Taking Antidepressant Medication Changed My Life

It's Been 1 Year Since I Started Antidepressant Medication, And I've Never Felt Better

I feel like a totally different person from who I was just a year ago.

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One year ago this March, I began taking medication for my anxiety and depression.

Before I started, I had very little control of my mental state. Honestly, I felt like I had no control of my life, either. Even with therapy, I couldn't always control my anxiety and depression when they arose. I had gone through so many highs and lows that I can remember years by what mental state I was in.

The summer before I began medication, I was dealt a major shock. I was betrayed by someone who shared private confidences with another, then by my other "friends" who chose to back this person. Even my so-called former best friend, the only other person who could have potentially leaked the conversations, stopped talking to me when I asked her if she was responsible. Her fear of confrontation overtook any responsibility she may have felt to me. She showed me exactly how little our friendship actually meant to her. My trust broke into a million pieces and my mental health receded severely.

The whole event felt like a confirmation of all the awful things I thought about myself as true: that I was a loser, people didn't like me, I was unlikeable and weird. To add salt to the wound, this experience was yet another in a long line of experiences involving me being dropped people I thought were my friends. Except this was so much worse, since I never thought these people, especially my former best friend, would do that to me.

To make things even worse, I had to switch majors at the start of fall semester once I realized I couldn't hack it at my original major. I had been so set on one thing, and this realization was like having the carpet yanked hard out from under me. I lost confidence in who I was and what I was going to become.

I sank into one of the worst mental states I've ever been in. I had no energy, no motivation to do anything, and my eating habits were worse than usual. I just moved through my day-to-day life in constant emotional pain, constantly feeling alone and shitty.

Why didn't I start taking medication earlier?

I was averse to the idea of taking medication for a long time. I had heard too much about people who took medication and didn't feel like themselves, or had negative side effects, or who jumped around medications and never found something that truly helped. I was scared of starting medication and walking through my life in a fog - I had already spent my first two years of high school in a depressed fog and I had no desire to feel foggy again.

Eventually, though, I forced myself to accept it was time. I was so miserable, so depressed and sad and broken. I was tired of feeling anxious over everything, of being scared to live my life. I was tired of skipping out on something that could make things so much easier to handle, since I clearly couldn't handle things on my own anymore.

One year ago, I told my doctor I wanted to start taking antidepressants.

She helped me feel more comfortable with my decision, saying she would start me off on half a dose so I could adjust to the difference, and would help wean me off if I decided this medication wasn't helping or if I decided later on to stop taking it. Knowing my doctor cared and wanted to make sure I was okay felt good. I trusted her to help me find something that would help.

I started taking medication and it changed my life.

I took my first dose the day before a big double audition. Auditions normally have me an anxious wreck, but I felt completely...normal. As in, I wasn't an anxious mess and just felt your typical nervous butterflies. No sweating bullets, no cacophony of anxious thoughts about everything that could go wrong. I immediately knew I was never going back to a medication-free life.

It's officially been a year since I started taking antidepressants, and my quality of life has gotten so much better.

I can drive without nonstop anxious thoughts overanalyzing every little shake of my tires, constantly fearing a flat tire. I can enter social situations with new people and socialize, rather than staying quiet the whole time for fear of being judged. I can throw on one outfit and not change multiple times before I feel "okay" with the outfit...most of the time.

I'm finally free of the dark depressed cloud that used to constantly loom overhead. That's not to say I never feel depressed, but my depressed moods are much, much less intense than they used to be. In other words, I'm not crying every time I get depressed because of the terrible self-loathing thoughts running through my head.

I've felt lighter ever since I began antidepressants. The heavy weight of my mental health has been lifted considerably, and it's much more manageable now.

Best of all, I regained a lot of my confidence. I began to love myself and my body again. I finally dyed my hair after wanting to do so since freshman year of college, and I rock it every day with a confidence that wasn't there before. I don't care what others think of my hair, which is insane because I normally care waaay too much about what others think of me.

Of course, life isn't perfect just because I'm on medication.

I still have bad days. There are still times when anxiety or depression rear their ugly heads. But medication has even the playing field significantly, making it a lot easier to get through the low moments than it once was.

If you're struggling with your mental health, I recommend giving medication a shot.

Just remember - there's no one medication for depression or anxiety. There's a variety of antidepressants out there because it all comes to down to chemical balances. There are a few different neurotransmitters that if there's an imbalance, can cause anxiety and/or depression. You just may have to try a few different medications before finding the one that works the best for you.

At the end of the day, medication can help take the edge off your negative mental health and make it more manageable. You deserve to put yourself first, and taking care of your mental health is a part of that.

