Author’s note: Please note that some of the written content and images below is something that some people might find disturbing and upsetting.
I suffered from depression and anxiety for two years unmedicated, scraping by simply upon the power of positive thinking and “powering through.” You see, it seems like a fine tactic for a while. But then shit gets tough and everything blows up in your face. Before that all happened, I had noticed some changes. I couldn’t focus on anything. I found myself hating other people for being able to enjoy the simplest things in life while I was left unable to form any kind of connections or enjoy anything.
I wasn’t suicidal, but I suddenly found myself thinking that maybe dying wouldn’t be the worst thing ever. It’s a weird feeling to realize that you don’t really care to keep living. It’s weird to watch that will to live simply slip away like a bar of soap in your hand. Keep in mind, I wasn’t actively thinking about killing myself, but I was worried what would come next if these were the thoughts preoccupying my mind. The worst part is knowing I had no reason to feel this way, yet I felt like I had no control over my feelings and thoughts.
I realized that I needed help. I started looking around for therapists but was turned away from almost every single one because each and every one had weeks to months long waiting lists, and I honestly didn’t know if I had it in me to keep fighting for that long. It all boiled down on January 25, 2017. I experienced one of the worst anxiety attacks I’ve ever had, and it happened at work. My boss pulled me aside and for the first time ever, I felt comfort with my illness.
I was immediately sent to the hospital, where a doctor who reminded me of Mr. Rogers spoke to me in a calm voice, telling me that it was time I allowed myself to be vulnerable – that it was okay to not be okay, and it was okay to ask for help. I told him that I had asked for help; over and over, yet no one seemed to want to help me. He handed me a list of therapists and a referral that was sure to get me into one of them within the next week
“Kait, are you ready to feel something again other than anxiety?” he asked me.
“Yes,” I took a deep breath.
“Good, because I’m putting you on this antidepressant,” he said softly.
I immediately began sobbing, partially because I was relieved to be pointed in any direction that signified things getting better, but also because I didn’t want to be a statistic – I didn’t want to depend on a little pill to keep me in the game. The doctor then explained to me that being on antidepressants didn’t mean anything except that I had a chemical imbalance in my brain and it simply needed a little help. I sat in my car outside of Walgreens and cried while waiting for my prescription to be filled. I knew the road ahead was a long one, but I was ready to take it.
The first few weeks were hell. I missed some work on the days I didn’t have it in me to get out of bed. I was constantly exhausted, I didn’t have an appetite, and everything was an uphill battle. I went to work without makeup, and the bags under my eyes had bags, too. I suffered extreme headaches and nausea, and it almost felt as if it would never be worth it. I started therapy the first week after I started the pills, and it was even more exhausting.
You see, the hardest part about giving up on yourself is battling through it and trying to make progress. There were days where I had to try harder than anyone else just to do simple everyday tasks like taking a shower or getting dressed. I cried a lot, but I knew it would be worth it. Getting feeling back into my life was anything but symmetrical, and I was all over the board. Getting help and choosing to get better is a decision that you have to consciously make, even if it feels like you’re about to climb Mount Everest. You have to try to help yourself, and that makes you one strong motherf*cker.
During the third week, I experienced a major relapse that just took the life right out of me, and I spent that week wondering if things would ever get better and trying to will myself to do something. I had to choose to keep trying, even if I couldn’t see clearly ahead of me.
For the first 33 days, I took a picture of myself every single day (most of them, right away in the morning – excuse the bedhead). You can see the progress for yourself. I still had some really bad days mixed in among the good ones, but you can tell when my smile becomes more and more genuine. It was a hard decision to include the pictures with this, because I was at my absolute worst in some of those pictures – it’s not how I wanted people to see me.
It’s been 73 days since I’ve started taking my antidepressants. I look back and I can’t believe that I ever let it get to the point that I was at, and it’s clear to me that I should’ve been medicated a long time ago. I wish that antidepressants were a more normalized thing. That when someone catches a glimpse of your pill bottle or when you tell someone you’re on them, the room doesn’t suddenly fall silent. That people would realize that taking antidepressants for a chemical imbalance in your brain is almost the exact same thing as taking iron tablets for an iron deficiency, yet that doesn’t get a bad rap. Maybe if it was, I would’ve sought them out a long time ago.
I look at myself in the mirror and I’m so different than I was 73 days ago. I see physical changes. I look happier and healthier, and I like the person I see staring back at me in the mirror. The bags are gone. I don’t look as frail. And I’m incredibly proud of myself. I made it back from a point that many people don’t make it back from. Antidepressants literally changed my life and it’s one of the best things I could’ve done for myself. It’s okay to take care of yourself. It’s okay to ask for help, and it’s certainly okay to get a little help from those little pills.