Before I get into this I want to preface by saying that everyone's experiences are different and this blog should in no way be construed as containing any medical advice. Talk to your doctor. I just feel like we need to be having these conversations in public.
Also, there's some talk about suicidal ideation in here so if that's a trigger for you, maybe skip this one.
I've been on Prozac for three years now. I'm writing about this publicly because I think it's important, and because I hope that if I talk about my experiences it'll help erase some of the stigma about seeking help for mental health issues, in whatever form that help takes.
I want to say that I didn't take the decision to go on antidepressants lightly, and neither did my doctor. He and I had been tackling my depression for years before he prescribed any medication; for him, and me, it wasn't a step to take frivolously. I don't believe a pill is a miracle cure, and thankfully, neither does he.
I also want to say that my partner was very supportive of the decision. She'd had her own positive experiences with antidepression medication, and hearing her stories normalized the process for me in a lot of ways.
I've dealt with depression for most of my life. Certainly since I hit puberty. For years and years, I just believed there was something wrong with me, and that I should keep my sadness to myself and just keep my chin up and be happier.
I felt deeply ashamed of myself, like I was some kind of melodramatic sissy who was happier feeling sorry for himself than actually being happy.
I grew to believe that the weight I felt on my chest everyday was normal. I thought about killing myself often. As though it were normal. Inevitable.
I was attracted to the idea.
I tried therapy, and it helped somewhat, but it didn't take that weight away. It definitely helped with anxiety; for a while there, I was having panic attacks that I was going to shit myself, every time I stepped out of the house.
I remained depressed.
I told myself that the depression went away when I started dating my partner, but that wasn't true. I was masking the depression with drugs and alcohol, and we were living a pretty self-destructive life together.
When that life calmed down, the depression was still there. And it was worse, because I'd imagined she'd cured me of it.
It was in the spring of 2015 that things reached a head. I was working on edits for a book, which I've come to learn puts me in an incredibly fragile, vulnerable state where depression seems to just pounce. Things weren't going right. I felt miserable. Useless. I believed more and more I was better off dead.
One day when my partner was out, I decided to make a noose out of some rope, just to see how it felt.
I think now that this was less a step toward suicide and more a narcissist's cry for attention. But regardless, it was an inflection point in my struggle with mental illness.
My partner discovered what I was doing. She insisted I tell my doctor. I told my doctor. He was immediately, gravely, concerned.
We began experimenting with doses of various antidepressants right away. Almost immediately, I felt better.
I've talked to people who've felt that antidepressants changed them, fundamentally. Numbed them. They didn't feel like themselves.
Personally, I felt like the person I was always meant to be. I felt like that weight I was carrying had been taken away. I've always been an optimistic person, but that optimism has often been suffocated by the overarching depression.
Now, I felt free to be optimistic. To be happy.
I saw no romance in suicide anymore.
I felt better.
It hasn't been a perfect road, by any means. This last year is proof enough of that. There are ups and downs. I feel like Prozac probably contributed to my weight gain, and likely affected my libido.
But I see my doctor often, and we track my mood and any side effects I've been noticing. He's a compassionate man and a good, patient listener, and he's more than willing to work with me to tinker with the formula if something isn't working right.
He's a godsend.
I think the point I'm trying to make here is not that Prozac will cure your every problem. It won't. It might not even help your particular brand of mental illness.
But I am saying that it's important to surround yourself with loved ones and medical professionals who empathize and who'll work with you to find the right path.
And I'm saying that starts with talking about how you feel. And sharing your story so that other people can hear it.