Today, I wanted to get very personal. The decision to talk about my journey with anti-depressants was quite a tough one. However, I know that making this sort of choice is one that many people struggle with. The questions of “Will they actually help?,” “Will they make things worse?,” and many others like it are just a handful that an individual can grapple with when trying to figure out if this is the right path for them. While I strongly believe that it definitely depends on the person as to whether or not taking any kind of medication for mental health shall benefit them or not, I wanted to share a very honest account of my personal experiences with the hope that it may help someone else out there who may be having a similar battle within themselves.
In today’s post, I shall be discussing severe depressive and anxiety-ridden episodes including hallucinations of dead loved ones, suicide ideation, and some domestic trauma from my past which is relevant to this discussion, including brief mention of eating disorders. Please proceed cautiously if any of these topics are triggers for you. I would also like to take a moment and state that I am not a medical professional with respect to mental health care. I am merely a person who has a list of conditions they have been dealing with since childhood. These are my personal experiences that I’m choosing to share willingly with the sole intent of providing insight and comfort for individuals who may need it. Thank you.
Before I dive into the bulk of everything, I did want to give a rather brief outline of what I shall be discussing, that way you’ll know if this article shall be of interest to you. I’m going to start with a small history of my first-time experiences with anti-depressants from the early 2010s. Afterwards, I shall proceed in the following order: recent round of rock bottom, the process of getting medication, three-week experiences, and what to expect next. Since I am discussing a serious and fairly private and intimate subject today, the article may get lengthy as well. I’ll separate everything into sections for your convenience.
Alrighty, please grab a comforting beverage and maybe a snack. Let’s get started.
My Past with Anti-Depressants
Depression is something that I have been struggling with since I was a child, granted I had no idea what it was back then. Mental health is not something that is typically discussed or even accepted in most conservative Asian families and communities. Plus, with my parents being immigrants, even if something were to arise, finding doctors and trying to decipher the issues on a medical level would have been greatly intimidating and difficult for them. So, my conditions went undiagnosed for many, many years.
In 2012, my mental health and depression began to greatly impact my day-to-day existence. I started to realise I was trapped in a marriage that made me extremely unhappy and that was also excruciatingly damaging to my emotional well-being. Undergoing severe psychological abuse from my husband and father-in-law (whom we were residing with) was starting to compile and my mind began to unravel. This was also only a couple of years after my brother’s demise. I had no one to confide in or rely on and it began to take a hefty toll.
I started going out more and more every single night for long drives as a means of trying to escape my terrible environment without actually being able to escape.
For example, I started spending much more time in bed and would completely forget about my household chores, which would then lead to my getting yelled at and belittled constantly. I would even forget to eat, or I would binge-eat unhealthy snack foods in the middle of the night. I never forced myself to throw up, but I would then starve myself for days afterwards due to how gross my insides felt from all the crappy food. I started going out more and more every single night for long drives as a means of trying to escape my terrible environment without actually being able to escape.
One day, I was on my way to school and when I took the exit ramp off the motorway, my brother appeared beside me in my car. At the time, he was as real to me as the cat laying on the headrest of my computer chair or the rain that is currently pattering against my windowsill. He spoke to me and it completely freaked me out. I lost control of my car and ended up crashing upon the cemented footpath while taking a left turn. Somehow, I avoided hitting any obstacles and other vehicles, which was a miracle in and of itself. I then made sure my car was still drivable and finished my trek to school. As I sat there in the parking lot, my heart in my throat, I looked over at the empty leather seat and felt my whole body just run cold. I knew I had seen him. I honestly thought I was losing my mind.
When I called my husband and told him what had happened, he was furious. He never asked if I was okay, jut went on and on about how much of a screw-up I was lately and how he felt that he needed to chain me up to keep me from continuously fucking up. I had never felt worse than I did in that moment. To make matters worse, there ended up being a ton of damage to my undercarriage and the front axle. It cost almost ten grand to get everything fixed.
After that incident, I realised I needed help. I never wanted to experience anything like that again.
After that incident, I realised I needed help. I never wanted to experience anything like that again. I did some research for psychologists and I made sure to look for people that were in the nearest next town over. I’m not sure if I was afraid of my family finding out I was seeing a therapist or if I was afraid of my husband trying to stop me or using it as more ammunition against me. Either way, I felt it was very important for my therapist to be outside of town.
