. Then I realized, following law school, I'd be absent from my family for a few years, so I passed, and opted for a more family-friendly arrangement. My brain and I decided to retire here in South Florida.
Regrets? I've had a few. Actually, probably no more than anyone else, but even good decisions -- like opting for family time over intellectual fulfillment and big money -- can play into regret. I'd blown it again! Wasted whatever potential I had -- again! No, it's not rational. But none of this is. And it was self-absorption, too, which gave me something else to feel failed about.
But I take a little pill, once a day, and wham -- I can think about other people. I think I'm okay. I can sit and relax and fall asleep. I can be on the air, do something stupid -- and move on. Happens to the best of 'em, you know? One little pill, and I'm a better person.
And that, friend, is the disturbing thing. As a Christian, I'm uncomfortable with purely mechanistic explanations for our behavior. Friends say, "What's the struggle? Taking this pill is just like taking Tylenol for an ache." But no. No, it's not. I take this pill, and I'm morally better. I'm not kidding.
Think about it: They tell addicts about "HALT". Watch out, they say, when you're Hurt, Angry, Lonely, or Tired. That's when you'll be most apt to succumb to temptation, to be given to weakness, to engage in behavior and thoughts you know you don't want to do or entertain. Look out when you're Hurt. Angry. Lonely. Tired.
Imagine taking a pill and, suddenly, you're not hurt, or angry, or lonely, or tired. You'll be less likely to succumb to temptation. Your need to retreat into bad habits, addictions, and destructive behavior lessens dramatically. So you don't -- because of a pill. You're more patient with people, more loving, more joyful, more peaceful; less likely to argue, less bitter, less angry, less selfish.
That ain't Tylenol, folks. That's messing with who you are.
Ironically, in my euphoria about being, at last, "released from myself" -- I felt like my head had cooled off, my mind had stopped over-heating after 37 years -- I was a bit angry about one thing: I was wondering, "So -- is THIS how it's been for everyone else? 'Normal' people feel this way? They don't constantly berate themselves? They can simply enjoy a sunny day?"
I began to understand simple contentment, simple delight, simple patience, and I'm telling you, it's not fair. All my life I had to put up with that melancholia? And other people could be happy? No fair. This is how other people see the world?
And it's easier now, for me to be a moral, other-centered person, content to listen to someone else without worrying about my failed self? This is how other people have it?
How does God judge people? Did He judge me differently, because of my brain chemistry, so easily altered? If I had more seratonin, sooner, I would've been happier, more content, less apt to "sin". The debate over mind/body interaction, the physical and the spiritual, is an ancient one.
But now I go to CVS, stand in line for a moment, and I'm handed the whole of the issue in a little brown bottle.
This ain't Tylenol.
I'm anti-drugs, by the way. I just use them. Believe me, a fair-minded person cannot easily dismiss marijuana use while popping 20 mg of fluoxetine every day. It's just not a simple issue. Yes, one's legal, the other's not, but that rather begs a question, doesn't it? I'm not pro-legalization. I've argued with those groups before on the radio. Let's just say I know how I'd argue with me now.
My new sticker idea would cover the whole bumper: "Just say no, and yes, but mostly no, but kind of yes, for me."
Ever read Flowers for Algernon? I did, and I've been thinking about that little mouse a lot, lately. For some reason, I've been growing depressed these last days. I've wondered about the efficacy of the pills, and sure enough, for a third of users, Prozac wears off in a year or so. As I say, it's been a year or so.
I don't want to go back. As you can tell, I struggle with this. I struggle with treating a melancholy, critical personality as though it were aberrant, and the shiny, happy, faces were the ideal. I struggle with wondering if I won't produce that something, that I-don't-know-what, that I would have were I not medicated. (I'm no Mozart, but would W.A.M. have been placed on meds, were the opportunity there? Certainly so, and then what would he have given us?)
I struggle, but please -- I don't want to go back. It may not be me, but I like the new guy better. He thinks of other people more, has more time for them, and can enjoy the sun and the sand, and, while his brain is atrophying on the beach, he at least isn't angry about it.
I don't want to go back.
Is Jesus enough?
Of course He is.
Of course He is, and I also have some other things. I live in Margaritaville, literally under the shade of a lush, tall palm tree. I have a convertible, too, and a surfboard, though I can't drive or surf well.
I have Jesus, Who is enough, and I have what, apparently, pretty much everyone wants: A beautiful, smart, funny wife, and beautiful, smart, funny kids. And good health -- I can run for many miles. And hair. And I have Jesus.
I'm a ridiculously fortunate white male in the richest area of the most materially-successful culture in man's history. I have a family-friendly job with a great boss. I don't ever shave. I have a loving, adventurous church community, loaded with friends. I have a well-behaved, if poorly-balanced, three-legged beagle. I have a Taylor and a Martin. And I have Jesus, too.
I talk gooder than most. I get to travel the world. I get to help children in poverty-stricken nations. I live next door to the spring training stadium of my most beloved sports team, and occasionally even do P.A. for them. I sign hundreds of autographs. I have cool shoes. Oh -- and Jesus, too.
I've got peace in my home. So much so, in fact, that I rarely discuss it, for fear of making people gag reactively. I've got good credit, and no debt. How about that? I've got that, along with Jesus.
He's my "All in All", and "all I want", and "all I need", and "everything I ever wanted", and in case I should forget, I sing the words frequently. Jesus is all I need.
Except, apparently, for these little pills.
Tie that one into a bow.