Most of you know that I was quite seriously depressed for much of the last few years. I struggled a lot to stay off medication, and then, once I decided to take it, served as my own guinea pig in the search for the right prescription. I would equate that experience to being on a roller coaster car that you feel quite certain will fly off the track and catapult into space at any time. The ups and downs took my breath away, they sped my heart rate up, made me very light-headed, and they made me feel batshit crazy. Although I suffered from melancholy from a young age, I also scorned psychiatric medicine and talk therapy as crutches for the weak. This was in the days before absolutely everyone began to talk about mental illness. Now, many people will share their issues with you, or perhaps even write articles or blogs about them, as I am doing here. Certainly, these days, among my peers, there is no shame in talking to a counselor. Use of psychotropic medication is far more accepted (this last is something I am more conflicted about). Nevertheless, it was in law school, when stress and misery made it impossible for me to stop crying, that I first took an anti-depressant. Since then, I have played the back-and-forth game, going on and off medication and therapy.
At one point, about a year ago, I believed I would never get better because nothing was working for me. I accepted the idea of taking medication for the rest of my life because it seemed the only option. Somehow I arrived at the conclusion that instead of trying to deny depression, I should accept it, and “own” it.
In the end, this only made things worse. I was defining myself as a depressed person. This horrible sickness became who I was. And the truth is, I am so much more than that. Depression is not me. It is not you. Your beliefs about life create your life, essentially. If you believe deeply in something, does it not make sense that your life would reflect this?
So, is depression something that can be cured? If so, can it be done without medication? I think the answer is very complex. More than that, I think we each have our own answer. It seems funny to talk about getting better without medication. Trust me, when I was in the dark throes of it, it sounded like complete bullshit to hear people going on about how medication is bad and you shouldn’t need to depend on it. Nevertheless, I hope that medication is not the final answer for-and let me emphasize this-ME. Every case is unique. Some people need it. I needed it in the past, because I had no other real coping mechanism. To some degree, I still need it.
I could go on for awhile about my views on depression, but that is not what I want to dwell on. Not anymore. In describing this history, I want only to share it with anyone who might want or need to hear it. In the second part of this blog, I will talk about the much happier and lighter subject of getting better. I also do not want to convey that I am completely “cured”. I think it’s a struggle for all of us to keep up our spirits. But, I have made strides toward happiness and contentment that I did not believe possible, and this gives me faith that it could be possible for anyone, given the right circumstances.