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.