It’s commonly known that alcohol is a "depressant"—but the truth about how alcohol affects someone who suffers from depression is not often discussed.
For more than 17 years, I suffered from depression. I’ve been on all types of medication. Most recently, a combination of three: Wellbutrin, escitalopram, and Xanax. Medication had become part of my life, and I made peace with needing it. I understood there was a chemical imbalance in my brain, one I was likely born with, and accepted the reality of needing medication—quite possibly for the rest of my life.
When I sought healing from depression, my drinking habits were never under scrutiny. In some ways the opposite was true; I often drank to deal with stress and anxiety. And it's easy to see why: alcohol has an elevated place in our society; drinking is not only acceptable but socially encouraged.
It wasn’t until after I stopped drinking, and my anxiety and depression began to ease, that I sought to understand the connection.
Since I hadn't connected my drinking with my depression, it wasn't immediately apparent why my depression and anxiety symptoms began to lift in the months after I stopped drinking. I met with my doctor, with the intention of exploring taking a lighter dose. She asked me what changes I’d made that might be bringing about an improvement. When I mentioned that I had stopped drinking, she immediately made the connection. I was surprised to learn what a profound effect drinking alcohol had had on my mental health.
With her help, and through research, I began to understand the intimate, terrifying, link between alcohol, anxiety, and depression.