November 6, 2020 – I get by with a little help from my friend(s).

Hello, I’d like to introduce you to my dear friend, Prozac. He and I were introduced about 13 years ago and we’ve been great friends ever since. Before Prozac, my life was pretty bleak. I always felt like I was on the outside looking in, and never thought ‘a way in’ was even possible. And this started way back, probably around the age of 10. That’s the first record I have (from a journal entry) of contemplating suicide.

There’s no denying I was a ‘weird’ kid. In school, I never felt like part of the ‘in’ crowd or any crowd actually. I didn’t spend a lot of time on my hair or wardrobe and sometimes I admit, I probably looked a bit peculiar. I think I wore camo pants long before they were ever as widely accepted as they are today. Anyway, my appearance just wasn’t my top priority at the time. And I’m reminded of how I was perceived all of those years ago, each time I open one of my yearbooks. There are countless inscriptions referencing my ‘weirdness’. Most of them either say I was weird or a weirdo or I had a weird laugh. I wasn’t a jock, even though I was an athlete. I certainly wasn’t a prep, because you had to have money to belong to that clique. I wasn’t in Colorguard or the Cheer Squad (remember Stage Fright?). I was smart but not a Brainiac so Chess Club and Math Club never really appealed to me. I couldn’t play an instrument or sing so Band and Choir were a no-go. I just didn’t seem to fit in anywhere.

What did I do really well? Climb trees. But there didn’t seem to be a group that embraced that ability, at least not one that I was aware of at the time. I also loved to read, but that’s not really something that helps you in social circles (unless you’re Oprah). And I loved to laugh. And not just a mere chortle or titter or chuckle. What began as a giggle because something struck me as funny, would inevitably turn into an all out madcap affair. I would be sputtering and slapping my knee, my body contorted as I attempted (with little success) to stifle it. And sometimes I would carry on like this for well over an hour. It didn’t matter where I was. I could be in homeroom or at a football stadium or in the cafeteria or even in the library, no place was off limits. Looking back, I do understand how people would view me as an oddity or a misfit.

All that said, I never really felt like I belonged anywhere. And as I got older, it just got worse. I didn’t feel like I belonged in school or church or the military or any other organization that I’ve been a part of. And not only did I feel like I didn’t belong, I constantly questioned my existence. It always felt like there was a deep melancholy that ran through my body and brain and it was really hard to shake it. “Why am I here? What is my purpose? Why is this damn life so hard? Must I suffer for the rest of my life?” If something happened, somehow I believed it was my fault. It didn’t matter who it involved or why, I believed that it was because of something I did or didn’t do. And I was extremely reactive. Little things sent me into a self-loathing tailspin. A negative remark or a disapproving look could completely destroy what had started out as a pretty good day. Some things helped temporarily with quelling the sadness, but they never seemed to last. I went to therapists. I tried to numb it out by eating in excess. Alternatively, I tried to eat healthy (low glycemic) to stabilize my mood(s) and exercise to stimulate endorphins to improve my mood(s). Someone recommended taking B-Complex & Vitamin D along with St. John’s Wort. I tried that, too. It didn’t seem to make the slightest dent.

It wasn’t until I turned 40 that I decided to try ‘pharmaceuticals’. Before 40, I wanted nothing to do with them. My doctor would often bring them up but I would respond with so much resistance that he knew there was no point in pushing the issue. So many people I knew were on Zoloft or Lexapro or Paxil or Prozac and I wanted no part of it. I didn’t want to resort to having to take a pill in order to be ‘happy’. When I grew up, my parents always insinuated that people were weak or flawed if they took medicine for depression or went to therapy. Whenever I would feel down and I’d reach out to my mom, she’d suggest that I go take a walk or paint a picture. She just didn’t understand no matter how hard I tried to explain, that it was a very real thing that I was dealing with that couldn’t be solved by ‘taking a walk around the block’. So, yes, I resisted going on meds for a long time and I suffered for a long time. But there comes a point when you have to face reality. And the reality was, every single day I just wanted to die.

One day I finally caved. “I’m ready,” I told my doctor. “Ready?” he asked. “Yes, I’m ready. I’m ready to try an antidepressant.” “Why now? What happened?” he questioned. “I am tired of spending everyday thinking about all of the ways I can kill myself. I am tired of ‘existing’. I am tired.” I responded. He didn’t say it out loud, but I’m pretty sure he was thinking to himself, “It’s about damn time!” Well, the first couple of antidepressants I tried sort of helped, but not enough to really make that much of a difference, and the side effects were really crappy. I ended up reaching out to a friend and asked what she recommended. “Prozac,” she said confidently. “You can’t go wrong with Prozac.” I decided to take her advice. She worked in the healthcare field and she also used it to treat her own depression, so she wasn’t just talking the talk, she was walking the walk!

Let me tell you, my friends, this is one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life. Next to marrying my husband and having my children, this is right up there! To spend so many years needlessly suffering when it wasn’t necessary. And I’m not saying this because I’m being paid by Eli Lilly. They haven’t give me a single cent. I am saying this because had I known how much it would have improved my life for the better, I would have done it much sooner and not waited until four decades into my existence. I used to tell people I saw life through a ‘cracked’ lens before, and Prozac has given me clarity. ‘Joy’ and ‘Laughter’ make regular visits to my home now. I am more proactive and less reactive. And I no longer sit at the bottom of a figurative well for days on end and continually hope that I die in my sleep. Now, don’t get me wrong, it isn’t going to fix your life. You are still going to experience negative emotions, but maybe they won’t last as long or hurt as deeply. I just think, at least for myself, that it’s what I need for my brain to function ‘better’ because the way it was functioning pre-meds was pretty poorly.

My point? Things can be better. If you suffer from depression and/or anxiety, you don’t have to continue to suffer. There are countless methods and medications to treat it and it isn’t anything you should be ashamed of. Maybe you’re not interested in the idea of taking medication to treat your symptoms now, and that’s completely ok. But don’t put it out of your mind altogether. Someday you might just reconsider. Just don’t suffer needlessly. There are countless resources available to you. If you need help, I beg of you, get it. Find your ‘Joy’ for it is out there.

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