“It’s just for a little while, until you’re yourself again, until we can control the anger, until you can learn some techniques for helping with your triggers.”
I had just walked out of his office after another outburst at work, and I really wasn’t looking forward to what he had planned with me.
“We will prescribe this, and you can take it side by side with a session of therapy per week.”
I didn’t ask what it was, I didn’t ask what the side effects were, I was just going along with it because I was angry, angry much of the time in my life. I trusted that this, along with therapy, would finally solve the issue of my anger.
My anger had been a problem before. Several times, throughout my career at my first job at my father’s trucking company, I had outbursts. Throwing stuff on the dock, punching a hole in a wall, yelling and screaming at co-workers. I had a handful of confrontations when I was “squeezed” at work, meaning that I was put into a fight or flight situation, and the flight wasn’t an option. This would involve irate customers or carriers and having to speak with them. I wasn’t good at diffusing situations and would absolutely lose it if put into a situation where I had to accept responsibility for a screw up.
So I got hauled to anger management three times between 2007 and 2015. Each time I passed with flying colors, but most of the crap I did wasn’t effective (only because I didn’t practice any of the techniques). I was going just because I had to, not with the goal of getting better.
So I was sitting in the psychologist’s office for my first session, because it was finally time to make a change.
My mother and younger sister had been pushing me to take pills to “help” me with my issues.
So today was the day I was starting this new path. A path to peace, I thought.
It certainly was a path, but the way I felt, the way that the drug affected me, felt like it hollowed me out inside. No passion, spirit, or drive, but more of an auto-pilot option, just to weather life.
One A Day Chases The Blues Away
“It’s going to take a bit for the pills to take effect.”
At this point, I didn’t care, I’d tried everything, anger management wasn’t helping (because I wasn’t working to be better), so I took a pill.
The drug I was prescribed (Zoloft) was called sertraline. It’s purpose is to increase serotonin in the brain, essentially helping with mood, memory and “leveling” you out.
I was having horrendous mood swings, so my psychologist figured that prescribing it (standard with most of his patients) would help regulate me and keep me more “even” headed.
And, it worked. It evened me out, keeping me “sane” (or what I thought was sane) because that’s what everyone around me wanted me to be. Sure there were side effects – one being I had trouble climaxing during sex, but I figured I wasn’t having sex anyway (at the time, I was in a sexless marriage), so I took the pill.
I was struggling with my anger and I sure as hell didn’t want to start punching walls or throwing stuff out on the dock, so I took the pill.
My mother and younger sister were worried about my mental health. They wanted me to be more even headed (which later felt more like me being “complacent” or “obeying”) because they could see the stress of my struggles, so I took the pill.
Everyone around me wanted me to get better and with therapy, I could. So I took the pill…
It’s only a pill a day. It’s easy. It’s quick. It’s painless. Small side effects are nothing compared to the feeling of not feeling.
And I think that very reason is why people do this.
They’re afraid to feel strong emotions, and when they do, they don’t know how to express them. And this was my problem. I wasn’t allowed to have these emotions, because they are “unnatural” (actually perfectly natural) and when I was being unhealthy in expressing them in unhealthy ways. But no one ever told me how to do it, they only told me how to avoid doing it.
So I took the pill….
But what it did to me, how I felt, wasn’t right. It never felt right. All of my life I’d avoided the rollercoaster. But instead of finding out WHY I hated the rollercoasters (the falling feeling, the noise, the fear of the hill), I just avoided it. Why subject myself to that mess? So I took the pill…
It gutted the passion, the thrills, the fear, the joy, the fun of the emotions. It was assumed I couldn’t control myself (which I had shown) but had I really ever tried? So I had a choice to keep taking them and avoid the coaster.
And that’s what I did. I chose safe. I chose to level out my feelings because I didn’t like how they made me feel, as well as everyone around me telling me it wasn’t healthy to feel them.
So it hollowed me out, and even when I was supposed to get angry, passionate, or show emotion in a healthy way, I didn’t (or couldn’t) because it wouldn’t let me. And it affected my relationships, especially with my mother and sister, because I became more pliable again. My wife and I were too far gone, but my even-keeled mind was avoiding anything that required passion, reaction, and emotion. I was a Vulcan, and it sucked because this pill sucked the life out of my at the expense of my emotions.
