Drugs

Last night, I was up with fear; fear about drugs.

1) Thinking about micro-cultures where the use of street drugs is nearly inevitable. Third-worlders running to the cities for good work, not finding any; street kids in any city — when the choice is one meal for a week or one bottle of glue, what really makes sense? And the fact that people drink “alcohols” made with paint thinners and shoe polish and varnish — or anything else that is one part brief mental euphoria or relief and five parts deadly toxins…

Or just the mention on the regional news last night of meth lab trash that can be nearly instantly deadly to anyone unsuspecting enough to breathe close to it. (I didn’t turn off the TV fast enough after the show I was watching. Normally I avoid the news like the plague.)

There is something about all this that terrifies me — how can it be that such situations exist, that such substances exist. And what am I going to do about it, when I can barely keep up with my own puny local life and when so many other causes clamor for attention?

2) Thinking about this Nasonex I’m on, and the Claritin, and occasionally the Benadryl.

Thinking about how I’ve learned enough to be skeptical of everything and everyone, but not enough to have chosen anything or anyone to trust, other than God, and even him I question often enough, and he doesn’t seem to say anything super clear about how to treat allergies.

What is it in Claritin that makes it non-drowsy? Does it contain a stimulant? I don’t want a stimulant. Does Benadryl contain a depressant, or why does it make me drowsy? I don’t mind it making me drowsy when I take it at bedtime. But I don’t want to take it during the day. And if I take Claritin, which lasts 24 hours, then I suppose I shouldn’t take Benadryl at bedtime too. And I have no idea if the Nasonex is helping or not.

I think the neti pot alternative (bulb syringe) is nice, now that I’ve gotten the temperature right. Although it makes me think about other fads regarding cleansing of internal cavities. I bet the nose too is designed to keep itself clean.

Amy seemed worse today; is her Claritin helping her or making things worse? How long do I wait before asking the doctor about that? We put the humidifier in her room tonight and gave her an extra pillow. She had a warm shower, too, and tried the nasal irrigation; she did pretty well with it, at least at first. Wasn’t happy about having to do the other side. It did seem to clear her out at least a little, which is good since she’s not so great at blowing her nose correctly.

It’s funny. I sort of don’t really believe in allergies. Why in the world would anyone’s body react to ordinary normal things in such a way? Surely eating right and getting enough sleep and exercise should cure or prevent all allergies, right? So maybe a long-term prescription for Nasonex is God’s way of challenging yet another one of my precious principles. Just like when I had to quit nursing Amy purely for psychological reasons.

3) Related to 2, what about my Zoloft?

There is a large and vocal community pushing the biological model and the diabetes analogy, and there’s my own experience that suggests that this drug does help stabilize my mood, and yet — at this low dosage — does not remove normal ups and downs and full presence and awareness from my life. Then there’s my friend who has radically reduced her diabetes symptoms by changes in diet and exercise. Although I think she’s got the kind that doesn’t need insulin shots.

Then there’s a smaller and equally vocal community pushing anti-psychiatry, arguing that no drug can resolve distress, and that the psychiatric model does more harm than good by adding drug upon drug in order to deal with side effects and tolerances. And that most therapists seem incompetent at best and retraumatizers at worst.

My experience on this side of the issue is that there are certainly personal-historical roots to some of my distress and that certain kinds of talk therapy have done more work on these roots than drugs have, but that perhaps I’m at a place where I am more to be applying what I’ve learned and less to be seeking more therapy. I have also not experienced being pushed to do more drugs, granted the exception of the psych nurse practitioner who put me on Risperdal — but it was a small dose and after a year I was able to get off it without issues. And I don’t have harmful side effects with Zoloft. In the beginning I had some eye pain, but that’s gone away. The worst thing that still happens is I am a little more easily nauseated, but it’s quite manageable.

And most of these anti-psychiatry folks have been treated at the hands of the incompetent or worse, and have recovered from vast contrary cocktails of ever-changing, ever-increasing drugs.

