Cipralex Diaries, Chapter One

I did it. I bit the bullet, and finally began taking an antidepressant.

Depression has always been a part of my life, but since getting sober it's become much more insidious. I realized in my recovery that in the past I had used substances to self-medicate my anxiety, PTSD, and depression for many years. Once they were out of the picture I was left alone with years of trauma and mental illness.

For the last few years I have struggled immensely, with periods where I would stay in bed for days. Although that hasn't happened much in the last year or so, the low mood has persisted. It's funny, some people may view those who suffer from depression as weak, but in forcing myself to live my life even though that grey cloud was hanging over me, I utilized a strength that few have. Not everyone understands just how difficult it is to wake yourself up in the morning, go to work, and pretend everything is fine, when your mind literally wants to kill you.

I tried everything to get myself out of my depressed state. Supplements, exercise (I even tried jogging! UGH!), prayer, self-care, talk therapy, church, reading my Bible, spending time with friends . . . you name it, I tried it. Some of these things worked to temporarily distract me from my mental illness, but it was always hanging over me. Activities that used to bring me joy left me feeling empty, and I felt distant from God, my most constant source of strength. This further fuelled my frustration at my brain for not behaving the way I wanted it to.

It was during a very low streak when a friend made a suggestion. I told her how everything felt hopeless and bleak, and she asked me if I would consider trying an antidepressant short-term, just to get me out of a funk. She reasoned that many people are opposed to having to be dependent on antidepressants for the rest of their lives, but that maybe I just needed to right myself for a little bit and then carry on. I began to mull over this possibility.

This sums it up well!

Shortly after this conversation, I brought up the idea to my counsellor at the women's centre I attend, and she suggested I chat with a psychiatrist with whom the centre has a partnership. At this point I was so desperate for a light at the end of the tunnel that I agreed. I was miraculously seen for an intake about a week later, and about a month later I finally met with my new psychiatrist, Dr. Buckley.

It's funny, during the weeks leading up to my appointment with Dr. Buckley, I started to feel a bit more like a human being. I had launched my blog and was feeling purposeful and excited. I was starting to wonder if I needed to go through with my plan. But then, the morning of my appointment, PMS + depression started up a storm in my mind that led to me bawling my eyes out as negative thoughts about my self-worth, my abilities as a writer, and so on began to flood my mind. Proof that this appointment was in fact a Godsend.

So I brushed myself off and headed to my appointment. I was feeling numb and exhausted as I waited in the waiting room, leafing through a fashion magazine, and comparing myself to all of the beautiful people on its pages (those damn negative thoughts again!). Then Dr. Buckley appeared, led me to her office, and we began our session.

Dr. Buckley leafed through the summary of my intake and we talked about all of the difficult things I've endured. A really fun way to spend an hour and a half, I highly recommend it! (Not.) However, the more we chatted, the more comfortable I felt. Dr. Buckley was warm, engaging, and compassionate, which made discussing difficult topics slightly less painful.

Near the end of our time together Dr. Buckley asked if I were open to taking an antidepressant, and when I said yes, she said that she would write me a prescription for Cipralex, which I took for a few years about a decade ago. I had no ill side effects from this medication (except for when I weaned myself off of it), but I couldn't really be sure if it would work for me. See, when I had taken it before I was self-medicating myself so heavily that it was extremely hard to gauge the Cipralex's efficacy. But I was open to trying it and hoping for the best.

So, here I am, on my third day of medication. Day one was difficult. Some initial anxiety and drowsiness, plus pretty bad nausea. Day two I had heartburn and some more nausea. But on night two I noticed something miraculous. I was watching a documentary when all of the sudden I realized, I was REALLY watching it. Not thinking about something I was upset about, not nervously distracted. No, I was alert, engaged, and enjoying myself. Not alert in the way you feel when you're acutely anxious, or over-caffeinated. Just calm and relaxed and content. WOW.

Beginning to embrace the light

Another lightbulb moment was when I woke up this morning on day 3 and, although I was tired, I didn't feel dread about starting my day. Sure, I would've preferred to stay in bed (who wouldn't?), but that weight on my chest, the grey clouds skewing my perception, they were starting to dissipate.

Although I'm still in the very early stages, I'm very optimistic and pleased with what I'm seeing so far. I was so hesitant to go down this road for a variety of personal reasons, but I just got to the point where I became too sick to continue without medicine. So I swallowed my pride and fear and went for it.

I can't explain how interesting it is, this transition. For people with depression and anxiety, it is so easy to become accustomed to living a certain way. We catastrophize, or we feel hopeless, or our nervous systems always feel over-activated. And it feels normal. To take a medication that brings your brain to what is ACTUALLY normal, to live with less fear and dread, it feels like getting a second chance. I'm feeling very grateful that I gave myself this gift.

If you feel comfortable, I'd love to hear your experience with medication if you've gone down that route. Have you found a medication that works for you? Let me know in the comments!


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