When I Stopped Taking My Depression Medication
The line between jumping off a bridge and not is just that: a line. It’s not a mile wide and it’s not an impenetrable wall. It’s a simple line.
It’s a line I’ve never even edged my toe over. But I know it exists.
For years, I worried my dad was scared before he died by suicide. Alone and scared. But now, I’m not so sure.
“Normal” people do not understand this. My husband Nick cannot imagine it. For Nick there is no line and no bridge.
A month ago I learned I was pregnant, and stopped taking both my antidepressants. I didn’t know how safe my meds might be; I didn’t want to take any chances. I could’ve emailed my shrink. But I didn’t. I just quit. I was on such low doses anyway.
And then, a couple weeks later, I miscarried. I was devastated. It was a loss, no matter how fleeting the hope.
I didn’t restart my meds.
Then I saw my friend Leigh. We stayed up late talking over bottles of wine. In the last couple years, I’ve felt like hell the day after one glass of alcohol. But I was OK. Hungover, certainly, but not incapacitated.
And I realized: I wasn’t too old to drink. It was the antidepressants! How nice to have a glass of wine without severe consequences!
I shared my discovery with Nick, who said, “But you’re going back on them, right? Today?”
(What? When I’m doing so well without them?) I said, “Sure, sure.”
I told Leigh, who said, “It’s nice to not feel anger that isn’t really there. He’s right about your medication.”
So I restarted one, but not the other — Wellbutrin — which I’ve come to hate. My shrink and I had agreed to discuss dropping it this spring anyway.
My goal was to quit entirely, though I tell people that mental illness is the same as any other. Taking antidepressants is like taking thyroid or blood pressure medication. My dad quit his medication repeatedly. And attempted suicide repeatedly. The last time I quit I’d sworn that I wouldn’t follow that pattern.
But I was doing so well without them!
I just cried really easily. Which was understandable. I was recovering from a miscarriage.
I just got angry easily. But children push all your buttons. So can your mom. And your husband. It’s hard to live with people.
I just hated my life. Why did I choose such a pointless life? Why had I married a man who didn’t view me as a priority? He’d be happier with someone normal. So would my kids.
Other than that, I was great!
The worse part, I told Nick, was that I’d done it to myself: I’d made choice after choice that had led me to this particular place of utter, suffocating futility. He was offended, and we fought.
Nick said he didn’t want to be my second choice. If I wanted a different life, I should go live it. Sobbing, I said I’d chosen the kids and him as my whole world, but they didn’t value me. My world was pointless, utterly meaningless, as was my life.
He suddenly said, “Can we change the conversation?”
As he spoke, he plucked a Lego head from the floor. Our son occasionally decapitates his Lego people. Sometimes he stacks the heads in oddly compelling Lego totem poles.
I waited for Nick to criticize my housekeeping. One more shortcoming in a bleak sea of… nothingness.
“Are you on your medication?”
I cried harder, but with relief. Could that really be the answer?
Yes. You’d think I’d know this by now. But when you’re barely hanging on, you do not see past the desperate grip of your fingertips.
“One of them. I see my shrink in two weeks anyway.”
“Would you please start the other?”
I’m on the lowest doses they prescribe. How can they matter that much? But oh, they do.
My dad refused to talk about his mental health, about whether or not he was taking his medication. I think: What if mental illness weren’t so stigmatized? What if he’d talked instead of hiding? What if he’d accepted he had a mental illness, instead of trying to deny it?
What if we were allowed to ask? Would he still be alive today?
I have no idea. But I know that for me, I need someone to ask.
Follow this journey on Lemon Gloria.
If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.