My first psychologist was the best one I have had to date. She worked with me to figure out that I had Major Depressive Disorder, Major Anxiety Disorder, and a mild form of Schizophrenia that was more than likely brought on by a major life event in my childhood (my grandmother dying when I was ten years old, whom I was the closest with). After a few sessions, we talked about my going on anti-depressants. I didn’t have health insurance at the time and was stressed out about the cost of it. When she learned I was a student, she suggested that I try visiting the medical facilities at my university, which I did about a week later. After meeting with a doctor at my Uni, I was prescribed Prozac (fluoxetine HCL) at 20 MG per day.
The only real side effects that I can remember from the time was nausea and sleepiness for the first week or so. Around the start the of third week, those went away. I ended up taking my anti-depressants with a shot of espresso right after getting to school every day (I don’t recommend this; it should be taken with water or something else that isn’t so concentrated). This gave me an unbelievable burst of energy that lasted approximately five to six hours. I felt like I was on top of the world, but then when I came home, I’d crash really fucking hard. It wasn’t the healthiest way to take the medication, however, it did wonders for me at the time, especially with my ADHD which was also getting exasperated.
The medication combined with the counselling was doing wonders for me and I felt quite improved.
I took Prozac at 20 MG for about six months before I asked the doctor to lessen the dose once I felt I was getting more stable. The medication combined with the counselling was doing wonders for me and I felt quite improved.
In 2014, my marriage reached it’s horrifying end. I discovered some disturbing things about my husband, and it would eventually lead to us separating and then divorcing, finally. Even so, the period in between the discovery and our eventual parting, ended up causing an incredible increase of psychological damage to me, trauma (PTSD) for which I still carry around and am not completely healed from. I ended up failing most of my classes and had to step away from college, which also meant I no longer had access to my medication. So, I stopped taking them once I left school in December 2014.
From December 2014 to November 2015, I spiralled. Without the medication, without counselling (I couldn’t afford this without my husband’s income), and no support system, I drank a lot of alcohol and started taking narcotics. I was clean and sober from narcotics at this point for almost ten years. But I was so self-destructive and felt so unbearably hopeless that I stopped caring about my sobriety. But when I moved out of my husband’s place and into a new home with Madame Gabs, I was finally able to heal and recover and leave behind everything that contributed to my depression exploding in my face.
Hitting Rock-Bottom in 2020
For five years, I worked on myself. I spent two to three years getting over the trauma and psychological damage that my marriage had wreaked on me and my underlying emotional instability. Starting a blog and reviewing books, as well getting some counselling, was the gateway for my self-treatment. I began to learn how to cope and survive, a feat I never thought possible. Then in 2019, my heart condition took a turn for the worse and most of the progress I made about feeling self-assured and hopeful for my future imploded terribly.
I eventually hit rock bottom during Thanksgiving week this year. I talk about it in great detail in this Life Update post, so I won’t go into much detail again here. I’ll just mention that my feelings of self-loathing, inadequacy, and my suicide ideation were at an all-time high. I hadn’t felt this grotesquely about myself nor my existence since my break from my ex-husband.
After being sober for almost six years, I was unfathomably terrified of falling off the wagon again.
One night around two in the morning, while I was sitting on the floor of my bedroom, trying to decide if I wanted to scream into a pillow from vehement rage or if I want to crawl into a ball and sob, I could visualise all the progress I made over the last five years threatening to disappear. Then I began to crave the comforts of narcotics. After being sober for almost six years, I was unfathomably terrified of falling off the wagon again.
I thought about Madame Gabs. I thought about my parents. I thought about my cats. I thought about Boss Man. Then I thought about my brother and the day he came to me in the car and scared me half to death. I’m not sure what came over me—could’ve been my brother’s spirit or Boss Man—but I knew that I didn’t want to feel like this again. I didn’t want to go back to the ugly places that I had already given so much of my life to. I worked too hard to just lay down and give up and stop caring.
The Process of Getting Medication
I got up, walked into my office, turned on my computer and messaged my doctor that same morning. I explained in detail that I was undergoing severe depression and outlined the influences that I suspected was making it worse (quarantine, heart illness, recovery) and that I wanted a low dosage anti-depressant. I briefly outlined that I took them before with great results and I didn’t want to be controlled by my depression anymore.
