Medicine

I’m one of those people that hates medicine. I have a hard time even committing to taking chewable vitamins. But now that I have seen the difference medication can make for depression, I cannot deny the power of medicine. Sometimes, it simply works wonders.

I stopped taking my medicine towards the beginning of the year because I lost health insurance due to not making enough money. Go figure… After a few months, I realized how desperately I needed it and got back on for a while. When the prescription had to be refilled, I forgot how bad it had gotten so I tried to go without it again. I’ve made it over 6 months without my depression medication, but lately it has been really hard. Every night is like fighting for my life. I’m struggling to breathe again. I find myself sliding into the darkness, and there is nothing to grip to save me from falling.

I know I’ve survived worse than this, but now that I know what it’s like to feel normal. I don’t want to be depressed again. It’s time to get back on medication, and this time, for good.

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You Can’t Do It Alone

You can’t do life alone. No matter how much you want to be independent from everything and everyone, you need something bigger than yourself. Whether that something is God or friends or Google, we all need things outside of ourselves to keep us going, to help us in hard times, and to inspire us to be better.

I take an antidepressant. I have been taking this same medication for approximately a year and a half, and in general, I have been doing really well emotionally during that time. Sometimes though, I think that I am doing “well enough” to stop taking my medicine. I have never really liked medicine or doctors, and I am usually defiantly independent, so every few months or so, I try to lower my dose of medication or only take it every other day to see what happens. And honestly, it’s not a good experience. I might keep doing well for a few days, but slowly, I find myself drowning again. It becomes harder to see the light. A heaviness overwhelms me and I hurt for no explicable reason.

This last time of trying to get by on a lower dose of medicine has convinced me that it is not worth it. I would rather pay the money every month to buy my medicine than find myself contemplating suicide or wanting to give up on life. At one point I thought that accepting the possibility that I may need to take medication for the rest of my life was giving in to depression. If I have to keep taking medicine to avoid being depressed, then obviously the depression is still there, right? But I am coming to realize that taking antidepressants is the opposite of giving in to depression. As long as I am doing things to keep myself safe, to fight my depression, to keep on going, I am not giving in to anything (accept maybe happiness).

The truth is that we all need something to help us keep going. For some people, that something is running or doing some other form of sport or exercise. For others, that something is eating chocolate or avoiding sugar or doing something else that helps them feel good. I am coming to accept that medicine is what helps me to keep going. I also need friends and exercise and good food and sunshine and moments of silence offset by moments of crazy fun, but I can’t enjoy all those other things if my mental illness is keeping me from being able to be myself.

So, I am calling today a victory. I am deciding today to use the resources of modern medicine to help myself find peace. And I am encouraging you to do the same thing. Do not allow yourself to feel embarrassed or weak or less capable because you need something. Taking care of yourself is the strongest thing you can do, and no matter how you do that, if it works for you, it is the right thing to do.

It is an Illness

**Warning: This is a difficult post to read and it does get a little graphic at some points of explaining how I felt.**

It has been about 7 months since I fell into the worst period of depression I have ever experienced. It was so difficult that I wondered if I would ever be okay again. It got to the point where I told my friend, “I have one more night left in me. That’s all I can promise to be safe for is one more night.” I couldn’t trust myself to be safe anymore. I was in such a desperate place of darkness that I decided I needed to take time away from life until I could handle things again. So I spent a week with my sister, hoping to get better and return to normal life.

Things didn’t get better. Although the week was beneficial in that I was able to sleep and rest quite a bit, it made me realize just how bad things really were. I had bad dreams nearly every time I closed my eyes, even naps were filled with unpleasant dreams and thoughts. Days were not much better. I saw myself being hurt in every way imaginable. I pictured killing myself in multiple ways. I could be anywhere, from church to work to driving on the freeway, and I would see blood running down my arms or see myself hanging from ceilings or other similar circumstances.

The darkness was so thick, so debilitating that I told my boss that I wasn’t sure if I would be able to return to work. I told my church leaders that I probably couldn’t teach anymore. I told my friends that I might need to be hospitalized if it continued much longer. I wasn’t sure where life would take me or what would happen next, but I knew that I was nowhere near being okay.

I had been taking an antidepressant this entire time. I didn’t know if it was helping, but I wanted to give it a chance. I wanted to really see if it could help me. I stopped that medication a week ago. It has taken this last week to get the medicine out of my system, but I started getting better slowly. The nightmares and images were less frequent, less severe. It wasn’t so hard to smile anymore. I started seeing light where there was only darkness before. I had felt like I was drowning, but then it progressed to feeling like I was trudging through deep mud, to feeling like I was treading water, to finally feeling like I was on solid ground again.

I can’t tell you how relieving it is to finally feel okay again. I can’t tell you how excited I was to wake up this morning and feel like I was able to breathe. I can’t express how exhilarating it was to sing in church today and feel the music running through me like a beautiful, positive energy. Last Sunday, I couldn’t even sing because it hurt too much. The words wouldn’t come. I just starred at the hymn book and wondered when I would see the end of all the pain. Today was the complete opposite of last Sunday. Contrasting the two shows me that I will never feel that bad again. Maybe I will still struggle with depression, but now that I see the difference, I can have the reassurance that that is not how I am meant to feel.

This whole experience has reassured me that depression is an illness. It is completely the same as any other illness, only with its own set of symptoms and treatments. You are not in control of how your body feels. You cannot think yourself out of mental illness and no amount of exercise or eating right or positivity can cure you. You are simply not well and until you become well again, whether that is by taking medicine or getting off the wrong medicine or simply time passing, you cannot ignore the symptoms of what you are experiencing.

At the end of all this, I can say that I am grateful for the experience. It was hell. It was the worst, most desolate, desperate, despairing time of my life. I went to bed every night praying for the end, hoping to not wake up in the morning to the pain I experienced every single moment. But now I know. I know what it is like to wake up in the morning and be unable to get out of bed because it hurts so bad. I know what it is like to try to breathe your way through panic attacks that happen at seemingly the most trivial, daily stresses. I know what it is like to say, I do not know when I will be okay again.

But most of all, I am grateful because I can say that I know what it is like to trust someone when you feel like that. I know what it is like to be completely vulnerable with someone to the point where they know exactly what you are going through and how hard it is. They may never understand, but they know the darkness. People I never would have trusted or reached out to were able to be a part of my healing because the darkness was so bad that I would have trusted anyone who took the time to listen. No, this trial was not easy and I hope I never go through it again, but it showed me what I was made of and how understanding and wonderful other people can be. And that is something to be incredibly grateful for.