I have been taking medication for depression and anxiety for a decade. I don't talk about it much, but I don't have a problem admitting it. Frankly, meds have saved my life.
I'll never forget the day I went into a psychiatrist's office for the first time at age 25, concerned about a family member's mental health and unsure of what to do. The doctor said, "It sounds like you're depressed."
A few days later, I took my very first dose of meds. I woke up in the middle of the night, and threw up. I felt weird and sick and out of my own body. I thought: I can't handle this. It's not meant to be. I'm not depressed.
Well the fact is: I am depressed. I spent my youth staring out my bedroom window, making shapes out of the moonlit tree branches, just feeling sad. In my early 20s, I was anti-social. I never wanted to go out. I didn't have many friends. It's not that my social situation made me feel sad; it was my inherent sadness that caused me to prefer solidarity.
I knew how to fake a laugh and smile, but my sadness ran deep. That's the thing about the disease of depression. You don't wear it on your sleeve. You still have to wake up, get dressed and go about your day. Usually, the outside world has no idea what you're going through.
My battle with depression has been nothing short of a journey. So many highs and lows. Even while on my meds and seeing my doctor regularly, there have been some bottoms hit so hard that I was afraid for myself. I knew the comfort I felt in staying in bed half the day was not right. The longer I could avoid the world, the better. On several occasions, it seemed I had nothing to feel glum about — good job, great life at the beach, and a solid romantic relationship. But it always got to a point where it was never enough.
Sounds selfish, right?
But over the years, I have felt better. I've tapered off the meds several times (which is a very long, and physically painful process —avoiding a zapping feeling in my brain as I withdrew took almost two months) and had my body free from anti-depressants for months on end.
And every time, it hits me like a ton of bricks. It's the strangest thing. I wake up one day, look in the mirror, and say hello to that old familiar feeling. That's what this is. That's why I have slept till noon all week, skipped my workouts, and felt a numbness so deep it physically ached.
So, hello again, meds. Let's try this once more.
Even though though millions of Americans take medication to manage anxiety and depression, there is still a stigma associated with this disease. There is a lot in this world to be sad about. I am a certified yoga instructor; I have tried hard to breathe and meditate this illness out, from deep within my core. The fact is, it's in there. And it's genetic. My grandmother was institutionalized for postpartum depression in the 1950s, because that is how this disease was treated back then. No wonder many believe mental illness equates with insanity.
I may have been able to fight through this latest setback and survived. I could have woken up every single day and done all of the things that would uplift me: sweating, yoga, journaling. But when I get to a point that even those activities don't bring me peace, and knowing there is something inherently wrong with the mechanics and chemistry of my brain, I accept that I need help.
I'm not sure there will ever be a day I don't need those pills. I'm aware some tough decisions will arise should I ever become pregnant. Until I cross that bridge, I am going to do whatever it takes to allow myself to feel joy in the day-to-day.
Life is precious and life is short and I have felt enormous joy. Without help, I am incapable of seeing sparkle even in the brightest stars. I deserve to see the sparkle.
Photo courtesy of the author