Taking medication for my mental illness, i.e, Depression.
It has been roughly eight months since I survived suicide and was diagnosed with depression. It’s not an easy thing to talk to people about because just the word, “depression”, is so widely misunderstood.
Everyone goes through rough patches and sad moments in their lives and so they assume they have been depressed and they know what I am feeling.
The truth is depression is far more complex than that.
What depression feels like to me ?
It feels like a heavy icky gunk that’s all over me. I have good days, sure plenty off-late.
But even when I look happy on the outside I can still feel the murkiness in my head like an indelible ink stain, impossible to wash off. Sometimes when I least expect it , the gunk grows like an infection. Like a flesh-eating bacteria slowly swallowing me up.
It’s been eight months. Eight months since the worst of it and I won’t say I haven’t gotten better.
I feel a hundred times stronger.
But in my dark moments, more than reminding myself that it will pass , I have to keep repeating “self-harm is wrong”.
Sometimes that’s the only thing I focus on to hold through that intense moment.
Depression is not a feeling. It’s a mental illness. It is possible to get through it with the right support system but it is far from easy.
Dealing with Depression
Before the moment I actually felt myself giving up, I really tried to deal with what I was feeling alone.
I had been through a lot of things in a short period of time and I guess that’s what pushed me further into the rabbit hole.
My grandmother had passed away, I was dealing with that grief alone , away from family, I was in a bad relationship. I felt like I had to go through all of that alone.
Normally my mom is the one person I turn to for almost everything. But a couple of years ago she had been diagnosed with cancer and while in remission, the whole experience had made me weary to turn to her , to burden her with my feelings.
I know now that I can always go to her, no matter what, but I was in a different state of mind then.
I knew I was feeling bad more often than I should.
I knew it was overwhelming me and becoming too much.
So I tried.
I exercised to boost “happy hormones”.
I tried turning to prayer , focusing on my spirituality.
I tried to read self-help books.
I listened to those self affirmation loops on YouTube.
Believe me I tried.
But I just felt so unbearingly lonely.
I mean even as I write this I can feel that pain tensing every muscle of my body.
Depression doesn’t disappear just because you want it to.
When I was in the hospital after my attempt, the psychiatrist came to see me.
He put me on a tablet. I had no idea what it was at the time.
I remember that night I felt light-headed. I felt giddy in a good way, like I’d had a sip of wine.
But even in that moment, my mind said “PANIC”.
I had the sinking feeling that there was something I was supposed to be worrying about, I just couldn’t remember what it was.
Being on medication terrified me, and it was a long while before I actually built up the courage to go to a professional. It took me close to a month to speak about everything, well enough to get prescribed the right dosage.
Even in the first appointment, I needed my mom and my sisters with me !
I’m 22 and sometimes I need my mom- and I don’t care who knows !
So there it was. I was on medication for a mental illness. It was something I was really scared about. Taking a pill to alter my mind. Doesn’t that change the essence of who I am ?!
My psychiatrist could tell I was weary about it even without saying it out loud. This is how he explained my medication.
So the medication I am on is Escitalopram.
Honestly I can’t even pronounce it.
It is an SSRI: SELECTIVE SEROTONIN REUPTAKE INHIBITORS.
What that fancy name means is that in my condition I have less of a happy hormone called serotonin. Part of the body’s cycle is producing serotonin and then reabsorbing it. So what the medicine does is that it inhibits the reuptake of serotonin so that the amount is considerably more.
After knowing what the drug did I have to admit I was a little less apprehensive about taking it.
The process was long.LONG.
I didn’t feel much better after a day, or a week or even a month.
I remember several moments crying in a corner behind my bed, because I felt so incredibly hopeless.
My younger sister would just sit by me or hold me as I cried. I remember telling her, “I’m trying so hard. I’m even on medication. Why do I feel so bad ?!”
Then maybe two or three months in, it happened.
I’m sure it was gradual and I had honestly been improving microscopically every day, but this moment of clarity, is something I won’t forget.
I was flying kites with a friend and I ended up letting go of the kite too close to a telephone wire.
It was a windy day, and as you can imagine the kite got so impossibly entangled and wrapped around the wires.
My normal thought process would have been : “Anthea you’re an idiot. You mess everything up”. Probably with a few more expletives in there.
But you know what? The thought came and I was able to bat it away. I said
I don’t know who else can relate to this, but in that moment it felt like a superpower.
I could control my own thoughts ?! Unthinkable.
I still have bad days. Horrible , terrible , no good , very bad days. But I am stronger. And getting better everyday.
Working on your mental health isn’t quick, and God knows it isn’t painless, but one thing that helps me get through everyday, is this thought: “ I may not be where I want to be in my mental health journey, but I am definitely not where I was.”
You are making progress even if it feels like you aren’t. So chin up kid, you are going to get through this.