In honor of today (Bell’s ‘Let’s Talk’ Day!) and every day I’m going to talk about something nobody wants to.
I take medication for depression.
I have been taking this medication for just about 7 years now! I honestly didn’t realize it had been for that long until I sat here and figured it out. I started on anti-depressants in the spring of 2010. I was under an enormous amount of stress at the time and was plunging straight into anxiety ridden depths of despair. I had a sore throat all of the time. My neck and shoulders were not separate entities but instead fused together as one in a giant massive knot of tension. I was angry all of the time. It was rare for me to have a conversation that wasn’t a negativity filled rant.
In short, I was a mess.
I went to my doctor and sat crying in his office explaining just how f*cking awful I felt and how much I hated my job but couldn’t quit because at the time my husband wasn’t feeling overly secure in his (he was anticipating a lay off). Also my stupid pride was getting in the way. I wasn’t going to let “them” beat me. Stupid. “They” didn’t give a rat’s ass what happened to me and here I was giving my all and actually more and in doing so was a walking talking example of burn out but I still wouldn’t quit.
I started taking the pills though despite feeling somewhat embarrassed about it; I didn’t tell very many people that I was taking them. I had taken anti-depressants before albeit briefly. I was in my early 20s and when I told a good friend of mine (at the time) that I had looked into and gotten some samples of Paxil (I think), she said: “Oh, you don’t need those!” I probably did but that comment alone was enough to dissuade me from taking any more.
People have often described me as strong. I pride (again that ugly word) myself on this and to me, taking anti-depressants was admitting weakness and defeat. I could do this. I could do anything. I was the girl who had a baby in high school but still graduated. I was the girl who had another baby in university, but again, still got my degree. I was the girl who (at that time) was newly separated (from said babies father) but I was going to be okay. I could do anything and I sure as hell didn’t need anyone’s help.
Where do we get this idea that asking for help is somehow wrong? If you were having chest pain or even pain in your ankle that wouldn’t go away – you would seek help. You would take any and all medication the doctor prescribed and likely without a second thought. You wouldn’t hesitate to tell your friends and family. In fact, more often than not, we are quite proud of our physical pain: “Yeah, it hurt so bad I was given morphine!” “I’ve never had pain like that before!” What’s the difference? Again, unfortunately more often than not it’s pride.
Emotional pain though? Unless it’s something “acceptable” like grief over the death of a loved one or something of that nature – makes people very uncomfortable. We are not a society that welcomes vulnerability. I am not comfortable with it myself. There is no one better at controlling tears than I am. I am highly sensitive and tear up very easily but whereas others let the tears fall and then laugh at themselves or simply weep silently, I try to will the tears back down into my tear ducts if at all possible (and believe me sometimes it’s not possible!). Crying = weakness. Except it does not!!!
Crying, feeling, emotions, and pain = a big strong beautiful heart! Empathy, compassion, and sensitivity are what makes us human! Yet we are supposed to be stoic but lucky for me I’m female so get a little more leeway in that regard. If you are male, fuggedaboutit. Don’t you dare shed a tear you ‘effin _______ (fill in with whatever expletive you’ve heard used and don’t pretend you haven’t heard at least one). I saw my Dad cry only once and that was at his younger brother’s funeral and it was unsettling. My Dad was tough and I was always a little bit scared of him and here he was, broken – as he should have been. We all were. The funeral was the result of a completed suicide by a 20 year old man. A wonderful man who I believe had a huge heart to go with his big 6’5″ frame. I was only 15 and thinking about it now still upsets me. It shouldn’t have happened. He was too good. It was too big of a loss for this world. I grew up with him and we had gotten to an age where we hung out together and enjoyed it. He was my uncle but only five years older than me so we were more like cousins or even, siblings. He was funny, beyond nice, and inherently good.
Maybe if he didn’t grow up in a time even more staunchly rooted in boys/men not crying, maybe if he didn’t know he’d likely be ridiculed or shushed for his emotions, he would have talked to someone, and then maybe, just maybe, he would be here today. I’m not blaming anyone for his death, to be very clear. His death came as a total surprise to every person in our family. After the fact, as an adult and having taken Suicide Intervention Training, I remembered a few small things that may have been indicators but I was 15 when it happened…I didn’t know. No one did.
