August 5, 2008

Suburban Turmoil - Fashionably Crazy

I’ve been thinking of going crazy.

I mean, all the hip mommies are doing it. “Time for my Prozac,” they murmur with a wink over a table full of birthday cake-buzzed four-year-olds. “Forgive me, I really shouldn’t mix Xanax with wine,” they giggle helplessly during cocktails. “OK, rant over,” they type in mass e-mails to their girlfriends. “My happy pills are kicking in now.”

As you can imagine, I’m feeling left out. Oh, I’ve tried to keep up with my medicated cohorts as best I could. “I took two Aleve before I came here, just so I wouldn’t strangle a certain social chairman,” I told a bunch of moms during a PTA committee meeting. Their scornful glances told me my OTC habit simply wasn’t cutting it.

Afterward, I tore my medicine cabinet apart, searching for something, anything that would allow me to hang with the big girls. During my next shopping excursion with a group of women I like to call the Perco Set, I scoffed when the manager of one upscale boutique refused to mark down a top that had a make-up stain on the collar. “God,” I moaned. “This calls for a Singulair.” I patted my purse, smiling in anticipatory delight as I heard the comforting rattle of the pill bottle inside. In response, the moms giggled. “Oh Lindsay,” one of them said, shaking her head. “You’re such a kidder.” 

Darkly, I realized I was going to have to convince an actual MD that my jangled nerves needed some synthetic soothing. I was nervous about the prospect, imagining myself watching “Girl, Interrupted” over and over again until I felt sufficiently ready to reenact in our family doctor’s office what I’d learned from the DVD. My mom friends assured me, though, that I totally qualified for meds without doing anything extra. 

For one thing, they pointed out, I sometimes feel stressed in social situations. My heart races when I have to speak in front of people. A little bit of Ativan would go a long way there. Also? When I sit for too long on the sofa watching my soaps, I get the most ridiculous back pains. Hello, Vicodin! Where are you when I need you? Then there’s the way I wake up in the middle of the night and can’t go back to sleep for, like, 15 minutes! Do you know how irritating that is? No? Well, that’s probably because you have Ambien! 

If I ever do get my hands on an A-grade scrip, rest assured I won’t go all Brooke Shields on you. Moms like her really spoil the fun for the rest of us, claiming with solemn faces on Oprah’s white sofa that anti-depressants helped stop their uncontrollable crying, or allowed them to leave their house for the first time in six months. Come on, ladies, don’t you know that if you play up that kind of thing, you’re just going to make it harder for the rest of us to get our hands on the good stuff? For God’s sake, just because I don’t hear voices in my head doesn’t mean I shouldn’t have a shot at rocking the Wellbutrin buzz, too.

Thinking of Brooke Shields reminded me of a good friend I’ll call Sally, who eagerly downed the Zoloft her doctor prescribed back when post-partum depression was kicking her ass. I called her, expecting to hear a glowing recitation of the joys of an anti-depressant high. Strangely, though, the picture she painted was a dark one. While weaning off the drug, she said she started having panic attacks for the first time in her life. 

“You feel like you’re dying,” she remembered. “Your chest hurts, you can’t breathe. It’s like a heart attack.” Cringing, I wondered aloud if she thought too many of our girlfriends are on meds — more than one in 10 women, according to the latest U.S. survey, and I suspect the number is even higher in affluent suburban neighborhoods. “Some of us probably need to just get a grip and get out of the house,” she replied.

Unwilling to let Sally’s tale of woe put a damper on my plans, I found an Internet message board where people could write about their anti-depressant experiences. Tales of diarrhea, anxiety and decreased sex drives abounded. Frankly, even the positive comments scared me.

“I’m a 33 yr old stay at home housewifey,” one woman wrote. “I’ve been taking Zoloft for one week and one day. It is a miracle drug! I feel so relaxed and nothing in the world bothers me. I however did get a couple brain pains and couldn’t sleep for about 5 days.”

What the hell? Brain pains? No sleep for five days? 

Forget the crazy. I might as well get my kicks with No-Doz