I'm taking medication because my mother won't.
Last year around this time, I was dragging my mother to the doctor, hoping to get her medicated again. After a few months off her meds for Multiple Sclerosis, a disease she's managed for the past twenty years, she was wobbling and reeling enough for her to accept my help, after my ten-year near-absence from her life. She'd stopped paying for her health insurance, as she was facing bankruptcy and foreclosure; she, her fifth husband, and their twenty three cats, stood to go homeless.
The next six months were a book nobody wants to read ("Too dark." -- Major Publisher). They were an over, over long episode of Hoaders, where the crazy old person is still living in feces at the end, and the (oxymoronic) adult child combusts with sadness and rage until they give up. In the end, I got her back on her MS meds. I never got her back on Haldol.
Oh, the halycion days of Haldol! Back when I was in high school, after the group home and before I left to live with Sebastian, my mother was on an "anti-anxiety" drug called Haldol. She'd got it from a shrink she was seeing, someone she saw on Tuesday evenings, while I babysat in her Park Slope apartment. Haldol was one of the things that helped her finally leave her psychotic fourth husband (and I don't use psychotic as an insult, just a descriptor, so you understand what he was going through); it was one of the reasons I was able to come back and live with her again. It was how she was able to sit, night after night, placidly knitting in front of the TV after her toddler was put to bed, instead of pacing, biting her lips ragged, making calls. Haldol saved us both.
One day, Sebastian was over at her/our place, and he cornered me in a bedroom. Who's on Haldol?, he wanted to know.
My mom, I said. It's for anti-anxiety.
No it's not. It's for schizophrenics. That's the shit they give you when you take too much acid. That's some hardcore shit.
Okay, I said, shrugging it off. Well, she takes it for anxiety.
Years later, at my own shrink's behest, I look up "Haldol" online. It's for schizophrenics. What does that tell you?, she asks.
That she needs to take it. That she was better off when she was taking it. That I don't know when she stopped taking it, but it's pretty clear that she should probably start again.
Right. And: that your mother is schizophrenic.
The last six months have been about swallowing that bitter pill, and more recently, taking my own. I haven't taken an anti-depressant in thirteen years, unless you count marijuana, in which case I have taken anti-depressants pretty much my whole life since I was fifteen. But it was time to start again. This summer was tough, dealing with last summer's trauma; I completely fell apart during acupuncture for my arms, and was diagnosed with PTSD. Is that why I sat up bolt upright at 4 a.m. every night for thirty-eight days during the Gulf oil catastrophe? At the time, I thought that was the rational thing to do.
So, meds; the shame that comes from taking meds; the conversations with friends you didn't know were on them too; the thanking god for being able to treat your first-world problems with drugs while the people who suffer the most don't get them (see, it only works up to a point; I'm still kind of watching, as David Foster Wallace called it, "The Suffering Channel.").
It is sane to be sad in this case, as in most cases in life. I think the appropriate response to most of life is sadness, horror, grief, and fear -- a lot of fear. But it's also sane not to want to suffer. I wish my mother would take steps to alleviate her own suffering, but she won't. So I will.