20 || MEDs: some neat shit
Okay I know it’s been a long ass minute since I’ve written one of these. I’ve been working on an essay that I promise will make up for all the lost time (hopefully). I feel like it’s tradition to ask you how you’re doing. Fine, I hope? I realize these letters usually put you somewhere between the age of five to eighteen, so really you could be just about anywhere doing anything right now. I’m going to put you in middle school because, quite frankly, dad sent a bunch of photos the other day that really reminded me why some looks are better left dead in a ditch, and I NEED to talk about it.
I think you’re about twelve in them. There’s one in particular that just really is a blessing. You’ve got an African wood-carved necklace and your corndog shirt (yes, it’s just a shirt that says “corndog”), with your DKNY thin framed square glasses, bangs that have no idea what fucking direction they’re going in and a face full of acne (although, unfortunately, you don’t outgrow that. Your skin is an asshole. Sorry).
I say all this not just to talk about how fucking hilarious it is (it is though), but to put in perspective how far you’re going to go. Not just physically – although thankfully you do discover straighteners and just about literally everything else that makes you presentable – but mentally too. You’re going to be a mess for a long time and not really know why. Even when you clean up externally, internally you’re going to be like a tornado had a baby with a hurricane.
This shit is really hard to write, so just bear with me here.
When you’re nineteen, you’ll be put on Zoloft, an antidepressant to treat your Major Depressive Disorder. It will help your lows, but not really. Mostly, it will make you kind of insane. You’ll eventually explain that to your then psychiatrist who will move you over to a low dose of Lexapro when you’re twenty-three. Like Zoloft, it will sort of help, but also make you kind of nuts. Finally, when you’re twenty-four, you’ll get a new psychiatrist who will put you on mood stabilizers. They will change your life.
I’ve been cautious to talk about medication because I think, for a lot of people, it becomes the defining mark between a bout of depression and a serious mental illness. In fact, you’ll have a friend who claims that they don’t want to even consider medication for their debatably pretty bad anxiety because if they did that would be admitting they actually have a problem.
Realistically, they probably won’t mean that, but you will still want to punch them in the head. You will not. Again, mood stabilizers – life changing.
I want something to be very painfully clear about medication: needing it is not admitting defeat. It doesn’t mean you’ve failed. It doesn’t mean you can’t do shit on your own. It doesn’t mean any of that. It means that you’re trying to take care of yourself because the work you’ve done to get to where you are just isn’t quite doing it. FOR NOW.
Many psychiatrists who suggest medication don’t necessarily suggest it as a permanent solution and they will NEVER suggest it without therapy as the primary fix. You will know many people who go on meds and once they’re good, go off. In your case, I imagine it will permanent because your problem is chemical and there’s not much you can do about changing that. But maybe not. Maybe one day therapy will be enough. I don’t know yet.
Listen, I’m not going to sugarcoat it. It’s not an exact science that always works. I’m currently being weened off Lexapro and it’s a bit of a nightmare. It finally dipped its way out of my system three days ago and let me tell you, I have been depressed as all hell since. I won’t go into the details, but it’s a giant bummer. That means that maybe this isn’t the time in my life to make that change and so I’m going to have to take up that conversation with my psychiatrist, but again, that’s okay.
In all truth, once you’re on meds, it’s not always the easiest to get off of them. But many many people do it all the time and it works. It. WORKS. If they needed it, they’re thankful they did it and they’re thankful they don’t need it anymore.
I don’t want you to be scared of it. I don’t want you to think it means you’re not tough enough to fight this shit off on your own. I don’t want you to think it makes you weaker than those who don’t need it or who have chosen not to talk to their therapist about the possibility. I don’t want you to think this is the pharmaceutical industry being corrupt shitheads and taking advantage of you (because yes, they are absolutely corrupt shitheads).
But more than anything, I really don’t want you to think that taking medication means there’s something wrong with you.
All your life, you will think there is something wrong with you. That at your core you aren’t good enough. That you’re not a good person. That you have no control over who you are. You’ll behave in a lot of shitty ways, yeah. You’ll be a demon and you will hate yourself for it. You will lose the trust of a lot of people you love and it will hurt like shit. You will eventually think that maybe there’s simply no way to survive it.
I told that to my therapist recently and she did manage to pull one comforting thing out of it. She said, “For all the chaos you’ve caused externally, it’s only a fraction of the chaos that’s been inside your head. You have to apologize to others, but you also have to apologize to yourself. You’ve been in the lowest depths of hell for a long time.”
Mood stabilizers are the first time in YOUR ENTIRE LIFE that you will feel normal. They will literally save you. They will make you feel like you have a fighting chance. You won’t be so reactive. You’re going to live with a lot of guilt from decisions you made before you were properly treated, but you’re going to have to forgive yourself because you’re not that person anymore.
So, as you get to this point in your life, I hope you know that I know that you’ve tried your best along the way. I know these letters are always so preachy and forcefully in your face, that I always seem to have some new lesson to teach you that makes me sound like a broken record because I’ve said some similar version of it before, because in reality I have no idea what the hell I’m doing. But this is different. This is a light at the end of the tunnel.
I promise you.
In the meantime, get yourself that straightener and maybe some face wash. It will do you good.
I love you,