I started writing this in January, and put it on the back burner because, while I originally read the article I link to coming up shortly I thought of a few points to add that the article didn’t touch on. Then I started writing this and forgot all of them, so I thought I’d hold out until they all came back to me. That never happened. And then, sadly, Robin Williams killed himself yesterday because of depression, and thus I thought to look this up and give it another go. So here it is, half a year later. Which isn’t so bad, because I’ve got some drafts from a century ago that will probably never get posted.
I just read an article on Cracked (literally just read it, and came here to write this) called 5 Facts Everyone Gets Wrong About Depression and thought it was not only an excellent read as far as entertainment is concerned, but it hit the nail on the head as far as depression is concerned. That Mark Hill knows his shit. Sadly, because that means he’s depressed, or at the very least used to be. Except in the article I think he mentions he still is, so, still sad.
His article is right, down to the last word, which happens to be “crap.” I just thought I’d throw out some crap you might not know about me and depression, to piggy back off of what he said.
For starters, I’ve been depressed most of my life, except I didn’t know it in the beginning. Now I know what mine stems from, mostly. Mine comes from an average shitty upbringing. It wasn’t exceptionally bad, but it wasn’t great either. It wasn’t something huge, it was just a long string of small stuff that kept eating away at me like tooth fairies on enamel in the Hellboy world. There comes a point in time when you give up on trying and you just succumb to the depression that you might not even know you’re succumbing to.
I was about 23 years old when I discovered I was depressed. I was at my doctors office for a visit about something else entirely. He stepped out to do something doctorly and I happened to read a pamphlet that was on a display on his desk, to pass the time. I had already tried on all of the latex gloves inside out and then put them back in the box, and stuck half of every tongue depressor in my mouth and put them back in the jar. I was bored.
What I read in the pamphlet made sense and it scared me. Could I be depressed? At the time I thought being depressed meant suicidal (which I could be from time to time) and emo (which I could be from time to time). I didn’t know normal people were functioning every day while depressed, which is what the pamphlet told me. In other words, there were no tell tale signs of it that you could see from across the street. It wasn’t like having a severe case of acne.
Oh, and for the record, just because you’re suicidal doesn’t mean you’re going to commit suicide, or even attempt it. That’s why the word “suicidal” exists. It just means the possibility is there.
When my doctor came back in I took a stab at it and said that the pamphlet made sense and I’d like to see if I were depressed. He gave me a test, which was one sheet of paper, printed on one side, and asked a variety of questions to see if I might have the depression. Here’s where it got strange, even to me.
The test was sort of vague and it was all over the place. There was basically no real rhyme or reason to the questions or in what order they were asked.
Above is basically the test I took. It asked questions that made you answer yes. It actually made me feel as if I were being trapped into being depressed so that Big Pharma could make more money off of me. It asked questions like, “Do you have trouble sleeping, or don’t?” Uh, yes. Yes I do. “Are you sad all the time, or not?” I sure am!
When I was done with the test I had basically check marked every single box next to every single question. I passed! I got them all right! My doctor came back in the room, looked over the paper and said, “Oh my. It looks like you’re very depressed.”
That’s when it hit me. I was not just depressed, but VERY depressed. What?
At the time I had a job where I had to be at work at 5 in the morning, which required me to wake up, at the very least, at 4:30 in the morning. And I had insomnia, so I was falling asleep between 11 and 12 every night. I was getting very little, to no sleep. So with that particular question, whether or not I was getting sleep, was a natural fit. To me it seemed as if every question asked on the test could have been brought about by other reasons, not just depression, and I hit the depression test lottery and every single one of the questions made sense with my non-depressed life.
I thought it was a joke, but one that was going to net me some awesome feel-good medicine. So I went with it. Until my doctor started talking more about the depression. And then what he said made sense and suddenly I realized that I was depressed, legitimately.
What it boiled down to, for me, was this question. “Do you feel like you have a million thoughts running around in your head and you can’t focus on just one at a time?”
