I didn’t plan on being on antidepressants for long.
My counselor explained them to me as a way to break the cycle. When I was running consistently—when I wasn’t overwhelmed with being behind on commitments and when I was sleeping well—I didn’t feel so depressed. But because I’d sunk so far, I needed help to get to the point where I could re-introduce healthy habits into my life. Long story short, I spoke with my doctor about my counselor’s recommendation, and I got a prescription. That, combined with more counseling appointments and the support of good friends, helped me to get back on the road toward mental and physical health.
The doctor recommended at least a year, and I thought that would be great: I’d graduate, transition into life outside of college, and start preparing for grad school. I thought I wouldn’t need the medication’s help to function normally by then. I didn’t like feeling like I depended on a pill for my vitality, and I looked forward to the victory of being able to manage my mental health without the need for medication.
Almost a year went by and it was time for my follow-up appointment with my doctor. I expressed that I didn’t want to keep taking my pills, that I felt I no longer needed them. He heavily discouraged the idea, stating that my body needed more time to normalize feeling mentally stable. He didn’t want me to make a hasty mistake and pay for it in the long term.
Despite my doctor’s intentions, I felt incredibly defeated after this appointment. And suddenly, after doing well for 7+ months, I felt my depression rise to the surface again. I was dealing with a lot within a couple of months: our family dog getting put to sleep, a break-up, a new job, grad school applications, and a lot of other transitions—many of which made me feel very isolated. I knew to trust my doctor, but it felt as if he were condemning me to being eternally depressed; I suddenly felt incapable of coping with everyday life—a feeling I knew all too well from a year prior. It was a feeling I never wanted to feel again.
I thought, “I will be dealing with this for the rest of my life.” It was demotivating and distracting, so much so that I struggled to remember basic things—things like eating and taking my meds. I felt like I was falling into depression again, and the signs started to appear. Nightmares, an inability to keep track of time, a lack of focus, and an unshakeable lethargy became my new normal once again.
I wanted so desperately to prove the doctor wrong. I wanted to be so on top of the world despite his advice that I could go back and say, hey, I’m so mentally healthy that you have to let me stop taking my meds. But my neglect to take them consistently and the accompanying downward spiral I was on showed me how much I needed to shift my perspective.
It took me a while to see my doctor’s words as he intended them: Happiness and stability aren’t going to come from pretending to be rid of my depression but rather from being realistic about it so I can manage it proactively. I wanted to look at my depression like a cold—treat it and it’s done. But the last few months reminded me that my depression could pop back up, uninvited and crippling. It was a tough realization, but I’m better and stronger because of the awareness of that reality.
Now I’m embracing my new reality, and I’m finding encouragement in this acceptance. I might always struggle with depression, but I’m learning to accept even the less-than-ideal parts of my life. I could choose to ignore my depression, to claim to have “beaten” it, and to believe that it’s never coming back. Or I could choose to take pride in facing the truth: My depression is here, but it doesn’t have to control me. I can take pride in finding the strength and humility to continue to do something about it.