28 Oct MY MEDICATION CHANGED MY LIFE
This article is an installment of MUSE Magazine’s Mental Health Theme week, taking place from October 25th to October 30th, 2021.
TRIGGER WARNING: ARTICLE CONTAINS DISCUSSIONS OF MENTAL HEALTH, MENTAL ILLNESS, AND SUICIDE, WHICH MAY BE A TRIGGER FOR SOME READERS.DISCLAIMER: THE AUTHOR WANTS TO ACKNOWLEDGE AND MAKE IT KNOWN THAT THESE ARE THEIR PERSONAL EXPERIENCES. THE AUTHOR WOULD LIKE TO RECOGNIZE THAT OTHER PEOPLE HAVE OTHER EXPERIENCES AND THAT NO TWO PEOPLE ARE THE SAME.
At the cusp of 20 years, I begged my mother to sleep in the same bed as me at night, like a child afraid of the shadow lit in the corner of the room. I convinced myself of a series of false realities that caused me to lay awake afraid. I was afraid for the next day to start and what it would bring. I was afraid of having to persist yet another day. I felt utterly hopeless, I was positive that nobody would understand my thoughts. “It’s just in your head,” I told myself, “nobody can help you because nobody gets it.” My mother never left my side then.
After months of wracking my brain, I finally decided to go to the doctor. After immediately crying into my doctor’s arms, she held me and whispered, “I understand.”
It was after that day I began my journey with antidepressants per my doctor’s recommendation, which I gladly accepted after craving a method to cope. From the very beginning, I wish I had someone to hold my hand and walk me through the process of being prescribed antidepressants. When I brought up my desire to start medication with dire urgency to those closest around me, I was met with confusion. Medication was seen as taboo. Those around me cared very much about my wellbeing, but did not understand why I had to be medicated. To them, this seemed like an extreme measure that the ‘Stephanie they knew’ didn’t need. However, what they failed to realize was that I was no longer ‘Stephanie,’ but this fragile individual completely unlike the self I knew.
As I started to slowly recover, those around me began to do the same in a sense. They slowly became increasingly more comfortable with the fact that I was taking SSRIs as they saw the ‘Stephanie they knew’ and loved slowly returning. Exactly two years later, whenever I speak to those around me about medication for mental illness, it’s almost always first a positive affirmation followed by defending one’s own sanity; “I’m so happy it’s working for you! But I could never do that.” I acknowledge that these individuals are supportive of my recovery and have good intentions. However, nobody simply wants to be on antidepressants. It’s merely when you feel as though there’s no way out that it becomes the only viable option. Please do not say that you could never, because in a state of fight-or-flight, anybody would do what it takes to fight.
It takes a lot of work to open oneself up to another and ask for help to begin with. I found that it was a completely different task to be patient with myself, to be open to change, and to not give up when immediate gratification did not come. The process itself was long enough as it took almost a year to find the medication that worked for me through the process of trial and error.. During the same time, I had various visits with my doctors, psychiatric assessments, relapses where I again asked for my mother’s comfort, and so the list goes. It was tiring, and I was going through many different mood changes as I continued new drugs that had bad side effects during the period of trial and error. I experienced horrible nightmares that kept me up at night similar to how I had stayed awake frightened at the beginning. Amongst other things, I experienced low libido, l felt down all the time, I felt tired, and I simply didn’t have the motivation to get out of bed and do anything.
Needless to say, finding the right medication is a journey. However, I mention all of these factors in order to highlight that experiencing these awful side-effects was itself a state of relief from my condition before because now I was getting help. Several medications later, several processes of slightly raising my dose every two weeks to see if I had any headaches or fatigue, I finally found the right one. The right one for me being the medication that did not completely rid myself of all my anxiety, but had made me feel more calm and present, while at the same time not having any intolerable side effects.
It’s important to note that when I had found the correct medication that worked for me, that was not the end of my journey in restoring my mental health. I continued to meet with my doctors regularly for assessment, I continued Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, and I continued to forgive my brain as well as my body for all it put me through.
The medication journey is extremely tiring. However, it is worth it in the end. The end for me being the point in which I was no longer constantly impending doom. Be patient with yourself. Remember that if you can get through your lowest, you can handle any obstacle that comes in your way later on since you already experienced the worst and got through it! I always remind myself, “After the darkest nights, the sun still rises.”
HEADER IMAGE SOURCE: Illustration West