I had been suffering with clinical depression for 9 years before I was ever diagnosed. When I was, they sent me to a psychiatrist who prescribed me my first medication. I was not given counseling, psychotherapy, or anything else. Just pills.
This was my first pill. I liked it. After about two weeks, I truly understood what it meant to be happy. Yes, you read that right. I had been so depressed for so long, I didn’t even remember what being happy felt like. I began to enjoy my life. I also began to get scared whenever that happy feeling felt less happy. I was worried that it would go away and I’d be left in that lethargic fog that had been my life before. Every time I felt myself slipping even slightly down, I complained about depression and got my medication raised. After a while of taking this pill, I realized that I had lost the ability to achieve an orgasm. One of the side effects was “abnormal ejaculation/orgasm and impotence in men.” Why did they not look into similar issues in their female patients!? Wtf!? I kept taking it though, because I was happy and orgasms weren’t that big a deal in comparison with being happy.
When I was 24, my parents insurance would no longer cover me. At about $170 a month and no generic version, Effexor XR was too expensive for a poor grad student. So I did my best to wean myself off of them. The results were not pretty. I drank, smoked pot, and made many bad life choices. I honestly don’t remember much of that year except as fuel for negative thoughts years later. I somehow managed to finish my master’s thesis and get a job.
I got my first job and it had insurance. I went to the doctor’s office to get back on Effexor. I had mentioned that I didn’t like the side effects, but was too shy at that point to explain which side-effect that was. The doctor put me on Paxil. I wasn’t on Paxil for very long because I had put on 10lbs the first month that I was on it. I later found out that lack of orgasm was another side effect of Paxil as well.
I did some internet research and found an article about SSRIs (selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors) and decided I no longer wanted to take any more SSRIs (Effexor, Paxil, Prozac, Zoloft, etc.). The doctor told me that my depression was too bad for other depression medication types. I dug in my heels and told him that I’ll deal with just being a little depressed rather than to deal with the side effects of the SSRIs. I actually enjoyed the side effects of Welbutrin. I quit smoking and lost weight! Sure, I was down from time to time, but I dealt with it. I stayed on the Welbutrin for a number of years.
A family member had gotten into one of those pyramid things and had started selling various supplements. I came across one called Bliss. It made the following claims in the catalog she had me look at: promotes relaxation without drowsiness, helps maintain healthy levels of both serotonin and dopamine, helps enhance and stabilize mood, helps the body adapt to stress, and increases mental clarity. That sounded like something that might be good for depression! I asked my psychiatrist and my primary care physician if any of the ingredients conflicted with those in my medication. And neither of them could tell me the answer. They were so well-schooled on medications, but not at all on supplements, they really couldn’t tell me. I took it anyway. It worked so well, that I tried weaning myself off the Welbutrin. I did it with my doctor’s help and my doctor’s consent. Whoever says that psych meds aren’t chemically addictive is lying. Even though I slowly weaned myself off of that medication over the period of three months, the week after I finally stopped taking the Welbutrin was HORRIBLE! I was so depressed I couldn’t move or get out of bed even. After a week, the withdrawal symptoms started to fade and eventually, I enjoyed being able to say I was no longer medicated for depression. It’s a supplement, so it didn’t count in my mind as medication. It also felt like I had a “normal” range of emotions rather than a forced up and a down when my brain chemicals rebelled. And at $36 a month, it was cheaper than even most of the generic versions of pills.
NO MEDICATION, AGAIN
There came a point in my life where I just got sick of having to take pills every day. I weaned myself off of Bliss. I got a little down, but there was no horrible withdrawal akin to that of Welbutrin. For the past two years, I have now truly been living medication-free. It’s not to say that there aren’t some bad times. I’ve hit a particularly bad patch recently. But the years of medication must have at least somewhat fixed the chemical imbalance in my brain. I can still feel happy. But I also can get very depressed too. My depression also only will last for a few days at a time rather than a few weeks at a time like it did before I was ever medicated. I’ll still take a Bliss pill if I know I’m going to need a pick-me-up or if I’m having a terrible day, but even so, I’ll call this one a win.