Drugs and “Normal”

I avoided taking drugs like the plague. At first, my therapist didn’t mention them but after a year of seeing me she suggested them. I was adamant I didn’t want to take them. The idea of needing a pill just to function scared me. I didn’t want to be dependent on something, anything, and certainly not to that degree. She didn’t push and let it go.

Over time, I stopped improving but still wasn’t functioning at a “normal” level. I was starting to reconsider my stance on medication. A lot of TV shows, articles, and movies had been featuring depression and anti-depressants, making them seem not as drastic a step as I originally believed. Finally, it reached a point where I and my second therapist had to discuss changes in my treatment.

I had received an ‘F’ on a history paper. You have to understand, I don’t get ‘F’s on papers. I could write a research paper in three hours (writing and researching at the same time) and receive a high ‘C,’ sometimes ‘B.’ I was great at writing but writing assignments were still extremely stressful, hence avoiding it until it couldn’t be avoided anymore. With this paper, I couldn’t even flip through to see where my teacher had marked. It wasn’t the fact that it was an ‘F’ because I was no stranger to ‘F’s (just on writing assignments), but the instant anxiety that washed over me. It was like I was back in the library, typing frantically, a race against time and panic. Our professor, God’s gift to last-minute writers everywhere, allowed us to resubmit our papers after we edited them if we received a ‘C’ or below. This was a fantastic opportunity and I just sat there, barely looking at the paper on the desk because of the emotional turmoil that instantly overcame me. After describing this to my therapist, we both knew I needed medication.

I spoke with my primary doctor and she prescribed Citalopram (aka Celexa). Yes, your primary care doctor can prescribe you anti-depressants. We started with 5mg, then after a week and a half 10mg. It takes four to six weeks to feel an effect. After a while I realized I didn’t panic as much while watching characters embarrass themselves on TV. We raised it to 20mg and I left to volunteer teach in China. That trip was so disorganized and chaotic (I was not picked up at the airport and, knowing little to no Mandarin, had to use transit to get myself to the hotel and then was ripped off by a fake taxi driver). I’m absolutely certain I wouldn’t have finished the trip without the meds. I was considering heading back to the airport and flying home before I even reached the hotel! The entire month was just chaos, embarrassing moments, nasty hotels when we had been told they would be five stars. Plans changed constantly. It was awful and proof to me the medication was working.

After a year we raised the dosage to 30mg. I was on that dosage and medication for another year and a half before the effects started to fade. By that time, I had graduated college and finally qualified for my work’s health insurance. I found a new therapist closer to where I’d moved and when I mentioned I was on medication she said she required all of her clients who took medication to see a psychiatrist. That’s how I started seeing one and she and I discussed options.

I need to say this before I move on. The questions they ask are stupid. “How do you feel?”, “Do you feel like your depression is under control?”, “Do you feel like your anxiety has subsided?” I have no clue! I mean, I’m better than I am without medication? I had nothing to really compare it to. I had been depressed and anxious for as long as I could remember. I’ve showed signs of depression since I was nine years old and signs of anxiety since I was.. three? We don’t even have an age for that one. I’ve been working with therapists for years to identify triggers which exacerbate my depression and anxiety and I avoid those ’cause that’s what I’m supposed to do. I could never answer these questions. I was basically pulling shit out of my ass with these. Eventually I would just talk and my psychiatrist would be able to distinguish whether or not I was still suffering or I was experiencing completely normal anxiety or sadness. We switched to Escitalopram (aka Lexapro) which is supposed to be Citalopram but reverse? Something like that. Anyway after six weeks we met up again and decided it wasn’t working very well so she gave me Bupropion (Wellbutrin) along with the Escitalopram. After six weeks I still wasn’t ok, so she raised the dosage on my Escitalopram and I plummeted. I scheduled an emergency appointment and switched to Venlafaxine (Effexor, Trevilor), eventually taking 150mg, with 300mg of Bupropion still. Both treat major depression, but Venlafaxine also treats generalized anxiety. So far, this concoction has been good. I can answer the question “Do you feel your anxiety has subsided?” with a definite “yes” now that I know, literally, constantly  worrying my boyfriend doesn’t actually love me (just because he hasn’t texted me for two days when he usually texts everyday even though he just started a new job and he works with someone all the time thus having little time to be on his phone and his job is very time consuming and being unable to stop myself from tearing up, even when saying the ABCs backwards and naming three boy and girl names for each letter of the alphabet)…. is high anxiety. Or abnormal. You may be thinking “well, duh” but that was my normal. That was a normal reaction, an overreaction, no question, but it can be normal for a person to overreact if they’re a dramatic person, right? Everybody agreed I was dramatic. When I suffered a break up I would, as my sister put it “act like it was the end of the world.” Only now, with those constant, unnecessary worries and thoughts gone am I able to question how much of my dramatics was actually depression/anxiety. The depression question? Well… I’m able to get out of bed even though I lost my job and still don’t have a job. I have moments when I sidetrack and watch Netflix or write posts for this blog, but job searching sucks. Especially when your skills are being friendly and learning quickly. So I’m functioning… most days.. so I guess it’s subsided…

I still hate those questions though.

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