I have considered taking anti-depressants before but I have always struggled of the idea of medicating myself. I think that largely stems from being gay for some reason. Coming out as gay is a huge thing, it’s about saying to the world ‘this is who I am, like it or not, this is me, and its Ok to be me’. It’s about saying who I am is OK, so it feels like a bit of a betrayal to have to acknowledge that sometimes who I am is not OK. With chronic as opposed to episodic depression, there is a chemical imbalance within your brain that can’t be chased away with happy thoughts any more than you can pep talk a diabetic pancreas into producing insulin.
I have struggled with both depression and anxiety throughout my life. I have had my emotional ups and downs, been battered about by the sharp turns my rollercoaster brain chemistry has taken. When you are predisposed to shaky brain chemistry, it doesn’t take much of a push for you to find yourself in an emotional place that you don’t want to be. It can be hard to talk about your issues, because it can feel like talking about them opens the door to a monster that will drag you back into its suffocating grasp. There have been a couple of times when my Drs have pushed me to try anti-depressants, but I resisted, probably as a self-defeating act of self-sabotage. For those who are unfamiliar with psycho-pharmacology, I use the words anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medication interchangeably, because they are somewhat interchangeable. Some people experience an easing of their anxiety symptoms using anti-depressants and others find relief from their depression on anti-anxiety meds. The boundary between the two conditions chemically is not a clear boundary, thus there are no clear rules about which drugs work for which condition.
But now I am ready, I have finally decided to try anti-anxiety meds. I am in existential crisis, my job makes me miserable, I have no money, and my friends are leaving me behind as they settle into stable responsible adult lives. Everyone is moving on and I am all alone. I feel overwhelmed by societies expectations for me and my apparent failure to meet even one of them. I don’t want to leave the house, I don’t want to see other people, and the job that once brought me joy now feels like a burden.
Everything feels hard. The real red flag for me is that I have stopped drinking. Not usually a red flag for mental health, but I drink when I am happy. If I see no point in a glass of wine, I am close to being overwhelmed by my darkness.
I've booked myself into see a therapist on Wednesday on a recommendation of a friend who is also on anti-depressant/ anxiety meds. I’m not sure why I am resisting the idea of psychiatric medication. Why do I fight against taking a medication that might make me happy, that might blunt the bad days, and make the good days more frequent? I have taken more than my fair share of illegal mind-altering substances, so it’s not the mind-altering part I am frightened of. I drink alcohol frequently, another mood-altering substance, so why not prescribed medication? Why do I resist the idea of something that could consistently help me, monitored by a professional, that might make things better? It would make sense, but I don’t make sense. Why do I self-destruct? Why do I do things that will hurt me? Why do I do things that will make me fail? Why do I resist the things that could make me happy?
It’s like I want to both live for the moment and destroy that moment, to hold the future near, but to raise the ground it will be built on. So, I sabotage myself, and my happiness. I am Kali, creating and destroying my inner world.
So off I go to a new Doctor. As soon as the doctor called my name, I knew that Dr Alice had been the right pick, welcoming but not uncomfortably enthusiastic. I went through my medical history, the history of my anxiety and depression, the ups and downs and all the in-betweens. I answered the tough questions about self-harm and all the other goodies that chemical imbalances can bring into your life. I had always refused to take prescription medications for my ongoing depression mostly because I wanted to believe that I could manage it on my own. I wanted to believe I could handle it. I was frightened they would suppress my feelings, and that’s not what I wanted. I still wanted to feel things, I just wanted to cope with the feelings I felt.
I filled out a multiple-choice questionnaire testing for stress, anxiety and depression. I scored high on all three categories, not really the sort of high scores you can brag about in a dick measuring contest but yeah, here I was at the top of the charts, but they were charts no-one wanted to top. To my surprise the depression one scored the highest. I thought my issue was predominantly anxiety, but sometimes we can’t see the problem clearly from our place inside it, and that’s when you need someone to break out the multiple-choice quizzes and science the fuck out of your predicament. Dr Alice gave me a script for two months’ worth of Zoloft. We arranged for me to come back for a review in two weeks, sooner if I experienced any unpleasant side effects. The list of side effects is pretty damn long, and 2 days in I am already experiencing several of them. So far, I’ve had on and off headaches, dry mouth, teeth grinding, light sensitivity, tiredness, dry eyes, and general spaced outness. But already I also find myself more focused and committed to doing things besides heading straight to the couch to watch Netflix. It may be the placebo effect but I’m starting to feel more levelled out and more hopeful. Like a bear awakening from hibernation, the gorgeous, dazzling, witty, debonair, chap you have come to know and love, is ready to face the world again.