Note: This is my experience with medication and major depressive disorder. Starting, stopping, or changing your dose or medication should always be discussed with your physician(s). Normally I’m not one to include these types of warnings or notes but brain chemistry and such are very serious, and slight alterations to your regular use can cause disastrous consequences.
It’s an “and” now. It used to be a “versus.”
I was 21 when I was diagnosed with depression. At first they thought it was situational. When your mom dies, people tend to think it’s situational, you being sad. When your mom dies, and your cup runneth over with feelings, people cut you a big break. I even thought it was just phase. I’m sad now, but I have reasons to be and maybe this ship will right itself and blah blah blah.
Spoiler alert: It didn’t.
They gave me 10 milligrams of Zoloft and sent me on my way. I got a little better, I got a little worse. Ebb and flow. It was college. That shit is stressful. I took it, I didn’t take it. Eventually I didn’t take it more than I took it, but things were exciting. I had a job upon graduation, shit was good. I didn’t need it, I told myself. I got this.
But the sadness didn’t go away. It just sort of hovered around. In between the fun and adventures and happy smiling Facebook photos there was this dissatisfaction with everything. With myself, my job, my life. A sadness I couldn’t place. It didn’t overwhelm me, though. Not yet.
By the time I was rocking my mid-20’s, I had major depression. The kind that hangs around for no apparent reason, strikes when it fucking feels like it, and generally makes you feel like an anxious piece of shit. It’s fun. (Not really.)
I went to therapy and was honest with my doctor and they switched me to 10 milligrams of Celexa, which is a citalopram, not a setraline, like Zoloft. They’re both SSRI, so they both work relatively the same way. They make it so my brain doesn’t suck up all the serotonin it releases, letting me actually feel the feels I feel, instead of weird false feelings.
It worked better, the Celexa, but had more side effects. Dry mouth was the one that bugged me the most. I didn’t like taking my meds. If such a small dose of the stuff could do this… what did I need it? Did I need it? I told myself I didn’t need it.
I told myself I didn’t need it for years. I took it only when it was really bad. When I couldn’t get out of bed, or stop crying, or getting anxious about anything and everything. When I was visibly a mess, I would take it. Because I needed it then. Only then.
But I needed it always. I just couldn’t accept that.
Around 27 or so, I was dating a lovely guy named Nathaniel Wattenmaker and while we got along really well (we still do, he’s a good friend and an awesome person) I was… a bit of a mess. I was something that needed to be handled. Dealt with. I could feel it, and while my art at the time was exploding with feeling and I was really happy about the things I was making, I was really unhappy with just about everything else. Including him, even though he was great. (I see now that I wasn’t actually unhappy with him, I was unhappy with myself and projected that unhappiness onto him, but you know, hindsight’s 20/20 and all that.)
He’s dealt with mental illness in a couple forms before. Not himself, but he’s seen people struggle. He didn’t want to see me struggle like I was. It’s hard to watch someone suffer, and harder still when they won’t listen to your common sense. He practically begged me to take my meds regularly. I had them, why not take them?
“You take your birth control every day,” he’d say. “How is this different?”
“It isn’t, but it is. There’s… side effects and I just forget and-”
“You haven’t forgotten a birth control pill in… how long?”
“Ten years,” I muttered.
“Yeah. Ten years. Ten.” He frowned. “I’m just gonna let that sit there for awhile.”
The mental block around it was brick and mortar, 10 feet tall, by then. It had “denial” spray painted on it in big red cursive letters. Super fancy stuff. I had excuses you wouldn’t believe.