I was in my late twenties when I first started hearing the word “Depression” from my doctor. They brought it up at almost every visit but didn’t prescribe anything for it until my early thirties. This was in the early ’90s, and yes, the stigma of having any mental illness made you cringe when you thought that such a diagnosis would find it’s way into your medical files. So I balked at the thought of my being depressed and just pushed it off as exhaustion. I was simply tired, too tired, for everything going on in my life. I convinced myself that it couldn’t be Depression because I didn’t want to kill myself. This was something my mother battled, not me. I was the strong one. I wasn’t depressed.
I have written before about how at the age of fifteen, I did want to kill myself and even tried a half-hearted attempt. I think what stopped me from succeeding was as someone born and raised in a strict religious household, I was scared of the consequences of suicide. In the bible, it says that someone who commits suicide cannot enter Heaven. I was a strong enough believer to not want to go to Hell for killing myself. That fear saved my life on more than one occasion. Even at that time in my life if you had asked me if I was depressed I most likely would have told you no. I lived in denial of so many aspects of my life, for so long, I believed my own lies.
I was finally prescribed medicine for my depression when I was thirty, maybe thirty-one. A lot happened in my early thirties so the timeline is a bit fuzzy. I became a member of The Prozac Nation. The doctor prescribed me the drug Prozac and it did help. I was still tired of life but I didn’t care anymore. Prozac wrapped me up into a nice fluffy cocoon and kept all the bad emotions away. My friends and relatives noticed my change in mood and they seemed to think it was for the better. This would not be the only depression medication that made me feel this way. What I didn’t realize at the time was that not feeling my emotions and dealing with them was causing something to grow within me. Something that would rear it’s ugly head shortly after my Dad’s death.
One of the emotions that Prozac stifled in me was my anger. I have always had a slow burn temper, that when set off burned bright and then died away. While taking my miracle pill, I didn’t have any temper flares, I did, however, have mini breakdowns where life would seem too much to bear and I would feel like I was going to shatter into a million pieces. All a result of holding my anger in, burying it deep, thinking it was gone. It wasn’t. It was just waiting, percolating into something far uglier. Rage.
The first time I felt the rage rising to the surface, I pushed it back down. The deep-set anger scared me so much my old friend denial came out to play. IT was just a momentary thing, it wasn’t anything to worry about. Deep in my thoughts though I knew that it was only a matter of time before it resurfaced. I was scared of what I would do when it did. I began to live in fear of it being triggered. Being wrapped up in cotton didn’t seem like such a good idea anymore. I brought my concerns up to the doctors but at the time I was going to a clinic and never saw the same doctor twice. One of the unfortunate side effects of not having any medical insurance and not making enough money to buy any. I was just thankful that there was a free clinic in our town.
The first time I let some of my rage out was when my Dad died. Most would think that this was a normal part of the grieving process but it was more. I was truly devastated by my Dad’s passing. I felt betrayed, scared, and alone. I had never lost someone very close to me. I had lost my grandfather when I was four so I never really knew him. I also lost one of my favorite uncles when I was eighteen but once again we hadn’t been close. My Dad was a very important part of my life and now he was gone forever. My tears were of pain and rage that he had been taken instead of my Mom. I know. Why would I wish my Mom gone in place of my Dad? That was because I had always been closer to my Dad and my Mom had been sick all of my life. In my mind, she should have gone first, but fate had other plans.
One instance of my rage breaking free during this time was when I told my Mom how I felt. I still remember the stunned and hurt look on her face. I honestly to this day still feel no sorrow in causing it. If I really want to look deep inside my rage still burns at the loss of my Dad twenty years later. I was a thirty-two-year-old adult but at that time I felt like a small child left bereft without the most important person in my life.
