Bear with me… this one’s a hard one to write.
I’ve been thinking about the last couple months today, and I feel like I finally have a pretty clear understanding as to what really happened and why.
I was doing well for a number of months during summer and fall. Moving to Seattle in September, buying a new (very old) house, and learning a new city was a whirlwind. I had no time to dwell on depression. I was mentally stable through that time. October was a little harder, as was November. The near-fatal error happened at the beginning of December: I asked my psychiatrist if I could lower my Prozac dosage by 10mg.
I keep wondering why I chose then to ask. At the time, I realized I was stable as a result of the dose I was on, so why? The decline in happiness in late autumn was directly related to marital stresses that James and I were struggling to get through. Part of the problem was my lack of sex drive, but that was probably more of a result of the issues we were dealing with as a couple. So why, then, did I ask to lower my dose in the first place? I knew it wasn’t going to help anything. I knew I was having a rough time in my marriage. Why on EARTH did I think dropping the medication dose was going to help at all when I knew that was probably the last thing I needed?
The answer I hate admitting slapped me in the face today. The Ugly Truth that I’ve been trying so hard to keep hidden from everyone including myself. An answer that I have, of course, known all along but have been trying to deny. I was hoping I was “well enough” to start weaning back on antidepressants, but I really wasn’t.
By December, I was a few months post-breastfeeding. My body was back to being mine. I wanted so, so badly to believe that the depression, anxiety, OCD, and paranoia that hit full force as a postpartum mental illness was finally subsiding.
It wasn’t, and I was in denial. I knew that I needed that higher dose of Happy Drugs to keep me functioning, yet I thought that maybe, just maybe, I would be alright if I cut back. Well, no, I didn’t think I would be okay, l just really hoped I would.
See, if that plan worked, then I was going to ask to cut back another 10mg, and so on. I thought that maybe it might be possible to wean off antidepressants all together eventually.
The drop in my mental stability happened almost immediately upon taking the lower dose. By the time the holidays rolled around, I was faking a smile half the time. My stomach started hurting chronically. I didn’t want to admit that I could feel myself slipping. Not to anyone, but especially myself.
About mid-January was when I went spiraling downwards. I started to panic a few days before leaving for a dance competition in California. I kept changing my mind about how I was going to get there: drive, fly, drive, fly, rental car, fly, drive, fly… I felt that OCD twitch spring up on me and I kept going back and forth. I couldn’t get it out of my head, and I felt like screaming. It was stupid because the travel plans had already been taken care of, and I knew it. That was just THE SIGN, though. When I realized what was happening, my chest felt tight and I told James I wished he hadn’t bought me the ticket for the convention. There was no getting a refund, so I was stuck, but I was panicking because I had a feeling that it was just going to be another horrible competition experience. The kind where I barely make it through the weekend because I can’t stand being in the ballroom around all the normal, happy people. The kind of weekend that poses as a reminder to how not okay I really am at times. The kind that pushes me over the edge and there’s no ledge to break my fall.
The rest of January and half of this month were hell. I barely left the house, and I couldn’t handle being social for more than a short period of time. I was slipping further and further into the depression, and I knew it.
Finally, I made the choice to call my psychiatrist and told her what had been happening. That’s when I was put back on my old dose of Prozac and I chose to add a bit of Wellbutrin to the drug cocktail.
For some, that combination works wonders, but it almost killed me. Or rather, while it’s painful for me to admit, I almost killed me. Not the drug, me.
A week off the Wellbutrin with only the correct dose of Prozac in my system has brought me to this point and has allowed me to finally be completely present again, or as “with it” as I ever am, anyway. Now that I can see clearly, I have been reviewing my mental situation over the last few several months. The rise, the fall, and finally, the crash and burn.
And you know what the absolute sickening realization that I walked away with is? I almost didn’t walk away this time. I was so far gone two weeks ago that I don’t remember the week I was on Wellbutrin. Sure, I have my writing to remind me. My insane Facebook statuses, the aching muscles from working out at the gym, the worried creases on my husband’s and friends’ faces when they look at me. Searching for that sign that I’m not going to fall again.
I am not able to survive without the correct dose of the right drug. I cannot fight the demons in my head without the help of a therapist. I am unable to move forward without leaning on others for a bit of help. I will never be that strong person that I thought I appeared to be before I had kids.
I was not well then, either. I never was. Before I had children, though, I had enough time to focus on forcing myself to just keep swimming. After having kids, that was impossible. It forced me to accept that I couldn’t do it without help. My bad days weren’t just MY bad days anymore, they started affecting my husband and kids more than anyone should have to endure. And I should know because I have dealt with serious mental illness that went untreated in people I love for pretty much my entire life.
Except I didn’t really accept it. I wanted so badly to believe that it was a short-term solution. That one of these days I’d wake up and breathe in the morning with clarity without the help of drugs.
Perhaps someday, but I need to understand deep down that the reality isn’t the truth I want to hear: I cannot be well without the antidepressants and extra help.
I just can’t do it. It’s part of me. And, ugh, I hate saying it more than I want to admit. I know it shows no weakness on my behalf, but I just never wanted it to come to this.
But so be it. I can find a way to accept this, smile bravely, and move forward. I have no other choice, and what happened a week ago proves it.