How would you feel if you lost your capacity to feel joy? Where is the meaning in life when all of the things you love no longer make you happy? It’s perfectly normal, my doctor says. He says it means the meds are working. I have a problem with this logic. Logically, you would think if depression medications are working then the person taking them should no longer feel depressed. I suppose this logic would depend on your definition of what depression feels like, though.
For me, the opposite of feeling depressed should, logically, be feeling happy. That statement takes some very complex emotions and simplifies them as much as possible. Maybe ‘feeling happy’ is a little too optimistic. I would settle with feeling content or simply not feeling sad the majority of the time.
As I understand it, doctors aim for ‘stability’ when medicating a depressed person, which basically means the person doesn’t feel desperately sad or completely hopeless. It can be a harrowing battle of tinkering with psychotropic medications to find some kind of balance which could be described as stability, everyone is different in this regard. The real bitch of it is you can find such a balance and it will work for an extended period of time, after which your body adjusts to it and it either stops working completely or stops working as well as it did at first. Also, there can be side effects that create problems in other aspects of your life that didn’t exist prior to the medications.
My most recent major medication change has, seemingly, changed my personality in pretty big ways. I don’t recognize myself and I don’t feel like I fit properly inside my skin anymore. After my body went through the initial shock of the medication change I felt good; I felt confident, I was writing, reading, taking pictures, interacting with the world, and living my life like a ‘normal’ person would. Roughly five months later I am a shell of that person. My confidence has withered away to nothing. I rarely write anymore and when I do I generally hate what I write and publish only a fraction of what I’ve written. I couldn’t tell you the last time I read a book. I used to snap photos everywhere I went and loved using Instagram, now I look around and can’t think of a single thing to photograph. We have pets that I used to adore, now I wish we could get rid of them. Every time one of our cats jumps up and tries to snuggle me I make my husband shoo him away because I find the interaction overstimulating. THIS IS NOT ME!!!
There is no longer anything in my life that brings me joy or happiness. Let me rephrase that. Everything in life that I used to find fulfilling, things that made me happy, no longer do. Did I suddenly lose interest in all of my hobbies? No. My doctor says this is perfectly normal based on the psychotropic medications I am taking to treat my depression and anxiety. Well, that’s comforting.
When I am in the midst of a major depressive episode I generally do not want to live. I am engulfed in a complete sense of hopelessness, a darkness that is all-consuming. Currently, the only emotions I feel on a regular basis are fear and sadness. I am scared of this person I have become and do not recognize, and I am mourning the loss of the person I once was. I do not want to live the way I was when I was depressed. I also do not want to live the way I am living now. This is not who I am.
I am a compassionate, loving person who enjoys laughing and spending time with friends. I am an animal lover who struggles to not take in every stray kitten in town because they all need somebody to love them. I thrive on connecting with people and interacting, whether it’s in person or online. I can read a novel in two or three days because I just can’t put it down. I love taking photographs, even though I am far from a professional because I like to document the beauty surrounding me. I am fiercely loyal and will help my friends or family in any way that I am able.
Yet… I am none of those things lately.
Are my only options one extreme or the other? Severe depression or mere existence? At least when I was depressed I had moments of clarity, I had the capacity to feel joy, however fleeting it may have been. What I am feeling, or not feeling in my life now almost mimics depression. The majority of the time I am sad and anxious, which are the symptoms these medications are supposed to be treating. So here’s my question… Am I really better off now than I was before? Are taking psychotropics worth losing myself when I am already lost to begin with? What, dear reader, would you prefer?
There are still pieces of me remaining under this veil of drugs and depression, the proof is in the writing of this piece. I don’t want to disappear and I am trying to hold on. I know I am not alone in my struggle, that there are people who love me and want to see me well. I’ve beaten the demons of depression before, too many times to count, so chances are I can do it again. This current state of affairs, however, is a perspective I am not as familiar with and certainly not comfortable with. I must find a way to get my life back. Life feels hopeless at the moment but rarely is any situation truly without hope. So while I cannot see it or feel it, I will try to remember hope still exists.