After I shoved my rage back into the box so to speak, I went on with life. I left the state I was born in and traveled around a thousand miles away to a new home and job. I completely left my safe zone for the unknown. I did this without my Dad just a phone call away. It was the most scary thing I had ever done in my life. It was the right move to make though because it put distance between me and the city where every place I went reminded me of my grief. It removed me from the well-meaning people who had loved and respected my Dad, constantly stopping me to ask how I was holding up. How do you say day in and day out that you are fine when inside you feel like your life is over?
We had moved to take jobs to help out a friend. He was having trouble finding employees he could trust with some important clients and he had come to my husband and me with a request for help. It came at the right time and so we relocated a month after my Dad passed. I went from living in a small town of about twenty-two thousand people to a major city with millions of people. Talk about culture shock. The first month I was there I couldn’t drive because the expressways caused me to have panic attacks. I had never been in any place with so much traffic. I had never seen rush hour traffic. As I said it was a shock. Eventually, I braved the roads and the rest is history.
We stayed down in Houston for six months almost to the day we left. My husband and I decided with both of our Grandmother’s in poor health that it was time to go home. It turned out to be a good decision because we lost both within a year of each other. The next phase of my life was beginning. I wish I had had some warning of how life would flip me upside down within such a short time.
It was during this time that my rage bubbled to the surface and almost cost me dearly. I was working in a sales position and anyone who has worked with the public knows that the old adage of “the customer is always right” isn’t always the case. On one particular afternoon, I had a customer arguing with me and he kept getting closer and pointing his finger in my face. The only thing protecting me was a counter between us. It was at this moment when my rage erupted and I started over the counter to attack the customer. Talk about a cold splash of water in your face. As quickly as it started it was gone when I realized what I was doing. The customer was shaken enough that he left the store without another word. It was that day I knew that I needed to do something or I would end up in jail or worse.
I made an appointment with the doctor that day and thus began my journey into the game of Russian Roulette that those of us with Mental Illness must play to find the right medicine to aid us in our everyday lives. I say it is like the game because finding the right medicines for your diagnosis is like pulling the trigger never knowing if you will survive the action. So far I have been on at least four different medications with varied strengths. I have learned to ask family members to watch me whenever a medication is changed or a different strength adjustment is made. I sometimes don’t notice a change until I have done something that wakes me up or scares me.
As with Prozac, I have taken medication that fuels my rage, while one didn’t affect me at all. It was like I wasn’t taken anything but a placebo. Which is a discussion for a different post? Doctors like to use people with mental issues as guinea pigs. You never know if what they are prescribing is the real deal or just a sugar pill in disguise. Well not until you slip into a dark depression wondering why you don’t just end all of your sufferings as well as relieving your family of the burden you feel you are to them.
I feel like it has reached the time again to have a discussion with my doctor. I voiced some concerns for my medication and how my anxiety was rearing its ugly head and she decided to double my prescription. I went to one of my specialists and they were surprised by the dosage that I am taking saying they had never seen it prescribed with that high a dosage. No surprise that I am living in an unfeeling cocoon again. I noticed something was off when it hit me that even with the feelings I felt towards my Mom I have not cried since before she died. I feel nothing. I can’t even cry during movies that always leave me a blubbering mess. It is definitely time for a medication adjustment.
The last medication adjustment before she raised my current medication was to add an anxiety pill. That didn’t go over well. It was one of those that causes the rage to explode out of me and in the process someone I love got hurt. I feel the pain so deep for causing them injury that I would love to cry about it but I can’t. Sometimes I consider just stopping all my depression and anxiety medication and see if I can live without them. I know that that will cause a new host of problems so I just keep trying to find the magic mixture that will let me live a normal life.
I know others who suffer from Depression and or other Mental illnesses deal with the same problem. If you are one who has been shaking your head yes to my rambling let me know about your battles and what you have done to conquer the old stigmas and live a normal, well normal for us, life. Leave me a comment below. As always if you are considering suicide or any form of self-harm, there are people out there willing to listen. All it takes is a phone call. (insert suicide hotline) I leave you with this final thought. Remember to love fully and laugh often, sometimes they are the best medicine.