I feel I should mention that due to my low-income, I have Medi-Cal. So, having to go through the system to obtain medication can be a very difficult task. Usually there are tons of hoops to jump through, more so since there are a lot of people who take advantage of the system. When that happens, it makes it very challenging for people like me who actually need the system and use it properly to get what we need. Hence it taking over a year for my heart surgery to finally happen. When I sent out that e-mail to my doctor, I wasn’t expecting to hear back for at least two weeks, let alone one week. As I mentioned, there’s a lengthy process to these things. However, my doctor’s assistant called me the Tuesday after Thanksgiving (I e-mailed them at the beginning of that week). I was mind-blown.
Since I was asking for an anti-depressant, they needed to gauge my mental health situation. I was asked a lot of questions about my history with depression
Since I was asking for an anti-depressant, they needed to gauge my mental health situation. I was asked a lot of questions about my history with depression, when I first started taking anti-depressants, which type I was prescribed, my dosage, my reactions, why I stopped, what I wanted to accomplish with a new prescription and my current situation with respect to suicide ideation, life, and stress. The assistant was very nice and didn’t treat me like an idiot once, which I greatly appreciated. He was calm and spoke professionally yet kindly. He also didn’t patronise me, which was a humongous relief. He was also very open about answering any questions that I had, which were mostly in relation to whether this new medication would interfere with the prescriptions I was already taking for my heart (the stuff that keeps me alive, basically). Luckily, they do not.
He got information about my pharmacy and I had a new prescription on December 2nd which was the very next day. Four days later, my parents were diagnosed with COVID and were hospitalised simultaneously, where they both almost died, so the anti-depressants came just in the nick of time, let me tell you…
It takes approximately four to six weeks for anti-depressants to start working to their full effect, and of course, this shall vary depending on the individual person. The current dosage that I’m on as of right now is 10 MG per day. I take it in the early evening along with my second set of pills (I have a morning set for my heart and allergies and an evening set) since I only have to take it once per day. The recommendation is for me to take them in the morning, however, since I am on an entirely nocturnal (night-time) schedule, the evening pills are technically my “morning” doses.
The first week I took them, they worked like a sedative. Within an hour of taking them (I took them with a cup of milo or hot green tea), I would feel rather sleepy. You can imagine that this was something I hated quite a bit as I had just started my day, so getting tired this quickly was frustrating. Additionally, the pills also gave me a tiny bit of an upset tummy, which drove me batty. Having never experienced these sort of side effects before (the sleepiness wasn’t this strong in 2013), I was starting to worry that maybe my body chemistry wasn’t cut out for anti-depressants anymore since I was so much older (26 vs 33… damn, I’m old). However, these mild irritations only lasted for about five to six days.
Where I used to sleep for ten to twelve hours and still wake up feeling completely drained and exhausted, I noticed that I would wake up after about eight hours of sleep.
With the start of the second week, I noticed that my sleeping was becoming more and more regular. Where I used to sleep for ten to twelve hours and still wake up feeling completely drained and exhausted, I noticed that I would wake up after about eight hours of sleep. I’d still be a tiny bit tired, but after having my morning cup of tea or hot cocoa and a light breakfast (chocolate chip waffles, always because I’m a creature of habit), that morsel of tiredness would evaporate.
By the third week, I was sleeping regularly for seven to eight hours. Last night I only got five hours of sleep (bad insomnia due to stress from my mum still being sick), but I still woke up feeling refreshed and the exhaustion left my bones within a couple of hours of waking. Additionally, no matter what time I go to sleep, I always wake up within the same block of time (e.g.: if I go to sleep at night, then I wake up between four and six AM; if I go to sleep in the morning, then between five and seven PM). Because my patterns were starting to become more regular—or whatever constitutes as my version of regular—my moods were less impulsive and fluctuating.
