This blog is not FDA approved
It wasn’t until I was in college I realized I had a medical diagnosis.
Up until that point, I just thought my brain was broken.
I realized it wasn’t normal for a teenage girl to be so sad all the time that she didn’t want to get out of bed; to cry constantly, to think about suicide (and come close to attempting it) on a regular basis. None of my peers seemed to be struggling with this. None of them seemed to be walking through what felt like mud every day, or quicksand; something that was sucking me down, and something that I was losing interest in fighting as each day passed.
My parents chalked it up to teenage malaise and hormones. I knew it was probably something more. A broken brain. That made sense. Of course I had a broken brain. Why wouldn’t I? That seemed like something I would have.
I didn’t share what I was going through with anyone, because I was brought up not to complain. And talking about one’s feelings and emotions, especially when they were negative – well, what could be whinier than that? So I pasted on a smile and squished down the dark thoughts, at least when I was around people. When I was alone, they would consume me, and I would think about ending it all so I didn’t have to deal with them anymore.
When I got to college, out from under the watchful eye of my parents, and started to talk to people, tentatively, about what was going on, depression was mentioned. So, always the A student, I researched what this might mean.
Out of the 11 signs of depression on the glossy pamphlet from the health center, I had ten of them. Ten. Not one or two, but ten. (The only one I didn’t suffer from was lack of concentration or decision-making; concentrating on other things was something I excelled at, because it kept my mind off what was going on internally.)
Well, luckily, we live in a day and age where you don’t have to live with depression! Not anymore! You can pop some pills, and suddenly, the sky is blue again, and happy birds land on your shoulder and sing to you, and magical unicorns show up to give you rides to work every morning!
(Disclaimer: your results may vary.)
As of last count, I have tried five different antidepressants in the last twenty years. And, as of last count, the number of them that have made me feel any better: zero.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. I didn’t give them enough of a chance. I need to keep trying. Medication isn’t the only fix; talk therapy is also an important factor.
To answer you: I did; no, thanks; and been there, thanks, though.
I am an intelligent woman. I know you don’t pop a pill and wake up the next morning with sunshine shooting out of your fingertips. I know that you need to give your body time to adjust, and I know you sometimes need to change dosage if the dosage you’re on doesn’t work for you. This isn’t my first time at the rodeo, kiddos.
The problem with every antidepressant I’ve been on is that they make me feel like not-me. Not in that I feel less gloomy – that would be a pleasant not-me change – but in that I feel like I’m experiencing life through cotton wool. My thoughts are muffled and slow to come. I’m not as quick with laughter or wit or spontaneous…well, anything, and those are all things that make me, me. I feel like I’m going through the motions in my own life.
Not to mention, one of the side effects of a number of antidepressants is anorgasmia. Not to get too graphic, here, but as I told one of my best friends: “I don’t know how it’s supposed to make me LESS depressed that I can’t have an orgasm.” When I tried to explain this to one of my (many) therapists, she said, “Well, you don’t have a regular partner, so I don’t see how this is a problem.” This is upsetting on a lot of levels, and I have to wonder if you’d say this to a male patient. Because (shh) we don’t TALK about our masturbation. WE ARE LADIES. Also, who’s to say I won’t FIND a partner, like, tomorrow? The world is a wild and wacky place, ladies and gentlemen.
I decided about seven years ago that I would deal with my possibly-broken-brain on my own. I realize that I have not exhausted all the possibilities for antidepressants out there, and trust me, I’m not anti-medication (I’m on enough other pills for various things that I probably rattle like a dried gourd when I walk.) I don’t like my brain when I’m on them, is all. I don’t love my brain when I’m NOT on them, but if it’s a trade-off, I’ll take the cards I was dealt. (I also tried a variety of therapists; I’m sure the right one is out there for me, but I have yet to find him or her, and it is very hard for me to get over the “don’t tell strangers your issues” thing I was brought up to believe.)
Also, I don’t know if any of you have ever weaned yourself off antidepressants, but it’s…interesting. To say the least. One of them threw off my balance. This led to me almost falling in a discount store, knocking into a display of frou-frou glass things and picture frames, and breaking hundreds of dollars of stock. (Luckily, the employees were very nice and I didn’t have to pay for anything. My embarrassment probably was all the payment needed.) I don’t know if I want to be on a medication that does something to you so deep that your entire balance is thrown off when you attempt to break free of it.
I still have depression. Of course I do. It doesn’t go away. However, as I age, I have ways of dealing with it; you fill your toolbox with what works as you go through your life. I have amazing friends who understand that there are times I’m depressed, and are understanding about it (one of them told me recently, “Your brain’s lying to you again; it’ll stop, soon enough” and the sheer fact that he understood that just utterly floored me.) I have the understanding that it will pass, and I have the knowledge that I really have a wonderful life, no matter what lies my brain is trying to feed me at that point in time.
Telling people you are depressed yet aren’t on medication is akin to telling people you’re bleeding to death and aren’t using a tourniquet, by the way. They start throwing out a ton of advice, and names of pills, and I’ve actually been offered pills from their own private stash like I had my own personal dealers. I just smile politely and decline. They mean well, but I know my brain, and my brain is fine unmedicated. We’re at a tenuous détente at the moment.
I’m all for the future. I think the technology is shiny and the fact that the option to use the medication just being there is lovely, for the people who benefit from it. But my choice not to use it is just as valid, I believe. I want to fully live life, not experience it through a muffling layer of wool and the inability to feel pleasure.
My brain might be a little bent, but it’s not broken. And I’ll take it. It does a lot of other amazing things. Life is about making the most of what you’re given, and dammit, I’m doing that as well as I know how.