The thing is, though, we still don’t really know precisely what Zoloft or other SSRI’s do or why that works, or why it works for some and not for others. (It reminds me a bit of how many other times I’ve wanted a more precise and complete line from the nuts and bolts of a thing to the image, model, or analogy of how we understand it in our own experience — like going from the 1s and 0s in computer code to what I see on the screen, or how traveling electrons make the toaster work.) Do we know precisely how other drugs, like Nasonex or Claritin, work? With Bones, sometimes I look aghast at the barbaric and invasive nature of our current medical knowledge and practice.

Then again, I am still quite skeptical of the various alternative approaches to medicine.

And having friends on all sides of all the issues doesn’t help resolve where I should land.

4) Fear itself is a drug. So is food, and sunshine, and health, and rain, and sickness. There are so many factors involved in any one moment of my thought or feeling, it’s mind-boggling. Especially late at night.

I’m afraid of being wrong about anything, especially about anything important, like God, or some drug I’m probably going to take daily for the rest of my life, or what kind of chicken to buy and how much.

I generally try to look at my fears directly and see what the worst case scenario might be, and see that even that won’t destroy me. (And, late at night, I try to remind myself that my fears are always heightened late at night and that generally I have a better perspective in the day. A little voice late at night whispers that the recurrence of the night fears implies the existence of something that I’m avoiding in the day. I try to remind that voice that I am open to facing whatever needs to be faced.)

If my life is shortened by ten years because of medication or incorrect nutrition or not enough sunshine or too much sunshine, is that really such a terrible thing? Might as well add fear to the list of things that could so shorten my life. Fear certainly isn’t going to lengthen it. Healthy concern and research, sure; but not obsessive worry.

If God doesn’t exist, or is not the God of the Bible, most likely that would mean annihilation after death. And it would mean that living my life in faith would have been pitiful. But unless I am absolutely certain that he’s not true, why not hold on to the trust and the hope and the faith? There is good evidence that he’s true — not undeniable, not absolutely proven, but just as much evidence (more, I think) on his side than on the other side(s). So even when I am not solidly convinced, I don’t have to believe the fear that continuing in faith is just a gamble, one of two equal choices in the dark. I can remember that when I have researched and read and thought, I have generally seen that the scales tip decidedly lower on God’s side.

Even when my questioning and fear and doubt is ABOUT God, I can tell him about it in an attitude of faith and trust. I can tell him that while parts of John Piper’s arguments for God’s sovereignty even over evil and sin seem persuasive and even potentially comforting, it still makes me sick to know that some people got raped and sodomized as toddlers, and that others stay alive on glue-sniffing, and that others are tortured, and so on. What good could possibly come from any of that? And good must come from all of it in order for it to fit into God’s good purposes.

Even such little, but chronically recurring things as interpreting when something is good or not. Heard the “That’s good, that’s bad” story or played “Fortunately / Unfortunately” or heard the tale of “The Lost Horse?” Faith tells us that evil is truly evil, but that God’s goodness is sovereign even in the midst of evil, and that all things work together for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose (Somewhere in Romans 8). And yet, sometimes I feel like I’m living in “Fortunately / Unfortunately.” The cat visits me late last night, and I could say that God knew I needed distraction and comfort and a warm purring feline visitation would fit the bill nicely. But what if the cat hadn’t come? Would God be any less caring? And if not, what difference does anything make? If I should accept good and evil from the hand of God, like Job, how do I maintain understanding that good is good, evil really is bad, both are in God’s will, and God is always good?

I do think that Christianity’s insistence that evil really is bad is important — vs. philosophies and religions that consider evil and good to be meaningless categories, too subjective. Likewise Christianity’s insistence that God is sovereign, vs. evil and good as peers in the cosmic struggle.

What it comes down to, I think, is that our faith puts goodness primarily in a person and a relationship, and not in events and circumstances.

———

And there you have it: the myriad paths my brain and heart travel when the news mentions meth trash and I’ve just filled a new prescription and people are blogging about decisions and fear and terrible things and I’m likely in the throes of the monthly hormonal upheaval and so all the little bits of thoughts and feelings and concerns and hopes get tossed about again.

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7 thoughts on “Drugs

  1. Goodness Marcy, you really packed a lot into that post. Maybe you need some sleeping pills.

    Seriously, that was some deep and convoluted thinking and some really fascinating stuff. I think you should take this post and break it up into a whole bunch more posts and go into more detail about each topic because there is a lot of interesting material here.