Another suicide that hit me hard was that of Robin Williams. Before you worry about explaining to me that he is was only a celebrity and I didn’t actually “know” him, yes I did. I knew him as one of the funniest people of all time. I knew that watching him on a screen always made me feel even more alive and just plain good. I knew that those blue eyes were filled with joy, intelligence, and humor of the very best sort. What I didn’t know, what none of us knew, is that those blue eyes also masked what came to be unbearable pain. Now if it’s hard for me, a veritable nobody in the grand scheme of things (settle down, I just mean my actions or inaction does not affect anyone who doesn’t immediately know me) to admit to being depressed, imagine when the whole word analyzes your every action, thought, statement, and outfit. How comfortable or secure would you be in admitting to mental illness of any sort? Maybe he tried and maybe at one point the reply he got was: “What do you have to be sad about?”
He was famous, funny, rich, intelligent, respected, and admired and yet the one thing he couldn’t be was vulnerable. He could make us all laugh until we cried but he couldn’t ask for help when the laughter stopped.
It’s time for that to stop. Every day (or at least every other day…I admit I forget to take them more often than I should and then am grateful they aren’t birth control pills!) I take my medication. I have contemplated stopping because I am no longer in that job that robbed me of who I was for a few years. I am happier. I no longer live with daily chronic pain (aside from that inflicted by lunges, squats, and push ups of every variety). I am healthy, happily married, the mother of four amazing children; I am employed, I have great co-workers, and I have a beautiful circle of friends. However my husband won’t let me stop taking them – thank God. I am smart enough – now – to know that despite all I have going for me, my brain is a lacking a little and doesn’t know when to turn off the negativity. I have a brain that wants to be perfect, is hard on itself, focuses on what’s wrong, and constantly compares to no good end. This brain still does some of those things but for the most part it’s to a lesser degree and for this I am truly grateful.
Whether you struggle with depression, anxiety, paranoia, agoraphobia, OCD, or any one or number of these things or something I’ve neglected to mention: YOU ARE NOT ALONE. There is nothing wrong with you. You are human. Maybe you just need someone to talk to – friend, family, or a professional (and yep, I’ve done the counseling route too and never have I regretted it! Well except the time I saw one when I was in university, after my Grandpa died and she kept referring to him as my “grandpappy”…um, bitch, we are not in Kentucky and I clearly referred to him as “Grandpa”. Stop yourself.).
The pain you are feeling is real. No, you may not be able to locate it’s source on an x-ray or with a blood test but what you are experiencing is real and deserves the same attention that an angry appendix or broken bone does.
Finally for those of you who may need medication and don’t want to put those “chemicals” in your body? I have news for you – we have all kinds of chemicals in our body already. I’m not suggesting you go out and lick a pesticide ridden apple until your tongue is raw or turn to crystal meth (although some of you have likely turned to alcohol, food, and/or drugs or all of the above at some point – funny how it’s more acceptable to get drunk, eat a cake, or smoke/snort your troubles away than it is just to tell someone you’re feeling a little (or a lot) down) but I am suggesting you take a long hard look at what you are willing and aren’t willing to compromise for your own well being.
Lest I be seen as a pill pusher – definitely try other routes first – maybe quit that job that is destroying you from the inside out (not always feasible if you like living indoors and eating food and you don’t have another means of income). Maybe it just means talking to your parents, your spouse, your best friend, your doctor, and/or finding a counselor. If that does the trick – awesome! If it doesn’t and someone (like the doctor or a counselor) suggests you try medication? Don’t be so proud, so stubborn, or even scared, that you won’t try it. If that doesn’t work, it doesn’t work, but if it does? If any of this does? You will find yourself wondering why you didn’t do it sooner.
To be clear, medication does not make me Mary Poppins. I can and still do rant with the best of them. I am skeptical and untrusting. I am hardest on myself. I lean towards the negative. I am still insecure when I shouldn’t be. I still care too much what people think. However, I no longer sink so far into any of those thoughts that I can’t find my way out. I no longer cause my family pain by being unbearable because I can’t bear myself. I have to work on finding the positives and remembering to be grateful but I am okay. I am not broken. I am not less because my prescription is for anti-depressants and not blood pressure or cholesterol or physical pain.
I am worthy of feeling good, of feeling and being loved, of feeling and being happy, and of also of being allowed to talk about when I don’t and ask for help.
We all are.