Interacting with depression has consisted of repeated instances of me telling myself I don’t have depression followed by a series of pretty strong indications that, maybe, I do. It’s a long road to acceptance, even longer if you keep taking detours along the way. The denial stage of dealing with depression has been long and persistent. Reluctance to go to therapy was fueled by self-reassurance that I was normal and nothing was wrong with me. I could do it on my own. I didn’t need help; I certainly didn’t need a therapist. Eventually I caved, after a few too many lunch break, solo, cry sessions in my car. I couldn’t do it on my own, so I phoned a few therapists and eventually selected the one that sounded the nicest on the phone.
But I just needed a someone to talk to for a little while, I was fine. I didn’t need to go every week, just every once in a while. I was on an as-needed basis with therapy, like aspirin for when my depression head-aches hit. It was simply healthier to cry in front of someone than alone in my car. I was taking care of myself. When my therapist suggested I was depressed I dug my heels into the sands of denial as deep as they would go. “I’m adjusting, I’m not depressed.” The sands were deep but after a couple years of “adjusting” I acquiesced. I acknowledged I was depressed but I was in therapy, so I was dealing with it. Therapy was the perfect place to deal with my depression. I was seeking help. I was doing it right. Again, I was taking care of myself. We could fight this thing. Me and my therapist against depression. No weapons necessary other than words, paper, a couple overstuffed chairs and a bottomless box of tissues. (How did she never run out of tissues? I always wanted to make it to the bottom but I never did.) We didn’t need no stinking pills.
When my therapist suggested I try anti-depressants I was offended and opposed. You see, my therapist was just that, a therapist, a psychologist. She could not prescribe these anti-depressants she was suggesting I try. I would have to go to someone else. I would have to talk to someone else. I would have to cry in front of someone else. She was sending me away. Giving up on me. Retreating from the fight. She was essentially breaking up with me after realizing I wasn’t on the right point of the crazy-hot continuum. (It might be the crazy-wealthy continuum for mental health professionals, but you get the idea.) I’d never had a therapist before; I’d definitely never been dumped by a therapist before. Once she informed me I could still see her I was less offended by still opposed.
Although by then I was comfortable going to therapy and being in therapy I was still iffy on my diagnoses of depression. I just let my therapist use that word because it made it easier for her, the way you still let your racist grandmother say “orientals”. I kept my therapy in her office and a few notebooks but that was it. It did not need to venture beyond the door, certainly not through another door, another waiting room, and another office. My depression just didn’t have that kind of time. It was much too busy keeping me down. In addition to not wanting to speak to another, most likely more expensive, professional on the topic of my “depression” I did need pills.
I’m still uncertain the strongest motivator behind me not wanting to take anti-depressants but I’m certain there is a multitude. If you’re taking anti-depressants it’s kind of difficult to deny you’re depressed. I’d have to go full in on acceptance if I started taking them. It’s not like the highschool girl taking birth control only for acne and menstrual cramps and not because she’s sexually active, even though she might as well be now, because why not? Few people are taking anti-depressants to clear their skin. If I took anti-depressants I would have to take them daily, every day. That would mean every day I would have to remind myself that I am depressed, and also that I’m not just depressed once in a week, or every other week, I’m depressed every day as well. Also, my medical professional parents, more so my father, always seemed a little to free-wheeling with pills and medicines while I was growing up and I didn’t want to tend in that direction. I’m not a hippie by any means but the part of my brain that hates bras and showers and thinks Birkenstocks do look pretty comfortable would rather do things the “natural” way. Talk therapy, occasionally signing up for a yoga class them not going, buying teas and putting whiskey in them, that was more my style of dealing with depression. I didn’t need drugs, just alcohol, thank you.
If you’re following along, you can probably guess that I gave up the resistance and decided to “try” anti-depressants. Just a try-out. I could stop at anytime. Turns out they refer to it as “trying” because there’s no guarantee the first one you’re prescribed will work for you. There are a lot of anti-depressants. -tines, -mines, -dones, and lines with lots of more marketable, less medicinal sounding names. I picked Prozac (fluoxetine) because I’d heard of that one. I had a pad of paper that said Prozac on it and Prozac pens; it was on commercials, it was a celebrity drug. Also, my therapist seemed to think it would work for me. Since it’s been out since the ‘80s it has generic versions that are much less expensive, even better.
I started taking my pills, never in public, always at home, and despite knowing better, I didn’t take it “as prescribed.” I skipped days, I didn’t take it at the same time every day, sometimes I’d take one in the morning and another at night to make up for the days I skipped. Further not taking it “as prescribed” I was still drinking, a lot, because you get a totally different kind of drunk when you drink while you’re sort of, inconsistently on, SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors). I’d always been bad at taking anything consistently. I would start taking vitamins then still have the bottle, 3/4s full, two years later. I was a born quitter, and I wasn’t going to quit quitting now. I explained to my new, much more expensive, psychiatrist my problems with taking a pill every day at the same time, hoping she would throw in the towel like I wanted to. She was not a quitter, which explains how she finished medical school. She, almost excitedly, told me there was also a weekly version of Prozac that had a delayed release and it sounded perfect for someone like me. Great. Let’s try it.
I took the “weekly” for a month of so, having little to know problem taking in once a week because, as she said, it was perfect for someone like me, but I was still drinking a decent amount, which was basically rendering any positive effects undetectable. Eventually I devised a new way to get out of taking the pills. I would just tell her they weren’t working. Brilliant. That will get me out of doing this thing that was supposed to help me feel better and function normally. It was a flawless plan, except, as you may recall, there are dozens of anti-depressants available. One didn’t work, okay, let’s try Lexapro this time. It’s a pro. It’s bound to work. Professionals haven’t let me down yet.
I took the Lexapro but I didn’t even want it to work so I didn’t let it. Any reduction I had in depressive symptoms I attributed to something else. This pill needed to be take daily again so it was only a matter of time before I screwed up. I quit pills altogether and stopped going to the psychiatrist. I figured if a therapist could break up with me I could ghost my psychiatrist. I’m a millennial. It’s what we do.
All of this was a couple of years ago. Now I am successfully, and mostly consistently, on a new anti-depressant, one of the -tines, and I think it’s actually working, or at least this time I really want it to, and believe that it will. I need it to. It’s tiny, nearly the size of a grain of rice. The bottle is huge in comparison. They could store a month’s supply in a bowl of tablespoon measuring spoon. Why don’t they make small pill bottles? I drop the tiny, pale green pills regularly before I take them then I spend a good 2-3 minutes searching for them on my less-than-clean bathroom floor. Being of shaky faith, it’s difficult for me to believe that such a small amount of chemicals can have any sort of positive, significant effect on the way my brain operates, but it seems to be working without my conviction. Sometimes I get embarrassed. This tiny pill, taken once a day, is all I need to almost operate like a mostly normal person. How can that be? Why can’t I do it on my own then? Why couldn’t I muscle through it in therapy? Why isn’t exercise alone enough? I must not really be that depressed if something so small can help. Maybe I am just being a lazy, little bitch. But if a tiny sperm and egg can make a human being, I guess it’s possible a pill can make me feel human again.