Go ask me: so, about the pills

I received an email a couple of weeks ago that posed the following question: knowing everything I know now, would I still have started down the medication road?


I have been thinking and thinking about this. Was I too hasty, starting on Prozac? Should I have explored other therapies? Tried to get my nutrition in order? Worked on becoming more active, getting more sunshine, found a spiritual community, taken herbs, gotten a good old-fashioned exorcism? Before I launched into this weird and side-effects-filled journey?

I first took Prozac when I was 27. I had been in therapy for years. No amount of talking seemed to shrug off the consistently low mood I had fought for as long as I could remember. I had anxiety and panic attacks, as well; these began when I was a teenager.

The worst part of my feeling awful was that there was no reason for it, as far as I could see. I had a boyfriend who was funny and loving and supportive (I later married him). I had a fun job working with people I loved. I had plenty of friends. I had therapied myself until there were no more issues to unearth and discuss. There was nothing that I could use to blame for my constant misery. At some point, when my therapist suggested for the 93rd time that I think about medication, I listened.

My first psychiatrist was weird. Off-the-charts weird. He giggled when he talked about the sexual side effects of certain medications. I remain mystified as to why people like that go into psychiatry. Nonetheless, he was thorough. He ordered a complete blood workup to see if there were any underlying physical issues. When it was confirmed that I was in full working order, except for my malfunctioning thought processes, he prescribed Prozac.

A few days after I began the Prozac, I woke up one morning, and I felt fine.

Here's the thing: up until that day, I had never felt fine. Not ever. I didn't know what "fine" was. I thought I did; I thought there were periods when I thought I was doing quite well. I thought the Prozac was treating a relatively recent development in my emotional state. And then I woke up that day, and I realized that this was normal, and this was how I was supposed to feel all the time. And it was utterly, utterly new to me.

It was as if I had spent my entire life hearing a constant thrumming sound in the background, a percussive rhythm that became part of the fabric of my life. And then I woke up to silence, and I had no idea what silence was. And I could think, without all that noise.

Well! I proceeded to call all of my friends. I couldn't get enough of this feeling. This being fine was a miracle! Who knew? Was everyone else like this? Did everyone else get to experience what I was experiencing? I practically skipped out of my house that morning. I'm sure I was unbearable for a while, there. I don't think I cared even the tiniest little bit.

That was 15 years ago, and if I had been smart, I would have never messed with the prescription I was on, but the records show that I am not always smart. About a year later, although things were going swimmingly, I decided to stop taking Prozac, and then I relapsed. And I began it again, and stopped again, the then another relapse. This happened four times. Meanwhile I switched psychiatrists (I just couldn't take the giggling) and my new doc for some reason just desperately wanted me to be bipolar. She put me on all kinds of bipolar meds that made me ill, and then I found a smarter doctor, and the bipolar diagnosis was quickly scrapped.

Here I am now, back on Prozac. I've read a lot about depression in the ensuing years, and one thing I learned is that if you have more than 3 or 4 relapses, you probably shouldn't ever go off the medication. If you've read my last few posts about my depression and the medication adjustments, you know that I had another relapse while on Prozac, which was (for me) unprecedented, and worrisome, to say the least. Thus the new drug, Remeron, which didn't take. So now I'm only on Prozac, again, and right now I'm back to feeling fine. Which is a feeling I love with all my heart.

As for my relapse-on-Prozac, I think I leaned on the medication a little too hard, and as a result let my diet and self-care slip because, after all, I had the drugs to keep me well. This is like a person being on cholesterol medication and eating bacon and ice cream sundaes every night. In the past six months I've been completely overhauling my diet, in addition to making sleep a high priority, both in quality and quantity. (Mmm, quantity.) I'll get into the food stuff in a later post, as I see this post is getting too long for its own good.

So: with everything I've been through, would I still have gone on medication? In a heartbeat. Medication was, for me, a tremendous gift. I got to see what relief felt like. And when I lost that relief, I knew what I could have again. I knew exactly what I was aiming for.