This is probably the most blog-like blog I’ve ever written. It’s not an essay, it’s not an opinion piece, it’s not a poem, it’s just an update on my life. And a promise for yours.
Four years ago, when I was 15, I was hit with the worst wave of depression I’ve ever had. It became extremely difficult to put together simple sentences. When people would call me by my name, I became legitimately confused, because nothing felt real. I didn’t feel real. It took my entire identity, my sense of being.
All my life, I have wanted to be a writer. Before I could write, I would tell stories to my dolls, and when I learned to write, I wrote all the time. Being a writer was my identity. It was, literally, what I lived for.
2014 was the last time I can remember being able to easily write a story. After then, all I would have was fragments of ideas and forced writing, and I never wrote more than a few paragraphs at a time.
Depression strips you of your personality. It takes everything that makes you you, and leaves only itself. After a while, depression becomes your identity because you have nothing else. You become afraid to get better because then you think, “what will be left?” It plays games with your head.
Because it was so difficult to describe things then, and being in the depths of depression leaves you in no mood to, I googled “depression” and sent everything that applied to me to my mom. (I highly recommend doing this! For anything! If there is something you want help for, but can’t talk about, make use of other people’s words!)
But my mom was worried about going on medication, and I was scared of going to therapy, so for a little while things stayed pretty much the same. My depression was partially seasonal, so there were times in the year when it wasn’t a problem. But something that was a problem year round was my anxiety and OCD. A major problem. So, between things, a while later, I finally went on medication.
I was started at the lowest dose, and very very slowly edged up, after each 20 milligram increase being told the familiar “check back in a month.” I was very lucky that the first medication I tried worked for me, so from the beginning I was hopeful. Later, when I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, too (yay! even more brain fog, tiredness, and lots and lots of pain!), I would try one that would devoid me of all my energy, and one that made me suicidal. If those end up being one of your first medications, or any of your medications, 1.) Call your doctor so you can go back off it as soon as possible, and 2.) Don’t think about it too much. It doesn’t mean you won’t get better, it’s just one option scratched off your list; one step closer to finding something works. Watch fun movies and treat yourself until you’re able to go on something else.
The medication that did work for me began to lower my anxiety and OCD, and some of the fog in my mind was lifted, leaving space for occasional clear thoughts again. I had also pushed myself (with the help of my mom) to go to therapy, which was absolutely intrinsic in the process. If you’re someone who wonders (like I did), “What can I learn from therapy that I can’t learn by myself?” go to therapy. You will learn so much more than you would have on your own.
You can read books and articles and practice the techniques you find in them, but the books will never talk back to you. I didn’t realize just how important that aspect was. Beyond important, it is vital. A (good) therapist is all the books on your reading list combined, plus years of training and experience in helping people recover. And another mind; a mind clear of everything you came to them because of. A mind — a trained mind whose job it is to figure out how to deal with whatever you bring to them — that is focused on you.
With the step up medication gave me, I was able to work with my therapist and begin making progress. I got to points I never thought I would. My therapist helped because my medication helped, and my medication helped because my therapist helped. I went in wanting to pick just one (medication), but that’s not how it works. They work off each other. And together, they brought part of me back.
Over the course of time, I had gotten used to the odd feeling of trying to maintain my identity without many of the things that made me me. I almost considered myself “on hold,” like my imagination and focus and everything were all on vacation, and one day they would be back, but right now I shouldn’t worry too much about them. But to see them finally coming home was the best feeling ever.
When it seemed clear I was getting all the benefit I could out of the first medication, I began trying additional ones to continue trying to bring the rest of me back. And, as said before, some worked and some didn’t. But the one that worked brought back the most painful thing depression and anxiety, and all the fog and noise they put in your mind, had taken from me. My imagination.
I am writing again. I am thinking again. Getting lost in my thoughts again. Writing stories, watching stories play out in my mind, building on ideas again because I now have the mental stamina to. I kind of want to go around screaming in everyone’s faces “I’M WRITING STORIES AGAIN!” because this is absolutely huge to me. I haven’t written — like, actually written, not forced myself to put words on a page — in almost four years. The part of me that drove me to exist is back.
It took years, it took innumerable doctor’s appointments, it took work, and it’s still not over, but to be able to be myself again is the greatest gift in the world. The waiting process is slow. Really slow. You’ll switch doctors a lot. You’ll switch medications a lot. But you will come back. You will get to meet yourself again, and that reunion will be the greatest moment of your life. ♡
Photo by Blake Lisk on Unsplash