I’ve never been the most outwardly joyous person, but like to think my sense of humour and sensitivity have compensated for what seems like an overly brooding demeanour. In other words, a slight tendency towards melancholy has never gotten in the way of me living my life. Until last year, that is.
There are times in the past where I’d proclaim to be depressed, but it wasn’t until this past year I lived the dictionary definition of depression (and its comrade-in-arms, anxiety).
Last year was marked by unrelenting anguish and emotional pain. It felt my spirit had became encased in the thick black shroud that made being in my own skin a ceaseless waking nightmare.
This wasn’t your average trough in lieu of the next peak, but an unexplainable sense of impending doom. It didn’t seem to come from anywhere inside the ‘real me’, whatever that means. I’d been replaced by a dead fish.
After reading books on cognitive behavioural therapy, seeing a Jungian psychologist, practising mindfulness, braving the music of Enya, and trying (as best I could) to eat healthy and exercise regularly, the black shroud remained: there was no colour to anything. The most torturous aspect is that some tiny corner of my brain knew better – that it doesn’t have to be this way.
In my attempts to find a rational way to remove this elusive yet all-invasive depression, I spent sleepless nights researching antidepressants. If I scoured online forums for horror stories, I’d go to sleep emphatic that I will get through this without them. If I did the same for examples of successes, I’d pledge to wake up the next morning and make getting a prescription a priority.
After the emerging from the rabbit hole I went down the night before, I’d wake up plagued by the same doubt. Perhaps if I improve all aspects of my life, I won’t need them, or do I need them to improve those aspects? What happens if the meds work but only temporarily and I need to up my dose? If I find one that works, will I have to be on it for the rest of my life, and what does that mean for my personality?
And perhaps the biggest question of all: if I take them, does that mean I’m mentally ill?
I don’t know the answers to many of these questions, as the opinion of every GP, psychologist, and psychiatrist varies. A new book questioning the effectiveness of anti-depressant medication reflects the heated disagreement within the scientific community on the best treatment for depression.
I just want to know what it’s like to not want to sleep for as long as possible just to avoid having to deal with my own consciousness. I want my strength back; I want to feel held up by a spine, but I also don’t want medication to be an ongoing issue for the remainder of my days.
About a month ago, I put a question out on social media for positive experiences of antidepressants. I figured hearing good things from people I actually know would help clear some of the clutter. I was surprised at the amount of PM’s I received over the ensuing days.
The volume of friends and acquaintances dealing with this black shroud of the spirit is a sad truth worthy of its own investigation. I couldn’t block my ears to people speaking of antidepressants as giving them their lives back – reminding them of what it feels like not to live lost, and placing them back in the drivers seat.
The horror stories still worry me, as if you believe them, it’s like signing up for a game of Russian Roulette where bullets are replaced with pills, but a few weeks ago, I joined the table. We’ll see what the shroud has to say about that.
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