I never understood those commercials for depression medication when I was little. You know, the ones where the cartoon character is walking confidently and then just falls into a hole with eyes? I didn’t understand how anyone could just be sad for seemingly no reason. By the time I was 13, my closest friend had attempted suicide two times. I just didn’t get it. Life could never get that bad.
It wasn’t until I was 18 and away at college that depression became very real for me. Looking back, I now know that I struggled from depression and anxiety all through high school, and it worsened when I left the nest and didn’t “have” to do things like go to school, obey my parents, and ask for permission. If I wanted to lay in bed for a week and play Mario Cart, hell, that was what I could do. It went up and down. Some days I felt like to could hold the world in my hand, powerful and stress free, motivated and excited, and other days I could not get out of bed because the day was completely dark.
It wasn’t until I was completely suicidal and self medicating with alcohol at age 21 that I finally was forced to pull the plug on everything and get help. I didn’t want to go on medication, so I went to yoga, I went to therapy, I went on supplements, and I got acupuncture three times a week. I prided myself on not taking the chemical route. I was going to beat this the “good” way. And I did! But it was a full time job. I was always thinking, affirming, down dogging, writing, talking.
But I was all better! Right? So I went back to life as normal. I went back to school, and I graduated, and I got my first job, and then I got married, and got a dog, and bought a house, and all that “normal stuff” we are expected to do in life. I was checking off things on the “life is moving forward” list faster than I probably should’ve been. I was high on the constant motion. It hit a point when it all fell down back to earth – I couldn’t keep running through life.
That point for me was when my best friend’s brother died in a car accident. At the time, me and that friend hadn’t been on the best of terms. But when this accident happened, it was one of those moments when all that stuff just seems so stupid, and you leave work in the middle of the day not caring if they fire you, and you pay a million dollars for a one way ticket, and you be there for them. I had never been to a funeral. It is much harder when it is someone so young. There are no words, no assurances, no nothing that can make it better. There is no “well he lived a wonderful life” sentiments when someone has barely just begun it. It hit me in a weird way. I found myself feeling so much pain not for me, but for the ones I love, and it just didn’t make any sense. I had to just go back to life as normal as if nobody had just been ripped out of our lives, as if there wasn’t going to be a huge hole in every future get together, as if we wouldn’t think every single day about all he had left to experience, as if life was glorious and hopeful and eternal. I felt the entire opposite of life. It was a hopeless, who the hell knows if we are going to wake up tomorrow, who the hell cares anyways, sort of life.
I had been so excited about school and work before all this happened and saw value in working the next several years towards becoming a Veterinarian, and all of a sudden that all just fell apart. School and work felt impossible. Riding my horse became a chore. Everything in life that was supposed to be enjoyable was something to be avoided, and avoiding it made it all the worse. Affirming didn’t help. Talking didn’t help. Down dogging didn’t help – because I couldn’t get myself to do any of it. I was so frustrated. I was so frustrated because I had already done all of this. I had already fought this fight, and I didn’t have it in me to do it all over again. It wasn’t possible to fight, because I couldn’t just drop out of school and move into my parent’s house and do nothing but think for six months this time. Moreover, I didn’t want to do that. I was so afraid that if I admitted to how I was really feeling, that the world would make me stop everything and commit me to a mental hospital. I am serious. I was terrified that the plug would be pulled on life as I knew it all over again.
Finally W made me an appointment with my doctor (because on top of it all, I was acting like a three year old, and wouldn’t go to the doctor to even just get my thyroid check, fully knowing that I have an autoimmune disease that could be causing all of this. It wasn’t, but that’s besides the point). Once he finally dragged me into an appointment, for the first time I was like YES. PLEASE. MEDICATE ME. WHATEVER YOU THINK. Luckily, I have the best doctor in the world, who didn’t just write a prescription (which was for the lowest dose of Prozac possible and nearly a placebo) but gave me instructions for my daily routine. The plug was not pulled on my life. I remember just feeling immediately 75% better because for once, I felt like I was not alone in this fight. I had help. And yes, it was chemical help, but I learned that sometimes we need chemical help.
This was a valuable lesson learned. All this time I had been so adamant about not going on medication that I refused to see how weak minded it was to not get the help I desperately needed. Going through each day miserable, hopeless, and wishing I would just wilt away to end all the pain I was feeling in the name of being anti-depressant free was so not worth it. I equate it to refusing to take a medication you know you need to be on for a disease or else you will die. This was really no different, because depression is a disease, and I had tried everything else, and it still threatened to kill me.
For the first time in a long time, I was excited about my day. I woke up in the morning and wanted to get out of bed and do something. I got passionate about riding again. I realized how moving certain songs could be. I wanted to talk to and see my friends. I wanted to call my parents. I wanted to pour love into my marriage. It was the return of a bunch little “life is really amazing” things that went missing throughout the past ten years of my life that I didn’t even realize were gone until they were back.
Now those commercials with the little black holes with eyes made sense. I am never going to be done fighting this. I am going to be going along with life and suddenly it’ll get flipped upside down. I am wired this way, and even when everything is seemingly going right, sometimes my brain forces me to think otherwise. But you know what, that is okay. I am not alone, and I can do this.
I just need to ask for help.