It’s been over 3 months since I went off my antidepressant. It’s a tricky thing to do, trying to tell why you feel the way you do, trying to figure out readjusting brain chemistry. You have to look for the bigger pattern and it can take time for it to become clear.
Now that I’m 3 months out I can definitely see some of the pattern. You may have noticed, too. The last few months, especially October, my blog was a huge downer because my LIFE was a huge downer. I know weaning off my meds would be tricky no matter when I did it, but unfortunately I did it at the same time that things got very stressful financially. (And, you know, there’s the whole life thing involving working 3 jobs, mothering 2 special-needs kids, navigating life as a single parent, and all that jazz.)
Honestly, I felt a lot of things over the last few months, I definitely didn’t lack in emotion, but mostly I felt downtrodden. I felt oppressed. I felt burdened. I felt like I really did walk around with a gray cloud over my head. That was the hardest part. It wasn’t depression, I’ve felt that. It was just being down in the dumps every day. It was a bad mood that just wouldn’t shake.
Lately, especially in the last month, I’ve noticed that I don’t feel that so much. I think things are leveling off in my brain, because my circumstances haven’t gotten any better. I feel more hopeful, more calm, more even.
I realized shortly after going off my meds just how much my meds did for me. I went off because I didn’t think they did too much, but I was definitely wrong about that.
I have always cried easily, but wow it’s a lot harder without my meds. I’d forgotten. I was on a much steadier keel with them. I was never unflappable, but I was… less flappable.
It’s easier to get me angry, frustrated, upset, sad, etc. now. Oh hi, feelings, nice to see you again. They were never gone. I was just able to cope with them better.
I’m re-learning a lot, practicing compartmentalization so I don’t obsess about work stuff at home and home stuff at work.
But mostly I’m just glad that things are feeling easier. Because the hard was just so hard. I’ve got enough on my plate without feeling like the world is falling down around me. If it had stayed like that I would’ve considered going back on meds, even though it would’ve meant paying for meds and paying for doctor’s visits and paying for things is not exactly something I’m really happy to do right now. Even though I would’ve been going back on meds just because things suck.
I am guessing I’m probably not the only person who felt like they didn’t have a good enough reason to go on medication. I never got an official diagnosis of PPD, maybe that would’ve helped me feel more justified, maybe not. I just saw it as depression that came from circumstance, which made me feel like I was just using the meds as a short-term crutch. I wasn’t planning to be on them for over 5 years. But circumstances CAN really suck. I should have cut myself more slack. Still, I was scared of the possibility of being on meds for an indefinite period. I worried that I’d still need them without all the circumstances, that I’d lost something along the way.
They’re irrational and stupid fears. If you need the meds, take the meds. That is how I feel when I talk about anyone who is not myself. I can see it clearly and rationally when it’s not me. But as soon as it’s me I get weird.
It’s still kind of weird, because life was easier on meds. My emotions were more manageable on meds. I admit, I thought sometimes that maybe that was enough of a reason to take them even if I wasn’t depressed. But I’m happy to see the side-effects go, that’s one of my major incentives for letting myself readjust and re-learn and get comfortable and make an effort to go without them.
The biggest transition, I think, was realizing that my ability to not worry and just take things as they come was something that was a lot easier on meds. That was a tough shift, because it had become so entrenched in my approach to life and everything in it. This new ability became one of my defining traits, one of my grown-up abilities that made my life work. I felt so much more comfortable in the world that way. Before, I spent so many years wound up and worrying, always worrying, and it was so nice not to worry but to just deal with it. I’d attributed this to my time spent raising Graham and didn’t think about the fact that I started on antidepressants when Graham was still an infant and oh hey, maybe that’s the reason. BUT I feel like I’ve reclaimed it. I’ve been able to fall back into the habit so I’m not freaking out about things. I’m taking each day. And then the next day. And then the next.
My entire life shifted after Graham was born. Not only was I now a mother to a high-needs child, but my career and my marriage and everything else got jolted and none of it ever went back the way it was. I feel so disconnected sometimes from the person I was before that and weaning off my meds felt like it could maybe get me back to that person a little.
And it has, but not just in the easy ways. In the hard ways, too. I thought about it for a long time, I waited for a long time, and for me it was kind of like having a kid: there’s no perfect time, but at some point I needed to go for it.
I am thinking a bit about my word of the year for next year. Last year it was hard to think about and I put it off for a while because I felt so overwhelmed by how much I didn’t know that I couldn’t think of any guiding principle that could cover my options.
For next year I’ve been pondering the possibility of one very small word: UP.
As in: Look up. Brighten up. Step up. Finish up.
And, you know, the direction. Move up.
I feel capable of facing life looking up next year and that’s what’s important to me right now.