My depression has improved quite a bit too. Whenever I start to feel a heavy depressive episode coming on, it has been supremely easier for me take the initiative and make myself busy so as not to be greatly impaired by my depression. For example, there’s something going on with my mum’s health that I can’t discuss, but it has me extremely stressed out. When my brain starts to ruminate on all the worst-case scenarios, it is much easier for me to convince myself to start playing a video game or to start reading or watching a film/TV series for immediate distraction. I also spend much less time flipping through all of the streaming services trying to find something to watch. The reason I bring this seemingly minor titbit up is because my indecision with trying to find an activity was a big part of my depression and anxiety and it contributed heavily to my ADHD going wild, which in turn made me even more miserable. It’s all a cycle, even when it seems like things aren’t truly connected.
What Comes Next
With respect to the dosage, I’m going to wait out the full six weeks and then see how I’m fairing in a month or so with the full effects of the medication before I decide to increase it or not. As it stands, while I do feel the differences already, I know that my stress is going to grow with the arrival of the new semester and with the concerns surrounding my mum, so I may increase my dosage around March, when my next check-up is due.
The important thing to keep in mind when taking anti-depressants is that they aren’t a cure-all solution.
As for what comes next, I’m going to take this time to evaluate the things in my life that may inadvertently be contributing to my depression and start to remove them or limit them as much as I can. The important thing to keep in mind when taking anti-depressants is that they aren’t a cure-all solution. They are supposed to be taken in conjunction with coping methods and other improvements and techniques for mental health care. So, if you’re looking for an instant fix for your depression, you may not find that with medication. However, if you want something to supplement life changes and intention to take control of your conditions, then medication may be the route for you.
For example, I am longer actively engaging in social media. Book Twitter has become extremely toxic and is one of the few spaces I used to turn to for comfort and also to stay up-to-date on book news and publishing climates. However, things lately are so terribly poisonous in that community that I needed to bow out. Aside from Book Twitter, all social media for me has become a humongous source of strain. It is impossible to care about every single issue every single second of every single day. Yet, whenever I take a break away from caring about ALL THE THINGS even for a short while, social media constantly reminds me that I’m taking that break and I start to feel like shite, like I’m not trying hard enough when I’m already doing everything I possible can within my means and mental capabilities. It is exhausting and wholeheartedly depressing.
So, I’m done with social media. My Twitter space shall only be used for sharing blog posts and occasional announcements as they pertain to life or this blog if I’m unable to make a proper post surrounding it. I have Instagram, but I’m stepping away from that as well for at least a month or two and re-evaluate what I want to do with that space if I even decide to keep up with it. The only platform that I have that I will actively engage with is BiblioNyan and I’ll keep Discord around in case if anyone needs to get in touch with me (Grand Admiral Tofu King #1044). I’m also accessible on Steam (there’s IM features on there and I’m almost always available there) and I’m also available daily via e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org). If you want my phone number to be able to text me, please drop me a comment and I’ll find a way to contact you.
Letting go of things that are harmful or negatively influential is a gigantic step towards conquering my depression
Making that choice was hard as I’ve been really ingrained in social media culture and life for a while. But it’s not bringing me joy and I don’t have a pressing need to keep it in my life, at least not at this point and time. Letting go of things that are harmful or negatively influential is a gigantic step towards conquering my depression and I’m glad that I’m finally able to make the necessary choices in being able to take more control of my life again.
Wrapping It Up
At the end of January, I shall do a check-in with y’all and let you know how the medication is fairing as it shall be in full bloom and swing by then. I also feel it will be a good time to provide a brief life update as it shall be the start of a new year, I’ll be completely done with recovery by then, and Insha’Allah I’ll have good news to share with respect to my mum’s health.
I know this post became outrageously long, but I wanted to make sure to cover all the important things about my journey with anti-depressants. It hasn’t been an easy road, by far, but it is one that I’m supremely grateful for and I’m appreciative that I was able to find the strength to ask for help when I needed it. This is my greatest weakness, however, I’m trying to do better.
If you’re still on the fence about trying to make a choice of taking anti-depressants, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I can answer more personal or direct questions that way and we can chat about the options out there for you. I want to help people take control of their depression. It’s a nasty beast and it can be so awfully debilitating, more so if you feel like you’re alone in dealing with it. Just know you aren’t alone. I will do whatever I can to help. You just need take the first step and merely reach out your hand.
With that, I shall bring this monster of a post to a close. Sending y’all much love and gentle, kind hugs. Take care and I’ll see you again soon.