See you later, October

The former St. Mary’s School and Convent, German Village, Columbus, OH

I’ve always said that one of my favorite months of the year is October. The world comes alive in gold, orange and red, with mostly sunny days that don’t carry the humidity and oppressive heat of summer. It’s a pleasant in-between from the home stretch of summer in September to the world starting to turn a little darker earlier and a tad chillier in November.

Looking back at this year, whenever I reflected back on how a month or season ends, there always seemed to be a ting of sadness thanks to the grieving process. Frankly, I’m tired of writing about it, tired of living it, and have no idea what to think about the holidays coming up.

On one hand I’m looking forward to having a “real” Thanksgiving and Christmas after last year’s challenges of Grandma going to the hospital, getting discharged, then Grandpa going in and ultimately losing Grandpa. But at the same time, it’s also going to be the first Thanksgiving and Christmas without him and the anniversary of Grandpa’s passing is December 30th. At some point we’re all going to be grieving over the holidays.

I started off October coming out of a depressive episode and took the first ten days to get back to normal. The 12th was my appointment to see if there was a medication I could take as needed. To my disappointment but not surprise, depression isn’t something you can take a pill for as needed like you can with anxiety, although my PA suggested I would be a good candidate for a low-dose daily medication. Then I was uncertain if a daily medication was correct for me, so I declined and we agreed that if I changed my mind, all I needed to do was call and the doctor’s office would get my prescription filled.

I figured I’d give myself two weeks from the appointment to make my mind up.

Then exactly a week later, on the one day of the week we have to be in the office (I have a hybrid work-from-home schedule), I felt the same explosive thoughts and fight-or-flight response starting to flare up. I can’t pinpoint the trigger – was it the one rep who regularly sends me snotty emails that finally got to me? All the other folks in the office walking around and taking care of their daily business overwhelming me from all the busyness? A text message from Mom about something mundane that my stupid brain was re-interpreting as being an imposition?

I didn’t cry or break down, but I did hightail it to one of the enclaves and call the doctor’s office about getting a prescription filled as soon as possible. The nurse called me back shortly, got my pharmacy information and called it over for pick up around 5:30 p.m.

I don’t remember how the rest of my work day went, since my focus was on getting to the store, getting my medicine and getting home to Marina as soon as possible for a restful night. I got to the store a little after 5 expecting the prescription to be ready, since my doctor’s office said they called it in a little before 4 and it doesn’t take long to fill a prescription for generic Wellbutrin.

By 5:30 it wasn’t ready. Okay, I’ll wait until 6 and kill some time.

By 6 it wasn’t ready. I wasn’t happy, but could wait until 6:30, pick it up and be home by 7 so my cat wouldn’t be going hungry for too long.

By 7 I was still there, and I was seeing red. I went back to the counter and got a different pharmacy tech, and asked when my prescription would be ready, since they closed at 8 and I wasn’t leaving until I left with my medicine. Second Tech checked her computer, made a comment about how the order hadn’t been submitted yet(!), but give them 15 to 20 minutes and they’ll have that ready for me.

At this point I was so mad, I wanted to start crying those angry, ugly, Hell-hath-no-fury-but-you’re-going-to-find out tears. My order was filled pretty quickly and I left with my prescription, as well as a few other groceries I needed to pick up. I kept myself together long enough and once I got in my car, I let it all out. All the bottled up resentment and frustration and feeling of helplessness and hopeless right there in the Giant Eagle parking lot.

I sobbed and cursed anyone who had no idea how much blessing they have but want to crap all over it. All the folks who think mental illness and depression is something to romanticize, to share on social media with videos of themselves crying for head pats. Those are the folks I would love to smack upside the head and ask them what the hell they’re doing. What I’ve been fighting with over this past year has been the most isolating, debilitating struggle of my life, and all I wanted was some relief. Depression is not a thing you have for attention or as a personality quirk – it’s hellish and in the worst case scenarios, it can kill someone. It was killing me and I couldn’t take it anymore.

October 20th, the very next morning, was Day One of taking bupropion, 150 milligrams of generic Wellbutrin. The only negative side effect I can report on that day was blurry vision. But for once, I was calm. The same snotty email from the day before didn’t bother me – if anything, I could chuckle at the sender, since her communication style is simply just that – her style. There was no brain fog and I could focus enough to get everything done.

It was a pleasant shock, actually. I hadn’t felt that calm in … well, even before Grandpa passed away I struggled with episodic depression. Throw in the pandemic, unemployment and ending an incompatible relationship, then Grandpa passing away, it was a matter of years since I last felt like a normal person.

My PA advised it would take a good one or two weeks for me to start feeling the effects, but on Day 2, I felt like a whole new person. I was calm, focused, handled stressful moments and people without any reactions and went through my day normally. That night I was able to complete some light housework one task after another, when before I would constantly interrupt myself with breaks to check my phone and scroll Instagram or YouTube. I even made a comment to Mom when we talked that day, “Is this how brains are actually supposed to function, before all the crap of real life gets in the way?”

It’s been a week and three days since I started taking my medication. My PA referred to them as something that would bring a “pep to your step” but not change my personality. So far I’m not feeling peppy, and maybe that will come with a little more time. What I am feeling is absolute calmness. I’m focused, and the frustrating moments that have popped up since Day One haven’t felt impossible or overwhelming. They just are what they are, I handle it, and then mentally move on. The world around me doesn’t feel like it’s moving at warp speed and I’m stuck trying to keep up with it or figure out what the hell is even going on in the first place. It’s just doing its thing and I’m doing mine alongside it.

Starting bupropion has brought back – and brought forth – some clarity about myself and how I view the world. I’m going to write a blog post next month and go into more details there. A part of me wants to shout the wonders of antidepressants from the rooftops right now since I’m so much better than where I was in the doctor’s office or in the parking lot. But, I’m going to wait a little bit.

Do you all remember how I said at the beginning that October is when the world really comes alive with all the bright, bold colors? In late September, I was driving home from work and cutting down a residential street. The street is the normal way I take, with mini-mansions and beautifully manicured yards lining it. Some families were walking their dogs and there were plenty of runners, most likely gearing up for Columbus. The trees were turning colors and the street was simply beautiful.

However, as I drove down it, I started sobbing. I saw beauty and life around me, and couldn’t feel any joy for it or connection to it. The colors were there but they weren’t. All I could think to myself was, Am I ever going to be happy to see Fall again? Am I ever going to feel like I’m part of the world and not just traveling through it like some ghost?

Even in early October when I was making an effort to go outside and wander, I saw beauty and color but wasn’t quite connecting to it the way I used to. I felt alive and like the old me again down in Hocking Hills on my bucket list hike, and on the way home I found myself lamenting how I can’t bottle up the hills and bring it back to Columbus with me for the crappy days.

But now that October’s coming to an end, and I finally got myself the help I’ve been needing, color is back. That first weekend on bupropion included a walk in German Village, taking in the beauty of all the colors around me. I can look out windows and see the blue reflecting off the pond behind my apartment, the little red berries standing out against the green leaves of the trees dotting the woods. The cardinals are back now that I’m filling the bird feeders again (yeah, I know) and there’s life on the patio. My home is a sanctuary again.

The transformation of October wasn’t only in the leaves. The big one was within me. It’s too bad I didn’t pursue medicine earlier, but better late than never, right?

Thank you to everyone who read today’s post to the end. Always take care of yourselves, and take it easy.

Yours in writing and life,


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