We’re shoved into one big group. The categories start out as those with OCD, bipolar, depression and anxiety, but are quickly melded into one overarching category: Depressed, ages 16-34.
They’ve seen this before, the counselor will say, with a reassuring nod.
I wouldn’t say it’s not reassuring. For the severely anxious, it’s soothing when someone tells us that what we’re experiencing is normal. It makes us feel less crazy.
But then they’ll say: You should really try taking something.
Have you ever had someone hand you medication you’re supposed to take for an unspecified amount of time?
It’s not like amoxicillin, which you’ll take for a week while you clear up your strep throat. It’s a stabilizer. That you don’t need to take, but you should. As long as you’re okay with being dependent on it indefinitely.
In my case, it’s always “preemptive.” Some people will say anxiety is treated the same as depression because it falls under the umbrella of depression anyway – which is a nice way for someone to tell you that you’re also depressed.
Others they will say severe anxiety “toes the line of depression.” The medication will serve as something that will take me off this vague trail leading me toward depression. The medication is supposed to “level me out.” In other words, release serotonin so my brain starts to feel like everything is okay.
I don’t want to be leveled out. I don’t want to put myself on mute.
I have days when it seems appealing. The worst days. We all do. Days when I will myself to silence everything inside my head for long enough to leave the house. Even on the good days, I can spiral a normal occurrence into a terrifying and irrational circumstance and let it completely take hold of me.
But it fades. Not as quickly as I’d like. It takes concentration and breathing exercises that have been handed down to me from a counselor, books, the occasional yoga teacher and my family. It takes a will that I often forget I have.
When all of my fears inhabit the forefront of my brain, it eats away at my memory. For some reason my mind chooses to keep hold of the anxieties, instead of the important things in daily life.
Ideally, the (Prozac/Zoloft/what have you) will limit those fears, leaving the rest of my memory untouched.
I’d rather fight to keep away the thoughts weighing me down, just to know I can win.
The drug wouldn’t rid me of the fears that keep coming back, it would just silence them momentarily. A quick fix.
The price isn’t worth it to me. What the doctor will never tell me is that the depression medication will take away a bit of my spark. In the drugs’ haste to silence the bad, they will silence some of the good. My reactions will decrease and I will become more detached. And while detachment would feel good in a few instances, what about all the other times when I actually want to feel?
For some, choosing to take the meds is the lesser of two evils. Not everyone is lucky enough to get by not taking them. Some people need to be leveled out, at least for a little while, because it’s more desirable than their reality. And for those people, taking medication is not a sign of weakness. It’s just a sign of understanding the necessity of the situation.
But we don’t give ourselves enough credit. We have more fight in us than we think.
Getting rid of the cloud anxiety puts on my brain makes my headache. Trying to focus on something else makes the pain worse. So I leave myself notes, talk through my plans and ideas too many times and am attached to my to do list. I constantly drift off in the middle of a thought because for a moment I slip and let the anxieties back in. Fighting without the medication isn’t easy.
When you struggle with a mental illness, you feel an alarming sense of having no control. For me, taking the pills means handing over my control yet again and letting the drugs control me.
If I can get by without the prescribed pills, it continues to prove that I’m in control of my own thoughts. Knowing that will always be more helpful than any medication.