My morning routine has shifted drastically during quarantine, so I normally wake up close to noon. I wash my face, brush my hair, shower, and drink a cup of strong coffee. I eat a bowl of dry cereal, check the messages on my phone, and then I take my medication. One little pill, smaller than my smallest fingernail. Then I go about my day, shopping or grabbing a coffee with friends or going for a run. I work, I exist, I thrive.
Six months ago, in the dark of January, I went through such a bad depressive episode that I struggled for weeks to get out of bed. I was having multiple panic attacks in school and was missing out on my most important year of education. I was struggling and confused, as I had finished up with a counselor after a full year just the summer before. I was meant to be ‘better’, but anyone who has struggled with mental health can attest to the fact that ‘better’ is not always permanent, and recovery is not always a straight line.
So, I was brought to my doctor, who had seen me many times before for my low moods. This time, though, was different. This time, because of my age and my obligations and the fact that I am in the Leaving Cycle in school, she decided to prescribe me anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication, with my parent’s approval and my own.
I was worried. I had heard of these types of medications having strange side-effects. I was worried that it would alter who I was a person and not just my mood. I was terrified of being lethargic, of becoming lazy because of the meds. Funnily enough, I was already not myself, and I was already ‘lazy’ because of my depression. I trusted my doctor, though, so I decided to try them. Six months later, and my happy pills are just part of my everyday routine. They did not change who I was; they helped be more myself. I feel more balanced, and my mood swings have nearly all but gone away. The only side-effect, a very common and gross one, is that I sweat a lot more. And I mean a lot. I have had to invest in men’s antiperspirant. I feel like a pre-teen boy who has only started to grow chin hair. But these are the honest and often funny truths of mental health that we tend to by-pass.
I am on a very low dose, but it works for me. This article is not meant to glorify anti-depressants or encourage anyone to take them. But there is such stigma surrounding medicating for your mental health. Science is still scratching the surface of human behaviour and discovering why we do what we do and why we feel what we feel. Taking anti-depressants is such a personal choice, but it is not something to be terrified of.
Since I began taking them, I have created some of my best artwork and written some of my favourite poetry. This is because I believe, I can empathise more with the world. I think the best art is born from empathy, but I could not connect with the world like that when I was so deep in a depressive stupor that I could not even feel my face. I am more myself than ever, but still have a long way to go.
I have begun seeing a new therapist, as is advised when taking medication, and working on myself again. Taking anti-depressants was simply another step in my mental health journey. There are many more to go, but I have hope, in part to my wonderful doctor and my not-so-scary happy pills.
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Some useful supports:
SPUN OUT: This is a one stop shop for all mental health issues. The articles are very matter of fact, helpful and all bases are covered.
AWARE: Providing support and assistance to that section of society whose lives are affected by depression, bipolar disorder, postnatal depression or suicidal thoughts.
SAMARITANS: This helpline is open 24 hours a day and completely confidential. Call 116 123.
CHILDLINE: Helpline and online support, offering advice and support to young people under 18.
TURN2ME: Support for anyone feeling anxious, sad or lonely.
YOURMENTALHEALTH: Lots of information about Mental Health in Ireland.