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To The Girl Struggling With Her Body Image

It's not about the size of your jeans, but the size of your heart, soul, and spirit.

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To the girl struggling with her body image,

You are more than the number on the scale. You are more than the number on your jeans and dresses. You are way more than the number of pounds you've gained or lost in whatever amount of time.

Weight is defined as the quantity of matter contained by a body or object. Weight does not define your self-worth, ambition or potential.

So many girls strive for validation through the various numbers associated with body image and it's really so sad seeing such beautiful, incredible women become discouraged over a few numbers that don't measure anything of true significance.

Yes, it is important to live a healthy lifestyle. Yes, it is important to take care of yourself. However, taking care of yourself includes your mental health as well. Neglecting either your mental or physical health will inflict problems on the other. It's very easy to get caught up in the idea that you're too heavy or too thin, which results in you possibly mistreating your body in some way.

Your body is your special, beautiful temple. It harbors all of your thoughts, feelings, characteristics, and ideas. Without it, you wouldn't be you. If you so wish to change it in a healthy way, then, by all means, go ahead. With that being said, don't make changes to impress or please someone else. You are the only person who is in charge of your body. No one else has the right to tell you whether or not your body is good enough. If you don't satisfy their standards, then you don't need that sort of negative influence in your life. That sort of manipulation and control is extremely unhealthy in its own regard.

Do not hold back on things you love or want to do because of how you interpret your body. You are enough. You are more than enough. You are more than your exterior. You are your inner being, your spirit. A smile and confidence are the most beautiful things you can wear.

It's not about the size of your jeans. It's about the size of your mind and heart. Embrace your body, observe and adore every curve, bone and stretch mark. Wear what makes you feel happy and comfortable in your own skin. Do your hair and makeup (or don't do either) to your heart's desire. Wear the crop top you've been eyeing up in that store window. Want a bikini body? Put a bikini on your body, simple.

So, as hard as it may seem sometimes, understand that the number on the scale doesn't measure the amount or significance of your contributions to this world. Just because that dress doesn't fit you like you had hoped doesn't mean that you're any less of a person.

Love your body, and your body will love you right back.

Cover Image Credit: Lauren Margliotti

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How To Stay Mentally Healthy In College

Our mental health is just as important as our physical health.

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Staying healthy in college seems really, really hard to do. Classes, friends, clubs, and the whole fact of living by yourself can create a lot of stress and anxiety. Most students, and people in general, don't really know how to deal with stress or how to take care of themselves mentally, leading to unhealthy behaviors physically and mentally. If you don't take care of your mental health, your physical health will suffer eventually. Here are a few tips and tricks to help take care of your mental health:

1. Eat a well-balanced diet

Eating fruits, vegetables, grains, and other healthy foods will help you feel more energized and motivated. Most people associate eating a balanced diet as beneficial for your physical health, but it is just as important for your mental health.

2. Keep a journal and write in it daily

Writing can be one of the most relaxing and stress-relieving things you can do for yourself. Writing down the issues you are struggling with or the problems you are encountering in your life on a piece of paper can help you relax and take a step back from that stress.

3. Do something that brings you joy

Take some time to do something that brings you joy and happiness! It can be really easy to forget about this when you are running around with your busy schedule but make some time to do something you enjoy. Whether it be dancing, writing, coloring, or even running, make some time for yourself.

4. Give thanks

Keeping a gratitude log — writing what brings you joy and happiness — helps to keep you positively minded, which leads to you becoming mentally healthy. Try to write down three things that brought you joy or made you smile from your day.

5. Smile and laugh

Experts say that smiling and laughing help improve your mental health. Not only is it fun to laugh, but laughing also helps you burn calories! There's a reason why smiling and laughing are often associated with happiness and joyful thoughts.

6. Exercise

Staying active and doing exercises that energize your body will help release endorphins and serotonin, which both act as a natural antidepressant. Keeping an active lifestyle will help you stay happy!

7. Talk out your problems

All of us deal with stress and have problems from time to time. The easiest and probably most beneficial way to deal with this stress and anxiety is to talk it out with a close friend, family member, or even a counselor.

8. See a counselor, peer mentor, or psychologist

Just like it was stated in the previous point, it is beneficial to talk out your problems with a counselor. We all have issues, and it is OK to ask for help.

Keeping up your mental health in college can be a struggle, and it may be hard to even admit you are not mentally healthy. This is OK; you are not alone. If you want to see a psychologist or would like to learn more about mental health, there are resources. You can also take a self-assessment of your mental health. If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide, please, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

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