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  • Writer's pictureSarah Gibbs Underhill

Do You Feel Alive?

Updated: Jul 23, 2022

April 2019


I am awake! I am alert! I am aware! I am alive!

This was my mantra the month that I was struggling with the effects of an injection of the antipsychotic prolixin, which my son had given me against my will after he had caught me red handed trying to do the same to him. He is one of those schizophrenics who deplores medication and will not agree to take it under any circumstances short of coercion, despite the benign effects it produces in him. So I got the dose intended for him. For several weeks I felt sedated and dopey, slept many hours per night and got through my daytime responsibilities [ I continued to work as a homecare Hospice nurse ] and evening and weekend social commitments by forcing myself to continue to function.


As I was driving along, perhaps, or trying to concentrate on the task at hand during a meeting or home visit, I would repeat these phrases to myself, sometimes as statement, sometimes as a challenge: Are you awake? Are you alert? Are you aware? Are you alive? Sometimes it was a statement verging on a command: you *are* awake, you *are* alert, you *are* aware, you *are* alive.


The condensed version of this mental check in : “Do you feel... alive?” I am more likely to ask myself at moments of heightened awareness, excitement, or happiness, more of an ecstatic check- in when things are going more than well, or also when they are complex, fast moving, bewildering but not quite overwhelming. Verging on the overwhelming, perhaps. The battle cry “Adapt or perish!” also comes in useful during these periodic predicaments.


The medication caused in me a heaviness and lack of energy that was physical and had to be combatted throughout the day. If I had been having auditory hallucinations or intrusive thoughts, hearing voices as my son does, they might have been tamped down or silenced, but since I wasn’t experiencing any of that, I’ll never know .



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