I always liked the metaphor of depression being like a fishbowl, even though I never fully understood if I was the one trapped inside the fishbowl or I was outside of it, a permanent outsider looking in. I was 19 when I was officially diagnosed with depression. I was prescribed anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication, small dosages at first, then steadily increasing, then changing medication and adjusting my dosage. Pretty quickly life got easier, the sky wasn’t bluer or anything but normal things were normal again, and whatever it is that normal people do I did too. I realized that I experienced things differently than others. Without the medication, I felt the world too intensely, my happiness, sadness, anger, disappointment and love- all of it overwhelmed me to the point where I just wanted to detach myself from it (lie in my bed in the dark and never get up). The meds were like a thin armour, covering my hyper-sensitivity, subduing me just enough so I was like everybody else, experiencing good and bad in a non-apocalyptic kind of way.
But after four years of wearing it, my armour began to weigh on me. I hated the idea of being dependent on something like pills, I hated taking them day in and day out, I hated feeling like there is no alternative to it.
I was trying to remember myself before the pills, how I used to feel, and I couldn’t, it was as if that person was slowly disappearing. What made me who I was, the pure unadulterated version of me was fading away. Taking the medication was probably the smartest decision I ever made, but like everything in life it came with a price. I felt a huge detachment from myself. I was always a creative and artsy person, but I couldn’t do it with the pills, I couldn’t let go, my ideas were somewhere in my head but they were distant and blurry, I wasn’t able to hold on to them, remember them and immerse myself in something for hours. I wondered if I could fall in love head over heels like before the meds, if I could flip out and fuck a guy’s brains out six times a night, if the people who met me after the meds really knew me, and if they ever will.
So I tried to reduce my dosage, to stop and to find alternative solutions. I failed, three times. I was a complete failure, a total loser. I wanted it so bad, but my feelings were stronger than me. The anxiety would overwhelm me, I was in my fishbowl, drowning. My last attempt was so bad, that with a heavy heart I decided to stop trying. It’s my chemistry, biology, psychology, genetics- whatever you want to call it.
This past year was probably the most challenging year of my life. I began a Masters degree in a foreign country. My six year relationship abruptly ended. My stepfather died. For the first time since I was ten I had no friends, I was lonely and far away from everyone I loved.
I knew that I would land on my feet, I always do, but I didn’t know when or how. At the same time an issue came up with my medication, I had some troubling side effects, and after consulting a doctor I had to change my dosage, to lower it. I was terrified. It was the worst timing ever. Part of me knew I couldn’t do it. I was scared of having a breakdown, of falling to pieces without my support system.
I realized that if a new med-free me will ever exists, she will be light years away from the girl she was before. She will be so stable and strong, put together and in control.
Finally, after finding a new physiatrist I decided to take the plunge. For the first time in almost six years I successfully lowered my dosage. It’s a small step and maybe not a permanent one, but huge achievement for me. It reaffirmed my strength, my confidence in myself. What was different this time? I’m not a 100% sure. Life wasn’t easier or better or even calmer, but I was different- I felt I was in control and doing things the right way. I realized that if a new med-free me will ever exists, she will be light years away from the girl she was before. She will be so stable and strong, put together and in control. I’m never going to get over my depression and in a way I wouldn’t want to. It’s a big part of me. But after six years of treatment my small victory is in realizing maybe one day I will finally feel like I control my depression and it doesn’t control me.