For the last two and a half weeks I have been taking antidepressants.
It’s a word that raises eyebrows and causes people to feel uncomfortable. If “antidepressant” were a guest at a posh party then it’d be the huge man with an expensive-looking black suit, a hint of underworld connections, and tattoos crawling up his neck that makes all heads turn around, spreads a cloud of mystery and a sense of alarm in the room.
You might be shocked about me writing so openly about this topic but that’s EXACTLY why I choose to write about it. Some close friends I told about it commented on it as if I didn’t know what I was doing or needed special attention. I felt like I told them I started dating a Yakuza boss. I found that irritating, to say the least.
Those friends are no exception. There are far too many people who really don't know much about mental illness or what they do know is not necessarily correct. I don't want to be judgmental about it because there are many topics out in the world that I don't know anything about or have a wrong perception of and probably behave in the same way
Let me tell you that it’s scary as hell to write this and be open about it but I have mental illness and can share my experiences about it and therefore talking about it is the best way I can think of to shatter a stigma that surrounds mental illness in all societies. A stigma so deeply rooted that even I had doubts for the longest time whether I should give antidepressants a “chance” or not.
Understanding and accepting
After trying to deal with my energy sucking low moods for years by myself, a couple of months ago I finally started fully understanding and accepting the fact that my ups and downs are connected to seasonal depression, which is - just like cancer or diabetes - an illness. You don’t choose to have it, and it’s not because you are weak that causes you to have it.
Once I accepted that I became a much better observant of my own thoughts and what caused my ups and downs, which overall made be see that despite all my efforts to pull myself out of my own dark well, there was only so much I could do to function in daily life. It’s exhausting to constantly fight your personal Darth Vader, who makes you feel small, unworthy, and incapable …
Due to the stigma and because I don't trust medication in general, I had been reluctant to consider antidepressants for myself. But the desire to find out whether I could be a better version of myself EVERYDAY became so strong that I decided to contact a therapist-friend. I told her that I felt ready for trying antidepressants and see whether they work for me or not. Thanks to the contact details she gave me I was lucky to find a counselor not far from my place who I clicked with and felt understood by, and who prescribed me the lowest dose of the medication.
The first few days I felt nauseous at night and tired in the mornings but soon that came to an end. Before the first week was over I noticed that my usual ups and downs just visited me as a simple thought rather than a huge wave on the open see that drags me down and doesn’t let me come up to the surface anymore.
I remember how one early morning sometime last week I walked out of our building and instantly felt high-spirited by smelling spring air and seeing a clear blue sky. Usually that’s a thought that would take me high (because I love sun shine and spring) and just seconds later leave me dry or take me completely down. Why? Often it’s due to a ridiculous thought that’s dipped in sadness, believing that everything that feels good will come to an end and before I can enjoy the beauty I already envision the loss of it. That’s what mental illness does to me.
Not on that morning though. When I rode off to work on my bicycle I noticed how that usual sad, dull feeling vanished like a ghost – it was there one second and gone in the next. I waited for it to come back … but it didn’t.
That’s when it dawned on me.
My long-lasting Darth Vader-like companion had become silent; so silent that I wasn’t sure if he was completely gone. I wanted to feel happy about it but then I realized I had gotten so used to it that it felt strange not to have him around.
After all, he is a part of me. One that has shaped me, has made me stronger, and turned me into a silent fighter.
I’m still not sure how to feel about its absence. All I can say is that it’s not a celebration. It’s more like standing on a cliff from which you can look down on untouched nature as far as your eyes can see, and you are all by yourself. There is a feeling of peace but also fear of the unknown and a sense of excitement that teases and tickles you from the inside.
Me WITH the medication
I’m not trying to advertise antidepressants. That’s not what this is about. I’m merely telling you my journey, which has just started. And already I’m worried whether taking the medication will lead to some sort of mental or physical addiction or what side effects it might have. Like I said, I'm someone, who is against medication. I decided to talk about that concern to my counselor.
But what I do know is that I indeed feel fresher, and less exhausted. I don’t fall in my well, and I don’t feel devastated as quickly and as long as I used to.
I feel lucky the medication, and especially a low dose, seems to work on me. Some people are not that lucky. That’s another thing about mental illness and antidepressant. Science and medicine are still in the dark when it comes to it. They don’t know why some people have mental illness and others don’t or why antidepressant work for some and don’t have the desired outcome for others. So, taking antidepressants and wondering how much doctors actually really know about its effects is something that lingers in my mind and will not fade away. But I’m willing to pay that price for now as I have more energy at the moment to be ME.