Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Chronicles of the Medicated

So, its time for another one of those painfully honest posts (as if seeing me half naked once a month wasn't brutal enough). For most of my life, I have struggled with depression, bipolarity, and anxiety. Bipolarity, in particular, I have a genetic predisposition to, as it can be traced back for three generations in my family. However, despite knowing about my genetic predisposition towards being batshit crazy, I spent the first twenty two years of my life steadfastly in denial. Given a little more time, I would get a grip, I'd tell myself. If I thought it through enough, remained self aware, eventually I'd be "normal". Eventually the sadness and the moodswings and the anxiety would go away, as long as I *worked* at it hard enough.

This notion of somehow intellectually bludgeoning myself into good mental health was reinforced by my parents, who viewed the taking of any kind of medication (head-drug) as a sign of weakness. Its not just my parents, either. Society, up until very recently, has tended to view people who use medication to sort out their emotional and mental problems in a pretty negative light. Taking the easy way out.

But here's the thing. Sometimes you *can't* bludgeon yourself into shape. Sometimes, there really is something just miswired inside of you. Chemical imbalance. Something firing wrong. Just makes you feel down (or up and down and up and down) for no real reason. Hell, it got to the point for me where I would *invent* reasons just to justify the moodswings, particularly the bouts of depression and anxiety. For the record, making shit up to justify how you are feeling isn't normal, healthy, or good. At that point, I suggest you consider that your problems might be chemical in nature, and seek out a doctor. 

Which is exactly what I did, about two years ago, during a particularly low point in my existence. I didn't do it right at all. I went to a walk-in clinic, where they had me fill out a bunch of goofy tests (quizilla, anyone?), which the doctor swiftly frowned over, and went "hmmm" and then wrote me a prescription for Prozac (for the depression) and Divalproex (for the bipolar). 

Now for the surprising bit. Despite the slapdash nature of my getting my hands on these drugs, and despite a rather unfortunate two weeks when they had me on ativan for anxiety, which made me sleep about eighteen hours a day, I found that, once I had adapted, the prozac and the divalproex actually helped. 

It was like a switch flipped on in my brain. Things which had seemed insurmountable before (like getting up in the morning and finding breakfast AND putting my shirt on right side in) began to look like what they were (aka: life). And things I hadn't even dreamed of doing before (like going to school across the country) suddenly seemed possible. Despite not being medicated directly for anxiety, the cocktail for depression/bipolarity seemed to also work to reduce my anxiety significantly. I spent less time freaking out and fretting, and more time just doing things and dealing with my problems. Not to say that I turned into superwoman or anything. I'd still have my down days. I still do. But the world isn't a big, scary, dreadful place anymore. It is the world, and I am in it, and I will make the most of the time I have.

Some people will read this and think : psychosomatic. Seven years ago or so, I would have been inclined to agree. But, the thing is, I have gone off of my meds (for financial reasons), and the old problems gradually snuck back in like fourteen year olds at an R rated movie. The change was so gradual, that I didn't notice I was having problems again until my boyfriend pointed out that my constant depression was starting to damage our relationship. All I can say is thank God for boyfriends. I smartened up, I went to the doctor, I got back on my meds . . . and again, within two weeks, that switch had flipped, and everything once again seemed possible. It wasn't too long after that that I nailed down a job, finished the semester with flying colors, started exercising more and started to have more and more time to spend with friends (as opposed to laying in bed staring at the ceiling fan). It was also around that time that I started blogging again in earnest, now that I think about it. February-ish.

So no, its not "all in my head", and its not something that I can "work through". There are other issues I have that I am sure therapy would prove useful for, like anxiety. But the depression and the bipolar behavior seem to be purely chemical in nature, and the medications help in a way that no amount of introspective self-aware, touchy-feely bullshit ever could.

That is not to say, however, that I think that everyone should just give up, give in, and get medicated. Far from it. I fought for a good decade to get a grip on myself, and it was only after fighting for so long, that I realized a different tactic was needed. I think its important for people to strive to get a grip on their own issues before hopping on the pill wagon. However, I think it is also important that people not demonize the use of medication to address mental health issues. If the therapy or self-discovery route just isn't doing it for you, if you're verging on despair and all of your personal relationships are going to shambles because no matter how hard you try, you can't seem to think and feel like a normal rational human being, there is absolutely no shame in being medicated. None at all. And you can tell anyone who tries to tell you differently to go fuck themselves, because I will tell you this: when there is something wrong in you that is throwing everything you care about, and maybe your own life into jeopardy, only a really crazy person would refuse to explore all of their options.

And you don't want to be really crazy, do you? 

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