I’m Going Back on an Anti-Depressant

I’m going back on an anti-depressant.

Such a simple statement, yet it packs a punch, and as an English teacher, I’m prone to unpacking texts.

Key word to unpack: back.

In some ways, it was easier to go on an anti-depressant the first time, because a traumatic event had occurred and it was obvious to anyone who knew me that I needed it. But to go back on one feels, at least on the surface, like I’ve failed somehow. I had this idea that I would only need that particular drug for a set amount of time, and then I’d be fine. Situational depression should clear out once the situation has changed, right?

Well, not always.

It’s been just over a year since my panic attack, and I’ve been taking an anti-depressant for most of that time. I tried to go off it in January, and that was a disaster. I considered going off it in May when I was manic, which was a whole kind of fun new disaster at the opposite end of the spectrum (read: way too much energy and oversharing and “upper” all. The. Time.).

My therapist informed me that when the season or anniversary of a traumatic event returns, the body and mind can retreat back to that time of struggle and act accordingly. Psychology Today calls this anniversary reaction, defining it as the “annual echo” of a trauma or loss. PT further claims that some researchers want anniversary reaction named an official symptom of PTSD. Perhaps it’s that; perhaps it’s my return to the classroom for a new school year; perhaps it’s some combination of the two or something else entirely. All I know is I’m starting to revert to old thoughts and habits:

  • overanalyzing my thoughts and actions, particularly what I’m doing wrong
  • being overly concerned with what people must be thinking of me
  • getting weepy easily
  • not being motivated to clean or answer emails or other (really rather simple) things I should be doing
  • living too much in the past
  • being too hard on myself all the time
  • being paralyzed by even simple decisions
  • getting stressed out or anxious easily (one of the reasons I’m no longer on Facebook)

Yesterday was World Mental Health Day, according to the World Health Organization. This is fitting, because yesterday was the day my therapist suggested I consider going back on my anti-depressant. Rather than seeing this as a failure, I’m trying to view this through the perspective she offered — as a tool. A tool that exists, so why not use it? A tool that so many desperately need. I am one of the fortunate few who can access it, so what’s stopping me from reaching out? My pride? Is that really worth my happiness?

All I have to do is accept it. If I learned anything from my traumatic experience, it’s to know when to ask for help, and when to accept it.

Although I had this arbitrary date on the calendar by which I expected to be off of my anti-depressant (because I’m human and want to control things, damn it), I’ve had two friends confide in me that they’ve had to go back on an anti-depressant, as well. I learned this after I began taking one myself, but it’s never been something we discussed beforehand.

And so I felt this was an important post to write. Because I’m sure somewhere someone out there is going through something similar. And I’m hoping if we start discussing it, we’ll start away to chip away at the stigma. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help — or accept it. Be kind to yourself. I’m trying to be.

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Today I Picked Pears in the Sunshine

Today I picked pears in the sunshine,

and enjoyed their satisfying

snap and fall into my hand

after a slight twist and gravity led them to do

what they do naturally.

 

Their sweet taste,

their slightly gritty texture,

take me back to eating my grandmother’s

canned pears out of Mason jars

in the kitchen of her house on Dogwood Street

before I was old enough to appreciate

that one day this would be a memory.

That one day she would be a memory.

 

One year ago, I wouldn’t have considered

myself worthy

of the satisfying snap, the fall, the taste,

the memory.

 

***

 

It’s been exactly one year today since my panic attack, the catalyst that divided my life into before and after, the event that made me question everything about myself — my self-worth, my identity, my career, my faith, my intelligence.

Thank God I had to work today, or else my reflective nature would have turned into dwelling, dwelling into overanalyzing — a pastime at which we women are stellar in our achievements.

I don’t live in that day anymore, and I try my hardest not to return there. I’ve already written about it, and don’t care to expound upon it any further. Rather, my takeaway from today is to consider with intentionality all the people who have helped me shape me into the person I am 365 days later. The list is long, and too personal to reveal here.

Everyone’s mental-health journey differs, but I can only offer what was helped me in hopes that doing so helps someone else. I would strongly encourage anyone struggling with their thoughts to do any of the following:

  • Get outdoors, even if it’s just a walk around the block.
  • Spend time with animals.
  • Limit your time in front of screens.
  • Read.
  • Write.
  • Create something.
  • Talk to your loved ones.
  • Talk to a therapist.
  • Go to social events, even when it’s difficult.
  • Replace every negative thought about yourself with three positive ones.
  • Listen to music.
  • Eat healthy.
  • Exercise.
  • Be present — feel the ground under your feet, taste the chill in the air, gaze at the sunset.
  • Be still.
  • Pray.
  • Surround yourself with positivity.
  • Stop trying to be perfect.
  • Name your feelings: fear, anger, anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts. When you name something that controls you, you take away its power.

Just this week, I’ve made a realization about myself: I extend grace to anyone and everyone around me without question — except for myself. Which leads me to my final and most important suggestion:

  • Be kind to yourself. Truly.

 

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“Man in the Mirror” Cover

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29 — What’s New is Often Messy

28 was a year more formative in my personal development than the year I learned how to hold a spoon.

Within the span of 28, I

  • finished my Master’s degree
  • received my teaching certificate
  • began my first teaching job
  • became overcome with anxiety and hopelessness and isolation
  • stopped eating
  • slept no more than two hours a night
  • threw up daily, till I lost 20 pounds in three weeks
  • had a panic attack
  • resigned from my job, thereby breaking my contract
  • broke my apartment lease
  • moved back in with my parents
  • suffered from intense depression
  • felt like the biggest failure
  • talked to my pastor
  • saw a counselor
  • started taking an anti-depressant
  • resumed my job at the coffee stand, where my customers restored my faith in humanity
  • resumed hanging out with friends and family, even when I didn’t feel like it
  • found catharsis by blogging about my experiences
  • found comfort in my friends’ shared experiences that I’d had no idea about
  • began taking self care seriously
  • looked for every job under the sun that wasn’t teaching
  • became overwhelmed
  • decided to try substitute teaching
  • became overwhelmed at the prospect of returning to the classroom
  • became overwhelmed when finding reminders of my prior teaching job
  • started subbing
  • was reminded of why I loved teaching
  • got in a car accident
  • began the long recovery process from the accident
  • bought a new car
  • attended the Tacoma Dome’s teacher career fair
  • realized I still love and want to teach
  • was encouraged by how many districts were interested me
  • began applying for full-time teaching jobs
  • found healing through music — listening to it, playing it, surrounding myself with it
  • found solace in church
  • found comfort in the words of Nadia Bolz-Weber
  • resumed online dating
  • fell in love
  • had my heart broken
  • became manic thanks to the chemistry changes in my brain
  • wrote poetry
  • realized the break up wasn’t nearly as bad as the past experiences I had survived
  • continued applying for jobs
  • continued online dating
  • became more grateful to God for the good people and things in my life
  • stopped giving fucks about what other people think about me. I know what’s best for me.

And no, I don’t regret anything. Because at one point or another the things others would consider regrets were exactly what I wanted — or what I thought I wanted. I am not one of those people for whom birthdays are dreaded. I earned these years. I am a fighter. I am proud of them.

 

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“She Used to Be Mine” Cover

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“Trust In You” Cover

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“Counting Every Blessing” Cover

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