Screaming. Excruciatingly desperate. Dangerously loud. Pain expressed with every sound; helplessness released with every breath.
I sit up in my bed, surrounded by darkness. The sun starts peeking between the curtains of the bedroom. I look around, trying to figure out where the damn screeching is coming from. I was perfectly content pretending I was dead. Sleep is the only thing that relaxes me now. The only thing I crave within my aimless, and honestly pathetic, existence.
But this stupid bawling freak ruined everything.
I feel tears falling freely from my squinting eyes, down my hot cheeks, to the covers of the bed.
The screaming resumes. I cover my ears, begging the horrific sound to stop. I feel it piercing through my skin, so I start scratching, my arms and my chest and my back, trying to get it out.
PLEASE. I CAN’T TAKE IT ANY LONGER.
I realize that the sound is coming out of me. And I cannot stop.
I don’t feel like me. I feel like a ghost, completely dissociated from me the human. I imagine myself getting out of bed, but I don’t feel my legs moving. I examine the room, in which I have resided for the past week, but recognize nothing. I suddenly stop screaming. I don’t know why I do, but I do. The pain remains. The kind of pain that rests deep within your soul. The kind of howling pain that, try as you might, you cannot claw out of your broken body. The pain that no one else sees, no one else feels. No one who hasn’t felt it can comprehend it. I truly believe I am alone. Not literally: my mom is in the kitchen, frantically throwing things into her purse. Keys, medication, breakfast, medication, water bottle, medication, medication, medication. All mine.
But though I am not literally by myself, I am alone in my brain. I cannot let anyone else in. My brain is too scary, too messed up for the real world. And try as I might, I can’t get it to just shut the hell up.
Ouch. Thinking hurts too much. My eyes widen, and I purse my lips. Now I feel nothing. Nada. Zilch. There it is again, my favorite escape mechanism: sudden nothingness.
My mom picks up her coat, hands me mine, and quietly pleads with me to leave this depressing basement. We’ve rented an Airbnb since my last really big panic attack, so that I can still go to school. The single room apartment is dark and has “just a little rodent problem,” the owner tells us after we’ve put in our deposit. But I cannot stand to be anywhere else. I barely get to class each day, and only because my mom drives me to and from.
I want to be locked away in this basement home indefinitely.
My mom drives us to CVS to pick up my latest medication refill.
Classic teen angst, right?
The feelings will go away soon, right?
Just be grateful for all that you have.
Snap out of it.
This is your fault.
I cover my ears, but the voices in my head are stubborn. They won’t leave me alone, no matter how hard I try to shush them.
Since my diagnosis, I have swum through a sea of drug and dose changes, but no luck. Yet. They continue to convince me—the therapists and the psychiatrists—that the pills will fix something, somehow, some day. They supposedly fix everyone else. So despite my lack of results, I take my meds religiously. Because I want that something, somehow, some day, so damn badly. I want a taste of normalcy. I want to experience happiness again.
I don’t know if I will experience happiness again.
I don’t know if I can wait for happiness to knock on my door and invite me back into its warm, loving grasp.
I don’t know if I have ever really experienced true happiness before. Ever.
I think I give up.
After glancing at my swollen, pitiful face, my mom decides to run inside CVS herself. She is unable to hide her utter confusion. And fear. She promises to be back “as soon as possible.” She grabs five empty orange bottles, all with perfectly white tops, all of which attempt to fix my brokenness:
- 40mg of Prozac, an SSRI antidepressant, which means it keeps serotonin in my brain longer, and is the main mode of attack for my depression, sans success thus far
- And 25mg of Oleptro, an SARI antidepressant, which also keeps serotonin in my brain longer, but most importantly is the only reason I sleep at night, and this sleep is vital to my existence, and I understand why this drug is highly addictive, because blacking out at this point is highly addictive
- And 25mg of Atarax, an antihistamine, which should put me to sleep but does not, and which should calm my anxiety but does not
- And 50mg of Elavil, a tricyclic antidepressant, which theoretically prevents headaches
- And 10mg of Rizatriptan, which constricts blood vessels in my brain to relieve migraines, but I am not supposed to take this drug right now, because it is dangerous with my other meds, and can induce serotonin syndrome
Serotonin syndrome…what did my psychiatrist say about serotonin syndrome? Oh right. Serotonin syndrome is this very, very bad, not good, bad, toxic range of symptoms that occur due to, somewhat obviously, too much serotonin in the brain. It is a life-threatening condition at its worst, but its warning signs mimic the symptoms I’ve presented for months, so I do not think I have too much serotonin.
I thought I didn’t have enough serotonin.
Because if I had enough, I would be happy.
The panic attacks prove it, but I still do not know that serotonin syndrome is officially at full force.
I shake and my heart races and my blood pressure skyrockets and my pupils permanently dilate, but this is all just part of my day, everyday. I am just crazy, and I don’t know why, and I don’t know how, but I know I am. Don’t blame the drugs; only blame me.
The night before, I swallowed 4 Atarax, 2 Oleptro, and an Elavil in a desperate attempt to sleep, perhaps forever. I would have taken more, but my mom closely monitors my medication consumption, so that’s that. But despite my drug concoction, I tossed and turned all night and shouted and bawled all morning.
My mom knows that something is terribly wrong, even worse than usual, so after CVS she drives me to my therapist. I feel defeated; even my mom cannot console me. I am a useless daughter, more of a struggle than a light in my parents’ life. My guilt is too powerful.
I repeat my dad’s words like a mantra. “The only thing we have to do is keep you safe.”
But that doesn’t stop my brain from screaming.