Medicine Starts with Me
When I first went to a physician in May 2011, after about two and a half years of depression, I was dead-set on not taking any medication. The reason it had taken me over two years to get there in the first place is that I had convinced myself I could beat it on my own; a strangely optimistic conviction for a cynical and bitter depressive. I finally realised, with a tonne of assistance from my mum in the form of worried nagging, that I needed help. But only therapeutic help – I did not need some shrink to tell me why I felt the way I felt, because that I already knew (and also I don’t quite see the point of psychology); and I certainly did not need any mind-numbing drugs! I told the physician this (well, at least the part about the drugs), and she was very accommodating, complimenting me on voicing my concerns and forming my own opinion outside the advice of medical professionals. She explained, however, that these pills were very common, not designed to numb or blunt emotion but simply provide the support needed for the part of the brain that absorbs serotonin (happiness hormones). This did sound way less scary than I had imagined, so I let her write me a prescription and said I would consider it. Two weeks passed before I found myself mentally prepared to start taking the medication.
I went on semi-regular check-ups, each time having to fill out a self-evaluation asking me to score my sleep, appetite, attention span, feelings of negativity, self-hate, et cetera. The result barely changed from time to time. This was apparently normal. I was asked whether I experienced any side effects. No, not really, I said every time. Nor did I experience any ‘effects’. The sole thing I’ve used to justify taking these pills for a year and a half is that I can more easily concentrate on large bodies of text; prior to the medication I had barely gotten through a novel in three years, when earlier in life I had been quite the reader. But for the last six months I’ve doubted this more and more. I cannot focus. I renew my loans at the library over and over, because I’m getting increasingly incapable of gathering the self-control to sit down with a book. When I last went to the hospital (for the umpteenth stage in the diagnosing of my psyche), I had to fill out the same self-evaluation I used to get at the physician’s , and I scored so much higher than I ever had before that I was genuinely afraid of myself.
When I first started taking the citalopram – after overcoming the initial scepticism – I felt…for lack of a better word, cool. Being on prescription meds made me special; part of a (relatively) exclusive club that you could not buy into. But the most important feature was that it was like a diploma. I had ‘achieved’ mental illness. I had something to back up the statement “I am depressed” with – more legitimate than the pile of school work I could not complete, the days of invalid absence from classes, the hours spent daily in front of the tv in lieu of doing something substantial.
I’m over that now. Medicine costs money. It comes with restrictions and obligations, which, ironically, my illness mostly makes me ignore. And it doesn’t even appear to be working. That is why I have decided to stop taking my SSRIs. I do not plan on quitting cold turkey, obviously (I’d like to think I’m somewhat more responsible than that), but I run out in two weeks and I have not yet made an appointment with my physician. Again ironically, my symptoms prevent me from it. I keep forgetting to call, and even if I would remember, my social phobia has me coming up with reasons not to. When I eventually get there, I’m sure she will want me to try another drug. But I’m not sure. I don’t know if I can handle being disappointed again.