Life is overwhelming and ever-changing in so many wonderful ways. However, for some of us, this gets to be too much. And sometimes, we lose the desire to see this change through. Full disclosure: I have struggled with anxiety and depression since around the end of my sophomore year of high school. Although then, I just attributed it to the apathy I felt every day at school because, yes: adolescence is awful. I’m a generally upbeat and extroverted person, but I felt weighed down and exhausted by my own thoughts most days. Which didn’t make any logical sense: I live in a happy home, have good friends, and all of the material things I could ever ask for.
After a few talks with my mom, I realized that there was more to it than counting down the days until graduation. Since then, I’ve met with a seemingly endless string of therapists and counselors. I realize that this story is now semi-typical. Children who grow up labeled as gifted become restless adults. We have ambitions that feel out of reach, because we live in a world where competition is increasing at an exponential rate. This, along with genetics and external factors, is a perfect catalyst for bringing out underlying mood disorders. The commonality of this narrative in a way is good, because the stigma around mental illness is decreasing, especially in young people. Read: decreasing, not gone.
A few days ago, I visited a psychiatrist for the first time through a referral. These are mental health professionals, who in addition to talk therapy, prescribe medication. My symptoms have gotten more severe over the past few weeks, and since I am an adult now, medication is a viable option. I talked through my symptoms with the doctor, provided him with my medical history, and he decided on the prescription that would most likely be best for me. I was prescribed Wellbutrin, which is a relatively mild anti-depressant used to treat major depressive disorder, and anxiety in people with depression.
Millions of questions churned their way around my head, and all came pouring out of my mouth. Simply put, I was scared: I’ve never put any medication in my body stronger than ibuprofen, not even antibiotics. The doctor reassured me that I would be okay, and the only symptoms that would be likely to affect me were increased irritation and decreased appetite. These are effects that can potentially be remedied, but other side effects that come with anti-depressants are not so easy to detect, or fix. Ironically, a primary risk of taking anti-depressants is an increase in depression. That is, things will most likely get worse before they get better. In fact, it can take up to six weeks before any positive change is observed. But that’s okay: I’m in this for myself, and I will stick it out because of the possibility of feeling better in the future.
Now, let me state the obvious. Anti-depressants are not a cure-all. They will not magically make me a non-depressed, non-anxious human being. But I have hope that they will help my brain untangle the knots in my neurons and synapses. However, there are things that I have to do, and bad habits that I have to break for my medication to work. I have to get outside every single day, keep a routine, and continue doing talk therapy. I have to keep social media use down, and refrain from staying up too late. I am so thankful that I am fortunate enough to get help when I need it. And I am so thankful that I can keep changing for the better. Taking anti-depressants is not giving up, it is a privilege.