what I wish I’d known when I started taking antidepressants

antidepressant jelly beanseverything would change…

I got lucky; the first medication I tried worked well for me. Food slowly became less disgusting. I gradually started spending less time crying in my car in parking lots. I stopped fantasizing about hurting myself, stopped focusing on my own throbbing inadequacy, stopped oh-so-casually feeling the impulse to just drive off a bridge on my way to class. And eventually, I started getting excited — I have all this energy, I like my major and my job and my friends, and even spending the summer working in Nebraska (which I had come to think of almost as the punch line to some cosmic joke) has been good in ways I wouldn’t have ever expected.

All this changed for me in only a few weeks; it’s now been 2 1/2 months, and I finally feel like I live in the real world.

…and nothing would

Antidepressants took the edge off my blue moods — they let me eat and sleep and focus, and they softened the urge to hurt myself. But they didn’t fix anything else — every toxic relationship, unresolved resentment, and self destructive habit remained deeply, stubbornly lodged in my life. But I felt better! Most of the time!

Things still bubble up, and I’ve come to realize I probably haven’t truly let go of anything, ever, in my entire life. Periodically I still fill up with anger about all the things my dad has said to me after one-too-many, the memory of my high school boyfriend and how in the unholy hell he thought it was okay to fuck me after I said no over and over again, the guy who sexually harassed me when I worked at the god-damn grocery store, and enough petty, not-so-unforgivable indiscretions to fill a small book.

A lot of the work in recovery has to happen in the form of self reflection, and medication only helps get you to a point where you can start doing that. It’s a tool; depression is chemical, but it’s also intimately personal, and they feed each other.

I feel so much better — most of the time. The rest of it is an uncomfortable process.

good god the endless follow-up appointments

The receptionist at the doctor’s office knows me and knows why I’m there and truth be told I don’t get why she puts eyeliner on the bottom part of her eyes. This will probably drop off with time, but I’ve been to sooooo many doctor’s appointments since April. They’re infinite.

exercise actually does help, but good luck doing it when you’re depressed

People who aren’t depressed sound so smug when they tell you how to get through it; every article about depression recommends exercise, like it’s so fucking original.

I’ve found exercise helpful, now that I’ve got enough energy to actually do it – the biggest thing is just how it’s improved the quality of my sleep and helped take the edge off of some of my stress. But I can’t imagine what would’ve happen if I’d tried to run back in April, considering how many days I ate less than a thousand calories and then sometimes even puked when I did get something down.

It’s that garbage cycle — being in good physical shape will improve your mood (not cure your depression, but lift you up just a little), but being depressed robs you of the energy and desire to do those things.

I’d wish I did it sooner

I’m told medication isn’t the best option for everybody; it definitely was for me. I think if I’d have known, like really truly known, how different I’d feel, I would have done it way sooner. I’ve thought about it for years, but there was always something holding me back: Would I be letting my family down? Would it be giving up? Would asking for help mean I was weak? Hell, why even bother to get on medication if life is meaningless anyway, right?

On the other side, even though I’m still processing and working on things, I’m also so glad to be where I am. It’s tempting to think of the past as just wasted time, but I’m trying not to dwell on regret — so I guess it’s forward from here.