Lifting the Curtain

Mental Health , ,

As a follow-up to the question: Haven’t I suffered enough?

It’s been about 3 weeks of convincing myself to take a mood stabilizer – and life is quite different and also the same.

That’s kind of the odd thing. I think I expected horrible side effects with no or, conversely, dramatic benefits (but would need to get off of them either way due to the side effects) or I thought it would be ineffective and have no side effects. I thought I’d either be entirely emotionally dulled and flat like I was on SSRI’s or I’d be off the wall happy. But it’s been something in between.

The side effects have been present, but minimal – and all but disappeared at this point despite my high sensitivity to drugs. Given, I am on the lowest dose possible.

My brain processes are noticeably different. I still have highs and lows, but I’m not suicidal or even thought about it as a concept (and this used to happen at least a couple times a week). I give myself pep talks – like real ones, genuinely. That was entirely new to me. It was like a whole different voice inside my head, one I didn’t recognize. I feel like me…just…how I’d expect “normal” people feel inside. Not bouncing from suicidal to overjoyed one moment to the next, but also with moments of “calm” happiness/contentedness, so to speak. The part that surprises me is feeling like me – not a medicated version of me, not a depressed version of me, just…a better, easier-to-be-around me. Still definitely me.

I’m learning about who I am again without the cloud of depression always in my wake. For example, I woke up at 4am one morning wide awake (one thankfully abating side effect of this drug in the first week and a half) and instead of trying to get back to sleep or getting frustrated getting back to sleep or not bothering and getting up to read or work and be more frustrated about not sleeping, I jumped out of bed, did some errands at the grocery store, brought my allergy-ridden partner some Claritin and a coffee and even got some reading in at the coffeeshop before he woke up at 6:30. I remembered then how much I love the feeling of being awake when most of the world isn’t, how quiet it is, how there are no expectations of me, and what it sounds like to hear the birds chirping. I remembered I actually used to be…a morning person! And yet, even though I’ve going to bed earlier for a while, I’ve been waking up later for the last year or two – to wallow in feelings of uselessness in bed mostly.

I’ve been getting more done lately – not just the minimal I *need* to, but finding time to exercise in the middle of the day, not self-talking my way out of trying something new, giving myself deadlines for self-projects. I’ve made huge progress on goals I’d been trying to reach for years – namely, handstands and guitar-playing. I have a “to do” list again; I had given up on one because I just never bothered getting any of them done until it was crucial to my existence. This coming from the person who used to make sure all things I could get off my list were done before bed every single day without fail as a teenager and young adult. Some of that change, I think, was due to the changes in me since my major concussion years ago and some is just general lack of motivation for a future I didn’t believe would exist.

The weirdest psychology that amazes me still is that when the pills are working, I strongly regret not having been on them earlier, not having tried every avenue before giving up for so long on being helped. I forgot one pill for one day about a week ago and I went right back into the psychology of before for a few days: “Oh…I’m not going to be helped. I don’t need to be helped. Nothing can help me. Even if it does help, it’s not me” (despite the fact that I’d already noticed how much of an improvement I’d made)!  It seems in depressed/without drugs me, I will find every way to justify remaining in my position of resignation. But when I’m happier, it feels pretty damn good to be the “normal” me – even if it is caused by the pill I put in my mouth every morning. I don’t have to rationalize or judge myself for not being the one responsible for my moods when I feel myself inherently being a happier version of me, one I’ve never quite experienced without extremes before (aka hypomania).

This experience so far has honestly changed my whole understanding and perspective of psychiatric drugs. I still have qualms about SSRI’s for their known alterations in homeostasis of neurotransmitters long-term and typically horrible emotional and physical side effects, but it seems I was not correct in my understanding of all the different drugs out there and what they do and how they help people. It is true that you have to find the *right* one for *your* brain chemistry and your needs. But…for those of you still struggling with chronic depression, bipolar, PTSD, etc who are feeling resigned to suffering forevermore…I will tell you that this has made me, the biggest skeptic of pharmaceuticals, a believer that maybe this doesn’t have to be the reality for me or you or anyone. Maybe there is a way. Keep trying, looking, finding possible solutions, keeping an open mind, and ask yourself: Haven’t I suffered enough too?

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