Three months ago, I said I had begun taking bupropion. It’s time for an update on that. For the record, if you believe it unwise that I should discuss such a topic on the medium of blogs, I no longer see this as being fundamentally different from prescribing an antibiotic for an infection. This is not to suggest that modern psychotropic medication even begins to approach the level of accuracy or certainty as there exists with, say, penicillin. It is more to posit that I don’t think this should be a subject of taboo. I would rather like to be able to discuss this without that awkward sensation of entering a zone of excess intimacy.
To recap a bit: medication was not something I had an interest in at any point prior. I felt strongly that the causes of my void of progress were a fatal cocktail of environmental issues combined with self-disciplinary failures. I saw myself as too unprincipled to maintain the kind of long-term responsibility necessary to make it through higher education, a problem that was exacerbated by the fundamental errors of the structure of American society as was available to me. I’m sure that both of these things contained a kernel of truth. However, the medication has brought about a level of change that I had previously not thought possible. I am now faced with the possibility that accepting medication may have been one of the best decisions of my life.
Bupropion is considered a norepinephrine-dopamine re-uptake inhibitor, but it also initiates the release of additional norepinephrine and dopamine. Basically, it increases the concentration of those two neurotransmitters within the system. Rather than list the known uses and consequences of bupropion, I’ll just tell you about my experience. The first thing I noticed was an overall increase in energy. In fact, for the first three weeks, I found it absolutely impossible to exhaust myself. Waking up in the morning was absurdly easy, but going to sleep was a serious challenge. Once I did fall asleep, I slept very lightly and found myself frequently waking up during the night. This had the interesting consequence of making me much more cognizant of my dreams (everyone dreams when they sleep, but if you don’t wake up during or directly after dreaming, it’s forgotten), which made sleeping a very entertaining experience. Despite my increased energy levels, I found my ability to focus increased dramatically. Whereas before I would be consistently interrupted by very disruptive trains of thought and emotion – no matter what I was doing at the time – within a few days I became able to hone in on my task without mental distraction.
Then, there was its impacts on anxiety. I found myself alleviated of a weight that I had not previously realized was there. I would not have described myself as a stressed or anxious person in the past, but when I recall the frame of my consciousness as compared to now, it was filled with innumerable checklists that I was constantly running through, again and again. This was completely eliminated. I felt able to strip my current focus down to what was truly relevant, and ignore the extraneous material that was generating an intense feeling of being overwhelmed and incapable of handling reality on a moment-to-moment basis, let alone the long-term.
Then, there was the shame. Again, I would never have described myself as an ashamed person – but once it left, I knew that it had been there all along. Time did not seem to be capable of healing the embarrassment I felt about any of the events in my past. I could think back to errors or misjudgments I had made as far back as early childhood and I would instantly feel a sledgehammer of vindication and guilt. Yet, this did not compare to the intensity I would feel when I had erred in the moment. Social mishaps were like landmines waiting to thrust me into an oblivion of despair, serving as incontrovertible evidence that I was the worthless human being I had always feared that I might be. If it sounds dramatic, that’s how it felt. I insert no exaggeration here.
This, too, vanished – and I mean vanished. I could return to the same memory, but this time my reaction would be within the realm of reason. I could recognize it for the mistake that it was without obsessing over the multitude of possible cosmic consequences of that event. These things, on the scale of it all, were extraordinarily average moments of the human experience that I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to learn from without suffering in a truly lasting manner. I was no longer haunted by memory, but in fact propelled. Memory became my own personal data set which I had the joyous convenience to analyze, and each moment of living experience was a chance to add novel information to that collection.
Never would I have called myself a person filled with fear, but I would say now without hesitation I was absolutely loaded with fear. Fear of being average. Fear of spending my life alone. Fear of being wrong. Fear of being an asshole. Fear of disapproval. With the shame gone, there was no fear. With the fear gone, there was no anxiety. I could now carry out my actions without a backdrop of agitation and uncertainty. My energy was no longer divided between accomplishing my present task and paying my dues to an unrewarding black hole of non-reality.
But enough rhetoric. Talk is cheap. Where are the results?
I began taking the meds in early October. At work, I started calling in late and sick significantly less. Two weeks later I wrote a proposal to start a new project on our website. My boss accepted the proposal, and I got bumped in hours. The increase in hours allowed me to save up the money I needed to pay off my debts and go back to school. I am enrolled at TC3, and for the first time, I’m on top of my shit. I have all of my textbooks on time. I spent ten minutes talking to one of my profs after class. I did homework on a Saturday afternoon. None of these things have occurred in the past. It’s helped immensely with quitting smoking, too. I still crave at moments, but the act is not nearly as satisfying. In the last two months, I have purchased three packs. Before this, I was consuming a pack every three days. There’s more I could talk about, but I think this is just the beginning. Really, really, really.
The only negative side effect has been my loss of appetite. I don’t eat as much as I used to, mostly because I just don’t desire many foods. I still feel hunger, but it competes with a lack of desire to consume anything. I remember frequently remarking on my love of eating months ago, but now I find that it’s infrequent to feel a strong compulsion to eat anything. I still eat regularly enough – it’s not hard to tell when my body is starting to lose functional efficiency due to lack of resources. It just doesn’t have the same zest. Outside of that, I can identify no ill consequence.
My mind has never been sharper. Some anti-depressants leave people feeling like zombies, or disconnected from emotions they previously enjoyed. This has not happened for me, and my heightened focus and clarity of consciousness enables me to experience most things in a fuller way. It’s true that I no longer have the episodes of euphoric creativity and confidence, but I do not think they were doing me much good anyways. My delusions of grandeur have subsided, and I am able to accept that I am, objectively speaking, not very different from anyone else. That doesn’t weaken my identity – I just don’t have to feel like an alien any longer.
Best of all, I no longer find that I am comparing myself to my role models again and again. Comparison is patently ridiculous – why should I aspire to be another, when I am already me? I can certainly learn from the successes and failures of my peers, but it is useless to wish to be someone that I am not. I am who I am, with the many strengths and weaknesses I possess, whether due to genetics, environment, or personality. Another quote says it better than I can.
“There is a time in every many’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide,” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
As I told my mother, I believe it’s a new era. My vision is clear, my course is set. A long road is ahead of me, and I will savor every moment of it.