The first antidepressant I was prescribed had no physical side effects. I took it every morning and went on my merry, bleary way.
I’m now four weeks into a new prescription and I’ve been all over the place. Depression blurs the lines between the physical and mental realm, so it makes sense that a medication designed to help would also affect both functions. Depression makes your brain feel slow and weak, like your thoughts are made out of concrete and it takes every ounce of focus and energy to complete a single task. It’s exhausting, it’s discouraging, it can be humiliating at times. With all that, it amazes me that a tiny pill, the size of a tic-tac, can manipulate my entire life. It’s like a flea with a remote control and I’m the RC car, bumping and jumping and crashing into everything. (Actually, ha, if you’ve ever seen Pixar’s Ratatouille–remember the scene where Remy’s under the chef’s hat and directing what’s-his-name to cook? Imagine that.)
The first few days were weird and hazy. (Some people have described the experience as being high, but I’ve never done drugs–and if that’s what it’s like, I never will.) I’ve found that taking it at night seems to work well. Sleep comes quickly, followed by bizarre and in-depth, nonsensical dreams, and then it’s morning.
Right about the three week mark, however, something shifted. I was feeling mildly “up,” and then week three plummeted dowwwwwn. It was like someone packed a snowball tightly with anxiety and discouragement and irritability and sadness and hit me smack in the face.
It left me in uncontrollable tears one night, absolutely miserable. I’m doing all these things trying to help my mind and body feel normal, and now it’s worse.
“I’m just tired of fighting so hard to be functional.”
And I cried myself to sleep that night, while my husband held me close.
The next morning was better, and the last few days seem to be improving again.
Again, I’m not writing this for sympathy. I don’t want messages or texts saying, “I’m sorry it’s so hard” or similar sentiments. If it makes you uncomfortable knowing what I deal with in my broken brain–well, hey, it’s not super comfortable for me either. But don’t just “feel sorry,” please. It doesn’t help. Just listen and know that this is what many, many people deal with on a regular basis. Most people don’t talk about it because it sucks, and no one wants a sympathetic pat on the head simply because it makes you feel better.
Give us grace when we’re late, and ignore the crumbs when you come to visit. Those things are helpful.
Anyway, no one else seems to talk about their pills and issues publicly, but I know I’m not the only one who’s had to deal with this. I did, however, find a little gem on the corner of the internet which has been incredibly helpful as I’ve navigated the ups and downs of the med life. Any guesses?
I joined the Reddit community just to follow posts about mental health meds. This online community of strangers sharing their experiences has been incredibly helpful. And guess what? Apparently Week 3 on this particular med is a kicker for many people.
…but then it gets better.
When a doctor prescribes a new medication like this, they will tell you to give it a good 6-8 weeks before it fully kicks in. And that’s all the support you get. There’s no “What to Expect When You’re Expecting a Pill Change” book that comes with it, just the warning pamphlet that says sometimes people *might* die if they take it. Super encouraging.
Now, I love my doctor and she’s great at responding to all my questions via phone or email, but asking and waiting gets old.
Without Reddit, I may have been tempted several times to quit this medication before giving it a full run. Quitting cold turkey is a terrible thing, too, which I don’t recommend–and I only know that because of the couple times I’ve missed more than two days of medication in the past (not intentionally) and my body freaked out.
So we plod on. Four weeks down, four to go.
Depression is isolating. Community is vital. Check in on your people this week! Send them a card, bring them coffee, send them a funny clip about ducks or something. You don’t have to try to be subtle, just genuine. Encourage by talking them “up,” not talking down to them.
Examples of talking UP:
“Hey, hope you’re having a great day!”
“Hey, just thinking about you!”
Examples of talking DOWN:
“I’m sorry things suck for you.”
“I’m so sorry that you’re depressed.”
“Sorry that you’re a sad blob lately…”
Just be genuine. Infuse kindness. Depression sucks you into a suffocating spiral of negativity, but kindness is a breath of fresh air.