Thursday, October 21, 2004

Prozac Nation

Yesterday was a really weird day. Because it was raining (akin to a blizzard or hurricane in LA), our power had gone out in the night, and the backup generator outside our window was so loud that I couldn't hear the alarm. My husband poked me and said, "It's 7:00, you better get up". This to the person who usually leaves at 7:15 am. And what was he doing there? Oh, it was raining, so he decided not to go to school. Nice.

Anyway I got myself out the door and up to school and of course was one of the first people there. Even our prof was 20 minutes late (but being good grad schoolers, we didn't leave). He announced that it was the Seminary's "Day of Prayer" and thus we'd only have class until 10 a.m. Awesome.

On our quiz there was a really poorly worded question. I questioned him on it and he stood firm in there being only one interpretation. I was so pissed. My new friends were a little shocked at how pissed I was. I was a little shocked. I don't usually let that kind of thing get to me.

I went home to crawl back into bed with hubby, but of course there was a huge accident on the road and it took forever. I got home in a foul mood with a piercing headache, wrote an angry email to my prof, did a little homework, and watched some more of "Angels in America". Then I had to drive back up to school for small group discussion time.

During our session I was just testy and annoyed with everyone. We weren't staying on topic and we weren't respecting the time restraints, so as usual, we skipped half the session. People were being really preachy. Preaching to the preachers, not even the choir.

I left the group and got a call from my mother, who said something that upset me, and I proceeded to go slightly insane. I cried and shouted and swore. Then I got back on the freeway and wouldn't you know at the exact same spot the traffic stopped dead. Then I swore a lot. And cried and screamed. And my head was pounding and I couldn't figure out what was wrong with me. I mean, PMS is at least a week away.

Getting off the freeway and onto surface streets, I started thinking about the little white pills I take every morning and night. They are Paxil, for my depression. And I had taken a 1/2 dose the night before (because I am always telling myself I want to work off the pills), but then I'd forgotten to take any that morning.

Ah-hah!! This explained everything. The headache is the first effect of the meds running out of my system. The attitude followed by insanity is next. I was so relieved. I had simply forgotten to take the medicine which keeps me normal.

And I knew I needed to write about it. Because it is SO important. At least I know that I have this disease and I need to take my medicine. But so many people, especially women, are just assumed to be emotional or hysterical or bad-tempered when in reality they are just depressed.

When I was diagnosed just over a year ago, it was a huge revelation. It explained so much about me. I learned that at any given time, 1 in 10 people have it; the number drops to 1 in 5 when you're only talking about women. We're talking common cold here, people. It's nothing to be ashamed about - it's a medical condition. Something in the body is not working properly, like if you had the flu, and like that situation you take your meds and it goes away. Or rather, it gets under control. It never completely goes away, which is the struggle.

It is genetic and not. It is related to life situations and not. It is chemical and not. It is a strange thing to live with. And not the kind of thing you can do much about getting over. It is a problem that requires medication sometimes, but mostly it requires you to take better care of yourself. Which is extremely hard to do with 2 jobs and full-time school.

Please, if your emotions are running wild, or if you don't want to get up in the morning, or if you are not yourself and you know it, see a doctor - a psychiatrist, not a general practitioner. They can tell you if you have this way-too-common condition and they can make it better.

The depression has been, in my life, not a "test of faith" or evidence that I've sinned or something stupid like that. It was, in fact, a gift from God. Without the depression last year I never would have realized that I was unhappy with my outwardly perfect life - unhappy in the sense of being unfulfilled. And that was what made me apply to seminary, which changed the course of my whole life, for the way better.

Depression is a curse and a blessing and I believe it has afflicted many a saint and prophet. It is a reaction of the body to being in a world that is not home. It is a physical manifestation of our longing for wholeness. It is more evidence of our need for God.

And it is just a medical thing that medicine fixes. Thank God for Paxil, and Prozac, and all the other wonderful drugs that he has helped humankind come up with. Thank you for the salvation from the darkness. For saving me from the pit. For turning my mourning into dancing. Weeping may last for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.

Or after taking your meds.


Mumcat said...


TKP said...

so i haven't caught on to which seminary you're attending. best wishes for life and school.

have you noticed any side effects from paxil?
you're right, MDD is amazingly common these days.

i remember reading the ny times and seeing a front page article that went something like the following: "study shows patients taking antidepressants more likely to commit suicide during first two weeks." well DUH. they could have paid me several million dollars to tell them that. many persons who finally approach medical professionals about depression have reached a desperate point in their lives and the meds usually don't kick in for about two weeks anyhow.

enough about that. come stop by and say hello.

Humble Secretary said...

Hi - I was shown your blog from a friend - I know this is slightly unrelated but similar but I have just been prescribed progesterone for pms from hell - where suicide becomes an attractive option and sleep becomes a necessity for about 11 hrs a day - and all this lasts for over 2 weeks during which the coping strategies diminish somewhat. If there had been someone around me, I dread to think what would have happened to them. These little pills, one twice a day, have returned me to my normal self and I can exist on a happy level and although I am only 1 week into the routine I feel I can function, but even so I am still inclined to scream at friends.

I forgot a pill on Sunday night - it was a new strip of tablets which I hadn't gotten out and so hence my routine was rocked. Within hours I was a wreck and I cried myself to sleep, and I woke up feeling like death.

What you said: "Without the depression last year I never would have realized that I was unhappy with my outwardly perfect life - unhappy in the sense of being unfulfilled." - I can so relate to - as I know so much that I need to change so much in my life as a result.

And also, you pointing out that it is an illness. I have started to talk to people and am getting very unhelpful reactions - but I am sure that will be overcome once I can communicate these things are illnesses.

Thank you for your post and for your courage. And thank you for reading. My best wishes to you.