October 16, 2013

Prozac Saved My Life, And Other Reasons One Experience With Psychiatric Drugs Does Not Account For Them All

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What is the issue?

I have struggled with depression since I was about 7 years old. My parents had me in therapy throughout my entire life, trying different therapists to see which could finally break through my obviously stubborn mental processes and heal me without using medication– nothing worked. In fact, it led me to more frustration and angst.

I was self-mutilating, suicidal, destructive, unstable and completely mentally unhealthy from the time I was a little girl. I don’t know why this is. I like to think that my predisposition isn’t so bleak, but I suppose in some ways it is. Is it something I’m proud of? No. My dad used to say to me, you don’t want to go to a psychiatrist. That stays with you. Nobody wants to marry someone who goes to a psychiatrist. I never forgot that.

So fast forward to college when many things began to build up and I dug my own grave and buried myself under them. It was getting raped and then running back into the arms of my ex who then also (to nobody else’s knowledge) also used and sexually abused me that threw me to rock bottom. Not to mention, of course, that I’m a gay woman and I didn’t want to have sex with any of them but did because I was so starved for attention and affirmation that I was lovable, worthy… fuckable.

So I landed myself in lots of therapy, heavily medicated. And it changed my life. The doctor told me that I could try being on it for a few months and that, possibly, it would in a sense “heal” me and I could go off of it and feel normal. That indeed did happen. I’ve been off the medication for a while and for the most part I am a functioning, happy, healthy woman. A far cry from where I was years ago.

So when I read pieces like this, I can’t help but become incredibly discouraged. You are absolutely entitled to believe that you would rather be dead than medicated, but for many of us, that’s not the case at all. We see mental health like any other kind of illness or disease… it doesn’t have to be succumbed to. Nobody is proclaiming that people should stop doing chemo because it has terrible side effects… but could ultimately save your life. It’s just that mental health issues are so terribly characterized that, of course, after a negative experience with medication one would feel compelled to believe that they would rather be in a casket than popping a pill every morning.

But I am not one of those people, and I know there are millions just like me. The only effects I had from the medication were temporary, initial weight loss and then a little bit of weight gain (about 10 pounds, of which I’m in the process of losing– but all well worth it), and a headache on the first day that I took it. That was it.

And as for what happened after that? I started going through the day feeling, dare I say, content? For the first time in my life I wasn’t hurting all the time. Something inside of me was awakened again. I had the will and focus to be able to work through issues with a therapist, something I hadn’t had in all my 10+ years of therapy prior. It became so clear to me that I was indeed sick, and not just a defective human being who should be dead as opposed to on drugs.

I’ve been meaning to write this down for a while, and I’m sure I’ll talk about it more at some point in the future. But in the past year or so, I’ve had a complete inner-transformation, and the catalyst of that was the medication that helped me get through my mental illness to work through the rest. It isn’t a magic happy pill, but it facilitates normalcy so you can pursue just that. TC Mark

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