the scariest thing i've experienced living with depression
It's been a long time since I had to be honest with myself and admit I was living with depression. I first told someone what I was experiencing sometime in 2010, though not in the exact right words. I think I found those words as 2011 turned into 2012. By September 2013, I asked my doctor about anti-depressants after trying to manage without them all that time.
It's not an easy choice to seek out medicinal support. I resisted for a long time. But it was probably one of the best decisions I could have made for my health. I was lucky and found a brand that worked extremely well for me from the start. Over the years, we've had to increase my dosage from time to time. And if I'm going to be radically honest with you, I'm on a pretty strong anti-depressant.
One of the reasons I did have to up my dosage was due to a toxic work environment. Where you spend your 9-to-5 is important in so many ways. Personally, it impacts my mental health more than most things in life. So for a long time, I was spending a lot of energy focusing on getting through each day and making it to the end of my shift.
Which is why, one September, I forgot to make an appointment with my doctor to pick up my prescription. And I kept forgetting, day after day. And days turned into a week. That week inched closer to two.
On day nine or ten, I noticed the withdrawal symptoms.
Anti-depressants are like any other drug. Your body becomes dependant on them, and accustom to them after three years of use. So like other drugs, cutting yourself off cold turkey is not healthy. It's actually pretty dangerous.
It started with a headache, light at first but increasing. I barely noticed the irritability (thanks to the aforementioned toxic workplace). I had some body aches but passed it off as too much walking up and down the New Westminster hills. Then the dizziness set in, followed quickly by hallucinations, a buzzing noise that would drive the sanest man batty, and nausea. The closest thing I could imagine it feeling like was a bad, bad acid trip.
It was a late Friday when I clued in to the fact I hadn't taken my medication in days (I hadn't done the math on how long yet). My doctor's office would be closed over the weekend but I knew I could get a small emergency prescription at a walk-in Saturday or Sunday. On both days, I'd walk over to the closest clinic and it would be closed. I was forced to wait until Monday.
It was the scariest weekend of my life. Seeing things you know aren't really there, or feeling like you can literally hear your brain. You become this whole different person when going through that type of withdrawal. I was manic, twitching (physically, twitching), begging and screaming for my head to shut off. I know I sound crazy right now. Well, I felt pretty damn crazy too. I live every day with a mental illness, but that was the first time I felt truly insane.
I saw my doctor Monday night and eased back on my medication in a healthy, controlled way so that my body would return to normal in a healthy manor. I had never felt such extreme relief than feeling back to normal once more.
Experiencing withdrawal has only happened once more since then. Not because I wasn't paying attention or was in a bad place. Rather, it was because I had a case of Monday Morning-itis and I filled my prescription bottle with water instead of the glass I wanted to drink the water from. Ruined at least a month and a half's worth of medication. Not my smoothest of moments.
Took me three days to get in with a doctor in Toronto when it happened because I have yet to find a GP since moving here. I was terrified a walk-in would refuse to give the prescription, so I brought the bottle filled with disintegrated pill dust as 'proof'. After all, the buzzing and hallucinations had already begun.
We talk a lot about mental health this time of year thanks to Bell. But we rarely talk about the scary realities that the one in five Canadians living with mental illness might be experiencing. There's a lot more to eating disorders than unhealthy relationships with food and body image. There's a lot more to anxiety than feeling nervous from day to day. There's a lot more to depression than feeling blue. And sometimes, even those who are pretty strong at managing their mental illness will have days where it feels like they don't have the faintest grasp on 'normalcy'.
But it sure as hell doesn't mean we stop trying.
If you're struggling with your mental health, you're not alone. Talk to your doctor or find a crisis centre in your area. If you're in crisis, please go to your local hospital or call 911 immediately. Know that you are loved and valued.