I had swapped problems. Sure, now I wasn’t having the anger outbursts at work, nor was I having the erratic mood swings, but now, I was a hollowed out man. And as I did more research on the drug I was becoming more and more convinced that this thing I was taking was hurting me more than it was helping.
Cease and Desist
So, in September 2021, I called my doctor. I told her, after much research, that I wanted to ween myself off of this medication. I had found out that it affected my testosterone levels as well, after I had tested at a lower level (but normal to the regular medical community) and was concerned that the low T was affecting everything in my life. And I had her full support. I was a bit scared on what it would do to me.
Would I have the mood swings again? Would I have untapped aggression towards the world? Would I have to warn people that I was off my meds?
Still, I almost wanted that over the feeling I was having. There were times during sex I couldn’t cum, and that feeling alone pushed me to stop these meds. I was tired of not feeling anything, not having those hormones pumping through my body, not being able to have an emotion without an unnatural check on it.
I was tired of being a hollow man.
So, with the wind at my back, I re-lit the pilot light.
And as each day passed without the dose, my mood improved. My blood began to feel electric again. My energy level increased. I started to take my aggression out where it was healthy, the gym and the bag.
I kept even-keeled, even after a month of no meds. I looked for triggers and addressed them. My ability to control my emotions, yet express them in a healthy way, without the constant drug induced “meh”, was getting better with my mind out of the fog.
Two months passed. My mood got better, my energy increased. Whenever I was confronted with tough situations, I stood my ground, stuck my chest out, and weathered it.
I continued to get better. Months 3 and 4 came and went. My worry about relapsing to violent, emotional Tim became less of a concern. My new concerns were wondering why I didn’t do this sooner, what I had missed, and more importantly, what I was going to do with this new found ability to control and emit my emotions in a healthy manner.
The iron helped tremendously. I dropped the pills and picked up the weights. I channeled any raw emotions into the gym. I took situations that I had just drifted through on the medicine and manned the helm to push through them, learning how to navigate those situations with my emotions and sanity intact.
I was ACTIVELY trying to get better and managing my life, as opposed to letting the drug take the wheel so I could sit back and relax.
Doing that forced me to face emotion and deal with it.
We all have to deal with it, we can’t run away from the fight.
Now, at 6 months drug free, I have turned a corner. I continue to work hard everyday to address any raw emotions that bubble over, but instead of medicating myself, I work through and face the issues head on.
The best part? I’ve actually become calmer. I’ve channeled my inner anger, an anger that I thought would come roaring back, to becoming a better father, calmer and more direct boss, and a better, more masculine, more civil son and brother.
I’ve become more even headed that I was when I was on the meds, but without the lack of testosterone and the fear of overflowing emotions. My self control has kicked in. Breathing exercises, along with some quiet meditation as well as taking time for myself has really paid off in terms of my mental health.
I didn’t need the pill, but I thought I needed it.
Everyone was telling me it was the only way to improve my life.
And all it did was take me out of the driver’s seat and just sit in with no control.
In order for me to have control, I had to understand that there was a possibility of a wreck. But if I drove my own life well, and paid attention to how I was driving, being defensive at times while at other times taking advantage of what the road gave me, I would enjoy the drive much more.
There’s a reason cars have high speeds on their speedometers. And it’s not always about driving the limit.
But you have to use the brake, you have to steer away from trouble, and you’ve have to be aware of everything going on so you can get through it.
And you don’t need to drive under the influence of any drug, no matter how many doctors tell you it will “take the edge off” of your life.
Stress is a part of life, and if you have anxiety, no pill is going to help you face those pressures. You have to pit yourself against life and get tougher, not take a pill to give you an excuse or a way out.
There’s one way out of life and that’s in a cedar box.
You must get tough and fight it out, learn to deal with setbacks, and address your emotions face to face, toe to toe with them. Understand your triggers and work them out in other areas.
There are many people that need medication, but the over-medication of society has to stop at some point.
Stop medicating, especially if you use it as a crutch for the issues in your life.
The bitter pill is the only medication you should take, and accept that hardships will surface and overcome them.
Because life isn’t going to stop tossing you around.
You have to become the boat with the strong sails to smooth it out.
The ability to be mentally healthy is inside of you, and no amount of medication is going to change that fact.