[Originally posted on my other blog on May 21, 2015.]
It’s been a busy winter and spring. I started a new job and have been doing lots of volunteering and other cool things, and a couple of weeks ago, I moved for the first time in six years. The new job is really good, and my new home is better than I’d even hoped. I’ve been feeling great and have only been going to therapy every four to six weeks or so and that’s been working fine. With all these positive things happening, I figured, why not start the process of weaning off my antidepressant? What need do I have for it when my life’s in great shape and I’m feeling so awesome and strong and optimistic? A little over a month ago, I saw my doctor and he cut my dosage by 30%. The plan was to stay there for a couple of months to let my body adjust, then cut the dose again, and so on. The couple of weeks were tough…nausea, dizziness, and that generally lousy hungover feeling that I remember well from prior experiences with antidepressants. Work was stressful during those same couple of weeks and I noticed that I felt more irritable and easily frustrated, but that’s to be expected. It takes time for your brain to remember how to handle things without the drugs, or with less of them. No big deal. Then I had to pack for my move, and hey, moving is stressful! Nobody likes packing their entire life into boxes and then promptly emptying them someplace else. Yuck. So, I mean, not a big deal that was crying kind of a lot during that time. And my anxiety was skyrocketing and I was self-medicating by drinking a lot. And wanting to do nothing but sleep 24 hours a day. And thinking dark panicky thoughts about how nothing was going to be okay and somehow the bottom was about to drop out of my life and I’d end up sleeping at the nearest bus stop.
The move went as well as those things ever go. I’m in my new place and it’s beautiful and just feels like me. So with that ordeal out of the way and things calming down at the office, I was all set to get back to feeling awesome because the stressors were gone.
But I didn’t.
Last Sunday, I felt exhausted and numb. Totally fine, I thought. My parents were here that weekend and we were really busy putting the finishing touches on my place, hanging curtains and such. I drank a bottle of wine while watching Sunday night TV and had a crying jag that lasted about an hour, but whatever, sometimes a girl’s gotta cry it out for a minute or sixty.
Monday, I rolled out of bed. Literally rolled. Then I sat on my bedroom floor in the dark for a solid ten minutes willing myself to get up. Cried a little more. Made it to the shower. Somehow got to work and clocked my eight hours even though I felt like I was going to burst into tears at any moment and my attention span was so shot that it took me all day to do about 30 minutes’ worth of work because I couldn’t hold a thought in my head. I went home and got straight into my pajamas and laid motionless on the couch, feeling like my head and arms weighed a thousand pounds and doing anything but lying there was simply too much. At bedtime, I started crying again because the prospect of washing my face and brushing my teeth was so overwhelming. So I brushed my teeth but left the makeup (I’d cried most of it off anyway).
I woke up Tuesday morning and I pried open my mascara-gummed eyelids and discovered that I physically couldn’t get out of bed. If you’ve never been depressed, this sounds like a bunch of lazy bullshit, but I swear to whatever gods there may be that this is an actual thing. When you’re depressed, there is something about first thing in the morning that is absolutely hellish. You swim up out of sleep and open your eyes and your brain starts working and you remember how you hate yourself and your life and how everyone else hates you too, and getting up and going out into the world is only going to reinforce that knowledge, so just stay the hell in bed. Nope, your body says. We’re staying here. Go back to sleep, asshole, because YOUR nightmare begins when you wake UP. And your limbs and your head throb and ache and weigh six tons a piece anyway so bitch, please, like you’re EVEN leaving the house today.
I called in sick. I slept until 10 am and then got up and trudged to the couch and proceeded to lie there instead for a couple of hours, staring at the TV. Then I fell asleep for another 4 or 5 hours. Woke up and cried for a while and thought about how I wished I were dead. Slept some more. Woke up and made myself eat something that I normally love but tasted like sand to me. Then I went to bed.
The funny thing is, it wasn’t until Monday that it even occurred to me that I might be relapsing. I know perfectly well what my triggers and symptoms are, and I brushed them off for a solid month. How could I be relapsing when I hadn’t even stopped my medication, but only reduced it? Don’t be ridiculous.
I didn’t feel better yesterday but pure guilt made me drag myself to work. I spent the whole day in near-tears again (and in actual tears a few times, in the bathroom) and barely got anything done. By this point, my depression monster was roaring in my head. I’m back, motherfucker! Miss me? (My depression monster is a smug son of a bitch.) You are horrible and your life is horrible and you really should just die already. You’ve got twenty Vicodin and a bottle of vodka at home–don’t act like you aren’t thinking about it, you useless, sniveling twat.
Perhaps, I thought, I should put in a call to my psychiatrist.
So here I am, about to go to bed, and tomorrow morning I’ll wake up and take my full dosage of Cymbalta. And I’ll probably cry, because why wouldn’t I at this point, and I’ll feel like an epic failure even though I know that’s nonsense. My brain needs what my brain needs and I don’t control that. My life is still positive and good and the work I’ve done to make it that way wasn’t in vain. Maybe I pushed too soon to start tapering off my meds. Neither of my mental health professionals thought so, though. I feel tempted to wallow, and quite honestly, I’ve been hard-core wallowing all week, because at this point it’s basically impossible to imagine a point in my future when I’m not going to be terrified of relapse. The sinister thing about depression is that the more episodes you have in the course of your life, the more likely you are to keep having more. So at this point, statistically it’s far more likely that I will relapse than that I won’t. I don’t know how to live with that. I don’t know how to live with the fear that, unless I resign myself to being on medication for the rest of my life, someday I will relapse and maybe there will be a day that I’m just a tiny bit more worn down, just a tiny bit more tired and fed up with this thing, and my depression monster will be just a tiny bit louder than it’s ever been so far, and then it’s lights out. I don’t have words for that particular fear. If it scares you just to read it, take a minute to think about what it’s like to carry it around.
Depression Me sucks and says scary things. I’m sorry about that. A very kind person told me today that I’m a bright light in her life. And I hate feeling like that light is out, so tomorrow I take the damn pills and get myself back on track. If I need pharmaceuticals to keep myself functioning in the world, then I’m going to take them. I’m an adult and I have this problem and it’s my job to address it, so I will. And maybe when I’m feeling better I’ll be grossed-out by these dramatics and not feel as scared as I do now. Maybe. But let’s get me there first.
Fall down seven times, the saying goes. Stand up eight.