Two years ago, at age 29, I had finally gone to a psychiatrist for a prescription to treat my depression and anxiety. I’d been dealing with depression since I was 14 years old and spent the intervening decade and a half terrified out of my mind that medication would take away my personality.
When you’ve spent your life depressed, you worry that there’s nothing inside you but the depression.
I was afraid medication would make me lose myself.
If I take meds, what if they change my life for the better?
But something had to give. I was getting worse and worse, especially in the winter. The psychiatry office first told me they’d have to schedule me in February due to being booked out. I emailed my general practitioner and asked him to write me the prescription because they couldn’t get me in, and I couldn’t go the winter without help.
Suddenly they found me an opening.
I walked out of the appointment with a prescription for Lexapro. But I waited a couple days to start taking it, wrestling with the inner monologue of medication stigma in my brain.
If you take meds, it means you’re weak and couldn’t do it on your own.
If you take meds, you’ll change.
If you take meds, you’ll lose who you are.
Finally the tiny whisper fighting back got loud enough to say: If I take meds, what if they change my life for the better?
I took a chance on meds
I took my first pill.
Three months to the day later, I experienced an unexpected side effect.
I left my husband.
As I settled into the medication after an initial couple weeks of being tired and emotional, I was feeling a lot more confident and less anxious. The fog that normally surrounded my decision making process was gone. I wasn’t as hesitant about communicating my needs or desires.
And when my husband said something that upset me, I called him out about it instead of just shutting up or assuming it was my fault.
Over time, however, his patterns of behavior became more and more obvious to me and I realized most of my depression and anxiety symptoms were actually the effects of being in an abusive relationship.
The fog that normally surrounded my decision making process was gone.
All of the confusion and anxiety about doing everything right so I didn’t feel the crushing weight of failure? Actually anxiety about doing everything right so I didn’t feel the crushing weight of him leaving me on the kitchen floor to cry from a panic attack.
Going off meds
A year after my divorce was final, my psychiatrist and I had already been tapering down my dose to try weaning off entirely. My depression and anxiety scores on the inventory she gave me at each followup visit indicated that I would no longer be diagnosed with either disorder.
It was trauma the whole time.
It’s been trauma since childhood.
I no longer need medication because I left the traumatic environment that was causing my symptoms.
Of course, now I have the work of recovery. Work that has included learning and enforcing my boundaries, taking time to be single, targeting specific traumas and codependent patterns in therapy, and writing about my story because writing helps me heal.
I was afraid medication would change me.
I’m so glad it did.