“Look, Everyone! I’m Over My Depression! Not!”
I gave up my depression pills, until I caught myself slipping into old habits.
Seven a.m. My cell phone starts the doodle-le-do gentle wake-up cycles. I grab it and swipe at the screen over and over to move the circled red X before the alarm goes to circus music and then to the ringing that never ends. Sit up, feet over the bed. So far so good with today’s depression double check.
I’m back on antidepressants again after swearing them off some seven years ago. Back then I felt like, look – I haven’t had a drink or smoked in years and years. I take Adderall for ADHD and Men’s Fifty & Over multi-vitamins every day. I walk a mile with my dog every day, and I haven’t bitten anybody’s head off in a long time. I’m fine. I’m nice enough to everyone. See? I’m not depressed!
So, since I’d already sneaked off the antidepressants for a month, why not make it official? And, by the way, besides other minor side effects – some of the, um, sexual side effects can try your patience. It’s like waiting for a train that’s moving right along, but keeps staying just this far from pulling into the station. Who wants to deal with that?
Bigger reason, though, was I was pissed that I had to take another pill to fit in. Even in my own family, I had started to feel like they were making me do something that’d just make it easier for them to live with me. How come I had to do this? Why can’t I just be who I am and make my family and friends learn to deal with it, damn it. You know, I’d gone to meetings at my daughter’s schools, where they made classroom accommodations for her ADHD. So maybe the world owed me a little accommodation too.
So for a few years, I went without the depression meds. I dealt with and helped others deal with some pretty hairy situations—involving death and taxes— and close family dramas without freaking out that much. That’s how I saw it anyway. But I hadn’t yet recognized the “How come I had to do this” complaint for what it was.
Recently the family drama died down, and things were looking better. But my cell phone alarm had started constantly going to the never-ending loud ring. My wife, Margaret, had had to swipe it silent after her shower. She’d rest her hand on my curled-up, under-the-covers form and ask, “You OK?”
This was Margaret’s and my daughter Coco’s tag to most conversations I had with them for the last few months. It was the same with my therapist, except he wanted details. Also with my mechanic, Wiltz, who didn’t want details, but was worried about my reaction to the news that my minivan needed a new radiator. I stopped walking the dog. I didn’t feel like it. Why should he get special treatment?
It was when Coco was giving me a ride home from the auto repair shop, and Coco asked, “You OK?” and looked concerned and scared, that I took notice. Her father, who she loved, who she depended on to understand and listen to her and give her support and advice, was slowly imploding in front of her.
That’s when I realized that “How come I had to do this” was an echo from the old alcoholic voice embedded in me. The voice that says that everybody else gets something that I can’t have and that’s not fair. I don’t want to think about others. I don’t want to make others comfortable in my world, I don’t want to have to go to the trouble to deal with the reality of who I really am, so that I can see and feel the reality of a world without me at its center.
That voice nearly destroyed me before with booze, and now unless I did something about it, it was leading me down the rabbit hole of depression. So when Coco and I got home, I called my psychiatrist, and went back to the meds. And I’m happy to say, side effects, shmide effects. I say the joy effect is worth it. And so says my whole family.