There are people in the world who will tell you that it’s completely subjective, this matter of mental health, that you don’t really need those nasty drugs, and they make things worse.
In some cases, they will be correct. Depression can be a natural reaction to trauma, and as the trauma resolves, sure, so will the depression. This is why I haven’t messed with my meds for many years — no depression has been that severe. No, not even the one where I sat under Jessica’s office table and waffled about going inpatient while uninsured. That happened after months of my family being totally broken. I got a psychiatrist, and he monitored me, but it turned out I just needed to hit bottom and be caught. Realising I could be caught when I fell was good medicine all by itself. School started and I had little goals, little successes. Very little brain fog.
Some depression has more than just trauma behind it.
I was depressed for the better part of ten years before anyone decided to medicate me. I have been medicated for eleven years this month. That’s a total of twenty-one years living with a fire-breathing flying monkey on my back. Sound like fun to anyone else? No? I have had one hell of a life, I’ll say that up front, but it’s not enough life to have your umpteenth nervous breakdown before you can vote. No reason to suffer that much from being brought back to America unwilling; no reason to develop panic disorder doing something you love (in my case, a solo at a band competition in sunny Virginia Beach — first vacation I’d taken in years!). What ought to have been mere teenage bagatelles hit me like anvils.
And no, the first medication wasn’t the magic pill.
I went on two pretty much simultaneously. The Ativan was to manage the fact that I sat in a corner and screamed like the doctor was going to kill me. I’m shocked he didn’t just grab a blowgun and shoot me full of Haldol. Would’ve been justifiable in someone who wasn’t 4’11” and, by that point, maybe 93 pounds. I figure he knew he could just sit on me if I got fighty. Am I happy they failed to tell me Ativan came with dependency? My dad even kept it from me. Bless him, I think he was just happy to see me out of panic mode. Lexapro… starting that was shit. I thought I was going to puke it back up that first night, and I wasn’t quite right for the next three months. (Junior year? What last ten weeks?)
Lexapro wasn’t right, exactly. Its cousin Celexa would be, once I got the rest of my life sorted out. Like I said, hell of a life. Along the way, I made new friends. I don’t have full-blown bipolar, but I experience hypomanias, agitated depressions. Or I did a lot more often before I started Klonopin. Yep, I’m an easy fix. That particular psychiatrist gave me the side-eye. They’re not used to patients educating themselves about medications. That one peddled me Lamictal, but I declined. In case you’ve never tried: yes, you can say no. I promise. You have to be strong sometimes and accept that it might get you labelled non-compliant or diagnosed with a personality disorder for the wrong reasons. (By which I mean I did have borderline traits, but the dude who first brought it up did so when I refused another mood stabilizer.)
Medication is useless in a vacuum. You need therapy. I needed therapy, and it’s no coincidence that I finally got better when I combined the right meds with the right therapist. You’ve got to have support. You can’t survive this without support. I got better because I was able, at last, to see that monkey and hand him a damn breath mint. “Here, take this, and quit burning my ears.”
I have only had one true disaster along the way. Hello, Remeron! Please never come near me again with your noradrenaline and dopamine reuptake effects. The damage meant adding Atarax, which is an antihistamine, because what was left of my natural appetite took a nosedive. It also meant a valerian supplement at night. I don’t take much, just eight drops compared to the half-to-quarter-teaspoon originally recommended.
Pregnancy on these drugs is controversial. Good thing I don’t want to be pregnant. Yes, sometimes I feel I’ve had certain choices taken from me, but the alternatives are so unthinkable. What if I wanted to give birth? I don’t trust this cocktail, but without it, what would happen to my mental health? Never mind worrying what will happen to the kid when it’s born; I kill myself before that happens, the kid doesn’t stand a chance. So. Should I decide to parent something that isn’t housebroken, there will have to be a surrogate. That is the price for the kid coming out unaffected by my meds. Nobody can know, and there are always genetic mutations in play, but I will minimize the risks.
And that is my choice. There are parents who are on fewer varieties of drug who are making educated decisions to try for pregnancy. That’s their choice. There are studies making the risks look staggering, and there are studies minimizing the risks. God knows who funded which ones; I know the government funded one of the “don’t do this shit” papers. Studies have followed children whose parents took drugs (prescribed and illicit) and researchers found that poverty was the largest factor in those children’s success. I wish I’d saved the link. I’d link it far and wide.
As for my continued use of my cocktail, hell, yes, I’ll keep going. It hasn’t failed me. Circumstances have failed me multiple times. I know what it feels like to need a change and it’s orders of magnitude worse than this. This right now is stress combined with academic weirdness. That’s why I have Wade, to help me sort things out. That’s not why I have Eleven, but he’s really useful when I get turned around. You can probably thank him for my career goals. I’m going to put Wade and Eleven in the same room Monday night and watch awesome happen.
I could have turned left so many times and died of it. I didn’t. I stayed this course and I’m going to be okay. I’m even going to be well. I wish the same for you.