Rereading one of my old notebooks from when I was sixteen/seventeen--a bit of old research. I remember Teen Me as being an insufferable know-it-all. Turns out I was, but I was also extremely smart and funny. I was right in my religious awakening, which for me consisted of reading Stephen Hawking's books and thinking DAMN science is cool and also kind of being baffled to realize that other people seemed to actually believe
their weird religious nonsense.* I was witty and full of wonder and excited about life and kind of a jerk with my friends. Also, there was a little bit of bad poetry, because of course there was.
And I was depressed.
I think I had my first bout of depression at age 15. A year and some change later, another came along. It's a little difficult for me to read some of those entries--though I seemed to recognize the moods/thoughts were not right, and commented on them with a lot of snark, they were still very THERE, and I remember the sadness. I also remember a more difficult-to-describe emotion: when trying to pull myself out of it, I would try to do things with my family, and they would not be enjoyable
even though I knew I enjoyed them in the past.** This led to a sort of dread of those supposed-to-be-fun times, because they wouldn't be fun and would I ever be able to connect again
? (This came to a head in October when we went to get pumpkins--there might have been some yelling.)
So amidst my snark on high school and enjoyment of AP European History and my awe at what I was learning from Professor Hawking, this particular notebook discusses my going on antidepressants.
Here's what I said:
I feel just great today! I've made an important decision that may get my life back on track!
Here's the thing: Mom, Dad, my teachers, my counselors, [my psychiatrist], and I are very worried about my state of mind right now. It's a little scary--a few are afraid that I may wind up doing something stupid--they're afraid that, because of depression, I may resort to doping myself up. So, in order to stop me from doing this they decided, in an incredible display of logic, to: dope me up!
Yes. I'm going to go on antidepressants. I got sick of having nervous breakdowns at school every single goddam day
, so Mom called [my psychiatrist], and they decided that, if I didn't object, they'd give me some medication.
Hell, yeah, I don't mind. I'd volunteer for a brain transplant to get rid of this desperation right now. I'm drowning in myself right now, and I'd really rather not be. I've tried solving it the tough way; now I'm going to try it The American Way (pills)
What puzzles me is the aversion people have to antidepressant pills. "You're not yourself when you're on those," they point out. But why is the self assumed to be a constant in the first place? The depression is dictated by chemicals [scribble] what's wrong with introducing other chemicals to get a different balance?
If someone has diabetes, then non one begrudges them insulin. Why, then, is seratonin different?
I'm personally fine with it. I'll ask a lot of questions, of course--but if I can get a firm footing in my whirlwind life, I'm willing to go for it!!
Why do I bring this up now? Well, because antidepressants are getting another bum rap in the news today. Or depression is. It's hard to tell sometimes. Antidepressants have that weird backwards-logic stigma where admitting you take them makes people MORE afraid of you--the "only sick people take pills; if you don't take pills, you won't be sick" fallacy. (Me, I'd rather find out that somebody was
taking the pills they needed than that they weren't.)
Slate already has an article
arguing that "depression" does NOT make you murder 149 other people (and discussing the difference between depression and "depression" in a wonderfully sensitive way--yes, we need to fix situational problems AND chemical imbalances). But I just wanted to point out from a depressed teenager's perspective, antidepressants were the SAVING GRACE. I was not going to murder anyone, but I was desperate and anhedonic, and antidepressants fixed
So to naysayers I will say: teenage me knew what the deal was. Maybe she can persuade you.
*Till then I was under the impression that Church was just a really DEDICATED book club, where they discussed Biblical stories as literature, which seemed strange but hey, if they liked it, good for them. I was extremely confused when I realized that people believed it in a far more "literal" sense.
Evidently, some Christians do treat it like literature
, and they make a far better case for it that way. Hell, the way Fred Clark describes it, especially in his incredible dissections of Left Behind vs. his theology
I actually do agree
with a lot of Christianity. Except for, y'know, the whole "whether there is a god" thing.
**For a brilliant description of this detachment, check out Allie Brosch's Depression Part Two
at Hyperbole and a Half. It is the best description I've ever read of depression. And it has an interesting effect: everyone who has never been depressed reads it and earnestly says, "This has taught me a lot! I will try to be more sensitive in the future!" Everyone who has
been depressed reads it and says, "OH GOD I LAUGHED MY ASS OFF."