Fake Thoughts

When I take the pills, I don’t have these thoughts.

Image: sunshinecity via Flickr

I stopped taking so many pills all at once! This is probably not medically advised and I certainly wouldn’t recommend it but sometimes you just do things, I guess?

The pharmacy claimed my birth control prescription ran out and even though that wasn’t the case, I just didn’t feel like fighting it. And I’m not sexually active and birth control pills probably make me crazy anyway. I mean, I think they do? I started taking them when I was 13 because my period never, ever, ever stopped and I don’t remember that they made me moody or prone to crying jags or anything like that. Because I was a teenager and everything mattered so much but nothing mattered at all. I gave up on them at some point and just dealt with having my period forever.

At some point in my early 20s, I decided that I should probably start taking them again because even though I was using condoms when I had sex, it was probably a good idea to know when my period would start and stop, you know, just in case. Also, there are a whole lot of intimacy issues that come with having a never-ending period, such as never feeling comfortable during any below-the-belt activity. The first couple months were a bit rocky and I got all puffy and I remember crying over the tiniest things like what to eat for lunch. You know, as one does.

I just took them forever and ever and sometimes when I was really busy, the only way I could tell what day it was of the week was by taking my morning pill. Like marking the passage of time and measuring out my life not with coffee spoons but with birth control pills. Eventually the crying jags stopped, or at least they just became such a part of my life that I didn’t notice them anymore. Knowing when my period would start and then also knowing that it would stop was always comforting, despite the fact that the second day of the placebo pills brought on a mega migraine. Eventually, I started skipping periods, because you can, and because it’s so convenient when you can just move right onto the next month’s pack and gloss right over the cramps and the worry about whether your tampon is leaking because you just sneezed.

I wasn’t going to the pharmacy every month to get those birth control pills so I guess I just also decided to stop taking my antidepressants? This is probably not a good idea and you should not do this without talking to a doctor! It just seemed like maybe I should stop taking everything at once and just see what would happen to my brain if I stopped taking brain drugs.

I started taking brain drugs because I was very sad! But I didn’t realize that I was very sad because I was also very angry and prone to saying things over g-chat that I thought were innocuous but were probably cries for help. A bunch of friends who didn’t know each other all got together and staged an intervention. I was wearing gym clothes and it felt like an ambush and I lashed out and it was all sorts of drama. (Don’t intervention a sad person without proper professional assistance! I think?)

But then I was getting ready to go direct a shoot down in Atlanta and I didn’t feel the normal excitement I feel about production even though directing is my favorite thing to do in the whole world so I thought, hmmmm, maybe I am actually sad and I should take some pills for that. I went to the doctor and he gave me a bunch of boxes of pills and they sat in my medicine cabinet for a while and then I started taking them and just never stopped. I started seeing a sleep disorder doctor who changed the pills and she adjusted things a little this way and a little that way until I started sleeping again and no longer felt like the world was imminently ending. That was good.

But now maybe the world is imminently ending! That is bad! And there’s so much to process, all the time, every single day! You don’t even need to be taking birth control pills to start having crying jags. So, I didn’t even make a conscious decision, really, I don’t think, but I just stopped taking the brain drugs. Because everything matters so much but nothing matters at all.

It turns out, the brain drugs do good things to your brain, which is probably why doctors prescribe them. Without the brain drugs, I started thinking some real thoughts again. Like: Oh, I am very sad. But I blamed that on the world at large until I realized that “There’s No Place Like Home For the Holidays” was on my shower radio and I was crying large lumpy tears while I shaved my legs because I was suddenly, powerfully, struck by the notion that I had no home. And then one night I was snuggling the cat and noticed that he felt skinnier and then I had to stay up until dawn imagining the what if implications about my mostly companion getting older. And then another night I had terrible thoughts about how much I love my dad and what would happen eventually if very bad things happened and how I would probably just disintegrate. I went into a downward spiral about how I am never going to date anyone ever again because of all the reasons I am unlovable and how I will be alone forever. Except for the cat, of course, but I was already panicking about the cat.

Are the bad thoughts the real thoughts? Or are the less-bad thoughts the real thoughts? When I don’t take the pills, I have very many intrusive bad thoughts! When I take the pills, I don’t have these thoughts. But! Which ones are real? And which ones are fake? As in: do the brain drugs make me think fake thoughts? Or do the brain drugs manifest real thoughts that make me realize the bad thoughts are the fake ones? And did the birth control pills and their daily flush of hormones make the crying start? Or was the crying always there and the birth control pills just make it easier? If we take pills, do they mask the authentic self or do they set the authentic self free? And is that really such a good idea?

I listed to a song seventeen times in a row the other day and wept because it was so sad and so beautiful. Because everything matters so much even when it doesn’t seem to matter at all.


FAKES is The Awl’s year-end holiday series for 2017. You can read the whole collection here.