As we make our way through various shows, Andrew and I have been watching House. Not exactly the upper crust of television, but Hugh Laurie is unmatched and it’s hard not to appreciate a good episodic show that you can throw on in the background. I had never watched beyond season two, so the whole saga of House’s rehab journey was new territory for me. And as I’ve hummed and hawed, trying to think of a topic for this month’s post, I’ve alighted on the fact that I’m so fond of House’s character because I see myself in it.
Lately, I’ve felt like I’m running around with scissors (in the Frasier-in-Cheers style of running around with scissors). I recently switched to an SNRI drug, Effexor, as I progress through the nine circles of hell that make up finding an effective antidepressant that also doesn’t make me want to jump into the sun. But SNRI drugs do funny things. Enter “brain zaps.”
“Brain zaps” sounds kind of cool, right? But it mostly just means I forgot my pills for several days in a row and ended up feeling like I was outside of my body and just meandering along as a disjointed Winnie the Pooh. I guess it’s sort of like how your body sometimes feels chilled in response to music or the rush of a missed step except it’s a sine function, with reduced amplitude and angular frequency over a larger period of time—a constant in and out feeling. Distinctly unpleasant, but you’re so damped down you just say a dull “huh?”
House is content to hang onto the unhappiness of opiate drugs for dear life. House is afraid of losing the mental edge that lets him do incredible things… alongside his incredibly bad things. I am no different. “Brain zaps” frustrate and scare me. I don’t like the idea that pills can affect my brain chemistry in such a way that I’m thinking and feeling these things and, in a sense, they don’t even feel like they’re of my own volition. I mean, sure, my brain might be dysfunctional, but it’s mine and I know how to use it to be high-functioning. I was always anti-antidepressants when I was younger, mostly out of fear. I’m still afraid; I don’t know this new brain of mine or what I can do with it. I didn’t know my Lexapro brain or my Zoloft brain, either. I don’t trust them (even as I know that’s a ludicrous statement to make).
I want these brain drugs to work quickly and clearly so I can figure out which ones to cross off and which ones to maybe keep. Being told I have to try any given drug for at least a month is just another tier of purgatory. And what if I spend half a year in this trial-and-error process only to discover none of the drugs make me feel “good”? I don’t even know what my not-brain should feel like or when I cross that mysterious threshold of “being happy.” That’s not to say I don’t experience joy and happiness, but self-awareness is always difficult and I don’t know what I’m looking for when it comes to my brain. I’ve always felt like everyone is going slow but, really, I’m just going fast. But I don’t want to become someone who goes slow.
The brain is a menace, a horse we’re always trying to break or a ferret we’re always trying to keep from escaping. It’s a balancing act that apparently sometimes requires brain drugs to even the odds. I don’t want to be stuck in my head (or in bed on dark winter mornings), but as House would say, “…like the philosopher Jagger once said, ‘You can’t always get what you want.’”
Anna Jeffries VanZytveld (‘20) graduated with a BA in mathematics and English literature. Originally from Asheville, NC, Anna now lives in Lansing, MI with her husband and three ferrets. Current hobbies include Stardew Valley, Procreate, murder mysteries, and the online ferret community.