I was a freshman in high school when I was put on my first antidepressant. It was Prozac. I’m not sure if it worked or not. Being a teenager means days filled with extreme highs and lows. The way I went about my life was to keep going until I burnt out or fucked up/failed. Feeling depressed? Keep going! Feeling anxious? Just keep swimming! Major nervous break with paranoid anxiety? Power on through that shit! This “served” me until after college. In fact, in college it got worse. From about elementary school until the end of high school, I was in some kind of therapy or support center. ADD/ADHD testing, learning disability testing, specialized support in school for my learning disabilities, psychotherapy. In college, there was no therapy. No one to check in with. I didn’t want to be different. All I wanted was to be with a group of people who didn’t see me as some kind of defective product. Add to that a typical college lifestyle and voila: a nervous breakdown by junior year.
Post-college life has been, until recently, a six year struggle to get back to okay. It’s been on medication, off medication, dealing with fallout from side effects of medication, on herbal supplements, off herbal supplements, meditation, prayer, in therapy, out of therapy, diet changes, exercise, lethargy, secondary trauma, binge eating, writing. When I got my job working with kids, I was out of therapy and off meds. I began binge eating and seeing a kinesiologist. I started having secondary trauma and compassion fatigue about a year or so into my job. Kept going until I burnt out and left to finish of my master’s program. That’s when I started therapy again, doing EMDR and art therapy as well. There is one main thing that has been coming to light for me:
I’m getting too old for this shit.
I’m getting too old for the running on fumes. The imagined victory of being “a badass” or, in truth, a tragic hero by suffering through all of this nonsense has lost the appeal. My body doesn’t rebound from things as quickly. Denial just doesn’t work. The downswings are harder. The upswings are more subtle and requiring nurturing.
When I started seeing my current therapist two years ago, I made a point of telling her that I wanted to try other options before even considering meds. Recently, I’ve been considering trying them again and yesterday, something… shifted. In our session, I kept saying things like “I can’t keep this up anymore” and “The depression is getting too big to handle” and “I feel like if I were watching my friend act they way I’m acting, I would think she was struggling to stay afloat”. My therapist suggested getting back on meds.
Ritalin never worked. Prozac left me with lack of affect and no sex drive. Lexapro made me want to kill myself. The only things that really worked were Klonapin and Ambien, and that’s only because they made me pass out. Birth control, while not an anti-depressant, gave me intense mood swings and fits of rage. Needless to say, I’m hesitant when it comes to meds. Yet, it’s becoming clear that the depression and anxiety aren’t plateauing. They’re gearing up. I know what this feels like and I’m more scared of losing my way again.
I’ve battled “fixing” my mind and body. Whenever I go about trying to “fix” things, I feel like a fraud. If I try to lose weight, I think “You’re a shitty feminist. Why can’t you be a whole and successful woman while also being plus sized?”. If I don’t try to lose weight, I think “You’re a failure as a human being. You’ll be a horrible mother and you’re a horrible wife and daughter for being so disgusting.”. If I try to work with the depression and anxiety, I think “You’re such a sheep. They want you doped up so you don’t fight back.”. I run about my day to day life feeling intensely and running myself ragged and being too tired to do anything about it. So, I’m trying the meds again along with weekly therapy, a gluten-free diet, my old job, and (hopefully) exercise. Meds for depression, anxiety, and insomnia.
The cliched adage is “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, which feels like such an American/Western mentality. It encourages us not too look or act until something is in need of major repair. It also supports the idea of a quick fix, or a magic solution. Once something is fixed then it’s fixed. Yet, our lives are filled with situations and things that need minor repair. I hold my husband’s hand when he is feeling sad. My boss asks me if I need anything if she sees me starting to binge eat at work. Yes, these are small things. They don’t fix the problem. Maintenance takes time and effort and intention. It requires observation. It includes some failure. I break a vase; I glue it back together. I try to put flowers in it and water leaks from the small cracks I couldn’t repair. Eventually, I’ll go and buy a new vase. Or, I could just plant some flowers when the snow melts. Maybe it’s not the best or most inventive metaphor, but it doesn’t need to be fixed.
I think Russian Sage would be nice.