Do you ever get the feeling that God is speaking to you? Maybe sending you a sign?
Not those kinds of signs, but the kinds that only you see. I’ll give you two examples.
Wednesday of last week was Ash Wednesday. My sister was watching an episode of Roseanne. It was from either the last season or the next to last season. Roseanne is teaching some rich white folks how to be white trash. She said, “Women who yell don’t need pills. Pills were invented by men to stop women from yelling!”
It struck me as funny, but it also lodged itself unknowingly into my brain.
Fast forward a few days, and my best friend makes this casual comment to me over the phone: “I’ve heard you laugh more in the past few days than I have for a long time.”
This has all been foreshadowing. (See how literary I am? Don’t you just want to throw money at me for my writing?) Last Tuesday was my last Prozac. Absolutely not on purpose! Don’t be impressed! No indeed–my prescription didn’t have any refills, and we got hit with a massive storm that knocked out power early Wednesday morning. Power was out not only at the pharmacy, but also at my doctor’s office, so I couldn’t call in for a refill.
Now, if you can follow the Tarantino-ish order of this post so far, here’s what has happened: I have inadvertently given up Prozac for Lent.
It just so happened my last pill was on Fat Tuesday. I couldn’t get it refilled on Ash Wednesday. When the day finally came for me to submit the refill because the doctor was going to be in the next day, I hear that very, very important comment from my friend.
She’s heard me laugh more in the last week then she has in a long time.
The week I haven’t had the Prozac.
If that isn’t food for thought, I don’t know what is.
I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder. In old fashioned terms, I’m hyper, nervous, neurotic, etc. This is not revolutionary news to anyone, I assure you. A few years ago, though, it was moving past the point of comedy routine material into the land of serious issues. Sleep was nearly impossible. When I did sleep, I had terrible nightmares. My first panic attack prompted me to talk to a doctor. I didn’t even have a regular family doctor up to that point.
The panic attack was a thing I cannot describe. It happened on the way back from a beautiful, stress free vacation. That was the most upsetting part. It came from nowhere. It wasn’t a “break” or anything like that. I was just riding along in the car on the way home from the ocean, and bam. Well, more like BAAAMMMMM!!!!!!!!!!!!
I started to notice the semi in the lane next to us. It kept distracting me from the ongoing conversation. It kept catching my eye. Suddenly, I started to get afraid. (Although afraid fails to truly describe the feeling.) I sweated. I cried. I shook. My mouth tasted like pennies. I became convinced we were all (me, my husband, my kids, and my sister) were going to die in a horrific accident. I saw it. A good imagination is a blessing and a curse, let me tell you. My throat closed up and I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I had to fight the temptation to literally tear open the door of the car and jump out. Really.
Well, I confess to you now that I took one of my sisters strong narcotic medications to knock myself out. I slept for a couple hours of the ride home, and when I woke up, I felt a little better. It’s hard to describe, but somehow, that event made me more aware of the feelings that I guess had always been there,unacknowledged, hanging like some sort of poisonous snake around my neck. It was ready to slither up any time to whisper in my ear all of the tragic and terrible things that could happen, that were happening, in the world, and in my life, every day. I had to do something.
So, to cut this long story slightly shorter, Prozac galloped onto the scene like my White Knight, and I found I could deal with daily stresses without being quite so “hyper” or “nervous” or “neurotic.” To me, this was a good thing. To my family, who loves me and worries about me and, to be frank, is a little afraid of me, it was a miracle.
I short, I squashed the bad feelings.
Here’s what scares me: have I squashed all of the feelings?
I am a loud woman. I am passionate and sometimes overbearing and sometimes overemotional. My temper has gotten me into more tough spots than I care to recall. I love to laugh, and laugh loud and hard. I have a hard time keeping my opinion to myself. I think all of these things are what makes me Janice. They make me Mom, and The (not so) Special Mother, and the woman whose husband said, “There’s no one like you, babe. One’s enough,” and he said it in response to my query as to whether or not he was sure he really wanted to marry me.
So here is the question (the one that is keeping the stars apart): Have I, and other’s like me, medicated ourselves right out of living?
Life is supposed to be hard. The hard is what makes it good. It’s scary and tragic and beautiful and funny and horrible and everything. It is anxiety causing!! Is it possible we are taught to squash feelings rather than deal with them? Are we in a cycle of denial and repression that sucks in not only ourselves, but everyone around us?
I don’t know the answer to these questions. I’ll be frank–they scare the hell out of me. The thought that God is trying to tell me something so specific equally scares the hell out of me. I’m not the best Catholic lately. Maybe God is telling me to rely on Him, and on my own faith, rather than chemicals from a bottle. Maybe God is telling me that my life is a gift, warts and all. My feelings and reactions are a part of that life. They are a part of me. I’m going to give them a chance this Lent. I’m going to try and deal with them instead of trying to squash them. Not to get too deep, but I’m going to feel them, then I’m going to try to let them go and give them to God.
Pray for me. I need it.
We all do.
Disclaimer: In no way am I suggesting that every person who takes some sort of depression or anxiety controlling medication should just toss those pills out the window and embrace the agony. It’s a story about my own life, and if it speaks to you, then so be it. Cheers!