A Fistful of Fog

The real drugging began in a mental hospital, where I had been brought by my parents, against my will.

I cannot recall the precise timeline of events. I do know specific dates, because I spent specific amount of time in the hospital setting, and I know I celebrated my 17th birthday behind its walls.

I believe the issues began earlier, with the prescription of doxycycline and a summer of heavy exposure to sunlight. My preferred summer habitat was parked in front of my Commodore 64. I was driven into the yard with demands that I mow the entire place, despite my allergies to cut lawn.

That summer led to constant conflicts and my unrelenting desire to hide all day in the bathroom with a novel rather than face or interact with my parents. They were encouraged to take me to a psychiatrist as the depression of my circumstances, exacerbated by the effects of doxycycline, became apparent to my church youth group leader. The psychiatrist prescribed me a generous amount of Trazodone. I wish I could recall exact dosages, but I believe I was taking 100 MG every morning before school, as directed by my parents.

The effects were immediate, but extremely unpleasant. I was always sedated, always in a fog, and nearly always asleep in class by mid-afternoon. This resulted in me losing my position as yearbook editor, something I’d spent the previous year working towards. Additionally, I was removed from the yearbook class entirely, which disrupted my school schedule quite dramatically – I had a full hour of independent study, assigned to me because of my status as yearbook editor, which then became an hour where I did nothing, on top of the new hour where I’d simply been dropped from a class. No one seemed to notice that I was simply sitting, sedated, for half the day. When I complained to my parents, they refused to listen and simply said that I needed time to adjust to the medicine.

When I say the real drugging began in the mental hospital, that would still be several months away. THe Trazodone’s sedative effects were noticed by my friends, who tried the pills. I believe I had 150 MG loaves, which could be broken into three pieces. I generally took 100 MG, or 2/3rds of a pill. I watched a friend, taller and heavier than I was by a few pounds, be reduced to a stumbling, seemingly drunken slurring fool of a person, by taking a single 150 MG pill. After watching him bounce off walls at the mall, I remember beginning to question the wisdom of my psychiatrist.

I had complained about the side effects to my parents, but it was months before I ever returned to the psychiatrist. Even longer before she would consent to changing my prescription. Finally, in the spring, she shifted me to Prozac, telling us it was an experimental drug in a new class of antidepressants that showed a lot of promise in studies. At first, it didn’t produce any side effects, but I didn’t really know if I even felt any effects. By this point, I believe I had begun bloodletting. I know I was cutting a little now and then. The cutting began after I lost the position as yearbook editor. I don’t know if I cut that very day, but I know it didn’t start until after the Trazodone prescription.

In retrospect, forcing me to take pills that were causing me to be sedated, disrupting my academic performance, the ability I had to socialize, and the autonomy I felt over my body, it is not surprising that I found inflicting change to my body was a way to reassert conrol, or perform control, over my body.

Many years later I will have read “A Bright Red Scream,” and come to understand that this was a coping mechanism. At the time, it felt like a way to see if I was awake.

I sought sensation as a test of my presence.

As the Prozac took hold, this confusion about my existence became more pronounced. This was the way my subconscious dealt with the conflicting messages of an adoptee’s existence.

My real mother loved me so much she had to give me up and never see me again.

My identity was founded on this notion – that I was loved enough to be abandonded, and only the parents who adopted me were willing to take me in – that I began as a broken, sinful being, and if they worked hard enough I might be salvaged.

These were the thoughts that I was medicated against.