Since age 7, I have suffered from treatment-resistant depression. This disease has ruled much of my life. I spent my childhood holed up in my room, crying, begging the Virgin Mary to give me friends. I was bullied relentlessly because it’s particularly satisfying to bully the kid who cries. Cutting left scars on my arms and wrists, and it’s something I battle whenever the darkness drops down. I starved myself. I told my husband I hated him. I overdosed in an attempt to kill myself (but I just slept a lot). I take seven different kinds of psychiatric medication. And last year, I spent two weeks in an outpatient mental institution.
I have a friend who tells me that I need to just get off the pills and find my authentic self. This is fucking ridiculous because my “authentic self” is actively suicidal. It’s actually the pills that make it possible for me to be my authentic self, to parent effectively, to love my family, to live a decent life. You don’t tell a diabetic that if she throws out her insulin, she’ll find the freedom to snarf cheesecake all day. But because my pills affect my serotonin, not my pancreatic secretions, it’s okay to claim they change me as a human being. Insulin also changes you as a human being. It makes you not die. My pills work similarly.
I’ve also heard that yoga can keep me sane. If this were the case, the Beatles never would have progressed beyond Sgt. Pepper’s, so this argument is basically bullshit. But regardless of the success of 1960s rock-era Indian experiences, yoga will not save my soul. I’ll not disagree that some downward dogs are good for me, but they won’t keep me from killing myself if I toss out all the medication. The last time I stopped one — one! — medication, I took two naps a day, screamed at my kids all the time, and stopped pooping. I don’t think yoga can solve that.
Some people recommend light therapy. Light therapy works for people whose depression is — wait for it — based on light. It’s called Seasonal Affective Disorder, and the only thing it has in common with regular depression is occasional depression. I probably have a touch of that, but considering that I entered outpatient treatment in June, not much. Sunlight will not fix my brain, nor will one of those light thingies.
Other people, including my midwife, tell me that I need to do something called the Electronic Freedom Technique. It’s basically tapping on you while you think about whatever your problem is — my problem, I suppose, being a crushing sense of worthlessness since the age of 7. They claim it’s acupressure. I call bullshit on the whole affair.
And do not bring up essential oils. Just don’t. I don’t know what essential oil you’d recommend for my depression, because I only know two — lavender because it’s everywhere and patchouli oil because it sounds cool. As soon as you start talking about essential oils, I tune out, because they’re basically a Utah pyramid scheme people claim can cure everything from a broken leg to a brain tumor. I need targeted intervention. Do you know what the words “serotonin reuptake inhibitor” mean? Do you understand the role of oxytocin and norepinephrine in brain chemistry? No? Then take your MLM starter kit elsewhere.
Speaking of serotonin, did you know it’s made in the gut? Because I did! Pin the gold star on my pill bottles because I’m not getting rid of them. No crazy-ass diet is going to make me all better. Gluten does make me cry, but it’s because I’m non-celiac gluten intolerant, not because it’s a psychological magic bullet. If it was, I wouldn’t be in therapy, since I’ve been off it for years. I’ve done Paleo to lose weight and still thought my husband would die in a car wreck every single day. I’ve even done a total elimination diet, which is basically a starvation diet where you survive on nothing but chicken, rice, squash, and pears. And yes, I still suffered visions of helping my baby through the apocalypse. So excuse me for telling you to shut the hell up when you suggest dietary solutions. I’ve dietaried far more than you have, asshole.
And don’t tell me to exercise more. Yes, I could stand to exercise more. But I managed to haul my carcass up a mountain in North Carolina recently, so I can’t be in that bad of shape. Exercising is great, really. I used to run eight miles a day. And when I did, I was in grad school, and I cried at night because I had no friends and also suffered from a deep conviction I was too dumb to be there — while I had friends and was smart enough to be there. Exercise will not save me, and it’s frankly insulting to tell me it will. I could run marathons, but if I don’t take my meds, I’ll still be on the floor contemplating the razors again.
So don’t tell me to ditch my meds. Don’t offer me some crackpot solutions you heard on your favorite talk show or read about somewhere in the wilds of the interwebs. I have treatment-resistant depression. I take drugs for it.
When I take those drugs, I’m fine. Without them, I’m not fine. So, I will keep taking the (prescribed) drugs, thank you very much.