The Five Year Plan
by Valerie Christie
I find it hard to let go.
There are people who can say goodbye to a situation or a person and walk away with no regrets, but I'm not one of them. I have too many unanswered questions; I am the one who is always asking 'What if?' I'm never too sure that I've done the right thing, and that walking away was the only solution to the problem. As a result, I've become very indecisive. I need to make decisions, but I can't. There are things I need to do, but I find myself unable to do them. There's something in my life I've been trying to change for a while, but I'm finding it impossible because of my constant indecision. I'll tell you all about it.
A few months ago, I was in my doctor's waiting room, nervously drumming my fingers against the wooden chair I was sitting in. While I anxiously anticipated my appointment with Dr McKenna, I rehearsed in my head what I was going to tell him.
'Hi, Patricia, how are you?' he asked, as I sat down in the chair opposite him.
'Fine,' I mumbled. 'How are you?'
'Very well, thank you.' he said. 'Now, how are you getting on with your medication?
'This was the moment I'd been afraid of. I didn't want him to ask me how it was all going, even though I knew he would. I didn't want to have to lie and tell him it was all fine, that everything was going according to plan and I was doing what he had suggested. The truth was, I'd been too scared to even try to follow his advice.
'I can't do it,' I blurted out. 'I can't cut down.'
'Patricia, we've discussed this before,' he said kindly. 'You've been taking Diazepam regularly for five years now. It was only meant to be a temporary measure, but you've been getting repeat prescriptions for longer than is ideal and I would like to see you wean yourself off it. I think that you've become dependent on it, and feel that you can't cope without it but that isn't true. You are a strong person; you just have to believe in yourself.'
'What happens if you're wrong?' I asked him. 'What if I can't cope? I remember the way I felt before I started taking the medication, and it scares me to think I might become that desperate again.'
I was genuinely afraid of returning to the emotional black hole I'd found myself in five years previously, when I'd lost both my job and my relationship in a very short space of time. I'd felt very alone, very scared and very anxious and I didn't want to feel that way ever again. At the time, I hadn't pictured myself still on the pills five years later. My plan had been to take them until I felt able to cope, but somehow that ability seemed to have eluded me thus far.
'I genuinely believe that you have everything you need to be able to cope with life,' said Dr McKenna. You just need to have faith in yourself.'
It's now three months since I had that conversation and nothing has really changed. I've tried really hard, but Diazepam is still part of my life. Dr McKenna may say that I have all the coping skills I need, but I don't believe him. I know that I've been to counselling and tried meditation and mindfulness, and in theory I should be able to get through the day without chemicals but there is always the fear that without my little pills, I'll fall apart. Each night I tell myself that this pill will be the last one I take. It never is. So I make another appointment with Dr McKenna. This time, I'm not scared. I don't want to do something I'll regret, but I'm starting to think that maybe it is time to let go. I've thought for so long that I needed the pills, but now I'm prepared to admit that I might have been wrong. Maybe I do have inner strength that I know nothing about. I would love to find this out about myself. I often admire the bravery of others so maybe for once I'll be able to marvel at my own courage.
Once I sit down, I get straight to the point.
'I've thought about what you've said, and you're right. I want to come off the Diazepam.'
He looks pleased. 'I'm glad you've decided to do this,' he says. 'Of course, you'll have withdrawal symptoms if you stop suddenly so you'll have to cut down gradually.'
He gives me the same prescription as he had a few times before, but this time I'm ready for it. I know cutting down, and eventually stopping is the right thing for me to do.
Someday, I will take my last pill.
I am a theology graduate, history geek and yoga enthusiast currently living and working in Belfast. I enjoy writing short stories and I blog occasionally at https://bluevelvetjacket.wordpress.com/
Pieces Inspired by this Image
'The Last Pill'