Withdrawal is a f**king ****.
But first, some context.
After chacha passed away in February, I have spent the past 8 months on anti-depressants. I have written about this earlier, right after I had my first breakdown. I was in an extremely dark place then, not really seeing the point of making any effort to move forward.
In time, the medication and therapy worked. I got better, but then I started harming myself whenever I had a good day, because I thought I had no right to feel good when something so horrible had happened to our family. And then, I got ambushed by a betrayal that made me feel like I was back to square one. I was made to feel unworthy by someone I trusted to make me feel safe.
For someone who has always had a complicated relationship with their body, this just confirmed all the things I believed to be true. That my body is unworthy. That it is unwanted. So, I picked up that knife and cut myself. It was one of the worst days of my life, not because of how I felt, but because of the pain I caused my parents. It made me realise that I never wanted to put them through such pain ever again, even if I crave it.
So, I trudged along. Months passed and I went back to Judo. Judo is the only thing that has ever made me feel in control of my body. It has made me feel strong, and helped me explore my relationship with it, when I don’t have to worry about being attractive, pretty, or feminine. I practiced with men (as I was the only woman in the class), and my Judo sir never made me feel, even subconsciously, that my gender mattered. I was treated equal in every sense of the word, and I am forever grateful for the way he has helped me try to create a positive relationship with my body. Alas, what is life without drama? In November, I pinched a nerve in my back, and the doctors told me that I would have to undergo physiotherapy. I could not do Judo, at least not for a few months, while my back healed. The one thing that connected me to my body was taken away from me.
This year has been a tussle in understanding my identity. For most of my life, I have felt that Roshini, the person, lives in the mind. Abuse, PCOD, and a range of health issues made my body a stranger to me right from when I was an adolescent. So, I focused on my mind. I tried to do well in school, engage in conversations on ideas and concepts, and now spend a good amount of time reading. But, with depression, I lost control over my mind. I no longer felt safe within my own mind, and did not know where I belonged anymore. Still, I have spent the past few months trying to regain control, so when I lost Judo, it was after I had started to feel like myself again. My psychiatrist even told me that I could start to wean off my medication because I was doing well.
For most people on these anti-depressants, doctors recommend weaning off the meds gradually, over the course of a couple of weeks. Now, I had skipped my meds in October for a few days and knew how bad my withdrawal could be. So, as a precaution, my doctor started weaning me off even more gradually than usual.
In my moment of triumph, I posted about it on Facebook. I have never received such overwhelming support and good wishes as I did for that post. 3 days later, messages are still pouring in.
And now, I have to admit my failure to you. I stopped my meds as the doctor recommended, and by the second day I had started showing signs of withdrawal. I had a continuous headache, and felt like there was an electric current passing through me. I went for a walk, hoping it will calm me down, but to no avail. That night, I barely slept , and had nightmares that would have been, quite frankly, hilarious if not for being so vivid.
Day three, the shit hit the ceiling. The headache got worse, the feeling of being electrocuted became more intense, and my teeth felt like they would fall out. I started puking my guts out, until I had emptied my system of bile. I broke down emotionally and felt like even screaming at the top of my lungs would not let it out. In an attempt to not be beaten by it, I went for a 5 km run. Can you imagine?! That is how much I wanted to beat it. And then, when I tried to nap, I dreamt about all the ways I could harm myself. Trying to stay sane, I used a trick my doctor taught me. I clutched cubes of ice in my hands, waiting for the pain from the cold to feed the withdrawal and give me some sense of peace.
This is clearly not a success story. I have been put back on the meds while my doctor and I try to figure out how to beat this damn monster. More than anything, I feel like an absolute failure. Control over one’s abled/ “healthy”/ “cured” body seems like a pretty basic criterion for success. I should not need the medication once I have “healed”, and that which has helped me get better should not be what makes me sick. Yesterday, I failed. Having taken the meds, the withdrawal symptoms have subsided. Today, I woke up feeling like my body had been put in a washing machine and turned to pulp. (Yes, I am aware I am mixing up analogies.)
As I am writing, I am trying to think of an apt way to end this post. Do I talk about how I hope that I will be able to get off the meds again soon? Because that would be a lie. No such hope here today.
When I started writing this, I was sure it would be a post just about withdrawal and what an absolute f**king nightmare it is. But, somewhere along the way, I realised I wanted to talk about identity. Where do we think we live in ourselves? Is it our mind? Is it our body? And what do you do when both of them fail you around the same time? Where do you go? Who do you become?
Article by Roshini Suparna Diwakar