I wake up every morning and take a pill. This pill saved my marriage, helped me to start exercising again after a 2 year break, stopped me from feeling like my kids were drowning me, and I am not ashamed to take it. You shouldn’t be either. It wasn’t always this way.
It was 5th grade when I realized I wasn’t happy. I used to be ashamed. I used to think I did something wrong. I thought my family did something wrong. It only got worse as I entered those dreaded hormonal years of junior high. I was sad and angry. I had thoughts like: My life is horrible. It will never get better. This is the best there is. What is my purpose here?
My emotions and interactions were laced with extremes because I didn’t know how to deal with the anxieties association with my sadness. I don’t think it was until the 8th grade when I fully recognized that this despondency had a name – depression.
I stole my mom’s caffeine pills because I thought if I took enough of them I could die or, if not die, then end up in a hospital where people would see that I was lost. I did this often over the next few years but never took enough to do any harm. I don’t believe I really wanted to hurt myself, I just wanted someone to notice the pain inside. I was too afraid to talk to my parents about it because they would blame me, they would blame themselves, or I would get in trouble.
Then my mom got sick and died. The following summer my family moved me into my aunt’s house. It seemed that anti-depressants were now, in my mind, OK. I went to college and would go on and off of them for the next few years. I didn’t like the idea of being dependent on a pill. Why couldn’t I just shake this? Why did it follow me around? Why was it a weight around my neck? I prayed, I cried, I blamed others, and I blamed myself for being weak.
I got married and the first year was rough. I was pretty self destructive and put a lot of effort into proving I was a horrible person. We got pregnant and lost the baby when I was 22 or 23 weeks pregnant. We were in therapy. I went back on an anti-depressant. Things got a lot better. I started exercising regularly which helped to level out my moods. When I got pregnant again I had to get off the anti-depressant I was on and decided to forego any other pill. I was worried how it could affect my unborn baby. For the next few years I would once again go on and off anti-depressants. I started exercising 4 or or 5 days a week which really helped me not feel as overwhelmed, anxious, and irritated. It forced me to be near people and have positive interactions with others, and increased my self-confidence.
When I started feeling better, I decided not to take the anti-depressant anymore. I was continuously having an internal struggle with the idea of taking a pill for the rest of my life so that I could function normally and be happy. It felt fake, unreal – like I was cheating.
Why couldn’t I just work hard enough to be better?
We moved, my exercising stopped, and I just proceeded with life. I didn’t notice any changes. It wasn’t sudden. It was gradual. It was sneaky. I started drinking more, but I have 5 kids that are crazy, of course I drink. I would forget things more often, again 5 kids! I was overwhelmed with simple tasks I used to complete with ease. I was irritated by the kids more and more. I yelled at them more often and did fewer activities with them, and I was exhausted by the end of the day.
Again 5 kids!
I began to once again have the thoughts I had in junior high. My life is horrible. It will never get better. This is the best there is. What is my purpose here? My husband and I were fighting. I was taking it so personally. I began to avoid him, and I began to convince myself that he would be happier if I weren’t in his life, the kids wouldn’t even miss me if I left. Not suicide just not there.
It all came to a head last year when I finally broke down and told my husband I wasn’t happy anymore. Sobbing I told him he would probably be happier if I weren’t around because he would want to be with someone more intelligent, more logical, more political, prettier, a better homemaker, a better wife, and a better mother. The look on his face. He wasn’t anywhere on the same page. He had no idea that all of this had been swirling around in my head.
I am grateful to him because instead of a hundred different things he could have done, he talked to me, he reminded me of my previous battles with depression, he recommended anti-depressants. I was adamant that it wasn’t depression. I knew this is what life really looked like. That’s the thing about depression. It is like this foggy pair of glasses – everything is there but it is all blurred.
I agreed though. Why not? It took some testing of different doses, but in the end it was worth it. After dealing with this most of my life, I am just realizing it is a life long disease for me. It is in my genetic makeup. I now see the pill as an aid to help me be me. Marriage is still hard, raising small kids is still hard, and I am not saying anti-depressants make all that go away, but they do help clear the haze. I see my worth. I see the point of going on. I want to be an active participant in my life and not just a bystander.
Depression can hurt so many of your relationships, and it hurts the relationship you have with yourself. I know there is a stigma surrounding mental health issues, but please don’t let the stigma surrounding it prevent you from being the best version of you.
There is help, you are not alone, and it can get better.