“What would happen if I went off my meds? Even just for a day.”
I’ve often wondered about that. I wanted to experiment. Wanted to see what would happen. I’ve been on Escitalopram every single day since November. That’s over half a year. It’s been a huge part of my life. It’s an integral part of my life. That tiny little white pill has helped me create magic, create a life that I never thought I’d be able to have. One of success. One of fulfillment. One of productivity. One that I can honestly say that I now can’t walk away from.
But what would happen if I stop taking that little white pill? Would all I’ve learned, the survival skills and strategies I’ve amassed, in the six months since I started treatment for clinical depression would be enough? Would everything I learned help me survive without it?
Even just for a day. Just one day without the pill.
I had a scheduled surgery today. Nothing major. A removal of a cyst that’s on my god damned chin. Spoils every photo I’m in since January. Not really much of a hassle as I’ve sort of lived with it, but for aesthetic reasons, it’s an annoyance. Anyway, what was decided upon by my psychiatrist and I was that I’d skip my meds for two days. A day before the surgery and the day of. The Escitalopram won’t cause any ill effects with the anesthesia, but there’s a rare side effect of excessive bleeding. That one, we wanted to avoid.
Yesterday was the first day that I skipped my meds. The first time I consciously skipped my meds, really. There may have been one incident a couple of months ago when I forgot to take my meds. Moving on…
I was already on edge when I woke up yesterday. Had a slight anxiety attack the night before. There was also a social situation yesterday that involved me socializing. It was a baby shower for a friend of mine from college. I felt off all throughout. Had random spouts of anxiety. My movement was awkward and felt alien to me. I moved only because I had to, not because I wanted to. I designated myself as photographer to keep myself preoccupied, but in the moments when the camera’s viewfinder wasn’t in between my eyes and the world in front of me, my insides wanted to crawl out of my skin.
Even when I decided on an early departure, I couldn’t actually go through with it. I was frozen. My thoughts were all over the place. Until I got tired of fighting and just expressed to the mother-to-be that I needed to go already.
I was on my way home already when I messaged my girlfriend that I had an anxiety attack earlier that day. She asked if she wanted us to meet up. Hang out. It was a distraction from all the noise in my head that I needed so I said yes. Hesitantly. I didn’t want to put her through the hassle of travelling just to check up on me. It was a sweet gesture that I appreciated, but my mind was still on its one of its “why the hell would you do that for me? I’m shit.” I silenced that thought and just accepted it.
It was all good and well. Being with her calmed me down. Distracted me from the voices and the noise and the darkness. And then I drove her home. And then I got back to my house, to my room. Shut off the lights so I can sleep.
And there it was. There ‘he’ was. The unwelcome guest.
I was losing it again. Thoughts that I wasn’t supposed to be thinking about, I thought of. In great detail.
Since I started with the Escitalopram, I have far greater control of my thoughts. As an experiment, I usually think about pointing a gun to my head and pulling a trigger. I manage to stop. I manage to think about something, anything, else. I manage to not go to that trail of thought.
On that one day when I wasn’t on the meds, I lost it. I lost control over my thoughts. I imagined pointing a gun to my head and pulling the trigger. I succeeded in that particular imagination. Even smiled afterwards. Thought “hey, it’s just like old times. The good old days.” And it was all I could ever think about. All the insecurities, all the self-loathing and shit that was weighing down on me, the only recourse was a bullet to the brain. One final gesture of pulling the trigger to end the pain.
It was all I could ever think about.
And then somehow … I took control. I managed to take control of the situation I was in, of the darkness I was in.
I decided to postpone the operation so I can be back to my new normal with my meds. Texted the dermatologist at 2:30 in the morning about the postponement, messaged my brother about the situation, took a couple of Xanax, and slept. I knew I couldn’t survive, couldn’t live, unmedicated yet.
I woke up today with the weight of the world still weighing down on me. I was groggy, only moved out of reflex and necessity. Auto pilot. Head wasn’t screwed on straight and that gloom and doom that has haunted me all my life was above me. A specter that only I can see and feel.
One day without meds and it all came back. One day without the meds and I was the monster again.
