Tuesday, February 6, 2018

This Is Your Brain On Drugs

For a very long time, for no particular reason, I was anti-drugs. But now I’m PRO-DRUGS! GO DRUGS!

I'm kidding. Except… you know what, another time.

I’ve been put on several drugs for anxiety and depression over the years. The first one was prescribed to me by my primary care physician who somehow couldn’t figure out that the constant pain in my upper back after eating food was related to gallstones (despite being a very common symptom), but she jumped at the chance to prescribe me medication as soon as I mentioned that I was feeling depressed.

I resented the fact that medication was the FIRST answer. I didn’t think my situation was bad enough and I thought it was a scary road to go down. I didn’t want to be on drugs forever. I wanted to find a more natural, long-lasting solution. But, I decided to give it a try regardless.

I also found a psychiatrist who took me off the first drug and prescribed me a new one within 20 minutes of meeting me. Again, I was annoyed, but I gave it a shot. Then I gained almost twenty 20 pounds in a little over a month. So, yeah, went off that one right away.

I was feeling pretty frustrated and my psychiatrist sucked, so I stopped seeking out treatment altogether. I started exercising more (HAD TO TAKE OFF THAT DEPRESSION MEDICATION WEIGHT) and trying to find “natural” solutions. It worked a little bit, but endorphins and self-care weren’t enough to tackle the Bowzer-sized disease that is depression. (Yes, that's a reference to Bowzer from Mario Brothers.) At least not until you can get it under control.

I eventually found a therapist I loved seeing. Oh, my God, I loved her. She wore maxi dresses and no shoes and had big, blue eyes and looked just like one of my friends. She was so hippie California and I loved it. I took notes after every single session. I cried a ton. She laughed at me, and that made me laugh too. I felt validated and silly all at the same time, which is really all I can ask for anyone to make me feel. I saw her every single week, then started feeling great within a month. I saw her every week up until I left Los Angeles.

And then depression hit me harder than it ever had in my whole life, and I realized that it was time to grab Yoshi or Toad (the obvious best players in Mario Kart), take the wheel and beat that Bowzer bitch in the level of Patty vs. Depression. (Wow.)

I talked to my new doctor and decided to give it another go. Since I had tried a few other times, I told her exactly why I was so hesitant, what I didn’t want the medication to do and what I ultimately wanted to achieve.

After a VERY rocky start that included the inability to get out of bed and not eating for five straight days, I was shocked to find success with this medication. I know it’s not for everyone, and I’m not sure how long it is for me, but all I can say is that I’m in a really good place right now and I’m thoroughly enjoying this time in my life.

I’m not sure if it’s the medication or general changes in my life, but my attitude has shifted and my mood has risen to ridiculous levels. Sometimes I’m so fucking positive that I can’t stand myself. So don’t worry… there’s still plenty of room for hate in there! I definitely don’t have that concern that it’s going to make me feel dead inside or change my personality. I’m still me. For better or worse!

I feel hopeful, energetic, CREATIVE, grateful, content, excited… all of those things. I used to be so anxious that arriving late AND showing up early literally made me sick to my stomach. Since I’ve been on medication, I rarely sweat the small stuff like that. I’m more confident. I’m more sure of myself. I’m just… better.

The reason I share so much about my battle with depression is that I come from a family where communication and expressing our feelings is not common. We’re true Irish Catholics who repress our emotions and let resentment build. We also tend to focus more on other people than ourselves. So, when I decided to start handling this situation, I constantly felt guilty.

It doesn’t help that when I was a child and asked to get help, my parents didn’t want me to because they thought they’d get blamed for my issues. (They still let me, they were just “joking.”) They’re not exactly wrong for thinking that because naturally that still comes up all the time. But I don’t entirely blame them for my problems. That’d be waaaaay too easy!

My (good) therapist was the first person to tell me that by focusing on myself, it would open me up to help others more. She also helped me realize that I wasn’t a lost cause. I truly thought that I was. I had almost completely given up on myself.

I know a lot of people who give up on themselves. Some of the closest people in my life have given up on themselves. They think they’re not worth it, they think they’re too old, they think it’s too late, they think the process takes too much time, and more often than not, they think they are unfixable. And that breaks my heart.

I’m not suggesting everyone start taking drugs, obviously. What I’m hoping to convey is that NOBODY IS A LOST CAUSE. It took me years and years to find a solution. I constantly gave up when it got too hard and I focused on short-term solutions instead. It was narcissistic for me to think that my problems were SO COMPLEX that modern medicine and an industry that has existed for thousands of years wouldn’t work on me. Or, that my problems were not good enough to fix with anything more than a brisk walk around the corner. I was so fucking complicit in being unhappy because I didn’t know any other way.

We’re all worthy of feeling happy and hopeful and full of creative energy. I literally never thought that I would. The medicine was just a push up the hill, not a solution, and it helped me focus on what needed to get done to make this last. It’s not easy, but I make it a point to focus on being the strongest person I can be, mentally and physically, every single day. And that makes me a better friend, family member, co-worker, coach, leader, etc.

This is all so gross, I know. I’m sorry. But it’s important to me. I never, ever thought I’d feel this content in adulthood. I know it’ll ebb and flow, but I hope I keep fighting the good fight. And that I can encourage the people in my life they’re worth the good fight too.

And that one should always choose Yoshi or Toad in that good fight. And no, that is not a euphemism for drugs. Well, Toad is. Toad DEFINITELY is.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is so damn amazing! Brava! You are an amazing person with a tremendous degree of self-reflection that is so rare in people. I am proud of you for taking a stand and that has certainly motivated me to do the same. VDL

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