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Little Blue Pills

a journey toward accepting the assistance of antidepressants

By Kerry KehoePublished 2 months ago Updated 2 months ago 6 min read

The bottle is filled to the brim - 90 pills for 90 days. The capsules crowd together like a field of tiny blue flowers, overlapping, blending together. “So it’s finally come to this,” I think, extracting a single capsule and letting out a deep exhalation before swallowing it down. It strikes me as fitting that the oldest SSRI is a lovely shade of bright blue. Taking blue pills to kill my blues. It oughta be a country song.

The first time I was clinically depressed I was 17. The end of high school was fast approaching and I was terrified of the end of life as I knew it. My first relationship had just ended, leaving me with my first -and to date worst- broken heart. I’d been let go from a job I really liked, and a dog I’d had since I was four had died. At least, these are the reasons I continually gave myself for being and staying depressed, stories that reinforced the narrative. The pain seduced me and reasoned away all logic. I became both reckless and restless, alienating friends and family, nearly failing several classes, getting a speeding ticket for driving 90mph in a 55mph zone with an added citation for failing to wear a seatbelt. It took a long time for the fog to lift, but it did. As graduation approached I found my motivation and lust for life returning incrementally with each degree rise in the temperature. When I came out on the other side I told myself I’d never let myself get so low again - that I knew now how easy it was to sink deeper into the abyss, to get caught up in the story of sadness - and I would do everything in my power to prevent it from taking over my life in the future. This was sometimes easier said than done, but more often than not over the next two decades I’d acknowledge my baseline state of general happiness and express gratitude that my seratonin appeared to be well balanced.

In my thirties my sister would tell me I’d never been depressed before and when I reminded her I had been depressed in high school she told me that didn’t count, because “everyone is depressed in high school.” She didn’t think I could understand her pain. She let her depression take the reins of her story, and when she succumbed to it, her story became mine.

I tackled grief like a puzzle I needed to solve. I became a student of it. Yoga for grief classes. A grief retreat. Grief counseling. Books and podcasts about grief. I cried every chance I got. I took candlelit baths while listening to healing frequencies. I swallowed my vitamins, avoided alcohol, bought crystals, chanted mantras. I’d go for long walks in the woods. I threw myself into being a new homeowner, taking great strides to make my new home a healing space. Co-workers told me they were impressed with how well (and how methodically) I was coping. An old friend I saw at a wedding told me she’d noticed via my social media posts how I appeared to be handling everything with grace. I was the very symbol of resilience- where my sister had failed to take ownership of resolving her sadness (in turn passing it on to everyone who loved her), I was determined to rise above mine. Everything hurt like hell and I’d never known pain this deep, but with time I knew I’d survive it. And if I beat my teenage depression and adult trauma without pharmaceuticals, I felt my brain could, with the right efforts, conquer all pain. I’d managed to navigate my life’s greatest hardships and I now believed I could withstand anything.

Life began to test this hypothesis over the next few years. It seemed like everything I became attached to I had to then learn to release. I began working from home during Covid lockdowns, which was (and remains) a difficult adjustment. I adopted an elderly cat who died at the beginning of 2022, then a special needs cat who died at the end of 2022, devastating bookends to the year. My long standing partnership began to disintegrate, and I began staying in a friend’s basement in another town. I tried my hand at dating (in retrospect before I was ready), got too attached to someone too soon, and the fallout gutted me. Dealing with both the breakup of a short term romance and the dissolution of a very long relationship simultaneously proved to be too much. By the time I relocated to my third city within a year and had to face formally moving all of my belongings from a house I thought I’d live in forever, I was in a dark place. None of my usual approaches to healing/keeping depression at bay seemed to be as effective as they’d once been, and I didn’t know how to face the emotionally taxing task of moving while my mental health acuity seemed to be failing all around me. Everything looked very bleak. I wasn’t able to picture a future where I was happy. All of my attempts to dispel negative thinking were disrupted by intense rumination about my many mistakes and failures. As it turns out, what doesn’t kill us doesn’t always make us stronger - sometimes loss compounds until you’re worn down to the barest parts of yourself, wires exposed, exoskeleton eroded. After discussions with my doctor, my therapist, my mom and my friends, I decided the time for SSRIs had arrived.

So, world, you’ve gone and done it at last. You finally beat me at my own game. I’ve finally admitted that I’m collapsing under the weight of my own brain and I am ready to acknowledge that I could use a little help in finding the light again. I made a promise to my teenage self that I wouldn’t let myself return to that lowest of places - since I haven’t been able to keep that promise naturally I am opting to keep it by any means necessary. SSRIs weren’t enough to save my sister (she’d tried them all, it seems), nor was I enough to save her - but saving myself is non-negotiable. I’m going to keep trying every route available to me, and for now this seems like the right move. (For good measure, I’m also reading lots of books about energy medicine and trying to take meditation more seriously.) I’ve been swallowing these pills daily for a few weeks now, and I’m slowly starting to feel a little bit more like myself again, slowly casting off the shackles. While hope is still just out of sight, I’m able to hope that I’ll have hope again - and I’m trying to let that be enough for now.

Perhaps these blue pills aren’t meant to simply kill my blues, but to add the right hue of blue back in. By the time this bottle is empty maybe I’ll be able to see the blue in the skies again; To recognize the full spectrum of color available to the human experience. I’m learning that onward comes in many shades, and right now I’m content to witness it as a bright blue.

treatmentstraumarecoveryhumanitydepressionCONTENT WARNING

About the Creator

Kerry Kehoe

badly navigated excursions into form and light >>>

self-indulgent attempts to write personal essays on the subject of being human + whatever else pours out

all photos are my own.

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