Went about my day. Coffee. Cigarettes. Breakfast. Took my meds. Felt so much better 30 minutes later. Jesus fucking Christ. Felt so much better. Felt alive again. One little white pill and I felt alive again. I found myself smiling and laughing again.
Now, I’m not saying that I need the anti-depressants to live. I mean, I literally do. If I suddenly stop taking them, all those damaging thoughts that I haven’t thought of since I started treatment would all come rushing back in. I’d end up putting into action all the imaginations I have of ending my life. I’m merely positing that I still need it now. I never wanted to be reliant on the meds, hence the question “what would happen if I went off medication,” but for now, I have to rely on it.
I have to rely on it not in a way that an addict is reliant on drugs. Not in the way that a human being needs oxygen to survive. I need it for support, as a crutch so I can walk. I need it because when I’m on it, I am shown a baseline on what I should be. I need it because, simply put, I am “normal” when I’m on it. I’m not sick. I know that I won’t be on it forever, and I can’t wait for the day when I won’t need it anymore to come, but for now, I gotta map out a system for myself when I’m not on it anymore. All this is leading towards that day, anyway.
(Originally written June 16, 2016. I never got around to posting it as it seemed lacking in content.)
Didn’t think I had much of it pre-therapy. Kept thinking that what I have, the “darkness,” as I called it before it was confirmed as depression, was making me its bitch. That it had control over me and every aspect of my being.
Yes, it may have hindered me from a lot of things. Yes, it has become a bane of my existence, prevented me from becoming who I am. The darkness, the depression, kept me from living up to my full potential. It kept me from living.
As it turns out, all those years of me conditioning myself to “take control of the darkness” actually worked. It fucking worked. It didn’t fully take control of me. Emphasis on “fully.” Had it fully taken control, I wouldn’t be here right now. I wouldn’t have survived all the trauma I’ve endured.
That’s something I’ve had since childhood. Control. And because of that Control, I’ve learned a couple of things. Resiliency. That survival instinct.
My mother physically abused me in those short years I was with her. Up until her tragic suicide, her mental illness physically manifested itself onto me. My father had to take me and my younger brother away from her. I have no recollection of such traumatic events. I’ve mentioned before that I have absolutely no memory of her whatsoever. The physical abuse included.
I relayed that information to my therapist and she said that my mind has shut it out completely. My brain snipped that potentially damaging memory from my memory bank. Others who have been through physical abuse has had that trauma haunt them until adulthood. Their brains shove that trauma deep inside them. My brain went a different way and severed that trauma. Protected me, if you will.
Had it not, my life would be completely different right now. I’d be worse. I’d be long dead.
As I said, I had control. I didn’t have full control, but having that little inside of me was instrumental in keeping me alive. I didn’t let the darkness take over me, even though there were thousands of times that I wanted to surrender the war, concede to the darkness. But that thing inside of me wanted to keep fighting. Needed to keep fighting. It wanted me to survive. My soul, perhaps? Human nature and its ever so need to survive? Whatever it is, I’m still alive because of it.
It was that control that led me to therapy in the first place. The hell I was going through last year, I needed to control it. I needed to control what was happening in my head. Finally deciding to seek professional help was my way of taking control.
All things considering (i.e. recent events and yesterdays off medication) I think I did handle things pretty well. I’ve always said that all the breakdowns and episodes I’ve had are necessary so I can test myself and each and every one of those are learning experiences. That’s assuming that I survive them. But I remain positive that I will. I’ve worked this hard, this long, to be where I am. I’ve claimed my life from the depression that I’ve been in almost all my life and I want to live, damn it.
I’m not alone in the fight, anyway. I’ve got people, both friends and acquaintances, encouraging and cheering me on to keep fighting. Even strangers following me on Twitter have been supportive. Their show of support iss overwhelming and I’m extremely grateful for them.
But, of course, at the end of the day, this is a war that I have to win by myself. This depression, while it affects everyone I’m connected with, is my cross to bear. It’s in my head. It’s in me. My friends and family can only do so much. They play their part in the war. They have their roles. Support. Backup. But this is my fight. That final blow against depression is mine to make. And it’s a war that I intend to win.