At this point you shouldn’t believe a word I say. I promised a blog-post three(ish) weeks ago and have yet to deliver. It’s coming eventually. Promise… kinda.
To be honest, I haven’t felt like writing much lately. That’s an odd feeling for me. I usually always feel like doing something creative with my free time and my go-to is almost always writing. I’ve been working on a big writing project for over a year now, but have had little desire to even go near it for a few weeks. At first, I blamed writer’s block. Then I decided it was “okay” to be “lazy” for a little bit. And then after almost a month of said “laziness”, I realized, the problem was much bigger.
The topic of this post might make you a little uncomfortable. I’m uncomfortable writing it. You can bet I’ve read and erased and re-written most of it at least four times by now.
I want to talk about depression and anxiety. More specifically, my struggle.
Most of my close friends and pretty much all of my family knows I’ve struggled with anxiety for about as long as any of us can remember. As a kid, I was a pretty big “scaredy-cat”, which translated into being a “worry-wart” as I grew up, and eventually, the sugar-coated terms for my irriational fears and dramatic outbursts became clinical diagnoses. I was told I had an anxiety disorder and this disorder meant that my brain wasn’t producing normal levels of seratonin, which made me irritable and constantly worried. I was prescribed a low dosage of citalopram, which is considered an antidepressant in the family of SSRIs (selective seratonin reuptake inhibitors).
Initially, being put on an antidepressant was kind of embarrassing. I wondered a few times, what was wrong with me? Why couldn’t my brain work like everyone else’s brains? Then I learned that what I was going through was far from uncommon. In fact, as I was being diagnosed and treated, so were three other people in my family. (Side note: Science is still trying to link genetics to this disorder).
That still didn’t stop me for getting really, really mad at myself. I would look in the mirror and see a beautiful, young girl with the world wrapped around her finger. I had a lot of things to be grateful for, yet for some reason all those good things never seemed to outweigh the bad probabilities floating around in my imagination. It was frustrating to know that despite all the wonderful things around me, I needed a pill to help me see it all.
That’s the tricky thing about this type of disorder. Your thinking is still logical. You know most of your fears are ridiculous and when you’re in the middle of a panic attack, gasping for air, you know you’re not going to die and it’ll be over soon.
The best way I can describe it is, you know how a lot of people say to “trust your gut”? Well, I can’t.
My proverbial “gut” is stuffed full of fear and worry and worst-case-scenarios. It’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing. My gut reads too far into meaningless comments. My gut tells me I have to flip my light switch four times or something bad will happen. My gut tells me I will never find success or love. My gut is a bitch.
Luckily, the prognosis, if treated correctly, is pretty good for all of us suffering from depression or an anxiety disorder. Medicine and therapy are extremely effective in clearing out the weeds and giving someone suffering a new perspective on things.
So now is where I state “and she lived happily ever after”, right? Wrong.
Back in October of last year, I decided I didn’t want to take a pill anymore. This decision stemmed from a message I had heard a month earlier, while at church. The person giving this message was a Christian doctor who had spent their entire life studying the brain. This doctor gave a convincing speech about how all of our brains function the same and if we just work really hard to change our thinking then we can all live normal and healthy lives. This person went on to claim that taking antidepressants was a cop out and not something God would approve of. They concluded by stating “if you’re on antidepressants, it’s not your fault, you didn’t know, but talk to a doctor about getting off of them”. I immediately felt shame. I looked at my friends sitting next to me, totally on-board and fired up by this doctor’s message and I felt like a black sheep. A very confused, black sheep.
I ultimately decided to take this doctor’s challenge and come off of the drug I had been taking for nine years. I did it with my doctor’s help and for a while, I felt okay. I thought, “What’s the worst that can happen?”
Fast forward to 6 months later and I’m pulling my car into a gas station parking lot because I’m crying so hard, I can’t see the road in front of me. What was I crying about? I’m not going to post that, but I will say, as I was banging my fists on my steering wheel, my good friend Mr. Logic was saying, “you haven’t felt like this since high school”. As soon as I could speak again, I called my mom and we came up with a game plan to get me back on track, which means back on an anti-depressant.
I started my first dose of a new anti-depressant today, and this time around, I’m not embarrassed. I needed help. I couldn’t keep living the way I was living. My ability to decipher between anxiety and reality was becoming foggy. My irritablity was through the roof. I was acting like a jerk to complete strangers, and weighing those closest to me down with my unreasonable doubts and fears.
I’m lucky to have the support system that I have. My friends and family have been SO patient with me and have really stuck by me. I realize that some people may not be as lucky as I am, but for anyone reading this that may be going through a similar struggle, I guess the most important thing to tell you is, it’s ok. I know, a lot of times it doesn’t feel that way, but it’s the truth. If you think you might need help, please don’t be afraid to ask for it. The relief you’ll feel once you find a solution is SO worth it!
I should end this by saying that I think the message I recieved in church a few months ago was wrong. I don’t think God is against this kind of help. I think God is all for people living their best lives and if we need a little help getting there, God will deliver, even in the form of an antidepressant.