The Is How Antidepressants Changed My life and May Change Yours
There is no shame in taking antidepressants
How did my story begin?
It was a cold day in December 2018. I remember waking up at 2 pm, after spending the whole night awake trying to convince my mind to stop thinking and give me the peace to be able to close my eyes. I woke up, looked through my window and a couple of questions came to my mind about whether I should get out of my bed or stay there for a couple of more hours. I remember feeling an intense sorrow at that time. It was then that I remembered that I have my first appointment with the psychiatrist. I couldn't eat that time, I remember grabbing a small piece of chocolate to shut my starving stomach up and went out without even caring about the way I dressed or the way I smelled.
My appointment with my psychiatrist was urgently requested by my university after I wasn't able to write my final exams for the first time in my life. It was heartbreaking for me to see myself completely paralyzed and not being able to do the basic things of life. I was sad and felt miserable because I wasn't able to keep up with school. I felt empty because my situation affected the education that I worked very hard all my life for and which was the most valuable thing for me.
So I finally met with the psychiatrist, and after a couple of hours of discussion, and asking a battery of questions, he evaluated my symptoms and gave me the bad news by telling me straight out "Mohamed, I am very sorry but you are Severely Depressed". That day will remain in my memory. I was diagnosed with severe major depression along with other disorders such as anxiety and adjustment disorders. My doctor also explained to me how I most likely spent most of my life living with the disease.
How did I take the news?
I looked at him, my eyes filled with tears and I took my first deep breath in a very long time.
I honestly can't remember not being depressed. Even before I knew what it was, I knew I wasn't like everyone else. My teen years were especially tough and I struggled on many levels. I was always either too sad or too happy, I was never in a normal situation, never in between, and even my happy moments seemed fake, very short and always missing something that I was never able to clearly identify.
I had no idea how removed I was from myself. I had been living life holding my breath and smiling and people-pleasing to avoid people seeing me as I saw myself. Because I admit that I spent a long time seeing myself as an unloveable unworthy person.
When I got the diagnosis, I was both relieved and overwhelmed. Finally, something made sense and I'm going to get the help I need. Having my official diagnosis was a bit like staring at an elephant for many years before declaring it an elephant.
Now that I have the diagnosis, what's the plan of action?
The doctor said that there were enough pieces of evidence to suggest prescribing medications. I was terrified and I asked my doctor if he would advise his own son to take medications for depression and he said yes without hesitation, which was encouraging.
After my session, I went directly to the pharmacy to get the pills, but what's funny is that I was too convinced that I would just buy them without taking them.
I was scared and lost. I reached out to some of my good friends, who helped me think about the pros and cons of taking the medication, and after taking the time to think about the decision of taking the medications I was convinced that it was probably the right thing to do because at that time nothing seemed to work with me despite having two therapists and a strong support system.
How do I describe the moment I took the medication?
I remember taking my first pill of antidepressant the same day of diagnosis and sleeping eight hours. The day I took the pills was the last time I felt the way I used to feel all my life.
My doctor suggested that I start on a low dose of the antidepressant for the week and then increase it and see how it goes.
Many doctors advise their patients to wait a duration of four to six weeks for their antidepressants to work, but some medications can kick out quickly and that was exactly what happened to me.
On the first day on the pills, I felt different, I woke up having a stable mood, I couldn't believe it because in the past my mood used to swing between four to five states in one hour, but that day I had a stable mood. I couldn't believe it and I reached out to some friends asking them if that was how they usually feel. I felt like people without depression has a great advantage that I never had, which was having a stable mood. I felt like I was cheated on by my brain for not having that privilege before.
I also felt no anxiety whatsoever. It felt good. Like being cured of a terrible disease, and it felt like a miracle to me.
On that day, I didn't feel the need to cry and life seemed crystal clear for the first time. As clear as a very sunny day in the middle of an ocean.
The time when I was outside I didn't feel a bit of fear. I was out in the dark and everything was normal, and I never knew I can smile that wide.
But….There is always a but
My medication came with a cost that I had to pay. My pills had some side effects that affected my life somehow, but I was ready to tolerate it as long as I don't feel depressed or hopeless again. Here are the major side effects of my antidepressants:
- Anorgasmia: Which means since I took the pills I could never achieve orgasm anymore, and my sex life was completely destroyed
- Having numb emotions: The thing with the type of medication I was taking is that no only it muted the negative emotions, but also the positive ones, I felt my emotions were flat, and I faced a hard time caring about people the way I used to do before, which affected my relationships
After a few months of being on medications, I was still experiencing some symptoms of my depression, because what my medication did was that it eased my symptoms, it didn't cure the disease completely.
My doctor added a new medication to fight my insomnia because I remember I used to stay awake for three days in a row. I was lucky with my first antidepressants, but with this second one I was easily falling asleep for seventeen hours directly and I felt so sad because I had the pressure of my academic obligations, so sleeping that long didn't help at all. I spoke to my doctor and after a process of trial and error, we found the right medications and the right dosage that I had to take.
I believe that my life is getting back on track gradually. I can do anything with fewer obstacles than the past. I am experimenting and learning new things.
Do antidepressants really work?
There is such a wide range of anti-depressants that I, nor anyone really, can answer that question as a blanket statement.
I can definitely say medication is what saved myself. I was lucky to be prescribed the right medications for the first time, however, in most cases, it is a trial and error process. It requires a lot of courage, patience, and empathy towards oneself.
There are a lot of antidepressants, and everyone needs to communicate with their doctor to find the right medication along with the right dose
Side effects are also a thing and the choice of medication should take all the factors that contribute to living a quality life. In the beginning, I sacrificed my sex life, and my ability to feel things in an intense way, but now I feel I am in a better place to ask my doctor to prescribe me a new medication that doesn't have a side effect that would affect me or reduce my dosage as he mentioned in our last session and on my god I am so excited for that.
Lessons learned from my experience?
Depression took a huge part of my life, It was very hard for me to imagine my self experiencing the feeling of not being depressed. These are the lessons I learned from my mental condition:
- There is no shame in taking antidepressants. Imagine If you have diabetes you would for sure take insulin, the same thing applies to depression.
- Antidepressants do not change who you are, it is just that the person you are while on antidepressants is the person you were supposed to be if the depression weren't originally there. This is exactly how I see things.
- It's okay to feel vulnerable sometimes, to close the door of your room, switch off the lights and cry out your heart, it's okay to let all your pain go, as tears can make your soul feels less thirsty.
- Depression taught me to hug my self whenever I felt like to do and to dance whenever I am able to. Depression simply taught me that I was enough.
- Depression taught me to trust my gut and to walk away from people, whenever I felt something is wrong, it helped me see things differently and to trust my inner voice.
- Depression helped me bolster enough courage to walk away from all things and people who hurt me, and this is not because I don't like them, I actually love them to the moon and back, but my self-esteem and mental health are far more important than anything else.