Dear Chris (age 28-33),
Take the damn pills.
To tell the honest truth, I haven’t felt much like writing the past few days. But, I’m trying to finish out this 31 day commitment as much as I can…even though I’ve skipped at least 8ish days by now.
I’ve been thinking a lot the past few days about depression. Sarah Silverman made a public statement recently about her own battle with depression and another friend of mine shared this blog post on Facebook today that outlined some of the reasons people of faith have found themselves unsure of whether to take anti-depressants.
One day many years ago, as I was struggling to find my way out of my own darkness, my therapist asked me to ask my mother what kind of kid I had been….what kind of temperament I had had. When I did, my mom told me that she would have described me as melancholy. My brother, when asked, admitted that I had always been a little on the sad side. Read some of my other posts and you might notice that there have always been things in my life to be a bit melancholy about…and, on top of that, I think that I was made tilted towards sadness.
I believe that depression (and anxiety) runs in my family though no one has ever really talked about it much. When I was somewhere in my late 20s, though, my sadness turned towards full out clinical depression. I was dealing with a new level of healing from trauma and my normal defenses weren’t working anymore. I had always been able to “self-medicate” with busyness and a jovial outer disposition, but that wasn’t working for me anymore. I couldn’t get my insides to match my outside any longer, and I started sinking.
Depression to me felt like drowning, like I could never break the surface for a gulp of fresh air. It felt like being pulled under by giant weights. It felt like an elephant that sat on my chest and took my breath away. And it felt undefeatable.
Though my counselor would say that I have a generalized low-grade depression that’s probably been walking hand in hand with me my whole life, for about five years it got pretty serious. I lost a lot of will for most things…though somehow still seemed to power through and put on a happy face for the world around me. I lost my creativity. I cried every single day. I didn’t sleep well. I was angry. I could not find peace.
But even though I come from a family where many people work in therapy related fields, I refused to take medication.
I somehow got it in my head that if I did the right things…ate better, exercised more, prayed more, believed harder…that it would go away. I got it in my head that I was the only one who was like me, that no one else could understand. Which meant that depression was my fault. And that thought ultimately led me down the rabbit trail of the idea that I deserved to feel that way.
No matter how my therapist tried to convince that medication was what I needed, I was not having it.
I remember one session where she asked me if I would go on dialysis if my kidneys were failing. I responded quite fervently that I would…but that this was different, though I couldn’t really explain why.
I floundered, wanting to stay in bed more than I ever wanted to do anything else.
I kept powering through…to the point that most people did not even realize what was going on with me.
About five years in to the deep depression, I started to cave to the idea of medication. A friend of mine had gone on it and told me how it had reset her life. A candid conversation with my brother revealed his own tendencies towards depression and opened my eyes to see it in other members of my family. That conversation with him did something very important for me. It helped me realize that I was not alone. And it freed me up to be able to say yes to anti-depressants.
And I swear to God, as soon as I gave myself permission, I didn’t feel the need for them anymore.
The honest truth is that I never got that prescription. But that doesn’t mean that I didn’t need them. They probably still would have been helpful…and I have shorter seasons now when I consider whether or not I might need them to get me through. But somehow deciding that it was okay to take them and that I wasn’t to blame for my depression released the deepness of it. I don’t know why or how that was true. I only know that it was.
I still struggle on and off with depression and anxiety but a sad day (or week or month) now is nothing compared to the years I spent feeling like I was trying to crawl out of a pit. It’s manageable for me now.
Honestly, it is.
I feel better about my life now than I have in quite a long time.
But, man, how I wish I could tell my younger self to take what was being offered. How I wish I hadn’t lost out on those years. How I wish that my life decisions had not been guided by the darkness.
I’d offer myself now the permission I couldn’t give myself then in an instant if I needed it. And I’d offer it to you too.