All my life I've dealt with depression and anxiety, but this winter I shattered from it. I got to the point where I could no longer function. Getting out of bed was a massive effort, dealing with people was painful, and I was wracked with constant panic attacks. The trigger for all this fun was my job. It was stressful enough on it's own, but the cherry on top was our office moving to the 24th floor of a new building in Seattle. I have an absolutely irrational, but crippling fear of heights and this new environment sent me spiraling down. I lost the ability to be productive at work. I spent most of my time so consumed by panic attacks and nausea that it was difficult to leave the bathroom or concentrate on the meetings I was supposed to be attending. I needed help, but I had no idea where to turn. Thankfully, a dear friend of mine who'd dealt with her own anxiety opened up to me about her recent experience with antidepressants. She told me it had changed her life. I called my doctor the next day.
I was first prescribed Prozac and I lasted one hellish week on it. If you've never taken an antidepressant before, the first month or so is a weaning on period. You get very little to no benefits of the medication, but can experience all sorts of fun and thrilling side effects as your body adjusts. I was bed bound with intense nausea, massive headaches, and the ever joyful never ending panic attack. Seriously, who knew a medication to stop panic attacks could actually cause them?! I can only explain that week as one where I truly wanted to crawl out of my skin and die. I threw in the towel after a week and felt like a failure. Like I was so broken that nothing could fix me.
After a couple more weeks and some prodding from my (amazing) doctor I decided to try a baby dose of Zoloft to see if the side effects would be less intense. Thankfully they were. While I still felt nauseous and tired, the intense panic attacks didn't return. It took months of slowly increasing my dosage, therapy, counseling, and endless doctor appointments, but it was worth it.
I've never felt happy in my life. Sure, I've had moments where I was temporarily happy, but my personality and general attitude towards life has never been bubbly, smily, or anything near happy. I would have called myself dark and twisty (Grey's Anatomy reference). Had I known years ago that all I needed to feel complete and whole was a little extra serotonin, I would have ordered a lifetime supply. Taking medication for my anxiety and depression has been life changing.
I want to talk publicly about it because I wish someone had told me sooner. I wish our society didn't stigmatize mental illness the way it does. I wish we didn't view taking medication as a weakness. We don't tell someone with diabetes that they are weak for taking insulin, so why does someone with depression get beat down for wanting to fix their serotonin imbalance. "Toughing it out" and "getting over it" don't work. I'll get off my soap box for now, but I want to say if you are dealing with a mental illness know there is support out there. There is a community of people out there to guide and help you. You are worth it.