Asking for Help is Not a Surrender
I saw my first therapist when I was eight years old. My parents had just gotten divorced, and they wanted to make sure my brother and I were dealing with it ok. I don’t remember much about therapy then. Ken, my therapist, had a ponytail. I put some puzzles together, which I think was supposed to be some representation of how I was handling everything. The whole experience felt strange.
I saw my second therapist when I was fourteen. I had just started high school, and after three years of dealing with depression under the guise of “teen angst” and “it’s just a phase,” I knew I needed some help. My dad took me to Dr. Shinitzky. Shinitzky was a nice Jewish name. I only saw him for about a month. He kept pointing out my failings, and I always felt worse after I left his office. I don’t know if it was his fault or mine that therapy wasn’t working. It was probably a little of both. All I knew was that I still wasn’t happy.
For the next seven years I made excuses for my depression. Freshman year of college was hard for a lot of people. Of course being back in Florida was less fun than spending a semester in England. I did poorly in school because my family was going through a lot. But eventually I ran out of excuses. I isolated myself. I spent all my time in my room. I went straight home after class. I didn’t go out. I barely spoke to my roommates. I lost interest in everything. I cried often, and when I wasn’t crying, I slept. I had struggled with depression for ten years, but I had never felt so empty, so helpless. I knew, again, I needed help.
I told both my parents what I was going through, and they encouraged me to not only see someone but to think about trying medication. My mom took antidepressants when she first got sober. My dad started taking them around the same time, when he and my mom got divorced. Knowing that they had both been through what I was going through helped me make my decision.
I started seeing my third therapist a couple months ago. I also started taking an antidepressant. I tried Zoloft first, and I had side effects bad enough to land me in the ER for a few hours early one morning with a grumpy nurse who jammed an IV in my arm unceremoniously enough to cause some pretty good bruising. Not a great start. But then I tried Celexa, and after a few weeks I felt like an actual person again.
The meds have been giving me some insomnia, but it’s nothing a cup of herbal tea before bed can’t fix. Other than that, I feel better now than I’ve felt in years. I’m motivated and excited to be around people again. I don’t get anxiety attacks when I sit down to do work anymore. After years of feeling like I’ve been sleepwalking, I finally feel awake again. (Yes, I know that is a horrible cliché, but it is honestly the best way I can think of to describe what I’m going through.) And unlike the last couple times, therapy is actually helping me.
I don’t tell you all this for pity or anything like that. I tell you this because I think it’s important to get the word out that depression and anxiety are not mere phases or things you can talk yourself out of. For a long time I told myself any number of things to convince myself that I was fine. And because I wasn’t on the most extreme end of depression, I thought I wasn’t depressed at all. A lot of people are afraid to ask for help. Some people don’t even realize they need it. It took me years to reconcile with the idea that I needed help.
I’m still working on what it is exactly that triggers my depression and anxiety, but the point is that I am in fact working on it. It took a lot of courage to ask for help and to realize that some of that help might come from medication. It’s still taking a lot of courage to look at myself and try to figure out how to be a happier person. But even just realizing that I do have the power to be happy is a big step for me. Yes, part of that happiness comes in the form of a small orange pill, but I’m ok with that.
So, like I said, I’m not telling you this to call attention to myself. I’m telling you this to encourage anyone who might be reading this to get help if they need it. There is, unfortunately, still a stigma surrounding mental health issues and medication for said issues, and I know that this one blog post in some small corner of the Internet is not going to change the way the world thinks about mental health. It might, however, change the way a few people think about mental health, and that’s all I’m trying to do.