“Why are you doing this? Did someone hurt you?”
My parents looked up at me from where they sat at the kitchen table. Pacing the length of the room, I tried to answer their first question. The second question was simple: no, no one had molested or abused me. I was fifteen and, from the outside looking in, had everything going for me. My family loved and supported me. I did well in the culinary arts program at my school. I had even managed, with my introverted personality, to make some friends. So, when my guidance counselor called my mom to tell her that they had discovered cuts I had made on purpose the night before, my parents were baffled.
Over the next year, I hurtled to the bottom at an alarming speed. I couldn’t explain the darkness clouding my mind—not even to myself. I was officially diagnosed with depression, put on Zoloft, and plopped into counseling. To my parents’ and my dismay, none of it fixed me.
For the next decade, I seesawed between ignoring my illness and being completely drowned in it. I desperately wanted to be normal. Each of my peers seemed to move through life with relative ease. For me, the tiniest failure ignited that familiar dialogue. “This sucks” led to “I suck” faster than lightning, my thoughts a rapid fire of self-pity and abuse.
Life wasn’t entirely horrible, but even the happiest moments couldn’t throw enough light to drown out the grey blanket that shrouded me. I was able to stop cutting at nineteen, but by the time I graduated college, it was clear that my depression wasn’t going away. I could go from kicking ass at life to struggling to get out of bed in the morning, often without any triggers. I just woke up feeling hopeless. Sometimes, that desolate feeling crept up on me in the middle of the day, kicking me down whether I felt good or bad. I tried more therapy and other antidepressants. My therapist seemed more interested in sucking more money out of me, though, and every antidepressant’s side effects were almost worse than the depression.
Zoloft had made me feel nothing at all. My entire family could have died and I wouldn’t have felt a thing. Cymbalta kept me awake, bouncing off the walls, for three or four days straight. Seroquel XR bloated me like a rapidly filled balloon. Then, I started Prozac.
I’ve always been sensitive to medication. Prednisone gives me night terrors. The lowest dose of Tramadol makes me feel like I just smoked a joint. I’ve always said that having depression has enabled me to better empathize with people, but my sensitivity doesn’t stop there. My nervous system is apparently just as touchy as my feelings. Prozac, however, took things to a whole new level.
I asked my doctor for an antidepressant for several reasons. I’d known for a while that I needed to try treatment again. Then, in January 2014, I lost one of the most important people in the world, my friend Sean. A month later, I lost my job and tumbled into the familiar yet terrifying world of unemployment. Grieving and panicked, I decided to pursue writing fiction—full-time, with no financial safety net. The stress and loss were weighing on my already depressed spirit, and I knew I couldn’t delay any longer. So, I started seeing a new therapist and asked my regular doctor for an antidepressant.
For the first two weeks, I barely noticed any difference. My anxiety seemed to be getting worse, but I spent a lot of time working, so I chalked it up to stress and grief. I couldn’t sleep, and spent my days in an almost twitchy state, unable to concentrate. Previously, I’d been writing every day and completing projects with relative ease and speed. Suddenly, I couldn’t get anything done; even showering seemed like an impossible task. So much was involved. I had to pick out clothes, and before I could even do that, I had to leave my chair. An unexplainable fear plagued me around the clock. Sitting still, tensed, was the only way I could cope.
I went back to my doctor’s office and asked her to increase Prozac from 10mg to 20mg. She gave me a prescription for Ativan for the anxiety, and I continued therapy. Less than two days after increasing Prozac, I slipped into a crippling depression.
Because I’ve had my depression for so long, I’d learned how to cope with it—sort of. At my very worst, I could find some reason to get out of bed. Sometimes I ended up on the bathroom floor, crying hysterically, but I always found a way to pick myself back up. On Prozac, it was a different story.
I couldn’t get out of bed. I wore the same pajamas for days, and stared at the ceiling for hours. I tried to get back to the normal me. Paralyzed with anxiety, though, I was too afraid to leave the comfort of my bed. Once locked in, the depression took hold. Looking back, I barely even remember those days. I don’t remember what I did, said, or ate. I know that I didn’t write, because my spreadsheet for April is empty. I remember sobbing on my mother’s shoulder because I didn’t know what was wrong with me or how to escape.
“I don’t like you on Prozac,” she said, and I burst into tears all over again—this time with relief. If my mother, a psych tech studying for her Master’s in counseling, thought that the episode was because of Prozac, there was a way out.
I flushed Prozac down the toilet that night.
I still have depression. There are still days when I feel off center. Sometimes, I even feel anxiety, but both are normal—or at least, my version of normal.
There may not be a medication for me. I’m learning to cope, though, with therapy, meditation, and journaling. I’m also learning that my depression is not going away—but it’s also not going to own me.
Bio: Elizabeth Barone writes contemporary New Adult fiction that makes your twenties feel less lonely. Her stories explore real issues that twenty-somethings deal with, pushing the boundaries of the New Adult genre. She is the author of over a dozen stories. Her debut novel, Sade on the Wall, was a quarterfinalist in the 2012 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. Elizabeth lives in Connecticut with her husband and cat, and blogs about life with depression and being a twenty-something at http://elizabethbarone.net.