Enter D.A.R.E. police officer into my 5th grade classroom, circa 1995
Hi kids, I’m sergeant So and So.
Let’s talk about the elephant in the room: Drugs. Some drugs can make you feel good, or “high,” and some can make you feel relaxed, or “chill.” But remember, all drugs are bad. Stay away from them and you’ll be fine.
Sgt. So and So goes on to describe the kinds of drugs, what can happen to you, both physically and legally, if you get involved with them. Etc.
Fast forward 22 years
With a diagonosis of both depression and anxiety in hand, I go to the nearest pharmacy to pick up some pills that are said to help.
I’m not a fool. I’ve known since I was an adult that the D.A.R.E. program, and others like it, are geared at preventing kids and teens from ruining, or at least complicating, their lives by getting involved in illegal drugs, or illegally using legal ones.
Nevertheless, I had always been funny about taking pills for my problems. I used to believe that stuff like that was for people who lacked the mental fortitude to fix problems using their mind. I was such a dumb ass.
I got home from the pharmacy and read all the directions that came with my prescriptions. Three times. I got online and read, ad nauseam, people’s reactions to the same drugs I was prescribed. Some good reactions, some bad. Some indifferent.
I opened the pill bottle and got out my dosage. And froze. This is going to change my life, I thought. Probably forever. Hopefully for the better.
So I did it, I swallowed my medicine and waited. I kind of expected it to turn me into some kind of werewolf, or at the very least, a babbling, giggling idiot. It did none of those things. But I did get a reaction pretty quickly. I felt an odd sort of stiffness down my arms and on the backs of my legs. My mouth dried out.
And my mood immediately changed.
I relaxed. I sat down on the couch with my boys. I engaged with what they were doing. Logan and Luke were playing “Minecraft” and I was genuinely interested in what they were doing.
I wanted to cry tears of joy at the immediate transformation. I felt like the man I wanted to be.
Months roll by
Why are you telling me this?, you might ask.
Well, quite simply, because I spent the first few months ashamed of the fact that I had to take prescribed drugs to feel and be what a “normal” human feels and is. And I decided to give that shame the proverbial middle finger and talk about it anyway.
Lacey and I went to this wedding and reception this past weekend. I was frank with her when I said I didn’t want to go. I mean, I’m not a huge fan of weddings, but it was more because I was worried about how my medicine would hold up.
When anxiety gets its filthy hooks into me, I freeze up. I’ll half-assed try to be pleasant, but I want to bolt from wherever I am. And I just want to lie in bed until it goes away. That usually comes after I fall asleep.
Life doesn’t work that way. And I don’t want to let my family down because I don’t want to go to events.
Well, the wedding was, by all accounts, beautiful. It was made more beautiful by the fact that the bride and groom (two people I had never met beforehand) seemed genuinely happy and in love with each other.
The reception was held at the swanky banquet hall and the decorations were very tastefully done.
I met several of Lacey’s coworkers, and we all had a great time sitting around the table, talking and whatnot. I didn’t have any drinks because my medicine doesn’t allow it (plus, the smell of alcohol makes me feel sick now). I even danced a couple of dances with Lacey. I’m a fat, clumsy white boy who only knows how to two-step (poorly). But we didn’t care. It was amazing. I want to learn how to dance now.
Then, 9:30 p.m. came. Much more quickly than expected because we were having a good time. That all-too-familiar dread started creeping up my arms and legs. I stopped engaging with people and stared straight ahead, or stared at no one in particular on the dance floor. I didn’t want anyone to think something was wrong.
I took a few walks outside to get some fresh air and to try and calm myself down.
I lasted an hour before I caught Lacey coming out of the restroom and said to her, “The medicine is wearing off and we need to leave soon.”
The ride home
It was about a 25-minute drive from the reception to the house. Lacey had a few drinks and was a bit buzzed.
I was a silent basket case. White-knuckling the wheel, I kept saying to myself, Don’t look over here. Please. Please. Please. Don’t look over here.
Shame, fear and, you guessed it, anxiety had full control of me. I even fought back tears as I drove us home. I still can’t rationalize any of it.
We had been sitting at a table near the back of the reception hall. I didn’t have to give a toast or take off my pants or anything. I just had to be a “normal” guy with a “normal” disposition. I lasted as long as I could, about 6.5 hours.
What’s gonna happen?
To all who are reading, just know that there is a vision of myself, one that I can be from time to time, that I yearn to take over the rest of me. He’s witty, charismatic, he’s relaxed. He’s fun to be around. But he gets pushed to the side. More often that I’d like. And I have to work my hardest to get him to come back.
And the medicine helps.