Trigger Warning: Mention of Suicide
It took me a lot longer than I’m proud of to accept the prescription for my antidepressants.
I’d been struggling with anxiety and depression for years at that point, aware of each, but convinced I could trick, train, or distract myself out of either or both.
I thought I’d been doing a good job of pretending I wasn’t depressed and channeling the never-ending energy of anxiety into productive tasks. I was functioning, so I was sure I didn’t need antidepressants… right?
Antidepressants, for some reason, are scary to us as a society, often scarier than depression itself.
We’d rather wallow in our loneliness than admit we could use some help, convinced that either our own depression isn’t that bad, could be worse, or is just a temporary funk.
And while that may be true of almost anyone’s depressive state, it’s not a reason to avoid relief. No, I wasn’t suicidal.
Sure, I was able to get out of bed and shower. I was still fairly high-functioning within my cloud of sadness, so I didn’t even talk to my doctor about options for relief.
Until I couldn’t function anymore.
Anxiety and depression hit me hard, harder than I’d ever experienced.
I was frozen in place, unable to move because of the deep sadness and afraid to because of the piercing anxiety.
Breathing took focus and difficulty.
Being around my kids was overwhelming.
I stayed in bed for days at a time, ate nothing, and fought off the intrusive thoughts.
I was irritable, exhausted, never calm enough to rest and never rested enough to move.
Even then I was convinced it was temporary, and it wasn’t until my doctor asked me questions about my daily habits that the full truth of the depression I was experiencing came out.
She prescribed me a well-known antidepressant without hesitation – I filled it with nothing but the orange pill bottle sat on my nightstand for over a week before I finally worked up the nerve – or swallowed the pride – to take it.
I felt like a failure.
I felt weak, that I couldn’t control such seemingly basic emotions, that I needed pills to put on a smile. I was ashamed, embarrassed, disappointed in myself… but then I was able to breathe.
After several weeks and a dosage adjustment, I began sleeping better.
I could wake up and breathe normally, sit through a conversation without crying, spend time with my kids without shaking with anxious rage.
I was able to shower more often, check in with all those friends I’d been avoiding, and for the first time in a long time, I felt hungry again. I ate. I slept. I laughed.
I was closer to normal than I’d been in years.
The antidepressants I was taking were working, and I was better for having taken them.
As a society we’ve become much more open about sharing our mental health struggles, but we’re still painfully rigid when it comes to their treatment.
Posts abound in parenting groups – “How do I help anxiety without medication?”
“Looking for natural remedies for depression.”
“My child/spouse/self is really struggling, what oils/herbs/vitamins do you suggest? Trying to avoid medication.”
So many of us are suffering, but so few of us are willing to take the pharmaceutical plunge towards feeling better.
Why is that?
Is it because we see it as weakness?
Is it because we’re convinced it’s temporary?
Perhaps because, like myself for all those years, we’re functioning at an acceptable level and don’t think we need something so drastic as medical intervention.
Why do we treat a headache without a thought but continue to suffer depression as a matter of pride?
There are no awards given to those who crawl their way through a depressive fog.
I’ve lived through panic attacks without medication and there was no parade in my honor afterward.
My diabetic friends use insulin to balance the hormones lacking in their own bodies, so why was I so reluctant to bring balance to my own chemical shortcomings, to accept an artificial, unnatural boost of serotonin that I was unable to produce?
Depression and anxiety aren’t logical.
They’re like filters for our brains, keeping us from seeing the truth or reality of a situation, and those same filters are often in place when we’re weighing our treatment options.
We’re using a flawed, inflamed brain to decide whether we want help in calming it.
Months after beginning my antidepressant prescription I was thinking clearly enough to recognize how wonderful these little pills are.
Instead of beating myself up for needing the help, my mind was clear enough to be thankful for the help.
Instead of worrying about side effects and worst-case scenarios, the anxiety had calmed enough to make an informed decision to continue use.
It’s been a few years now that I’ve been taking my big, “scary” happy pills.
They don’t make me delirious and they’re not cure-alls – they take enough pressure and pain off that I can get some real help and make better decisions.
I’ve been working in one-on-one therapy to address the issues that aren’t chemical, and having the safety net of antidepressants has made it a lot easier to communicate.
The medication helps with one layer so I’m able to focus on another.
Sort of like removing distractions, the pills have made me able to focus on behaviors and thoughts without the burn of imbalanced brain chemistry making it even harder.
While nowhere near as bad, I still struggle.
Antidepressants aren’t miracle pills, they’re science, and they’re not one-size-fits-all alternatives to getting help. There are side effects.
Sometimes I have weird dreams.
I’ve gained about 7 pounds.
Sexual side effects while taking antidepressants happen.
The biggest side effect I’ve experience is that I’ve lost the ability to orgasm.
In changing the brain chemistry, many antidepressants are known to cause impotence, loss of libido, and the inability to climax.
I still can have sex, I just don’t really want to.
I can get turned on, can sometimes even get really revved up, but 9 times out of 10 I end up lying there like my husband is rubbing my elbow, not my clitoris.
I’ve had two orgasms in almost three years, and I’ve cried more than a few times because I just couldn’t climax (then cried once when I finally did). That part sucks.
My husband took it personally for a while, and we’ve both had to learn new ways to enjoy each other and express affection without expecting my squeals of delight at the end.
I’m not numb down there, but I’m not feeling fireworks, either. This is the greatest price I’ve paid for a life of otherwise happiness.
Before the meds, I couldn’t be anything to anyone.
I couldn’t parent my kids – and now I can.
I couldn’t wash my hair more than once or twice a month – and now I can. I was paralyzed by fear, overwhelmed with feelings, trapped in patterns of harmful thoughts.
I was too damaged to have sex as it was, so it is disappointing that I’m well enough now to participate but affected too much to culminate.
I’ve grieved the sexual part of myself, but have decided that I’m better off having multiple functioning parts in exchange for that little one below my waist.
One part of my identity muted so that the rest of me can sing.
It’s a steep price, to be sure, but one I’ll continue to willingly pay until the day comes (perhaps) that I don’t need those two little pills every night.
I waited too long when it came to treating my depression and anxiety.
I convinced myself that I could handle it, that the side effects weren’t worth it, until I got to a point where I no longer had much of a choice.
I could have lost myself, could have lost it all, but thankfully I was able to get help, and all those little tablets cost me was the big O.
Orgasms are great, don’t get me wrong, but I’ve never had one that saved my life, and that’s exactly what antidepressants have done for me.
The author of this post has chosen to remain anonymous