Running From Resources
When writing about running from my past, I realized that I was also running from some of the available resources. Okay, okay, you got me. I ran from ALL of the available resources to me. Thinking that I could outrun and strong-arm myself into being mentally well. We all know that it does not work. I almost wrote ‘being normal’ but what does ‘normal’ mean anyway? Exactly.
After my December 2018 almost meltdown, I felt pretty desperate to get my head above the darkness. I decided that I needed to be open to medication. I never thought I needed to be ‘medicated.’ Those medications were for other people (you know, those people over there who are really mentally ill). I am not one of ‘those people.’
I also think that in part, it was that I felt that I was somehow to blame for how I was feeling on the inside. That is a byproduct of being emotionally abused as a child and being the family scapegoat. All of the things that were wrong with the world around me were totally my fault. Since it was my fault, medication would not help.
And as it turns out, there really isn’t me and the situation. Nor is there you and the situation. We are all people. When we stop judging others, we will realize that we all are more alike than we are different. Once I did that, I was able to be open to the available options.
Origins of Medication Misconceptions
My misconceptions about antidepression medications came from my family, specifically from my mother. When I was a child, the time she spent in a mental hospital had her on a lot of medication. I was a child, so I don’t recall the specifics of what medication she was on. The medications used at the time of her hospitalization were ones like lithium. Along with others, I am sure.
I remember visiting her, and she wasn’t really there. I did not have the patience for her slowed-down speech. It was almost painful not to finish her sentences. When she got out of the hospital, she talked about not wanting to be on those drugs because they made her foggy and she couldn’t think clearly. One of the conditions of her release was that she stay on them. She was distraught by that.
I knew that I didn’t want to be like that. Not ever. To be there but not be me sounded like another level of hell, and I wanted nothing to do with that. I also remember a patient there who had schizophrenia. For some reason, she had an affinity towards me. Her family never visited her, and I think I was a bright spot in her usual dismal day. Sadly, none of the medication worked on her. Eventually, her family committed her to the state hospital. I shudder to think about what happened to her there.
Removing the Medication Misconceptions
And so, from a child’s perspective, I was looking at two opposite spectrums. On the one side is someone so medicated that they could barely function. On the other side was someone who the medications didn’t work.
Seeing that play out stayed with me for a long time. Even though throughout the years, I have learned that medications do help. Those two hospitalizations were before the development of newer, more fine-tuned medications to treat mental health.
When my husband told me that fateful day that I needed help, I realized that I would need something more in the beginning than just therapy. Therapy is still a crucial part of my healing process, but I needed something to help get me to the point that I could quiet my mind to process the things that we would talk about during therapy. And so, I decided that medication would be the route that I needed to participate in and explore.
Finding the Right Medication
I started to explore antidepressant medications by talking with a nurse practitioner at psychiatric practice. It can take about a month of being on medication to determine how you will react to it or if it will work for you. I started on a different antidepressant than the one I ended up taking. Luckily I only had to try two, with the second being the one I am still on.
I determined that within the first week that the first one was not a good fit. I couldn’t think straight. I felt like I was talking to people through a fishbowl. It also made me nauseous after sipping wine. At that time, I was still drinking. Yes, I know, alcohol and antidepressants should not be mixed. I wasn’t at the point of giving up alcohol as it was ‘the only thing that gave me happiness.’
Out went the first one, and in came sertraline (Zoloft). I imagine it like a puzzle piece fitting into the giant puzzle that is my brain. How does one fit, and the other does not? Who really knows for sure. And that is probably one of the reasons that it is so frustrating for people who are trying different medications. The first one I tried was supposed to be the one that most people do well with. I did not.
Medications Take Time
And so sertraline was the missing puzzle piece that I needed to fill in those gaps in my brain. To complete the picture, or at least, smooth the edges to start to see the big picture. It was what I needed to bring my head above the darkness so that I could focus on therapy.
Medications are not wonder drugs that will fix you forever. I know that I have thought that and still do on some occasions. I want it to be true. But it isn’t. After reading what came up in my Google searches (only articles are written or reviewed by doctors), medications to address chemical imbalances in our brains are tricky things.
We are still learning so much about the brain and the chemicals that help it to maintain balance. We are so much further than we were when my mother was in the hospital all of those years ago. For all of the scientific advancements, I am grateful for all of them. I am incredibly thankful for those who study our brains.
The next several blog posts will be taking a deeper dive into medications, specifically sertraline, because that is what I am currently taking. I want to understand how it is helping me, and lucky you, you get to come along on that journey.