Edit: Some time ago, I wrote the below. I decided to come clean about my medication to the world, and to write about it. I never published it on my blog, for whatever reason. Months later, and my feelings are somewhat different. This post is more about the ‘journey’, [blegh I really do hate that phrase but in this context, it’s entirely applicable], that I’ve been on for the last few years: the decades worth of breakdowns, the ups and downs and emotions, the final realization that I do indeed need help, the development and recovery of my mental state, and at the latest stage, my decision at the time to decide to come off my medication, and the ramifications thereof.
Today, I’ve indeed decided to go back on my meds. I’ve decided to seek professional help and get myself to being a healthier person on the inside. I’ve noticed a relapse in my behaviour, how I see the world, my mental state and my general outlook on life, as well as the decrease in the ability to simply get on with my life and bounce back from when I have my down periods. Those ‘dark clouds’ seem to hang about far longer these days and are far darker, hearkening back to how I was years before I started to look after myself.
Its taken me this long to get here, but like someone told me recently, there’s no failure, only the next step towards your betterment. Thanks for reading.
‘I’m coming off my meds,’ I told a new[ish] friend that I made here in San Francisco. My heart quickened as I said it, as in my mind, a world of thoughts populated themselves within my neurons.
Recently, I came to the decision to stop my medication. I’m not sure who knows if I’ve been on anti-depressants for almost three years, and at this point it doesn’t really bother me too much. I don’t feel any shame in divulging this, as mental health is something that should be spoken about in a frank, honest, congenial and even humourous manner, if we’re ok with it of course.
There’s no point hiding, as hiding things like this just exacerbates the problem. Its something difficult to speak about, but being transparent and honest is a concept that we all have to take on board in life.
I remember my husband once saying that we all have multiple ‘coming outs’ in our lives; we may come out as gay for instance. We might more than one of these instances in our lives, where we may have to open up and tell all something. For me, having depression was one such ‘coming out.’
Much of the reason I started this humble little blog was for me to process and to have an outlet; to speak about my mental health and issues and experiences pertaining to it. For years now, I’ve kept a series of cute small Moleskine A5 journals on me, which I would scribble down any thoughts and problems I was encountering. I decided to carry on this with something a bit larger and more open. It was time for me to open up and come out as it were.
So, why have I decided to come off my meds?
My medication has done so much for me, there is no denying that. It has helped me become a better person. I still recall the day I just broke down in front of my boyfriend.
I get chills thinking about it.
It would have been about 2.5 plus years ago. We were living in our homely little flat in Erskineville, and had been there for a few months at this point. We had a social life that was flowering and blooming; our friendship circles were expanding, our relationship was getting stronger. So, in hindsight, I can’t explain why I was so down. Not just with regards to mood, but my general countenance, my demeanor, how I acted. The entire thing.
Perhaps a large part of it was my at the time workplace. A place that, looking back, was highly unsuitable for me to work in. A place that exacted so much from me, expected so much, yet gave me nothing in return, and never made me feel like I should be there, was worthy enough or a valuable part of the team. I used to dread going there every day. My heart would sink as I would walk to work, weary of what may come each day. It started off so bright and fun. Yet a number of things occurred, and I wasn’t in a position to leave.
This environment in hindsight was the powder keg for everything to blow up. From the stand point of the future, everything in our past can seem logical and clockwork in its action/reactions.
I’ll never forget the day I had the meltdown which caused me to start my quest to get myself better. Years of not being able to come to terms with my depression, due to how I was brought up in a household where things like stress and depression and mental illnesses were simply fables and excuses were compounded the fact that I was living a lie as a kid. On some level I always knew I was different yet was unable to vocalize this. A strict Catholic all-boys school coupled with my authoritarian father will do this.
Suffice to say by my mid twenties, I can see now I was like an old bridge that couldn’t shoulder its burdens anymore. I remember echoes of advice and help one of my old flatmates would tell me. She was the first to say, and I can hear it in her voice still to this day:
‘Mate, you have depression. You really need to speak to someone and get better.’
She was the first to get me on this road to being better. I feel like I owe her so much, and if you read this, thank you.
By that fateful day however, it really felt like life was crashing down upon me. Everything felt so dire, so drawn out with complete and total fear and horror. Unless you’ve experienced this yourself, there is no easy way to explain it. Like the worst day you’ve had but multiplied by an order of ten. And the days like this continue, and it feels like it’ll never stop.
I just couldn’t see the good in anything. I wanted to not be present; I felt like I wanted to be in a state of non-existence. I wasn’t suicidal, it was more the sentiment that I simply wanted to never have existed in the first place. So emo, in hindsight. Thinking back to this day, I still get pangs of sadness and fear. I can still sense how heavily I was breathing, how the tears just fell out and how I was a howling mess. I never give enough credit to my now husband for being there for me. Honestly without him I really don’t know where I’d be.
A week later I went to the doctor to finally get some help and resolution, and more importantly, I began a mental health plan and started on medication.
The change was gradual, yet even just 6 months in, differences were being noticed. It wasn’t as though I was changing as a person, it was more the attitudes I had, the ability to not let the downs be so debilitating, and the highs lasting longer were becoming more pronounced and nuanced. Personally I didn’t think much was happening. It was more that others were noticing; my boyfriend, our friends.
Whereas earlier before the meds, getting me to do anything productive would have taken a very inordinate amount of effort, I became more motivated and resolute and able to simply do more with more ease, less stress and worry, and with more compunction. I became more jovial, I became more social and more willing to say yes and be a part of life. I started going to the gym regularly. I could smile easily and without feeling forced. I became a funnier person, and more likeable as a whole.
The downs and blue periods of darkness and self hate have lessened. I still get them, yet with less regularity. Right now, being jobless, these moods sometimes touch my mind. Yet, in my personal experience, I began to learn how to deal with these periods. I learned how to change my thought patterns, how to stop those self sabotaging thoughts and put them to rest. I make sure I still exercise regularly, as I have found that going to the gym has become more beneficial than relying on my meds.
And that, in the end, is the reason why I have decided to stop my meds. I’m now about two months down since coming off. I’ve noticed a bit of a change, but not as bad as I thought. I’m still the person I have been on the meds.