Shortly after Christmas, I noticed a shift. I was sleeping less and crying more. I was eating less and yelling more. I was losing motivation. I was losing my drive to write and work. I was missing deadlines. Ignoring deadlines. And I started pulling back; I began pulling away.
But before long, the sadness settled in. It worked its way through my body and lodged itself deep inside — in every joint, in every muscle, and in between every bone. Before long, irritability returned. The rage returned. And before long, the hopelessness returned, too. The feelings of worthlessness. Things started coming apart. I started falling apart.
The next thing I knew, I was shattered and completely broken. It was then that I realized I was deep in the throes of another depressive episode.
But this time, I handled things differently. Instead of trying to fight my feelings, I held them. I embraced them. I allowed myself to feel them. Instead of trying to avoid the truth, instead of hiding my depression from my friends and family, I wrote about it. I talked about it. And so, for the first time in 15 years, I immediately reached out for help. I contacted my therapist. I rearranged my work schedule. I made an appointment — an appointment I knew I had to keep. An appointment I knew would save my life.
And while it was several weeks before we could meet, knowing I was getting help was a relief. It felt comforting. It was reassuring, and it felt good: there was an end in sight.
As that session drew to a close, I cleared my throat and asked my therapist about medication. I told her I was lost and desperate. I explained how my depression was affecting my relationship — i.e. I was yelling at my husband when he hugged me the “wrong way” or when he refused to come to bed. I told her my depression was affecting parenting, and I shared how, on same days, it drained me so much — physically drained me — that I couldn’t keep my eyes open. That there were days when I had to lock my daughter in the bedroom with me, with the TV on, while I closed my eyes, while I fell asleep.
I told her I was restless and anxious. I was barely sleeping and barely eating. And I felt I needed something; I asked for a referral.
She agreed that medication, given my history, would probably help. She just asked me to give her a few days to find a doctor, to locate an “in network” psychiatrist.
Days later, she called with a point-of-contact. Days later, I had a name and a phone number.
However, this time medication did not come easy. Even though I had a history of depression and had been medicated many times in the past, this time I had to ask for it. This time, I had to demand it. This time, I had to fight for it. Why? Because there is an insurance problem in America, and because there is still inadequate mental health care. The fact that it took me dozens of phone calls and six weeks (six weeks!) to locate a psychiatrist covered by my insurance proves that.
But I digress: back to why I asked for medication.
I asked for medication — I demanded medication — because antidepressants get me “out of the funk” or “over the hump,” whichever you prefer. Antidepressants allow me to focus and function. They give me a chance to truly live and to truly feel. And they give my daughter the mother she deserves: i.e. a fully functioning parent. A present parent. A stable and well-balanced parent.
However, beyond everything — and every other reason — I asked for medication because I am sick. Because my illness deserves to be treated. Because I deserve to be treated, and because I need it.
My depression needs to be medicated.
Because without my medication, I am absent and numb. Without my medication, I feel weak, pathetic, and worthless. I am paralyzed by my feelings — or lack of feelings. I am a hostage to my thoughts. I am an angry irrational and, well, unstable mess. I am despondent. I am hopeless. And I want to die.
I often want to die.
Make no mistake: I do “other things” to treat my depression. I go to therapy once a week (OK, sometimes twice a week). I write. I run. I meditate. Sometimes I do yoga. But I also take Wellbutrin. I take one little pill, once a day because it keeps me functioning. It gives me a chance to have the life I deserve to live.
I am not ashamed of it, and I am not embarrassed by it. As no one should be.
Mental health medications are often portrayed as scary or “bad.” Many believe these drugs turn you into a zombie — a mindless, emotionless zombie — and many believe medication to be “a last resort.” And, yes, it should be. But why suffer when you don’t have to? Why hurt and hide and miss out on life when you can be a part it? When you can be living it?
The thing is, I have a chronic illness. Yes, it is a chronic mental illness, but like most chronic conditions, it needs to be managed. It needs to be monitored. And it needs to be treated. Antidepressants are but one way to treat it, but they are certainly a way I choose to treat it.
(Oh, and in my case, antidepressants do not numb me, they simply stop the sadness and “crap in my head” from swallowing me whole.)
So while antidepressants aren’t for everyone, and not everyone who is depressed needs medication, I know what helps me. I know what works for me, and that is why — this time — I sought medication. And I’ll never regret that.More On