I started taking medication for my depression when I was in high school. I was in despair and often had extreme periods of sadness. At some point, I met at a McDonalds with a local pastor at whose house I often went to for a Bible study. I’m not sure why I decided to meet with him versus anyone else, but we talked about how down I felt and the thoughts that were in my head. I had great sadness and believed I’d never escape.
He spoke with my mom about my condition (with my permission) and I remember she cried and I felt awkward and embarrassed for causing her to feel that way. The pastor suggested I see my family doctor and my mom agreed.
My doctor asked me questions about my emotional state and prescribed Zoloft, a drug that can help combat depression. I took it for many months; it made me sleep a lot, but not too much. At some point I stopped taking it, but I don’t remember why. Perhaps I felt better and thought that meant I didn’t need it anymore.
In college I once again found myself very depressed and in my junior year the therapist I saw in the counseling center suggested medication. I picked up with Zoloft once more but it didn’t seem as effective as in high school. I was still depressed, and even more so than in my teen years.
When I graduated college in 2001 I began to see a psychiatrist and therapist in my hometown when I went to live with my parents. We realized Zoloft wasn’t working and thus began an array of different medications. I can’t even recall which ones I took but I’d guess there were at least six or eight. I’d take them for six weeks or so and if they weren’t helping my psychiatrist would either change the dosage or find a new medication.
With these medications came a myriad of side effects: too much sleep, too little sleep, weight gain, itchiness, decreased sex drive, and so on. Some medications compensated for the side effects of the other medications. I hated how they made me feel.
I loathed that I would have to be on medication for what I imagined would be the rest of my life. I wrote in my journal about how medications were a scam created by pharmaceutical companies to make money. I believed they stifled my creativity and emotions. I didn’t want to take them, but I wanted free of my depression even more.
Eventually, I found medications that helped with my depression, at least enough to keep me stable. Still, things weren’t quite right. I still had anxiety (which predates my depression) and the sadness would still hang around. It became exacerbated by environmental situations such as my job, the weather, and relationships.
Since 2011 my medications have been stable: Celexa and Lamictal (or their generic equivalents). I take them every morning and will likely do so for the rest of my life. Some people find a reliance on medication to be abhorrent. Yet there are people who take medications for their blood pressure or diabetes every day with no criticism. My medications are no different just because they’re for my brain.
Should I go off my medication at some point? I suppose I could try (with my doctor's help), but things are going okay in my life, so I’d like to keep the status quo.
There are days I forget to take them—usually a handful of times a year—and it hits me later in the day. Something usually feels a bit off. And a part of me hates that some tiny pills can have that much control over me. But after being on meds for about 20 years I’ve come to a point of acceptance. These are what keep me going and keep me alive. It’s the way it is.
Medications aren’t for everyone and going on or off of them is something that should be part of a discussion with a doctor or psychiatrist. Yet, if it weren’t for my medication it's quite possible I’d be dead. I remember what life was like without them and it was dark and painful. I’m happy to be a slave to my medication. We don't know the long-term effects of a lifetime of anti-depressant or anti-anxiety use. But the way I see it, I’ve had a much longer life than I may have otherwise had I not been on the medications. That may sound dark to some, but it’s something I truly believe.
So even if my brain turns to mush when I’m sixty, I’m okay with that. My meds have helped me live a better life and I have no shame in being a slave to the little pills I take each morning.
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This blog is an exploration of the subjects of belonging and loneliness. I also look at mental health issues. I seek to provide content to my readers that is informative and helpful. If you don't want to miss anything, sign up for my email list.