    This would have made a great all night conversation. Well when I was younger I could have those types of conversations, but now I’d probably fall asleep.

    Lee

  2. Given how infrequently I’ve been blogging lately, if I was writing your blog entry I would have broken it up into, roughly, a dozen entries, just to fill more days. 😀

    Your mention of depression and drugs for it reminds me of the drugs I’ve encountered most as a teacher: ADHD drugs. Are they over-prescribed? Perhaps. But what was frustrating for me was the belief that some students on these drugs seemed to have that “I have ADHD, so I can’t be expected to stay focused.” In other words, the drug does what it does, and that’s that. Similar to depression, I think there’s a component of brain chemistry to the problem (more or less in individual cases) but there’s usually (or always?) an element of behavior or thought-patterns or life circumstances involved. In the case of students, it may be over-exposure to television, computers, and the like or undisciplined mental habits, but whatever the case, to neglect that side of things in favor of a purely drug-induced treatment seems misguided to me (though it’s a heck of a lot easier for the medical professional). In psychiatry, there is at least a culture of valuing talk therapy as a treatment, but ADHD seems to be treated almost exclusive chemically.

  3. Sleeping pills — ha ha, Lee.

    Both of you — yeah, if I were more disciplined about blogging I could break this up and edit it into distinct articles. But this was largely a mind-dump, and part of its importance to me is the way the various bits feel connected.

    John, yes; treating any kind of issue with medication without learning about history and environment is a short-sighted approach, whether dealing with depression, ADHD, or anything else. And even when medication is appropriate, how to use it, how to work with it instead of against it, what it can and cannot do, should be an essential aspect of treatment.

  4. EH, that sounds rather similar to the neti pot idea, except it’s a spray.

    My cough urge has gotten ridiculous. Hasn’t been this bad in over ten years. Actually ended up sitting/dozing in the car a few hours last night so I could cough without waking everyone. Going to the doctor later today to ask for an inhaler or something… had them in the past for similar issues. I feel like my windpipe is simultaneously underwater and stuffed with feathers and squeezed in a fist.

  5. Jumping in with both feet: I do believe in allergies… because I’ve lived with them for too many years… including when I was much healthier than I am now. And also because I’m allergic to sulfa drugs… though I guess those aren’t naturally occurring? I don’t know. As for depression/ADHD… my somewhat informed (as in, I’ve worked in counseling but am not a doctor!) opinion is that ADHD is overdiagnosed and thus the drugs are overprescribed… but that in kids who are truly ADD there will be a change with the right meds because the drugs will help them focus. However… new habits are essential to learn there too. Same for depression… professional and personal experience tells me that drugs can help. Sometimes that is just giving the push that someone needs to have the energy to work on other things that are causing (or at least not helping) depression. I also think some people just have a biological tendency towards depression. And I have a huge pet peeve towards doctors who just prescribe antidepressants without encouraging other methods to help combat depression — whether that is therapy, exercise or something else. And that leads to my *other* huge pet peeve about how inaccessible mental health care is and how insurance companies often won’t pay for it despite proven connections between mental and physical health. Okay, I’ll stop now.

    As for the God and fear ideas… all I can say is I agree… and it is so nice to see similar thoughts to my own spilled out on a page. I was just thinking today… somewhere Paul says that if the gospel is not true our lives were lived in vain and we are fools… Yet, somehow, even when I can’t find a way to convince the doubters or others who are downright hostile towards Christians… I can’t imagine a life without God and without believing it is true. Even while I have my own massive times of doubt and questioning.

    I do have to agree that you covered a lot of bases in this post! 🙂

  6. I think it’s not so much that I don’t believe allergies and asthma and the like exist, but I wonder to what extent they are sort of artificial, caused by inadequate nutrition or pollution or whatever, and therefore theoretically curable or manageable by changes in diet or environment or whatever.

    I’m allergic to sulfas, too.

    What’s most frustrating to me in the mental health field lately is how most therapy seems focused on staying in the present and making people functional. Clinics are labeled “behavioral health” instead of “mental health.” We need more old school therapy that helps people work through unresolved stuff from the past — not in a way that promotes a martyr mentality or tries to dismiss guilt and responsibility, but not in a way that just says buck up and deal either.

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