Darkness can be hard to recognise.
It creeps up on you and slides across your shoulders like the arm of a bully. The hand squeezes your shoulder. It tells you not to dob. You dismiss it at first, maybe you try to shrug it off. You tell yourself it’s normal. You’re functioning. You believe you’re okay.
But the hand is heavy.
It pushes down. It holds you back. Moves you towards a fog.
Sometimes, all at once.
You find it hard to get motivated, you achieve less, you’re angry at yourself for not achieving more. You berate yourself for feeling sad knowing the life around you is wonderful. You feed your self-loathing with more self-loathing.
This is depression. More specifically – my depression. While there are commonalities, everyone’s journey is different.
For me, it grew from an anxiety disorder where worry is a constant background noise. It peaks at certain times as though you’ve just lost your child at the supermarket, but you haven’t. You’ve ordered flowers for a friend. Or you considered buying something. Or you had to meet someone at a place you’d never been before on a two-minute deviation from your normal path. Often the triggers are mundane, often illogical. Which is why it’s a disorder and not simply anxiety.
In my family, anxiety disorder is hereditary. The weird thing is, anxiety can present itself in peculiar ways. For me, it’s nausea, but at its peak, my back, arms, lips and tongue tingle which for a while caused me more anxiety – I thought I had multiple sclerosis. I didn’t. Anxiety is a fiend that feeds on itself.
I began some anti-anxiety medication two years ago and for the first time for as long as I could remember I experienced life without anxiety. Anxiety was such a strong force in my life, it truly felt absent instead of simply normal.
Normal was wonderful.
Two months ago, after speaking with my doctor, I decided to wean myself of it.
You may even wonder why I would want to de-medicate and I can assure you, it was not a decision I took lightly. I’d been putting it off for months. I’d do it after the work event, or Soandso’s birthday party, or wait for summer.
But, I needed to know. I hoped. Perhaps my brain needed a break, perhaps it had re-learned, perhaps it didn’t need to be on medication any more. I needed to know this. Aside the fact that long-term use of some drugs can be damaging to your liver and/or kidneys – no one wants to be on medication if they don’t need to be. No one.
My doctor, as lovely as she is, didn’t understand my hesitation. She shrugged, “If you start feeling anxious, go back on it again.” She wasn’t intentionally being apathetic. It’s the kind of well-meaning thing someone says when they’ve never experienced the emotional roller coaster that anxiety and depression bring. It was a risk for me. I risked two weeks of drug-withdrawal, and maybe a few weeks of anxiety ‘pangs’ before the return of more severe anxiety attacks. Even if I restarted the medication right then, I would suffer another couple of weeks of anxiety and drug side-effects before I actually started feeling better. On top of that, knowing my own family’s experience, it is likely after this ‘break’ I’d need a stronger dose.
Which feels more a step backwards than forwards.
How did I go?
See Part 2.