The orange bottle wrapped in white pharmacy instructions sits next to a mug that reads Mercury Is In Retrograde. It holds Four Pilot G2s and some of those old school Bic’s with the different color options. This little stash of necessities also includes a bottle of jasmine body oil, a deck of affirmation cards, and a bottle of super strength CBD oil.
Take 1 capsule by mouth every day, the bottle directs. The day I picked my prescription up from CVS, I felt disappointed in myself for needing an antidepressant again. I’d been off of my old medication since April - I didn’t believe it was working, and I wanted to see what would happen when I wasn’t taking anything. For awhile, I felt better. I had definitely been given the wrong prescription based on a diagnosis that neither myself or my therapist felt was accurate. Removing that medicine from my system seemed to reset me to a steady baseline - one that was very, very low (but at least I wasn’t having terrible mood swings, right?). But as the months wore on, I felt worse and worse. Everything felt awful - even the things that I wanted to be happy about felt like they were pulling me into a thrashing sea of fear and overwhelming sadness.
Eventually, I found a new psychiatrist, one that really listened to my concerns and was thoughtful in his approach to diagnosing me.
Have you ever been on Prozac?, he queried. I shook my head and rattled off a list of other antidepressants I’d been on over the last decade. You’re going to love how you feel, he assured me. It’s an SSRI, so it blocks the reabsorption of serotonin so you have more of it available to you.
At that point, life felt so unbearably heavy that I was willing to try anything. But as I walked out of my psychiatrist’s office that day, I thought Why couldn’t I just pull myself out of it? I’d been meditating daily, exercising regularly, working on healing past traumas, eating a vegan diet, and even trying reiki and hypnosis to work past some of the pain that I thought was keeping me depressed.
Needing medication felt like I had somehow failed.
I had accepted the idea that all I needed to do to “cure” my mental illness was heal my gut, spend more time outside, and forgive my past. While working on those things certainly didn’t hurt (and maybe even helped on some level), they turned out not to be all that effective in helping me find my way out of clinical depression.
For three months now, I have taken a Prozac every single day. I’ve also started a low dose of Wellbutrin, about two months ago. Life is better than it has been in the last decade. I wake up feeling energized and excited about the day, my insomnia and the irritability that caused so many arguments are gone, and I feel more in control of my emotions and my reactions to other people.
I still meditate (almost) daily, prioritize being outside, and eat a healthy-ish diet. I’ll admit, I cut myself a lot of slack over the last couple months because I felt so burned out from putting so much effort into managing my mental illness on my own. Now that I’m not depressed and don’t have bouts of uncontrollable anxiety, meditating, eating healthy, and being engaged socially require much less effort, if any at all. For so long, I couldn’t access a feeling of joy for even the big life things I knew should be joyful. Last night, I felt pure thrill when I nailed a hoop dance move I’d been working on.
Everything has improved in my life because of Prozac.
What I have learned is that you can drink all the green juice in the world, chant every Kundalini mantra there is, and try to manifest your way out of mental illness but the reality is that some people need medication. The chemicals in their brain just aren’t working the way they need to and prescriptions exist specifically to fix all kinds of chemical imbalances and misfires that create issues.
By no means am I discounting holistic medicine. I am a firm believer in trying natural remedies when appropriate. But I also believe life is meant to be cherished and enjoyed and lived with passion - all emotions that are very hard to access from a state of depression, anxiety, or other mental illness.
I believe now that there is no shame in taking antidepressants, and no shame in talking about it.
So many of us struggle with mental health conditions. Don’t believe me? Here’s a handy resource from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America with statistics on just how common mental health conditions are.
Accepting that my mental illness wasn’t something I could successfully cope with on my own - after many months and years of trying - was the best gift I’ve ever given myself. If you’re struggling with mental illness, I’d really encourage you to talk to a psychiatrist and be open to at least giving things a try. And, yes, sometimes it takes more than one try (I’ve been on countless concoctions over the last decade and only now have found one that works for me). It requires patience and, if you’re uninsured, cash. But the effort and expense is well worth it when you can finally access the version of yourself you’ve been searching for all along.
Today, I woke up, took a swig of water, and happily swallow the WHITE, OBLONG-shaped CAPSULE imprinted with PLIVA 648 on one side, as the label so pointedly describes it. I feel gratitude as the pill slips down my throat on a stream of cold water. This is what it feels like not to struggle.