At 62, I prided myself on being one of the few people I knew who weren't on any meds. Who needed drugs? I was high on life! I woke up each morning with a smile on my face, happy to be alive and feeling groovy.
Then I learned that the man I'd loved and trusted for 20 years had a secret girlfriend on the side for the past ten.
After I kicked that cad to the curb, my entire support system sprang into action. My friends and family surrounded me with a big warm blanket of love, understanding, compassion and concern. Not only that, but I got a terrific new therapist.
And yet, five months in, I found myself overwhelmed by sadness. I'd be strolling down the street in my suburban neighborhood on a beautiful sunny day under a clear blue sky and feel barely able to hold it together.
"How are you?" a neighbor would ask. "I'm fine!" I'd say, then burst into tears.
After several such encounters, I thought to myself "Gee, I'd better do something about this." My doc had given me a Valium prescription when I was diagnosed with Meniere's Disease a year ago, in the hope that it might alleviate the symptoms. When it didn't, I stopped taking it.
That little bottle of Valium gathered dust on my medicine shelf as I happily went about my life and Mike happily cavorted and canoodled with Maggie behind my back. Then I discovered their affair and threw Mike out and the sadness set in—and I suddenly remembered the Valium.
So I took one. And the sadness receded! Just a bit, but just enough. The tsunami of pain that threatened to overwhelm me slowly withdrew.
I'm still sad. I still feel loss. But, I can cope. (And, yes, I squared this new use with my doctor.) It's not as if I am now gobbling Valium round the clock. Days go by without my needing to take one. But I don't leave home without it.
When I posted on Facebook that I'd discovered that post-breakup life goes better with Valium, I quickly learned that plenty of my pals are taking meds for a wide variety of mental health-related issues. When I asked what they were on, they responded:
Zoloft, with Valium as backup.
The occasional Xanax.
Klonopin and chocolate.
Xanax during the day and Ambien to sleep.
Wellbutrin in the morning and Lexapro at night. (Which sounds to me to like the basis for a very catchy song lyric.)
When a few friends commented that all you really need to do to beat the blues is sip some tea and take a walk, others quickly set them straight. "Sometimes tea and a stroll just doesn't cut it," they posted. "Shut up, and just be glad you don't know what real depression is like."
I hope you never have to learn what real depression is like. Or real heartbreak, for that matter. But if you're dealing with either, or with the death of a loved one, or job loss, or really bad sleep problems? Talk to your doctor about joining Club Meds!
I don't feel ashamed to tell the world that Valium helps me cope. I'm just glad and grateful to have found something that works. I'm guessing that the passage of time will probably take care of this for me. But for now, when I get too damn blue to function? Like a good friend, Valium is there. To keep my sadness at bay, and help me through those ultra-challenging post-breakup moments.
Like last week, when my ex phoned to tell me that the affair was entirely my fault. "Of course I turned to Maggie!" he said. "You didn't love me enough."
Back in the day, that little declaration would have made me want to crush his head in with a rock. Now I just roll my eyes, thank Valium and keep on going.