Taking an Anti-Depressant
It's not that I was depressed or anything. I mean, not in the looney-bin sense of the word. I just had these weird thoughts... doesn't that happen to everyone? There's nothing wrong with questioning the validity of one's existence. Sure, fantasies of suicide would cross my mind, but only for a moment. There were good days, and there were bad days. It wasn't important to keep track of which occurred with greater frequency. Life is volatile, tumultuous -- kind of a big disaster. I was young and flighty, unreasonable, and unpredictable. The idea of a normal existence didn't apply to me, nor did I want it to. I found myself existing on the margin, unable to completely reject the mainstream, yet simultaneously unwilling to be a part of it.
So much resistance, so much unhappiness. I did end up cracking, straight down the middle, like an egg whose yolk was already broken before someone bothered to divide it in half.
The day of my breakdown was such a cliche. My roommate found me crouched on the floor, lining up aspirin one by one, carefully calculating how many milligrams it would take to do the job. I wasn't going to actually kill myself. I always averted suicide by picturing my mother's face when she discovered that I was dead, of my own volition. I imagined her crumpling, screaming, not understanding. I could never put her through that. But I liked to think about the world without me in it. Death was the only interesting thing I had yet to experience. Everything else was trite and mundane, part of our formulaic society and its multitude of expectations. Being dead, at least, would be different.
My roommate didn't see the situation as such. She thought the aspirin fiasco was a proverbial "cry for help" and acted accordingly. My irresponsible actions were reported to Phedra, our over-enthusiastic, endlessly involved R.A. Phedra hauled me off to Health Services, where I was encouraged (ordered?) to meet with a psychologist who "specialized in such matters." The alternative was having some stupid administrator-type call my parents and inform them of my mental instability. The decision wasn't difficult to make.
Phedra set up weekly meetings for me and the psychologist. Bridget was her name, and she didn't do much for me in terms of psychoanalysis. But she did listen, and I had underestimated how valuable that was. No one had ever listened to me speak for 60 minutes, completely uninterrupted, free of judgments and opinions. It was heaven.
It didn't make my irrational, anti-existence moments any less frequent, however. I continued to challenge the parameters of life as a college student, constantly wondering what else there could be for me to experience. I would cry uncontrollably at the thought of attending professional school, getting married, living such a cookie-cutter life. The more I questioned society, the more Bridget recommended that I consider taking an anti-depressant. Eventually, I did.
I waited for the numbing to begin. I thought my feelings would no longer be my own, and I would dumbly acquiesce to the social norms I had resisted my entire life. I was simultaneously relieved and disappointed when this failed to occur. True, I was no longer miserable. Some coping skills seemed to reappear, and I was able to deal with unexpected obstacles much more calmly. But I never stopped questioning, fighting, looking for ways to not become a pawn of the establishment. My medication did not turn me into a mindless follower. I remained where I wanted to be, on the periphery, accepting the good, rejecting the ridiculous. I perhaps became happier, perhaps more stable, but never completely dissociated from myself.
I stayed on my antidepressant for three years. I guess I'm in remission now, so to speak. There are some disadvantages to being stable, though. Perhaps I am less of a philosopher now, perhaps I am less of an artist, a poet. So many beautiful things come from tortured existences. But I like not being tortured. It feels really good.
RECOMMENDED READING FROM THE PSYSTORE:
Prozac Nation: Young and Depressed in America: A Memoir
by Elizabeth Wurtzel
Our Price: $10.36
"The saddest, funniest, and ultimately, most triumphant book about youthful depression I've come across. It reads like a mixture of J.D. Salinger and Sylvia Plath, with some Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen thrown in for good measure...Elizabeth Wurtzel is one canny and entertaining observer of her generation." -- Daphne Merkin
For a selection of books on this topic, visit the Psystore.