My history with anti-depressants

Today I am joining Julia for her new Mental Health Monday Series. It is so important that we keep the conversation surrounding mental health open and ongoing. It hasn’t always been easy to talk about my own battles with mental health, but I have become increasingly more aware of the importance of doing so.

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As I have discussed in many blog posts before, I am recovered from anorexia and depression and have been for a few years. Today I am talking about something I haven’t before- the role of antidepressants in my recovery. Of course, keep in mind that I am not speaking from the point of view of a medical professional, simply from my own experience.

If I had to summarize briefly how I feel about antidepressants I’d say “they saved my life.” Did they make my life perfect? No. Did they take away all my problems? No again. They did, however, make me feel normal again.

I remember clearly the doctor prescribing me Prozac for the first time. I was 15 and staying in the hospital at the time, it was my first anorexia-related stay. I asked him, “will I have to be on this for a long time?” He said sometimes people do, sometimes they do not. I was worried. Taking a mood stabilizing pill of any kind seemed very foreign to my 15-year old self. I was worried the pill would somehow change me. He said something about how the chemical imbalances in my brain had to be corrected. I was too depressed to care or ask questions. Take a pill? Whatever.

Clinical depression is difficult to explain to someone who has never experienced it… it’s like a cold, dark blanket that covers life and makes everything seem dark. No matter what direction I turned, I was still in the dark, feeling hopeless every time I bumped into something. The blanket stayed over me no matter which way I went. If I was with friends, alone in my room, watching a funny movie, at a football game it didn’t matter. No matter where I was I still felt like I was being blocked off and alone. The feeling of joy was a distant memory. Depression put me in a deep dark hole and anorexia kept me there.

The effects of Prozac worked slowly. Jokes started to seem funny again. I didn’t struggle to look people in the eye or  mumble when I spoke. I could speak about my feelings. I had feelings other than sadness and despair. While I wouldn’t say I was happy, I saw happiness as a real possibility.

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By 17, my life was much better. I didn’t feel so controlled by the eating disorder and I was hanging out with friends again. I did notice something else that was strange, however. I literally never cried. Never, not even when I felt like I was supposed to. On the other side, I also felt there was a limit to my happiness. It was like I was a soda bottle that was shaken. I fizzed on the inside with emotions, both good and bad, but the cap never came off. I never felt the true heights of what I thought I should. My therapist explained that numbness was a common side effect of Prozac. Prozac could produce zombies. While numbness beat depression, I was relieved to know there were other antidepressants I could try. The doctor switched me to Lexapro, which helped me to feel more, but not so much that I relapsed to depression.

Prozac to Lexapro to Wellbutrin, various dosages with all their own side effects.

Every now and then I would start to question myself. Should I be taking this medication? What if it was making me someone I wasn’t? What if I should actually be overemotional, sad, or mean? What if that was who I truly was?

When I would voice these concerns to my therapist, she would remind me that the purpose of the pills was to normalize me. Not to make me unusually happy, but to level the playing field.

After eight years on the anti-depressants, I started to feel like it might be time to try living without them. Life had been really good. I was completely free from anorexia, in a stable, supportive relationship, almost done with school, and genuinely happy.

Honestly, I was scared to try after a blotched attempt my senior year of college. I had tried to wean off them with the help of a doctor right before the semester ended and I got married. It was a disaster. I couldn’t concentrate, I cared about nothing, and I felt rage like never before. In the end decided it wasn’t worth it. Additionally my therapist explained to me that withdrawal can seem a lot like symptoms of depression. Yikes. How would I know which one it was? Would I want to put Terry through that?

Late in the spring, after several appointments with my therapist discussing the pros and cons of coming off antidepressants, I decided I would try again. If I didn’t have to, I didn’t want to be on them for the rest of my life. I’m happy to report that I am doing quite well. I don’t feel much different at all (thank you God). Would I go back to the medication if I felt myself starting to relapse? With a doctor’s help, absolutely. To me, correcting a chemical imbalance that makes life miserable is worth it. I still struggle with some anxiety, but it is mostly situation orientated, thankfully. My therapist worked with me to find some techniques to help me work through it.
I realize people don’t usually talk about the medications they take, so we can often feel alone taking them. If you take a little white pill everyone morning, it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Aren’t we so blessed to live at time where we can have help feeling normal again? We don’t have to live under a blanket of darkness. Also, I don’t think the medication would have been nearly as effective without therapy and prayer alongside it. I think the medication primed me to discover joy again. The medication didn’t give me joy or recovery, but it made them an option.

Let’s talk- let me hear your thoughts!

Top 3 Friday #10

Hello friends!

It’s time for another Top 3 Friday. As you may have noticed, I was unable to transfer my posts from my old site. When I made the attempt, only part of it was imported. Rather than fighting it, I decided to start fresh. My favorite posts and recipes can still be found under “Favorites” and “Recipes.” The links go to my old blog. And I know it’s looking rather plan around here. While I prefer a simplistic look, over the weekend I plan to play around with a new logo! Here’s hoping my not so artistic self comes up with something.

Lastly, the Top 3 link-up will begin next week, Friday the 27th!! I’m expecting it to grow slowly, but I am so excited- I love reading your take on the top 3 concept! Now, on to my last (hopefully) lonely top 3 post.

