4 years is nothing. 4 years is a black spot on a clean canvas that you can only really see if you step over those red rope barriers in museums that stop you from getting too close. But 4 years of depression and anxiety left my life paralyzed from the early teens onwards. It came in waves, waves of not being able to leave my bed, wishing I was dead, crying until my eyes were burning and my brain felt like it was under a hydraulic press.
Being 15 – noting that I’m 16 now – my mother was desperate. She was frustrated, blaming herself, my father, mostly just me, though. I couldn’t face going to school, so I missed most of the high school experience, I couldn’t even leave my room most days.
We tried aromatherapy. I had candles and drank herbal mixtures and dropped two drops of flower water onto my tongue a day. I had mouth sprays and scent sticks and special herbal chewing gum. That didn’t work so well.
We tried tapping, sort of like massage therapy. I’d tap areas of my body and tell it I will go to school tomorrow. I didn’t.
We tried therapy. My mother took me to a counsellor named Mindy who made me cinnamon tea. Later, I saw an Anne who let me play with the fidget toys she had in a box in the corner. Then I got to the top of the CAMHS waiting list and I saw a Sandra who brought in aromatic play-dough to make me feel more relaxed. Then I got to an Adrienne, who had a fun accent. After her came Linda, who said ‘breasts’ too much.
Then I got Dr Tom.
I’d done CBT – it hadn’t helped. I was missing my GCSEs due to anxiety – I was thrown deeper into depression. My relationship with my mother was angry yells and her being disappointed in me every time she saw me (or, that’s what it felt like to a 15-year-old).
I couldn’t live like this anymore.
Dr Tom explained, in much detail, that medication – Fluoxetine, 20mg – was a last-ditch effort to try to keep my 4 years of misery from becoming 5.
I’d had friends who’d benefitted from taking medication, so when I wasn’t opposed to the idea, my mother agreed. Desperate times and all that.
Dr Tom had explained the side effects to me, and how if they surpassed the two-week mark, I was to call his office immediately. Dizziness, nausea, suicidal thoughts. I was willing.
The first few days, I was dizzy. My head felt heavy and I felt like I was floating. No nausea, no suicidal thoughts.
A week later, I did get a dark cloud over my head. It didn’t last long, but it was there.
A week later, I’d tidied my room. The first time in months.
A month later, I looked up courses in local colleges. I didn’t cry about missing my GCSEs.
6 months later, I set up a board of aspirations and was slowly ticking them off.
A year later, I bought a pet budgie, whom I look after. That’s a lot of responsibility for someone who couldn’t look after themselves last year.
When the time came to come off of my meds, I had no side effects. I was living. I was alive. I had plans, I didn’t look around and hate where I was in life. I was something. Not nothing. 4 years of dark at the end of the tunnel, and suddenly there was light. And it wasn’t a train coming right at me this time, I’d actually found the end of the tunnel!
I’ve been off Prozac for a few months by now. I dyed my hair the other day and laughed when it didn’t come out the way I wanted it to.
When I was 13, if my hair wasn’t right, my anxiety would have me missing days of school to cry on my bedroom floor. My bird, Archie, is my best bud, and likes to sit on my shoulder. I volunteer at an animal rescue and walk the dogs. I used to cross the street when one was coming towards me. I want to learn sign language. I’m going to a concert next year. I go to a drama club. I take the train. I read books. I spend time with my friends. I smile at strangers. I’m not angry anymore.
Prescription drugs can be awful. It can turn something bad into something worse and make someone scared into someone scary.
But I’d been scared for so long.
And I’m not anymore. I’m unsure that I ever will be again.
Whatever prescription drugs are to you, I wish you luck, and remind you there is hope.