This blog is not FDA approved
My name is Jen, and I’m lucky to be alive.
The first time I realized a child could be happy was when I was an adult. I wouldn’t say I had a terrible childhood, but I would say it was plagued by never-ending sadness. “Depression” wasn’t really a term people used back then, but if they had, I would have been a textbook case. There were times when I felt I couldn’t go on another day, and those are pretty heavy thoughts for a 10-year-old child.
I was in third grade when a boy next to me told me I was so ugly he hoped I’d die. At the time I was so taken aback that it didn’t fully impact me, but as I began to understand the severity of that statement, it crushed me. As the years went on, it served as a reaffirmation of every single social and personal failure I experienced.
I made friends growing up, but I never felt fully invested or connected to any of them. It was impossible to form a genuine bond with anyone, and this emotional separation made me feel completely isolated. I was a walking ghost, and was legitimately disconnected from the world for the better part of two decades. I’m only 30.
I had a fair amount of emotional distress in high school, but it was during college that I really started to come apart at the seams. I’d sleep 20 hours a day and then stay up for days on end, I had an eating disorder, formed mild OCD tendencies, experienced periodic panic attacks, and there were days when my anxiety was so bad I wouldn’t leave the house.
At some point I decided to seek counseling for all that was plaguing me. My whole existence was blanketed by sadness, and several people advised me that therapy was the answer to all of my problems. I went in for my first session, and walked out with a prescription.
She recommended a medication typically reserved for the treatment of seizures. I was told doctors had started using it to treat general anxiety disorder, and I was a perfect candidate since I was young, healthy, and had a milder form of anxiety. One girl’s living nightmare is one therapist’s probable misdiagnosis. But hey, what did I know? She was the one with the fancy degree.
There was no explanation of what the medication was supposed to do, or any of the potential side effects. She scribbled so freely on that paper, and handed it to me without hesitation. Looking back, I realize how reckless and irresponsible it is to give someone who had barely aged out of her teen years a prescription after one session.
My descent into true and total darkness began the day I took that first pill. The first night I took it I sat in the shower and cried until the water ran cold. Days and weeks crawled by, and I felt completely out of sorts. I was told there was an “adjustment period” and my body would eventually acclimate.
I didn’t acclimate as she said I would. In fact, I was so miserable after four months of taking it that I seriously contemplated taking my own life. It was New Year’s Eve, and had reached a point where I felt I just couldn’t go on. In the final moments before I was to proceed, I found a note a stranger left in a self-help book I had gotten from the library. It read, “You are meaningful to someone, somewhere. It will all be okay.” I instantly thought of my sisters, their faces, and what it would do to them. I couldn’t go through with it.
Against my therapist’s advice, I quit the meds cold turkey the next day. I went through a withdrawal I can only describe as half psychosis and half pure physical torture. I had never experienced a pain like that, one that aches in your soul.
It seemed like I was free falling for an eternity after I stopped taking the Neurontin. I had no personal identity, and picking up the pieces of my life was much like putting together a 10,000 piece puzzle without knowing what the finished product should look like.
I began by chipping away at the smaller problems in my life first. Clearing out those minor things helped uncover much deeper issues I didn’t even know I had. All the years of not eating enough, eating too much, hating my appearance, thinking I wasn’t smart enough, trying to be who everyone wanted me to be, and shielding myself from the real world were all merely symptoms of the underlying issues.
Things got a whole lot worse before they got better. I identified and confronted traumatic moments from the first 21 years of my existence. I broke up with my boyfriend and cut many friends out of my life after realizing how toxic my relationships with them were. I had to accept that I was also part of the problem. I tunneled through the darkness for years, and one day without warning, a small light appeared in the distance.
It has been nearly a decade since I began that journey, and I’m in a much different space mentally. I’m the happiest I’ve ever been, and that happiness continues to grow every single day. I’ve got a supportive family, loving friends, great blogging buddies, and a job I actually like. I try to have fun whenever I can, and I live my life with an open and tender heart.
I owe none of this to medication. I owe it to modifying my diet. I owe it to confronting the truth about certain people and situations. I owe it to kicking myself in the gut until it felt like I couldn’t go on, and then giving myself a hug afterwards.
I refuse to go back to way I felt as a girl whose classmate wished her dead because he couldn’t stand looking at her. That is not real life. Real life is taking things moment by moment. It’s accepting that we have good days, and we have bad days. It’s knowing that sometimes we’ll slip back into our old habits, but will have the strength to pull ourselves out of it much more quickly.
This doesn’t mean everything is perfect. I have my ups and downs just like everyone else does, but I choose to push past it now. Sometimes I think about all of the work I still need to do, and feel overwhelmed by the task at hand. Most of the time I think about how far I’ve come from that first night sitting on the shower floor, and I remember that my name is Jen, and I’m lucky to be alive.