All the time. Sometimes it was overwhelming. Sometimes it was crippling. All my bills, all of my problems… the car seemed to break down just when it knew it would fuck me over the most… everything was happening all the time on my worst of days just to pile everything on me at once… and I couldn’t work out any of the problems because they were all there, all the time, in one big cloud of bullshit. I could see the problem fly by, but just as I reached out to it to grab it and focus on it and work on it, a hundred more would fly by and suddenly I’d be thinking about them all at the exact same time.
Overwhelming. That was the best way to describe it. And tiring. It wore me out. So the problems never got better, they never went away, and it wasn’t that I couldn’t deal with them, it was that it was hard for me to deal with them when I was constantly being flooded with them all at the same time. One problem would have been no problem (get it?) to deal with, if I could have just dealt with that one problem. But I couldn’t. It was physically and mentally impossible to deal with just one problem at a time. And I hadn’t realized it until my doctor asked me about it. That’s when it all made sense.
He gave me a month supply of Lexapro samples so I wouldn’t have to pay for it, and away I went. He told me the drug wasn’t to make me feel good or happy, it was to help me focus on one thing at a time. To slow that cloud down in my head so that I could grab one problem as it flew by and work on it. It wasn’t there to cure my depression, it was there to help me cure my depression. It was exactly like God. I’m not religious, but I hear all the time that God is supposed to not fix everything for you, rather, to give you the strength to conquer your problems yourself. That’s what anti-depressant medicine is.
The problem is, everyone is different, as Mark points out in that there article above. What might work for one person might not work for the next. Lexapro worked for me and it didn’t at the same time because right at the beginning, the drug is working with the stuff in your brain to straighten you out and while it’s setting up shop, it takes time to get to working fully. So some days will be super awesome while other days will be super bad. After a month or two it finally starts working more fluidly and under the radar, at least for me it did. I didn’t realize it had fully started working until one day when I was on the highway coming home from work. At that time I absolutely hated being behind a semi on the highway, I never let one in front of me, and I especially hated when they were in the fast lane, which I almost always traveled in. And then I was in the fast lane, on my way home, and it happened. I grabbed onto a thought, a problem, and started thinking about it and working it out. Just one. Not a million. There was no cloud in my head, just this one problem. It was the only one that existed, and I grabbed it and started thinking about it and working it out. It was amazing! Then I looked up and noticed there was a semi in front of me in the fast lane. We weren’t going fast, because it was a fucking semi, and I wasn’t pissed about it. In fact, I realized I had even let him over in front of me. And I wasn’t even mad. That’s when I smiled real big and realized that I might be okay.
But then one day I was at the bar having a beer. Back then, for me, a beer wasn’t an option. It was a case or nothing. But on this day I was actually just having a beer. Actually I had two, but that’s still impressive. I went home from the bar, enjoyed the rest of my night and went to bed. The next day I felt as if I had head butted a train traveling 100 MPH, and instead of my head exploding like it naturally should, it just took the blow and made me deal with the pain.
After the month was up my doctor gave me a prescription and I went to cash it in at the pharmacy, only my insurance wouldn’t cover Lexapro. It would only cover the generic form, called Citalopram. I talked to my doctor and he gave me the nod, so I got it and began my decade-long dependency of the drug.
At first it wasn’t enough. They started me on 10 mg and before long I was up to 40, which was the highest dose you could get of it. There were options to take more, but 40 mg was the highest dose they made, and it worked for me. It set me straight. Not to mention on Citalopram I could drink without feeling as if a stick of dynamite went off in my head and my head didn’t explode to let out the pressure. Citalopram was my drug.
