Wireless, Prozac and Sarah Palin: Prescriptions for More Craziness

Two weeks ago I went wireless, and last week, in the midst of the U.S. economic meltdown, I went to see a psychiatrist. The reason I went to see a psychiatrist? Probably, because I’m crazy. And maybe because I got a wireless connection for my laptap.

But the main reason I went to see a psychiatrist? I don’t sleep. Okay, I sleep, but not that well.

I haven’t slept well in a long time—probably not since I was pregnant with my son. And then right after he was born—well, I didn’t sleep through the night, or more than five or six hours at a stretch, until he was about 2 years old. He’s now 10, and those broken sleep patterns die hard.

In fact, those patterns are alive and kicking and have even gotten a second life, thanks to—ugh—perimenopause (I do hate dating myself). I first sought help from my GP, but she was always reluctant to give me meds. Change my life-style habits, she advised. Do it the natural way. As in, learn to meditate before bedtime. Or give up caffeine during the day and red wine and sweets in the evenings—three things that make life, well, more, palatable. So, after a particularly rough bout of insomnia—and after an “intervention” from my husband: “Your stress level is very high,” he said. —I decided to bypass the GP and go straight for a psychiatrist.

So, the psychiatrist hears about mood swings, my waking up at 2 a.m. with this fierce sense of dread, my ongoing sense of worthlessness, my unyielding view that the world has stopped making sense. He sees me as mildly depressed and anxious, and suggests I try an anti-depressant. Actually, he suggests the most famous SSRI of them all: The one, the original Prozac! It might help the anxiety, he says. It might help the sleep. It’s known to help women calm those perimenopausal mood swings.

Okay, fine. I get the Prozac. He also prescribes me Ativan (or Lorazepam), an anti-anxiety, and Ambien (or Zolpidem), for sleep.

The Prozac gave me a brief lift, but that lift, one week into its course, now produces a sort of stomach-churning energy. Perhaps not what was intended? Then again, I’ve heard I need to give the Prozac a couple weeks to really kick in and adjust to my brain and body. And anyway, that energy has found an outlet with my laptop’s new wireless set-up, which helps feed my obsession with the current presidential election.

With the wireless on my laptop, I can sit up in bed late into the night and go to the different news websites and political blogs and see how the presidential horse race is going. I can watch the Tina Fey send-ups of Sarah Palin, and take comfort in the fact that popular culture sees the spunky Alaska governor–aka Hockey Mom–for the slick, vacuous, though very telegenic, operator that she is.

Last night, I watched the vice presidential debate between Senator Joe Biden and Palin and came away worried that Palin, in not embarrassing herself, had helped bolster the chances of her running mate, John McCain. I got keyed up, and the Prozac was churning inside me. I took both Ativan to calm me down, and then Ambien to rock me off to sleep. The Prozac, or my rightfully attuned fight-or-flight response to the whole Sarah Palin phenomenon, was still churning: The fact that there are people out there who think her aw-shucks charm translates into the attributes of character and intellect needed to lead the United States terrifies me.

I woke up early the morning after the debate. Took another Ativan. It didn’t work. My laptop sits by my bed. I grabbed it and logged on. For a couple hours, I deliberately avoided the news and political blogs. I instead watched an old episode of Dynasty on www.cbs.com instead (It took me back to a more “innocent” time: the Reagan ‘80s: in some way, perhaps the cultural progenitor of Madame Hockey Mom.) But after one episode of Dynasty, I couldn’t resist getting back to 2008, and the horrifying prospect of life in America right now. I had to know what the analysts were saying about this debate. What was the verdict of the pundits? What did the overnight polls say?

So far, okay, according to a CNN/Opinion Research Corp poll of debate watchers. The consensus is that she performed, like the state-level beauty pageant contestant that she is, but that she didn’t say anything of substance, and that Biden performed well, too, and displayed his experience and calm understanding of the issues facing us. No, I didn’t go to the website of right wing radio host Sean Hannity or of Fox News. I can’t quite to that dark side at 5 a.m. when I’m sleep deprived and feeling a bit, well, fragile.

Yes, fragile in my own sense of being. Who am I? What’s the point? All those cliches. But also fragile because, like everyone else, I can’t help but worry that our country and the world are in a precarious state. It feels like we’re all at the edge of something, and Prozac, Ambien, and Ativan, and late night Dynasty reruns might not be enough to get me through all this.

Of course, I could always buck myself up in a chipper Sarah Palin way. Hey, if she can get so far in life with so few qualifications, I might be able to finally calm down enough to one day get some real sleep.

Otherwise, it’s time for the craziness to reign.

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