I want to take a moment to talk about how large of an impact antidepressants and other medications can make. There is a huge stigma around it and I am simply not okay with that stigma existing. While it may be true that antidepressants and anxiety medications are over prescribed and abused at times, they can be seriously life changing to those who truly need it.
Last week, we changed my antidepressants. It was clear that the one I had been on stopped working for me. Which is unfortunately common. But since I have made the change, I have improved so immensely that I can’t even begin to put it into words. I have become clear again. I am able to work. I was able to tackle a project at work that I have been avoiding for months because it is a two day, extremely tedious test using materials that involved weeks of work. I even managed to do my own taxes (which is a big deal for me). I have been very active in my search for my own place to live alone. I also set up and actually showed up to an appointment with my bank for something. I was able to prepare my own food for the week instead of relying on cafeteria food at work. I’m finally able to actually start putting myself and my life back together because of this change in medication.
Prior to this medication switch, I was a complete mess; I was horribly lost inside the thick fog of depression. And this was depression, not grief or PTSD. I was too depressed to even acknowledge my grief and I couldn’t even see that because of my depression. It’s almost frightening in a way, to look back and see how awful it was. And it’s only been a week!
Depression can be an extremely dark place. Especially when you’re at the point where it is literally ruining your life. I have suffered from depression for a long time, but didn’t acknowledge it until I was out of college because I was high functioning and didn’t want to deal with doctors or things of that nature. I was also irrationally terrified that if I had a psych evaluation that they would find something seriously wrong with me and my life would be ruined. Key word here is irrationally.
I didn’t even realize that I had anxiety until I was an adult. I had no idea being so on edge all of the time wasn’t normal, because I have been anxious for as long as I can remember. As a child I was quite anxious and didn’t have any way of knowing or describing that I had that problem. Everyone who knew me just assumed I was moody, not that I was lashing out due to anxiety and ADHD overloading my brain. And I can’t even blame them for thinking that, I thought the same thing about myself. Anxiety in a child in a safe, loving home? That’s not anything someone would consider, especially back in the 90s.
I didn’t even get my ADHD diagnosis until I was a junior in high school because I didn’t express much hyperactivity. I was able to sit still and be quiet in class (introvert for the win), so why would anyone think of ADHD? For me, ADHD affects my sequential memory. So back when my ADHD was out of control, if I was given a long list or a complicated sentence, I would forget the beginning by the time I got to the end. And this wasn’t a problem for me until high school because school came easily to me so that struggle wasn’t obvious until the content was a bit more challenging. Often times I would forget that I even had homework. And unfortunately to outsiders it just looked like I was avoiding the homework simply out of laziness. When I got medicated for my ADHD, I went from getting B’s and C’s in school to straight A’s. I went from having very few future prospects to falling in love with science and getting a degree in biochemistry. It saved my life in so many ways. I did manage to go off those meds though once my celiac was diagnosed and I went gluten free. I firmly believe in only taking medication if you have to.
In terms of medication for my depression and anxiety, I got that started around a year after graduating college. I was between jobs, trying to find a job in Arizona and I wasn’t having very much luck. I became so anxious and depressed that I was barely leaving my house. I knew I had to address it, but I was paralyzed by my anxiety. I had to have Matt call the doctor for me and make my appointment and then have him take me to the appointment. And I was put on lexapro. Once that started to kick in, my life improved notably. As we all know, I did eventually land a job in Phoenix and Matt and I moved out there, looking to build our new life together.
Medication also isn’t the only answer. I am not that person who wants to throw Zoloft and Xanax at everyone who’s having a hard time. I think therapy is extremely effective and important. It teaches safe, healthy coping mechanisms. It helps you better understand yourself and your true motivations. Also, EMDR therapy is incredible for those suffering from PTSD. When I started EMDR, I was having almost daily panic attacks and working about 13 hours a week and I wasn’t really handling very many of my responsibilities outside of work. I was just barely skating by to survive. Whenever I hear someone mention they’re suffering from PTSD I immediately bring up EMDR therapy in case they haven’t heard of it because it has been so helpful for me thus far. It is hard work, but so worth it. Especially when you have a therapist that you click with and trust.
Between starting EMDR and last week (meaning no change in medication during that time), I only have a panic attack roughly once a week (at the most) and the attacks have been shorter and easier to manage and get under control. I was up to working roughly 25 hours a week and getting better about handling my outside responsibilities. But I had hit a bit of a plateau because my depression was just too severe. With this new medication, I am currently on target to get 35 hours of work in this week. I have tackled all sorts of important tasks in my life. I haven’t had a panic attack, not even close. That’s a huge difference. In one week. It’s unbelievable, honestly.
To wrap this incredibly long blog post up: medication for depression and anxiety is not bad and can be a life saver. The stigma around these medications prevent a lot of people from getting the help they need and I want to show what a success story really looks like to those on the outside looking in. Anxiety and depression are really hard to understand if you have not suffered from it yourself. You cannot just will yourself to feel better, it doesn’t work that way. Medication can be extremely effective when it is handled the right way. Especially when it’s taken alongside with a plan for therapy and finding new ways to cope and prevent episodes from happening.