A jagged little pill?

Yesterday I had the doctor’s appointment that I’d been referring to the past couple of posts. I’m glad I went and saw a professional, but I’m not sure how to feel about it now.

Depression is a topic I have no problem discussing among people I know closely, and to a point I’m comfortable with being open here about where I’m at emotionally and what’s going on. I feel like a broken record talking about grieving, although that’s been the main focus of 2022. The main reason I write here is to process the joys and sorrows of life. I like to think that being open about my struggles can serve as a way to help someone else going through the same or a similar thing, to find similarities and apply what I talk about to themselves. Depression can be extremely isolating, which is arguably the worst part of it all.

After my last depressive episode at the end of September, my mom encouraged me to schedule a doctor appointment to talk about going on some medication to take the edge off. At this point I’d already done everything else. Back in the spring after a massive family blow up I sought out and got grief counseling, which was extremely helpful with processing the parts of my grief that got too overwhelming to handle on my own. I was being active, trying to eat kinda-sorta healthy, and doing my damndest to find positive avenues and outlets to focus on, as a reminder the world isn’t just a bottomless pit no matter what grief was saying.

The last episode took everything out of me. Thankfully I have a hybrid work schedule, and on the days where I was exhausted from sobbing the night before and it physically hurt to move around the apartment, I was still able to show up and do my job at home, albeit more slowly than normal and with more brain fog to work through. All I wanted to do during my latest episode was sleep and stay in a dark room. Leaving the house on the one day we are in office started out okay, but then on the drive home I lost it. All I could see were people outside, folks walking their dogs or runners on the evening run, and some of the trees barely starting to turn golden. Yet I felt so disconnected, like the world around me was going its merry way and I was the ghost traveling through time, never able to touch or feel anything.

This last one is what motivated the first ten days of October, and then it was yesterday, the day of my appointment. I guess I thought I was going to hear about all the antidepressants I could take and right away walk out with a prescription that I could take during the flare-ups that would nip the heartache and exhaustion in the bud. Maybe I thought I was going to go skipping out of there like a kid at Disney World, like my reality was going to be nevermore.

However, it turns out depression doesn’t function at all like anxiety. My physician assistant told me that because the trigger is grief, you can’t really take a pill only during episodes to take the edge off. Either it was a mild daily pill or trying other methods such as therapy or focusing on exercise to keep myself healthy for when the episodes rear back up.

But, if I felt like I needed a prescription, he would be okay with prescribing me a mild antidepressant that would start working in two weeks. “It doesn’t change your personality, but it does give you a pep in your step, so you can feel more energized and not have the crashes,” he advised me.

I want to take this moment and make it very clear I have nothing against antidepressants or anti-anxiety medication. Quite frankly, I think the number of folks who are genuinely suffering and could benefit from even something mild is far larger than the folks who overuse medication and go through life as zombies. If I were having a day-in, day-out depression I would have agreed to start something. But starting medication for once a month? I had reservations, and I told my P.A. that I wasn’t comfortable with taking a daily pill for episodic depression.

On one hand, I’ve made so much progress over the first ten days of October. I made a commitment to myself I was going to do everything in my power to do my part to manage myself and what I’m going through. And he did acknowledge grief and external, major life changes are sometimes things you can’t medicate – sometimes the only way to the other side is to get through it. Maybe I just need to get through it first and then if I need something, I can always call the doctor’s office back again.

But at the same time, Thanksgiving and Christmas are coming up. The first major holidays without Grandpa, and the first anniversary of his passing is December 30th. My mom and I are going to be rallied around Grandma, and I’m expecting every emotion to fly. I have no idea if I’ll be sad but able to manage, or lose myself during an episode. In all honesty, I’m scared to lose myself during an episode. So a part of me thought maybe trying something mild now and getting it in my system might not be a bad idea.

Ultimately, I left the doctor’s appointment without a prescription but focusing on the positive. I did something that was healthy and productive for me. That counts for something.

Now that I’ve had a day to sit on it I’m still not entirely sure which course of action is correct. Maybe it will take a little more time before I have a solid answer and can decide where to go. Earlier today I was thinking back to some other times in my life, as an adult and a child, where I was dealing with a significant depressive episode. Losing Grandpa has resurrected old emotions and memories that I’d rather block out, of my father leaving us and getting stuck for five years visiting him and his chaotic new family, and then the handful of genuinely awful or abusive people I’ve met over the course of my life who had no problems hurting me.

Part of why those old memories came back was because Grandpa and his presence served as a fortress of sorts. I knew he wouldn’t throw me out to the wolves, and him passing took me back to place in time where I was at the mercy of other adults and there was no guarantee they would do the right thing. Back then I thought the depressive episodes were because something was inherently wrong or broken within me. Hell, I still struggle with those feelings now even when I know better.

Then I really got to thinking back and realized all the depressions in childhood and during my adult life were triggered by external events and – dare I say it? I’m gonna say it – people who are straight-up assholes.

Reasonable hurt to unreasonable situations doesn’t mean I’m broken.

The only way through all the depressions before were either breakthroughs (such as getting back to work after unemployment), breaking off relationships that weren’t healthy, or estrangement and making sure the earth behind me was thoroughly scorched.

I’m not ruling out medication for good, since nobody knows what the future holds and I have no idea what I might need to get through those challenges. But for tomorrow, I’ll continue to push forward and take care of the heartbroken little girl inside of me who misses her grandpa and wants nothing more than to honor him as long as she’s still here.

I took the title of today’s post from Alanis Morissette’s 1995 album. As iconic as Jagged Little Pill is, I think my unofficial theme song really comes from her 1998 album Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie, “Thank U.” The entire song is deeply moving and emotional, one of those songs that you love when you first hear it in your late teens or early 20s, but then when you re-listen to the words in your 30s, it hits you in a completely different way.

The lyrics are: “The moment I let go of it/Was the moment I got more than I could handle/The moment I jumped off of it/Was the moment I touched down.”

Maybe that’s my solution reader-friends: carrying on as I’ve been doing and slowly putting down the sorrow. And if that doesn’t work, I know how I can get some Wellbutrin. (Am I joking? That’s subject to interpretation.)

Yours in reading and life,

Allison

2 comments

  1. Thank you for this post, Allison. It’s a very real line between choosing to use medication or forgo it. As someone who was very anti-meds for over 20 years, my stubbornness really was my undoing. Once I finally tried an antidepressant, it was a game changer. But I still had a lot of work to do to accept it, to not feel shame, like I’d done something wrong, like I’d given up. I take a minimal dose of Zoloft each day, coupled with exercise, a therapist, and as much healthy eating as I can stand.
    My point is this: no one gets extra points by not asking for help. (…and… medication doesn’t have to be a long-term solution)

    Like

    • Thank you for reading and sharing your experience, Kelly. In all honesty I haven’t stopped going back and forth with myself with the “should I or shouldn’t I?” So for now I’m going to take it a day at a time. On another note, it really is a shame medication still has so much of a stigma attached to it. Medication for the short or long term can be a wonderful tool in the arsenal.

      Like

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