Meredith Speaks: On Depression and RepressionBy Merri Leston
I stopped taking my antidepressants maybe 2 months ago now. Doctors suggest (rightly so) that you taper off gradually, but unfortunately for me I had to take the cold turkey approach. Cue 4 weeks of emotional turbulence, rocking in the corner and staring at walls (poor boyfriend).
But now life is a little more shiny and my outfit choices show more variability than leggings and some form of top (bra on a good day), I am able to reflect. Only problem is, it doesn’t seem there’s much there to reflect on; the cocktail of depression and repression has robbed me of my narrative.
My therapist suggested I make a timeline of events to try and scrape some memories from the bottom of the empty barrel that is my mind. It currently looks more like I’m trying to go to another dimension rather than list what’s been going on in this one (flea and trapeze reference for anyone that doesn’t watch Stranger Things, but actually shame on you – go watch it immediately).
Trauma is not kind to your brain. Long stretches of anxiety (let’s call it a lifespan) have given my memories a film-like quality, unlived.
The past is pretty overcast.
In total I went through around 25 different types of antidepressants, and around 25 accompanying personality changes. One week I would be fearless, the next suicidal. I had one particularly damaging stint of psychosis; I broke up with a boyfriend because the voices told me to. Poor bastard.
I think given this psychoactive carousel, it should be no surprise that everything seems a blur. But memories are grounding; without them I’m rootless.
Existential dread seems pretty par for the course for a twentysomething, but I have more right than most to feel a little lost. Every story needs a start, middle and end; it’s hard to look forward without being able to look back.
But I’ve lost more than memories; people too. My relationships seem further away than before. Are these people the leading ladies in my life? Or are they just the understudies? Feeling like a drug mule made me stubbornly antisocial. I ghosted more than my fair share, scared that if I couldn’t recognize myself, they wouldn’t be able to either.
I’m grateful for the medication, really I am. I found the clarity (in that moment at least) to take on the therapy and actually make progress. I got through my degree, god knows how, and somehow put a LinkedIn profile together that I find sexier than my old modeling portfolio. But drug dependency comes in many forms: I felt my accomplishments belonged to GlaxoSmithKline, not me. I was convinced that without the little white pill, I would remain in a little white jacket.
But not so, my friends. Sans antidepressives life is richer, more colourful. Yes, I get sad sometimes, my emotional range runs wider and sometimes into dangerous territory, but I have missed it all. I have missed the nuances of pain, the fifty shades of happiness, the greens of envy and the blues of sadness. Today my life is a canvas, and though blanker than I would perhaps prefer, I am in a better place than ever to make something of it.
So I’m back on familiar turf. I may have changed but my hometown certainly hasn’t; bar more coffee shops per square inch and a new M&S, things seem pretty familiar. Drinks are still overpriced, Uggs are still worn and the builders still whistle at anything that respires. This little town is the border of me, surrounding my decisions and my ambitions. I’m starting this puzzle from its edges.
The Easter weekend seems as good a time as ever to resurrect myself: old friends, old places, old dogs (new tricks – the labradoodle is relentless), but new memories and a new me.
One day I may need the drugs again, and that’s OK. Parity of esteem means I shouldn’t have to justify my need to medicate my illness to anyone. But for now, I’m enjoying the little black dog at heel, rather than worrying about the one in my head.