It’s been almost a year since I first noticed my depression was back, and as I sat in the clinic today hearing about my new daughter’s own depression, I thought it’d be a good time to check in with myself- especially after my therapist, Don, recommended I go back to journaling. Me always being the attempted master of multitasking, I thought hey- blogging more- same thing, right?
I’ve decided to start this new month and new assignment off by sharing with you all one of my closest friendships. This friendship is a secret one I used to try and hide from the world. Knowing I had this friend made me feel shame and I dare not speak of them to anyone. Why? Because I felt the stigma that so many people feel when coping with depression- that getting help was admitting defeat. Why did I need antidepressants? Because I couldn’t live without them. Because I couldn’t handle the world the same way ‘normal’ people could. Because I wasn’t strong enough to push through it. Because I was too damaged by my childhood to be able to function like a normal adult. Because I wasn’t good enough. Because I didn’t realize the one thing most people with depression can’t realize by themselves- that they are not alone! How did I learn I wasn’t alone? My secret friend, Sertraline, aka Zoloft.
It might have been hard for me to admit that the depression that I was facing in 2019 was a recurrence of my lifelong struggle with depression and not just a fluke after I hadn’t dealt with it in almost a decade! After all- look at my life!
Yes, I was on antidepressants before, but I told myself that it was different back then. My parents sent me to the psychiatrist because I was gay and he diagnosed me with depression, so I told myself the diagnosis was a symptom of my gayness. It didn’t help that every therapist that told me parents that my gayness wasn’t the issue, it was my mental health, that my parents checked with a different therapist until I had four therapists before I had a fourth session with one therapist.
My relationship with my mental health didn’t get better with the bevvy of medications the different psychiatrists had me try. I remember taking at most 3 different antidepressants over a 6-month period without finding one that could work and in the meantime, I only felt progressively worst. And while the medications kept changing so did my approaches to dealing with my mental health. I tried drinking, drugs, sex, and anything else I could get my hands on to make me feel something besides depressed, but I only found myself further down the manhole. I eventually gave up psychiatry and the situation got worse, until the point I remember drinking a pint of beer at Hooters during my lunch break, only to stop by the liquor store on the way home to get a bottle of wine or a half liter of rum or vodka to drink while I did whatever I needed to do that night. I remember that being a cycle until something changed- my move to Florida.
Florida is the Sunshine State and in my case that couldn’t be truer- my move cured my depression! In hindsight I told myself it was all seasonal depression- after all, all my memories of Long Island depression were covered in clouds and sadness so that must have been it’s falls and winters, right? It was, I told myself, and I believed it because my depression seemed cured. At first it might have been attributed to a change of lifestyle, being closer to family, drinking less, and taking better care of myself, but in the end it was easier for me to tell myself that it was Florida, the state, that cured my depression. I was all better now, and the difference was my move, so my move made the difference, right?
That’s what I told myself at least, and it worked for a long time. I grew into the man that my now-husband fell in love with and I’ve only grown more since meeting him. My life has only gotten better, which is why I got real confused this time last year when I felt like the entire world was closing in around me. Why? Here’s the kicker- BECAUSE!
I still can’t pinpoint when my depression went from under control to out of control. The change happened during my time as a care manager, although there wasn’t a specific trigger from that job. The change happened during the time I grew anxious waiting to be matched with my future child, but I never once felt like a child would solve the depression I was feeling. The change happened during a time my relationship was going through a lull, but in hindsight a lull can be just a happy time until one of you has an issue. The change came without reason and there wasn’t a thing I could do to get it to leave, and I tried- I worked out, I dieted, I slept enough (or more than enough), I listened to happy music, I watched happy shows, I did everything I could to be happy. None of it worked and I was miserable.
All the meanwhile, my love of my life was there, next to me through it all, unsure of why I was so sad. I tried to explain it wasn’t him, it was me, but that line just made me feel like a douche jock in a 90s rom com. Who ever fell for that line, anyway?
The thing is that it was me, and it was my depression. I tried every avenue to avoid medication that I could. I’m so thankful for that as well, or I wouldn’t have finally found the value of talk therapy. The thing though was that talk therapy was not enough and I did need to see a psychiatrist. I did, and thanks to my dear friend Giselle I now have my secret- and best- friend, Sertraline, aka Zoloft. It’s helped me human!
The long story short, Sertraline was the missing piece of my life. I now have the perfect husband, the perfect daughter, the perfect job, the perfect family, the perfect friends, the perfect podcast, and the perfect life. However, it is all because I have found the perfect antidepressant. Finding Sertraline has enabled my talk therapy to work the way it should. Getting used to Sertraline has helped me sleep better at night. Learning more about Sertraline has helped me learn more about myself and what I need to be happy with or without any medication. Getting to know Sertraline has helped me learn more about myself and for once I am happy with me.
Is medication the answer? Yes and no- it was one piece of my puzzle- and my puzzle has many pieces. My puzzle has my husband, my daughter, my family, my friends, my coworkers, the professionals I network with, the people I run into in my daily life, and pieces I’ll never really identify because the puzzle of my life won’t be completed until long after I am gone. But I can say for certain that in the puzzle of my life that Sertraline is a pretty large piece of why I am able to be happy right now. Am I am happy- 100% happy even on the worst days! However, it’s only thanks to the tools that I was able to learn from therapy thanks to the medication balancing my system!
Love, Myself (Steven Bennet-Martin)