Monday, March 10, 2014

Meds

The first time I started anti-depressants I was 30. By this time I had been depressed for at least 15 years on and off and anxious non-stop for about 30 years.

Obviously, it would have made more sense to start them sooner, and people told me that, but I was anti-meds up until this time. I was in a research program that strongly favored psychological interventions. Meds were just a product of the money-making pharmaceutical industry and were over-prescribed. People were more likely to relapse when they stopped taking meds. Blah blah blah.

Most of my resistance was really because I was stubborn. No one could have talked me into taking them any sooner.

I finally decided to try them after my husband and I had moved again after a year. Before we finished unpacking, he was already obsessing about buying a house. I knew at some level that we weren't going to make it, which triggered a depressive episode.

I started on Paxil and sure enough, I felt better immediately. So much better that I wondered why I had allowed myself to suffer for decades when I could have just put myself out of my misery by taking the freaking pill.

Still, after being on them for a year and a half, I stopped taking them--with my doctor's approval. And I was OK for awhile. But then we bought a house and my husband wanted to find another one a year later. My marriage was moving closer to its sad conclusion.

This time I took Lexapro and stayed on it for much longer. When my life finally seemed stable, I tried going off them again. As soon as the meds were completely out of my system, I felt the depression slowly creeping back. I was a little more irritable. It was a little harder to tolerate stress. My thoughts were a little more negative. Occasionally I was emotionally explosive. And finally, I was barely able to get out of bed.

It turned out to be the most severe episode I had ever experienced. It seemed out of the blue at the time, but now I know that it was because my dad was also experiencing his most severe depressive episode. Even though I didn't talk to him much, I felt it. That whole super-empath thing. Damn empathy. So annoying sometimes.

I can honestly say that this time the meds saved my life. The depression and anxiety were so debilitating that I spent most of my time lying on the couch, willing myself to keep living, counting the days until the drugs kicked in.  And when they did, I was immensely grateful for the pharmaceutical companies that came up with drugs that allowed me to be myself again.

All clients want to try therapy without drugs, and we always do.  And sometimes that's enough.  But sometimes it's not.  And the process of going on and staying on meds for as long as necessary--which might not be for life--is long and arduous.  But when they finally take them, they are thankful that they did and wonder why it took them so long.

But they still want to go off them.

I don't criticize them for this, because my path to acceptance was longer than theirs.  I used to beat myself up over my stubbornness, but the reality is, you can't be ready until you're ready.

It takes a long time before we are willing to give up suffering.


2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Reading this post was interesting, as I wrestle with my strong-willed, (currently) unwavering decision to not take medication for mental illness. I struggle with anxiety, not depression. And my anxiety can be classified as "mild" now; in my younger years I was eating/drinking/smoking to suppress it until I either a) felt numb or b) was so overwhelmed after having any/all of the above mentioned things in excess that my brain just shut down (or I went to bed...). I have, in my recent years, in my path to self discovery, found what triggers my anxiety and ways to control it. It has not disappeared, and as I search for fulfillment and mental health in my life, I am turning to writing as an outlet for the anxiety that I still cannot completely eliminate. The true irony yet reality of my life is that I am absolutely, deeply, and sometimes physically terrified of taking medication for anxiety. The irony is that worry is a by-product of my inherent anxiety, and that worry could potentially be quelled with medication, yet the worry is so strong that I choose to not take them. I have been prescribed Xanax on a few occasions, and have a back-and-forth-angel-vs-demon type battle in my head for days before deciding to not fill the prescription. I hope that my journey into writing for therapeutic purposes will allow the anxiety to spill out and disappear.

christy barongan said...

Yes, I am very familiar with the angel/demon dialogue. Even now, I resist taking the meds for anxiety for as long as I can, but I am deeply grateful to my psychiatrist who reminded me that taking the Ativan is a way to have control over my anxiety. Which I do, when all else fails.