Adventures In Misery: My Life On (And Off) Antidepressants

The last few years of my life have been an on-and-off battle with my brain and the bottles of pills that were supposed to fix it.

May 24, 2012 at 11:00am | Leave a comment

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A simplified version of my brain's flip-floppiness.

After refusing for a year, I started taking antidepressants at the age of 16. First came Cipralex, a drug that made me sleep deeply for 17 hours at a time while suffering horrifically realistic nightmares and made me feel like I was receiving tiny electric shocks to my skull when I tried to wean myself off.

At 17, after a few weeks of not wanting to leave the house, bathe or change my clothes, I started Prozac. Prozac softened the sharp edges at either end of the spectrum. My depression, formerly a wrenching punch to the gut, became a dull ache, and for the most part, any manic episodes, motivation or creativity were put on the backburner and replaced with constant tiredness and a dissatisfaction with everything I experienced.

I wasn't really sad anymore, but I wasn't happy or angry either. I was just numb, and I wanted to sleep.

A few years of frustration with Prozac left me wanting a lower dose and so the Prozac was lessened and Effexor was introduced in. High hopes were applied, but again dissatisfaction prevailed.

In December of 2010, I stopped taking medication altogether and opted for the all-natural route. Varying combos of Omega-3s, 5-HTP, B complexes, liquid vitamin D, natural stress relief compounds and "calming" vitamins created "Just For Women." Things seemed to be working. I started to get bossy with my brain. I'd tell it so stop being so sulky, stop being so angry at me, stop saying such horrible things to me, and for the most part, it listened. For awhile, I was in control.

A year went by and then my routine was shaken. That's the thing about us depressive types; we need routine. We need to force ourselves to do the basic tasks, to wash the dishes and do the laundry and treat ourselves decently, or we fall into miserable, disgusting patterns that have no actual pattern at all. We spend our days in bed, tangled in unchanged linens with the blinds drawn. However, we're also humans, and humans have to deal with change. And so I tried.

In January of this year, I moved to the city, I started college. I tried to force myself to get used to the unfamiliarity of the world around me. I was homesick and lonely. I started doubting myself around new people. I would walk away from a conversation and hear my brain telling me how stupid I'd sounded, to be quiet next time.

It started to feel like my life was a juggling act, except I was juggling eggs that were starting to crack and I was making a huge, huge mess. I would get angry and withdrawn, and so I would stay home instead of going to class. I'd feel unmotivated, with nothing of value to say, and so I'd miss deadlines for this website.

But then manic episodes would creep up too, and I would cook and clean and sit down and cut up old issues of the National Geographic and stay up until 4 am watching downloaded TV episodes because I needed something to occupy me, an outlet for the restless energy crackling through my veins.

Mostly I just wanted to sleep. I still just want to sleep. There are times when I want to be put into a temporary medical coma while maids and other qualified professionals come to my house and sort out the mess. I'd wake up to a perfectly organized closet, clean laundry, all my work for the next 6 months done for me.

Other times I want to get on a plane and go somewhere where no one knows me, make no effort to communicate with anyone who actually does. I went on a vacation a month ago and was miserable the entire time. All I could think about was what life would be like when it was over, when I had to go back to school, and the deadlines, and the people who I was convinced didn't like me.

Somewhere in all of this, something clicked. I realized I needed help again. I realized vitamins weren't enough when the fact of that matter was that I had a disease. Have a disease.

If you suffer from depression and you've ever sought help for it, you've probably heard the diabetes metaphor before. "Well, if you were a diabetic, you'd take your insulin, wouldn't you?" Well, if you're suffering from a mental illness, you should probably be treating it, or it will eat you alive.

A recent moment of realization for me happened when I was watching "Melancholia." Instead of being shocked by the behaviour of Kirsten Dunst's character Justine, I related to her. And I knew that wasn't right.

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I'd really rather not be able to relate to this movie anymore.

I've come to my breaking point, because I'm tired of feeling like this and the way it makes me act. I'm tired of having a quick temper. I'm tired of being such an asshole. I'm tired of not getting anything done. I'm tired of hiding. I'm tired of lying. I'm tired of having to pretend that I'm happy and sociable when I'm feeling the opposite. I'm just plain tired of being tired. I need pills again, because the truth is I'd rather be numb than feel this low.

I'm not here to dictate the health of other people. I know there are plenty of people who do find healing by using natural methods, people who manage to help themselves with counseling alone. If you're suffering, there are so many options out there, but right now I know which one is right for me.

So I'm going to see a psychiatrist tomorrow to discuss antidepressants and mood stabilizers, because I can't do this anymore, and I shouldn't have to. I want to make it from Monday to Friday without feeling like I'm going to collapse in the street. I'm sane enough to know that I deserve that.