Saturday, June 9, 2012

Better Living Through Chemistry

I am a recovering alcoholic AND I am clinically depressed AND I am on medication.  In fact, I am on two different medications to control my depression.

There...I said's out.

I know that there are those out there that don't believe in medication for depression.  There are also those in AA that believe if you are really sober, then you shouldn't be taking any kind of mood altering substance.  I respect their views but, for me, that just plain won't work.

I have been clinically depressed since my father passed away over 17 years ago.  After he died, I had many unresolved issues as well as the duty to handle EVERYTHING.  I had to take care of my mother, my sister, her family and my own.  Plus I was working a very demanding full time job that had me commuting over 3 hours a day. 

To top it all off, because I am the child of an alcoholic, I only cried father died and I cried exactly once.  My father had a massive stroke and we had to unplug him.  I was standing right next to him when he took his last breath...I felt his pulse stop under my fingers. 

I left my mother and sister in that room and went to the waiting room and collapsed.  I felt like someone had kicked me in the stomach.  I wrapped my arms around myself and cried...for about 5 minutes.  Then I pulled it together, stuffed it all down and walked back into my dad's hospital room to start taking care of the world.  I never cried again.

A psychiatrist once explained to me that crying is nature's Prozac.  It resets all of our chemical levels and puts us back on track.  That's why some people say that after they have a "good cry", they feel better.  That has never, ever happened to me.  Crying for me was always seen as a weakness.  When you're a child and you're trying to hold a family together, there's no time for crying.  And when that same child has no one to go to when she feels like crying then...what's the point?  Might as well just move on and stuff it down.

Here's the thing...while I thought I was fine and strong and that I had it all together, my body was saying, "Look here girl, I need to get you back to your default settings before you crash and get the blue screen of death - so I'm going to shut down now and you can restart when you've got it together."

And that's when I fell into the black hole.

Depression is a black hole...a deep, dark, lonely black hole.  When you're in there, you feel like you will never feel joy again.  It's like a permanent visit from the Dementors at Hogwart's.  And the hell of it is that it happens so slowly you have no idea you've fallen.  Your brain is trying so hard to adapt, that you have no idea what's going on!  I couldn't stop crying.  I was having awful thoughts about children dying and starving.  I was having terrible nightmares and my sleep patterns were way off.  I was short tempered and mean all the time.

My husband couldn't help.  He tried but, like me, he didn't have a clue.  We were lost and I was dying.

My gynecologist recognized some of my symptoms on a routine visit and recommended that I go on Prozac.  I freaked out!  There was NO way I was going to take any medication!  My sister and her abuse of all mood altering substances had convinced me that taking anything like that would be a one way ticket to addiction.  I declined.  I got worse.

One day I was in our basement exercising and one of my twins, who was probably three then, came up to me to tell me something.  I turned and yelled at him and he shrank back in fear like he was afraid that I was going to hit him.  I have never hit my children.  I will never forget the look on his face that day - it haunts me now and will forever; but it made me seek help.  My kids are always the catalyst for me to do the right thing.  They rock my world.

So I went to the doctor and said I wanted to quit smoking because I had convinced myself that not being able to quit was why I was so depressed.  There was a new medication out at the time (Welbutrin in the form of Zyban) that had had some success with people trying to quit.  Since it was just to help me quit smoking, I finally acquiesced and let the doctor write me a prescription. 

It changed my life.

For the first time in a very, very long time...I felt normal.  Not high.  Not manic.  Just normal.  And I felt joy.  Joy for a sunrise.  Joy for a good job at work.  Joy for a kiss from the man I married.  And most of all, joy in the arms of my children.

Even though I felt better, I still struggled with the concept of being on medication for depression.  I thought it made me weak.  I thought that if I were a REAL woman I'd have been able to "snap out of it".  I thought I was crazy.

Then one day I was having a conversation with my husband that went like this.

"Why are you so upset about being on medication?"
"Because it means I have a mental illness and that I'm weak."
"The doctor told you that you have a chemical imbalance not a mental illness and you are the strongest woman I know."
"Okay, let me ask you this.  If I decided that taking my heart medication made me weak and I stopped taking it, what would you do?"
"I'd kick your ass!"
"Why is this any different?"

That stopped me dead in my tracks.  He was right.  Damn.

Over the years I have tried to come off of the medication.  My meds have been adjusted and changed.  I have been adjusted and changed.  Doesn't matter.  I'm still a clinically depressed woman who has chosen to treat it with medication.

I refuse to apologize for it and am, in fact, an advocate for it.  I will reach out to anyone who needs information or help.  I'm not a drug pusher.  I recommend psychiatric intervention and therapy.  I'm just a woman that believes life is too short NOT to take advantage of the help that is available. 

God loves me and he sent me medication to help me to cope with his beautiful and challenging world and I'm grateful.


  1. The Lord does work in mysterious ways....most ofter, you must simply listen and follow his you baby, you are the strongest woman that I know or have ever known...You get it!!!

  2. I'm glad you've written this. Lately I've seen some news about how antidepressants are over-prescribed, or how their effects are no different from placebos, often written by people who have never had depression or tried the medications. It is very good to have people speaking out about their personal experiences regarding how life-saving/life-altering meds can be!

  3. My MD put on Zoloft without me even having to ask. He could just tell, shortly after meeting him, that I needed it. It was sweet relief. My psychologist is anti-meds. He can suck it. Life's too short.


  4. As you respect other's views, they should respect yours as well. And besides, who cares what others think - you do what you know is best for YOU!

    I am sorry to hear that you suffer from chronical depression... but am so thankful that there actually exists a medication to help you. What if there hadn't been any medication available, horrible nightmare.

    Like you I strongly believe that one should not only depend on the meds, but also get help from a therapist or psyckiatric.

    I agree with your wonderful husband, you are a very strong woman and you have the most beautiful personality I've ever seen - I'm so damn proud of you *hugs*

  5. I agree with your post and find it sad that there are AAers who are critical of the use of anti-depressants to treat depression. Whether or not they are generally over-prescribed is irrelevant to each individual case. As always, you must do what is right for you. I'm glad you were willing to accept the help.

    What I most identified with in your post was your family experience: being the one who was there to save the world. Being the responsible one. Taking care of others without taking care of yourself (and not even knowing how to take care of yourself). It echos my experience in childhood, but also in addiction.

    Thanks so much for writing.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.