Antidepressants lie. “Depression can hurt. Antidepressants can help.”
They don’t tell you is that one day it can stop helping. One day you will wake up and it won’t do anything for you. It will just be something that you take because if you don’t your friends and family will be on suicide watch and meltdown watch. But they don’t know that the medicine is done. It’s done its part and regardless of whether the pain is still there, the medicine is done. Taking it doesn’t help any more. Now it’s just a thing. A drug you put into your system but have no idea what the purpose of it really is anymore. So you up your dose. Again.
I was eighteen when I was first put on antidepressants. I told my parents individually, over a phone call on a beautiful winter day. The sun was shining and the cold didn’t seem to penetrate my soul like it normally did in the middle of February in the Midwest. My father asked me a million times what was wrong when I told him I would be taking medication. My mother said she was hoping I wouldn’t need it (she had struggled with anxiety as well).
I cried after I told them. Not because they reacted badly but because the last time I told them about being sad or anxious, they were learning that I wanted to kill myself. I had dragged pain and heartbreak from years before and forced my parents to face it again. And I hated myself for it. They didn’t deserve it. They deserved a mentally sound daughter. Not one that questions her existence and can’t get out of bed some mornings.
It’s humorous actually. This drug that everyone yells at you for not taking is the same one they were angry for you taking in the first place. Almost everyone who has ever gone on medicine for their depression or anxiety or mental illness has been told the same thing “But you aren’t that sad” or “Medicine changes you” or “Those are for crazy people. You aren’t crazy.”
Thank you. Thank you for everyone who has ever said this. As if we didn’t know that we were crazy before you pointed it out. As if the fact that we have to resort to a chemical to make us feel sane was something we wanted to do. Thank you so much.
I’ve always been a little sad. I can remember when I was around five or six and thinking, “I’m not happy.” I didn’t know why, but at the pit of my soul there was darkness. Darkness I couldn’t exactly explain. What child can? I convinced myself that everyone felt that same way and that this was just a part of life. So I never mentioned it to anyone. When my parents would ask me how my day was, I would always shoo them off with an “it was great!” As if by saying it to them, I could convince myself that it really was just great.
The first time I noticed that my antidepressant wasn’t working was about two months after I started them. The entire month I just felt off. I couldn’t explain it but nothing felt right. I couldn’t make it to my classes. I didn’t have the energy or will to do any work. And everything bothered me. But I couldn’t place my finger on what was wrong.
One night as I went out with my friends, I felt okay. I wasn’t exactly great but the world didn’t seem to be closing in on me either. So I went out. I thought having fun would make things easier. My doctor had told me that it was okay to drink on the medication and the worst that would happen is my hangover would be a little worst and a little longer than normal. I wasn’t worried that I was going to die or anything overdramatic like that.
Yet, at the bar everything felt like too much. The world was too big and it was ripping me apart with its vastness. Often people with anxiety feel like the walls are closing in on them. I felt like the walls were too big. I wanted to be small yet the world was making me bigger and bigger. I felt like an explosion in slow motion. I remember running out of the bar clutching my chest because the world was all too much. There were just too many people, too much pain, too much joy, too much emotion. And I just couldn’t take it all.
My friend who was with me didn’t know how to handle it. I think I was screaming. Or maybe I was crying at the point? Or maybe that was when I was ripping the ground up hoping to find an escape through the earth? She just kept telling me to calm down. To be quiet. We were underage, at a bar, and I was sitting outside of it. I looked crazy. I think at one point she might have slapped me to get me to breathe. But I just kept going. The owner of the bar told me that I would have the police called on me. People were walking by and they had so much coming off of them: drunkenness, happiness, sadness, anger, and frustration. It was radiating off of them and forcing me away from my escape on the brick wall in the April chill.
Eventually I was taken to my dorm. Which was a blur. I’m not sure how I got up the stairs. Or even to my room. I don’t remember calling my mom, but I remember talking to her. I remember my dad trying to help me calm down. And then I remember the EMTs. How they forced my friends to leave my room, as they asked me questions about what happened to me and who hurt me….I think I was screaming that I hurt. I hurt everywhere. How they forced me to come with them and they attempted to strap me to a gurney. As if that would make me feel safer. They yelled so much that I just screamed more.
In the hospital they asked me what I took, if anyone had touched me. How could I explain that I took in the world? That the world touched me in ways that hurt deeper than any human ever could?
They gave me a pill. And sent me home. I don’t remember anything after that.
My mom came to get me the next day. And I had to call my doctor and my counselor and tell them what happened.
When I finally finished the semester and talked to my doctor she suggested that I up my dose. And I wanted to refuse. When I had to call her a few months later, I cried on the phone because I needed more crazy meds. Because these weren’t working anymore. Which meant that I was crazy. That something was wrong with me. She told me that I was on some of the lowest doses that she had seen. Yet, I still felt insane.
Antidepressants lie. They tell you that they will help. But they leave out the part about wearing off, about building up tolerance. They convince you that you are all better. So better that you don’t need them. But you do need them. And you hate yourself for it. At least I did.