Depression as an Identity

Two things are spurring this discussion:

  1. A friend talking about their experience of weaning off of Cymbalta
  2. Kesha’s release of Rainbow

My friend has been on antidepressants for a bit under five months and it seems to have worked for them, so they’ve started weaning themselves off. It sounds like Cymbalta comes in 30mg, perhaps also 20mg, pills and my friend was instructed to take one pill every other day for a week and then to stop afterwards. I have no idea if this is what’s usually prescribed, but since you aren’t supposed to open the capsules, it seems that any weaning would be done in some variation of off/on.

For me, I’ve been on Celexa/Citalopram (I forget which is the brand name) the entire time, but I’ve fluctuated between 10-30mg with a lot of back and forth; they come in easily split pills so it was always taking half a pill, a whole pill, or one and a half pills, which made trying different dosages easy. I changed dosages whenever I’d feel more of the depression symptoms, but I never considered changing brands because for the most part, it worked (with the non-working part meaning I didn’t feel like I was reaching my maximum potential of happiness).

The day that my dad was diagnosed with cancer, I had my last session with my therapist, but I felt okay (leaving the session; his diagnosis came two hours later) not seeing her because I was going to continue taking meds. I saw my psychiatrist May 19th (2015), which was the day after my dad’s funeral, and I wasn’t ready to tell him that my dad died (it might come as a surprise, but I’m not entirely in touch with expressing my feelings and I push down most problems), so that session seemed like I was pretty okay, and we actually discussed me going off my meds the next time we met. So we met a month later and I told him that I thought I should stay on my antidepressants because my dad died two months ago and I figured I would need some chemical support.

[His face fell like I’ve never seen anyone’s face fall, and when I finally did leave Montreal and had my last session with him, he said he had felt really bad when I told him that because he thought he fostered an environment where I didn’t feel comfortable to talk about my issues. Until then I had never considered how people felt when I didn’t tell them about my problems, and so even though I still mostly feel comfortable with repressing my feelings, I’m working on talking about my bad feelings as I’m feeling them, rather than retroactively.]

So I spent the second year of my Masters continuing to be on meds while grieving my dad’s death, and we discussed my med plan going forward when I finished the degree. We agreed that it might be good to stay on them for a few months after since the whole process of finding a job and all the changes would likely be tumultuous and, similar to before, it would be good to keep my emotions as stable and not in the pits as possible. It was a good decision, especially because the job hunt took turns and a duration that I hadn’t anticipated or wanted.

The last few months I’ve been fairly happy, other than generally hating my body, but that’s just because I’m not exercising. But I have few complaints and for the bad things that happen, I’m handling it pretty well. Even every time something devastating happens in the world (i.e. every day), my heart doesn’t break so drastically that I can’t function.

It wasn’t until my friend was talking about their experience of going off meds did I realize that perhaps I could do the same. Perhaps, for the first time in three years, I could be off antidepressants? (And since I have an IUD, I wouldn’t have to take a daily pill, which would be a relief after so many years.) This would be the first time since being diagnosed with depression that I would be without medication and it’s scary.

Theoretically I’m not supposed to need them and I’m supposed to be okay, but it prompts so many questions: for how long will I be okay? If or when the symptoms come back, will I notice them before it gets too bad? Will it be the same or worse? Do I still have depression? Do I tell people I have or had depression? How will I justify being an unmotivated and unfeeling person if I don’t have depression as an excuse?

When I’m symptomatic and struggling, I know I have it and I know it’s a part of me, but when I’m not struggling, is it still a part of me?

My weaning process started because I was tired of and too lazy to take the daily pill, so I went a few days without meds. I realized that perhaps I could wean myself off and I’m supposed to really embrace the idea that I might “be better.” Suffering has been a fairly big part of who I’ve been for years, but I’ve also loved who I’ve become these last few years, and so it’s going to be a weird but necessary path to redefine who I already am (which is much easier than creating a better version).

Kesha’s new album was aptly timed since although I would have supported her regardless, so much of it rings true for me and I feel like I’m listening to a kindred heart as I listen to Rainbow (the album) on repeat. I love a lot of songs, but Rainbow (the song) is really my anthem currently.

Yeah, maybe my head’s fucked up
But I’m falling right back in love with being alive

IMG_8499
I’m actually feeling my feelings now, which is… unfamiliar, but good.

I can’t lose hope, what’s left of my heart’s still made of gold
And I know that I’m still fucked up
But aren’t we all, my love?
Darling, our scars make us who we are, are
So when the winds are howling strong
And you think you can’t go on, hold tight, sweetheart

(If I could link the video to Rainbow, I would, but WordPress thinks I should pay to be able to do that… Also, if you want to hate on Kesha, I will fight you.)

Anyway, I figure if Kesha can live happily despite all that she’s gone through, then I can give a genuine attempt at being happy and, once again, redefining how I see myself and accepting it.

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