At 22 years of age, my doctor diagnosed me with clinical depression. When she told me I had an illness, I had a sense of relief. What I felt had a name, and I wasn’t imagining my sadness.
The early 1990s saw the early stages of awareness for mental illness so we faced limited treatments. Nobody talked about depression back then. They considered the subject taboo, and the stigma attached far worse than today.
Stigma still exists but, at least now; more people are talking about mental illness. But, in 1992, depression did not come up in polite company. The only anti-depressant available at the time in pill form was Prozac.
My doctor provided me with samples given to her by a pharma representative. At that point, I would have tried anything to stop the perpetual sense of melancholy.
When I told my father about my illness, he brushed it off. He stated depression is when you wanted to point a gun to your head and pull the trigger.
This hurt me because my depression had been in full effect and the fact he showed no compassion or understanding of what I told him. While I realize his generation thought about mental illness in a different manner, he still wounded my spirit.
Even my youngest brother didn’t believe me. Why would I have depression when I was always smiling? It’s because it was easier to hold up a mask to disguise my true mood than to show how I feel.
As much as I wanted to cry, the tears would not come. I convinced myself if I cried; I would feel better. On the rare occasion when I cried, I ended up feeling worse. I longed to feel anything, but deep sadness. I hoped the Prozac would help me with that.
After a week of taking the Prozac, the depression began to alleviate. I also began feeling numb. I had no sense of emotion. There was no happiness; no sadness; no anger. Nothing.
As I told a friend, I felt catatonic. I was going through the motions of day-to-day life with no heart in it at all. After a few months of taking Prozac, I took myself off it. I told myself I’d rather feel continual sadness than nothing at all.
In the time I was on the medication, I lost my ability to write. Before Prozac, I was a prolific writer. I couldn’t put down my words fast enough. After Prozac, zilch.
Writing was my outlet; my therapy. This made me distraught to not find my words. I didn’t even have a hint of an idea.
It took years before my creativity found its way back to me. It would be years more before I would attempt taking anti-depressants again.