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Message in a bottle

Message in a bottle

I have not taken trazodone for over a week.

For the uninitiated, trazodone is one of the first of the new antidepressants intended to improve on the horrible side effects of the One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest era drugs. It is old now, having come out when I was in high school. Some may remember it as Desyrel.

It worked, in that the worst side effects were eliminated: no more massive weight gain, sweating, racing heartbeat, the occasional seizure. It was a failure in that it introduced somnolence so overpowering it could never work as an antidepressant: at the happy dose, you’re comatose. So it is now relegated to a cheap sleep aid, one of the first things your HMO gives you for insomnia.

It’s cheap to be sure–four bucks for a generous three-month supply. It does work. But I am always tired. Sleep without it has been impossible.

When I started consistently taking it I don’t remember, but it has been a decade or more. My now-ex warned me of taking it, I think mostly out of her outsized fear of drugs but also because she was right about it being the primrose path. I knew she was right, but I needed to sleep, was desperate to sleep even then. It seemed better than Valium.

The pills are a dirty white and easily snapped in half. The dose has gone up and down of my own devising in step with my anxiety. Some nights, some jobs, I could take a half-dozen and not sleep. There is a sort of terror that comes when you’ve taken more pills than you ever have, anxiety’s electricity won’t let up, and the clock counts down the sleepless night.

I have been trying to get off it for years. The past eighteen months has been a steady inching closer, months between fractions of a fraction, dates and doses on a postit stuck to the windowsill. Swimming helped, supplements helped; unemployment helped, a job helped. It’s not a race, the doc says.

Two Saturdays ago I took the last crumbling fragment of a half-quarter I’d cut up. Two Sundays ago I didn’t take any. Yes, a little Ambien on the side, which the doc advised for a week or so, but no trazodone. I haven’t taken any since, sleeping successfully in my oftentimes summer-school’s-out neighborhood and at a county beach park in the back of the Caliber. Last night my Ambien refill wasn’t in the mailbox so I didn’t have it either. I still slept, even with the fireworks and the driving, pouring rain.

Finally stopping was neither easy nor hard, but a moment when I might as well do it. I have no agenda, no plan, nowhere I must be and no one I have to prove anything to.

Without it, I feel cleaner, though still tired. That fatigue could be something else, something that’s leaving. It takes a long time for trazodone to go.


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