What It’s Like to Take an Antidepressant

pillThe first to remember is that this is not your fault. The second thing is that you will be okay if it is.

Of course, you can’t be certain about either.

Before you received this prescription, you were able to be sure of things—too sure, mainly of the fact that everything was your fault. You were able to feel things—too many things, all at once. They crippled you.

But what was so hard, after all? Maybe, in retrospect, the unexpected greatness of life did you in: simultaneously to have achieved success and to have been so uncertain of how you did it—and to have no idea how to maintain it.

But, again, you can’t be certain. There were a lot of factors. There were a lot of problems.

There still are; the pill does not make them go away. Wait. That should be the first thing to remember: The pill does not relieve you of your problems. It just makes it harder to feel them. That pill isn’t a wall, after all.

A pill is just a pill, and it doesn’t define you. Remember that as you take it first thing in the morning. You do not need to be afraid of each day or certain that the waking hours will overwhelm you. You are not less of a person—not less of a human being who is worthy of love—because you are depressed.

In the end, the pill doesn’t matter as much as the person taking it. You take it because you are strong and you are brave and you want to be better. You decided that for yourself, and the pill was just part of the answer. You take it because, in some cosmic cost-benefit analysis, the shame you feel is less than the relief it brings.

And you have to remember that that’s good.

Okay, but now can you remember all of the things you have to remember? It’s exhausting! Just try to justify the fact that life is hard and you couldn’t quite handle it on your own, because it’s also hard to remember now how hard it was. (It’s embarrassing to admit it, too.)

If only you could have been smarter, faster, stronger, thinner, braver, better, this never would have happened. You wouldn’t need medication. And now that you’re on it, you’re not sure that you do. Was it really that bad before—without? Was life really so overwhelming that you couldn’t handle it?

Yes.

So that’s it. That’s the subconscious thought that directs your hand toward the orange container and its white pills every morning: Because as hard as it is to forget what it’s like to feel, it’s so much harder to feel everything at once.

And you are certain that this makes it okay.

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On unreportable sadness.

Over the past few months I developed this really charming habit where, for reasons I cannot always explain, I just start crying. Once, my mom texted me asking about the weather, and just thinking about snow prompted me to dissolve into tears at my desk. Or sometimes I’ll be really happy and then start crying because life is really big and I can’t handle that.

Last Sunday, while talking to a friend on the phone, I started crying but was carrying on this normal conversation about life while tears were just streaming down my face. I put up with it until I got so…burdened that I had to ask to call him back in a few minutes; when I hung up, I realized I had no legitimate explanation other than unreportable sadness.

As it turns out, ‘I have a case of unreportable sadness’ is not really a legitimate explanation in most situations, but that’s the way it is to be depressed.

“Depressed” is a strange-but-fitting word to describe a mental condition, because we use it to describe “a general state of unhappiness or despondency.” But depressed literally means pressed or pushed down upon. Depressed—figuratively, I guess—means bearing a weight you cannot explain.

It’s also hard to explain depression because it’s hard to rationalize and justify. Of course I could just do this or change that; it would be so simple!; an easy fix and I’ll be on my way. In my reasonable moments, yes.

Yet, unreportable sadness gets in the way most days—at least, it has been getting in the way for a very long time. I can’t say how long it’s been; I spent most of my winter evenings on the couch at home, wishing that I could do something to help myself and feeling like I couldn’t. I guess that’s the hardest thing to admit now, looking “back” (as if that stage has completely passed) on the winter: I trapped myself under the weight of my depression, using self-imposed isolation as both as the source of my pain and as my comfort.

But pain provides poor comfort, loneliness is no good friend, and unreportable sadness cannot beget joy. Joy is the opposite of depression, and the two do not co-habitate in one mind well, if at all.

I guess that’s the good news: My mind has been unreportably sad, but it is getting better. I’d like to write that I’ve taken X and Y steps to combat this hopelessness, to push it away for good. I’m not sure I’ve done that yet, because I still don’t see the end of the tunnel; I just believe there’s light there.

You see, people keep asking where I see myself five—or worse, ten—years from now, and I don’t have a good answer. I’m not sure what to say, and there’s an awkward pause until they ask, ‘Well, what are you hoping for?’ I want say I’m just hoping for spring, and that even spring is a lot to hope for most days.

But maybe the important point is that I do have hope again, where for months there has been none. I have named my sadness—reported it now—and begun to push it away. There’s much more to say here (and hopefully in a more elegant way), but I want to end with this for now: This week has been the first time I can remember feeling hope in months; this week I didn’t cry at all.

For now, these words—and the only Mumford song I like, if you’re wondering what that’s about—will do. To be continued, with more hope and good words.