November 2015. I begun taking antidepressant and anxiolytic. August 2016. I abruptly stopped my medications. Here’s the story, so far.
[TRIGGER WARNING: I discuss my history of severe depression that included detailed suicidal ideation. Do not read if you know you are triggered by such things.]
I think only a few people knew about me taking psychoactive medication in the past. Of course, along with the mental health stigma was the issue about ‘synthetic medication’– along with what others thought to be manageable.
Well who gave them the right anyway? Did they ever have endogenous depression? I bet they have not.
Almost two years ago, it was the time I was almost turning 20. Quite a milestone, eh? Coupled with that was the pressure regarding my tenure in my former university. Thus, this teenager, who actually was denying depression for so may years, finally succumbed to suicidal ideation. Eventually, this teenager submitted himself to a psychiatrist.
It was that difficult. For around 8 years, I kept claiming “I am immune to suicide”. Yet, when things went terribly wrong, I sought the comfort of the cutter and rubbing alcohol, that I dabbed on the fresh wound so the pain would intensify. There was even that point I almost traced the blood vessels so I could effectively bleed to death.
I had no one to save me. I cut off myself from my friends. That’s something I’ve actually tended to do for so many years and I failed to identify it as a symptom of clinical depression.
Well, as my sister, who came with me to go to the psychiatrist, is a Medicine student, she knew from the start that a psychiatrist visit meant an immediate drug prescription. Because he’s a medical doctor in the first place, and that is their line of job.
I knew the difference of psychologist and psychiatrist prior to that, but I didn’t really expect. But without any delay, I bought my medications in the nearby pharmacy right after the visit. I didn’t even expect my mother would support me with my decision.
Months prior to that, on July 2015, I did submit myself for an evaluation by a psychologist. I told that I think I have symptoms for anxiety disorder. It was very expensive, and it didn’t give me any relief. It failed to pinpoint my problem. Maybe that was my reason why I submitted myself to a psychiatrist.
It’s August 2016 when I decided I’d stop medication.
I couldn’t help but feel guilty that I’m only imposing on my parents to buy me daily medication when my mother can’t even buy her hypertension medication. But at the same time, I did feel like the medication no longer worked like it used to (I think I should blame those days I double-, triple-, or whatever multiple-dosed out of depressivity). At the same time, it is by belief that such medications should be with a psychiatrist’s utmost attention, which could no longer happen after I came home to my hometown, no longer planning to continue my studies in my now former university.
The withdrawal was abrupt. Even my medical student sister advised my mother that my terrible mood swings and behavioral changes were due to the abrupt withdrawal.
But within the last year, I have started paying attention to the reality of my depression.
I once thought that my depressive episodes came twice a year. I knew I was the most depressed on my birth month, October. The other month was April, something that got associated with traumatic events in my life (2013, 2014 and 2015, as my story has so far told). Until I realized that it came every two months (on an even numbered month). Until I realized that it was very irregular to be deemed seasonal.
I found out that I do not fall under Major Depressive Disorder. I found out I am under Persistent Depressive Disorder, when I had to read and digest the DSM-V for my research paper that I submitted last March.
I also did what I could on my own for my social anxiety, and generalized anxiety. I started participating and involving myself– to become who I am right now. I have minimized my social anxiety because of my participation in the school’s student council.
I survived with the less resort to the use of cutter. Though I noticed that I have resorted to liquor more, lately. I guess I still have to withdraw myself from substance misuse.
I still feel depressed. I still experience anhedonia and anorexia frequently. But I believe that I have done more personal intervention after I quit my medications.
I may be embarrassed by my zebra skin-looking wrist, but someday, these scars will serve a reminder of how normal and humanly it is to struggle to the point of wanting to die. To erase existence.
One year after, I cannot quite give a comprehensive outlook as to what is to happen with my perspective in life. I still do feel depressed and suicidal, but it has been too little compared to how I’ve almost seriously killed myself before.
“Lilipas din ‘to.” (This, too, shall pass) I kept telling myself.
I want to believe that despite the current struggles I have, it will definitely come to a point that I will be the one offering help to other people.
I will be the one to save.
In that way, I could save the me who used to be helpless. #
Featured image: Photo of my empty blisters dated January 1, 2016.