Top 3 Eats

  1. Mellow mushroom: I had a delicious lunch with my girlfriends on Wednesday- Greek salad and a slice of spinach pizza. I love their lunch deals. Funny enough, we all ordered the Greek salad thinking someone else would want our olives. Nope- officially the worst food ever ;). But the feta made it all bettah!
  2. Chipotle: I was so very lucky to get a BOGO text from Chipotle, so obviously Terry and I had to go ASAP. I had a doctor’s appointment in Charleston, so after that we went to the one of King Street and did a bit of people puppy watching while we ate. I ordered my usual- veggie salad with white rice, faijta veggies, black beans, corn (the best!), guac, cheese, and spicy salsa on the side. 
  3. Watermelon: IT’S BACK!!! I picked on up on Sunday and managed to make it last until Thursday!  

Top 3 Lows

  1. Setting up a site is so very frustrating! I realize Bluehost is a business, but so many times when I asked for help it seemed like they just wanted to sell me things I didn’t need. And then all the tech stuff. It is a challenge, no doubt.
  2. Neglecting to return library books and having a late fee…. life happens?
  3. Being the least motivated house organizer ever. I realize I’m the “domestikated life” and all, but can I be real? Cleaning is so far from my favorite thing to do. I so badly wish I had that “need to clean” attitude so many of you have, but I’m just a “don’t let things get gross or unsanitary” kind of person. Right now I have piles of random stuff all over the place! Halp.

Top 3 Highs

  1. Extra time with Terry. This has to be my favorite perk of no school. We’ve enjoyed lunches together, gone for long walks, explored stores, played disc golf, and watched movies late into the night and it’s been so enjoyable. I’m reminded everyday how cool it is to live with my best friend! 
  2. Great runs. During all of my runs this week I’ve felt really strong. I’m experiencing a little bit of upper leg pain, but once I get moving it goes away. I did a sprint workout last night that made me realize how far I’ve come! 
  3. Bowling night with friends. Terry and I went bowling with another couple and we had a blast. They were having a bingo game going on where they played music from various eras and you marked the song on your card. None of us won but it was fun to hear music from the 90s/80s/70s. 

Top 3 Instagrams

^ Friday night dinner inspiration!

Top 3 Articles

Things you should know about amenorrhea via The Real Life RD

How to be okay gaining weight via ImmaEatThat

^Have I told you that those two girls are much like what I aspire to be as an RD?

Mental Health Monday via Drops of Jules

^Not really an “article”, but something I’m excited for! Read about Julia’s new link-up- I’m pumped to contribute on Monday.

Now your turn- top highs and/or lows?

Choosing my surroundings

Welcome to my new site! It is still under construction (I have a lot to learn), but I decided to go ahead and go live. All of my old posts can still be read at thedomestikatedlife.wordpress.com. Let me know if it gives you any issues!

All throughout high school (and sometimes college) who you choose as friends is limited. You likely make friends with the people in your classes. Sure, you may not have a lot in common, but it’s mostly about convenience.
When you become an adult, making friends becomes a little a lot harder. There is no longer a pool of people who have the same schedule as you. You likely don’t play on a team or sing in a choir where you can meet like minded people. The people you meet can be somewhat limited to where you spend your time the most.

As adult you have the freedom to be more choosy about your friends. If you meet someone you jive with, you have the option of nourishing the relationship. As I’ve come to learn, having close relationships with other girls is important to my well-being.

With that said, the other day I was reminded of how important it is to pick friends who actually are indeed better for your well-being. Not all friends are created equal. Here is a simple example. There is no denying that many women like to talk about their body (usually their dislike of it) or whatever diet they are currently trying. One day recently I had just enjoyed a delicious cupcake. No one said anything negative to me, but someone did mention how they personally were trying to stay away from the “junk” with a bikini body being the motivator. While this is very normal for a woman in our society to say, I found it almost jarring.

For a brief moment after this was said, I felt guilty over eating the cupcake. I didn’t have those feelings while eating it- it was rather enjoyable and made me happy. I’m sure the words spoken weren’t meant to make me feel bad, usually when people make comments like that it is truly something personal they are reflecting. I countered the statement with something like “I prefer to honor cravings not resist them”, but I think only the air heard me.

Thinking back on it later, I realized that the statement stood out to me because I don’t surround myself with people who talk that way. The friends I’ve chosen don’t engage in fat talk or diet talk. They don’t make each other feel bad for their food choices. Because those are the kind of people I surround myself with, I think I’ve almost forgotten that this isn’t usually the norm.

When I worked in an office of ladies, I would hear diet talk constantly. In the beginning, it made me reflect inwardly and question my own food choices. However, as I cultivated relationships with people who didn’t talk like that, I began to feel stronger and less bothered when I was within ear reach of such talk. Eventually, I wouldn’t think inwardly, but just feel sad. Sad that people would spend so much energy and focus on having the perfect diet or perfect body.

While making friends as an adult can be challenging, it really is quite the opportunity. You have the option to not surround yourself with people who bring you down. If you start to get negative vibes from a group of people, you can choose to spend less time with them. I’m not suggesting that you ditch your friends, but perhaps be proactive about the conversations you have. Then again, maybe it is time to let go of the toxic environment you’re in.  My younger self probably would not have been brave enough to counter the negative self talk, but now my own self-confidence has pushed me to do so.

If you want to have the biggest influence on your friends, you have to practice self-love yourself. Other people have to see that it is okay to feel good about yourself, enjoy food without guilt, believe that you can do things, not feel pressured to be someone you’re not, etc. If you have in you, don’t let those things go unseen.

Just like choosing friends, choosing the blogs you read is important too. Read here for how I choose the blogs I read!

Do the people around you contribute to your well-being? 

Thanks Amanda for the link-up today.