I tried to come up with a clever title for this one, but I ended up with bald statement of fact: I am back on my antidepressant. My ob/gyn prescribed sertraline (generic Zoloft) a couple of years ago when I was diagnosed with PMDD (pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder.) I was experiencing a number of symptoms, both physical and mental, but the overriding one was soul-crushing sadness that came over me like a shroud every month, ten days before my period started and miraculously lifted with the first drop of blood.
I was elated at first, to have the medication. I had tried a lot of stuff – changing my diet, various supplements, yoga – nothing helped. The medication lifted the fog of depression, and I was thrilled to finally be free of it. But, as time went on, and my initial excitement over not being morosely depressed waned, I started to notice the side effects. I was tired a lot. Sertraline added to the fatigue caused by PMDD to the point where I’d fall asleep while my five year old was telling me about his day at preschool in the afternoon. With the sadness lifted, I had managed to develop some other coping mechanisms – more sleep, less caffeine, meditation – and I thought maybe I could make it without the antidepressant and get rid of being so tired.
So, I quit. At first, I was fine. I got irritable during the last half of my cycle, but I felt it was manageable. Then, one day after being off the medication for about four months, it came back. It was a Tuesday. I spent the entire morning trying not to cry. The sadness overcame me, crushing me like a boulder. I went upstairs, and, without any qualms, fished my bottle of sertraline out of the back of the bathroom cabinet and took one.
After a few days, the sadness abated. And something else happened. Jason seemed like he was in a much better mood, too, and so did the kids. During a heart-to-heart with Jason, he told me it was nice to not have me bitching at them all the time again. I hadn’t even realized. I thought I had kept a lid on my irritability, but my family had known. I had been suffering, and so had they.
The lesson: this is what I need for now. Even if I can function without meds, it’s not worth the impact it has on my loved ones to do without them. I may be a little sleepy here and there, so I’m learning to take naps, which is way better than making my family walk on eggshells, because I can’t stand any noise above a whisper ten days out of the month. Medication isn’t the only answer, or even the first one, but it’s a valid path and choice for many people who suffer from mental/emotional illness, and it is no more a matter of integrity than taking medication for a headache or cancer. If you’ve ever suffered from depression, you know you can’t just buck-up and choose to feel better any more than you can if you have the flu. My goal here is destigmatization of mental illness and antidepressants. It shouldn’t be something we have to hide, for fear of being seen as weak. Admitting I needed it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.