Friday, 14 August 2015

Antidepressants: It's question time again

All the signs are there: frequent weeping; hiding in corners; an urge to commit random acts of violence at the supermarket. I'm afraid of my letterbox, my inbox, and daytime (it's so unreasonably glary). I'm pretty sure I would qualify as depressed. My best idea for dealing with it is to get a large, furry blanket, cut out two tiny holes for my eyes, then set up residence underneath (I don't really want the eye holes - that's just for the kids' sake). I know there is an alternative treatment, as I've been here before. It's antidepressants.

I had planned to talk about the chemistry of depression in this next bit, so I did some research. What I found was a bunch of glorious medical terms and explanations. There were presynaptic cells, packets of serotonin molecules, acetylcholine and dendrites, dopamine and norepinephrine. These words almost jet me right out of depression by themselves, they are so deliciously exact and scientific. They have a precision that makes it sound like unbalanced brain chemistry is perfectly fixable, but it's not the case for everyone.

I know lots of people who have taken antidepressants, and they've all had different experiences - good, bad and everywhere in between. Love them or hate them, one thing is for sure: these pills are everywhere. Doctors hand them out readily, especially it seems, to me.

The problem is antidepressants annoy me. One of the drawers in my dresser is littered with the remains of half empty prescription boxes. It's the result of a Start/Switch/Stop & Repeat approach to medication. I do constant mental loops, unsatisfied and frustrated when I take the pills, but struggle with my mood when I don't. I have had two goes with antidepressants that have lasted for a significant period of time (one year or more). While they initially helped take the edge off my melancholy, after a little while it seemed as if they lost their potency. I was left feeling bound to a medication that wasn't helping me.




It's more than their apparent ineffectiveness that bugs me. My chief objection is the way they make me feel - or rather, not feel. I can't emote properly - I go all opaque and lumpish, and it drives me crazy. Considering I'm made almost entirely of emotion (brain, bones and other vital organs take up only about 2% of space), using a medicine that blunts my feeling has a major impact. Navigation becomes slow - it's like trying thread a needle with big rubber gloves on.

When I take antidepressants, and a situation comes up where I really ought to cry, I can't do it. I scrunch up my face and make the sound, but no tears come out. I can't get swept away in an exhilarating book or movie - I'm like: someone just died a slow, painful death and left behind five starving orphans but whatever I'm off to pluck my eyebrows. Is it supposed to be better for me to be like that? If I have a scream inside, it has been put there for a reason. If I can't be bothered doing anything about it because of the pills, the scream will stay trapped in me. Surely that's not good?

For a short time a few months ago, I was 'back on'. I'd been rocking and rolling all over the show with my mood, and reached for medication out of desperation. The pills were beginning to take effect. The familiar numbing sensation wrapped around and pacified me. And yes, the world seemed a little brighter. I was feeling better able to cope with day-to-day demands. But it's like looking through a false lens - the calm didn't really belong to me, and I knew it. My true emotions still lay underneath, and were quite the opposite of calm. Every day, I was growing increasingly frustrated with the progress and treatment of my eating disorder. The medication wouldn't allow me to access the feeling properly, which was annoying in itself, so I added it to the pile of things I was angry about. Well, one morning I cracked. I got so ANNOYED, that I gave the pile an almighty boot, and knocked all the fucking emotions that I couldn't fucking feel all over the fucking place. I stopped taking the antidepressants immediately (*not the proper thing to do), told the entire world to PISS OFF, and started shovelling food in my mouth. The decision to reclaim my emotions, and then feeling the energising results, was the fuel I needed to blast myself out of the hole I was in, up onto the next stage.

This sets off a whole lot of questions for me. My intense emotion was a huge motivator - would I have got the same sort of traction if I'd let the antidepressants mollify me? Or would I have gone through the same stage and it just taken longer? How can anyone tell if it's ultimately better for my recovery if I am medicated or not? Maybe I would skirt over something if my emotions are dim. If deep healing comes from wading through the hard emotions, then can the numbing effect of medication be a negative thing? Being 'depressed' is protective in a way - there's less chance of another bad thing happening if I just hide behind my curtains. Maybe it's where I need to be for awhile.

It's quite possible I'm overthinking, and I should just hush up and take the pills. I understand there is such a thing as too much crying, too much bed, and that living under a blanket is impractical.  Something to take the edge off the misery would be welcomed at times.

So I have no answers at present. And I'm not sure I'll ever be able to stop asking the questions to make room for medication to help.


xx




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