That worked for a long time, many years, but then one day I needed just a little more. This was within the last two years, as in, these last two years that just happened that we lived in. I spoke to my therapist and decided to try Abilify. Abilify is an anti-depression drug that isn’t an anti-depression drug. It’s a drug you take on top of your anti-depression drug to help your anti-depression drug work better. It’s kind of like mixing rum with Coke. The Coke isn’t going to get you drunk, but it’s going to help the rum get you drunk. Ok, that’s a bad example, but I hope you get what I’m saying. Basically by taking Abilify alone, it wasn’t going to do shit for me, but if I took it while taking an anti-depressant, it would help that anti-depressant work better.
And I thought Abilify was set up like Citalopram, and since I was on 40 mg of that, naturally I should go big with Abilify. I started off on 10 mg of that, and before long I discovered what I had been warned about. That some of these types of drugs can turn you into a zombie.
Not bath-salt-zombie, or Romero-zombie, but mentally-fucked-zombie. It made me feel like I didn’t want to do shit. Like I was inside my head looking out. I had my hands on the controls to operate my body, but the controls weren’t working. They were like that steering wheel on the motorized car outside the drug store that kids can ride in for a quarter. They can steer all they want, but the car is just going to continue see-sawing back and forth. Just like the real thing.
All I could do is sit and stare. Sometimes I would just sit and look at my TV for hours, and it wasn’t on. Sometimes I’d want to end it all but didn’t have the motivation to kill myself. It was just like being depressed, only the medicine was making me that way.
When it was all said and done I had gone down to 2 mg of Abilify and that was working well with my Citalopram. I was successfully taking both for about a year when I had my medicine pulled out from under me. I had to quit cold turkey, and quitting anti-depressants cold turkey is not something you want to do.
Vertigo, dizziness, blurred vision… these were all things I had to deal with for about 2 months while my brain tried to adjust to not having something control it suddenly.
And then there I was and here I am. I’ve been off of those medications for quite a while now, maybe a year, and I feel great. Sure I’m still depressed and probably always will be, but now I know what I have to do to fight it and I can control it myself now. The drugs I took for it showed me that, and without them, who knows where I’d be right now. I’m glad I took them, but now, I’m glad I’m off of them. I feel like I have more control over me now, and that’s where I want to be.
If you think you’re depressed, I urge you to get checked out. Even if you think you can’t afford a check up or the medicine, check this out.
After my doctor gave me the prescription, I was fucked over by a job I had and lost my doctor. Long story. So suddenly I had no way of getting my medicine refilled. I actually went off of the medicine for a month while I frantically looked for a new way to get it and dealt with those side effects I mentioned above. At that point I had lost the job I had when I first started seeing the doctor, so I lost my insurance. I was making less money at another job, the one that actually caused me to lose my doctor, so I found my local county mental health clinic. They worked on a sliding scale and I put my name on the waiting list.
It wasn’t long before I was contacted and I started seeing my therapist, who I still see to this day. I have yet to pay for their services because I work shitty jobs with shitty pay, and they not only called in my Citalopram refills for me, which are $4 for a month supply at almost every (if not every) pharmacy now, but they supplied my Abilify for me for free. The only stipulation was that I had to see them every so often so that they could make sure I was still taking the pills and the pills were still working for me. That was it.
So if you’re worried about the money, don’t. I was basically out $4 a month for therapy and two medicines. Abilify, for those who don’t know, is horrifically expensive, but they have a program to help you get the medicine if you need it, for lower cost or free. And my therapists agency helped me get it for free.
Don’t take depression lightly. Just because you’re depressed doesn’t mean you’re going to try and kill yourself every other day, it just means that you aren’t going to be living the quality of life that you could be living. Why wouldn’t you live that quality of life if you could? If you think you might be depressed, go get checked out and get help.
MORE READING: Check this out. David Wong over at Cracked.com wrote this piece after Robin killed himself. I may have linked to it already, but I’m not going to check. Depression is a serious problem for a lot of people, especially for those people who you might think couldn’t possibly be depressed. This article should win awards. Thanks Mr. Wong, this is great. Robin Williams and Why Funny People Kill Themselves