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When Your Antidepressant Stops Working

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Editor's Note

Any medical information included is based on a personal experience. For questions or concerns regarding health, please consult a doctor or medical professional.

Please see a doctor before starting or stopping a medication.

Breath in and out.

Place the pill on your tongue and wash it down with the cold sting of ice water whilst you aimlessly pause to see if any immediate change has occurred. Nothing, of course. You have been hoping for a miracle more than usual as you are no longer looking forward to your medicine kicking in or the fogginess drifting out of your head because lately you can hardly tell the difference between taking it and not.

I have currently been going through this very struggle — when your beloved medicine just slowly begins to fight back and make you wonder why you even bother. I feel as though I am only taking my medication to avoid the side effects of stopping it instead of its obvious purpose of treating my depression and anxiety.

I remember how excited I was earlier this year to start taking medication. I had been struggling with mental illness for as long as I could remember, but it became unavoidable when I hit my teen years with added hormones, stress and the living hell that school was for me. As a student in college, my peers and I are the literal symbol of depressed, broke messes who spend their days drinking away the pain and the nights throwing it all back up. It is only expected we will be rushing to our doctor offices and therapists for something that fits our ever-growing and more noticeable mental illness symptoms.

I am not this type of girl though. I don’t party, I rarely get a little wild and I am on top of my studies while letting myself relax with friends while watching Family Guy or crying over Harry Styles’ new album. All of these basic, simple elements are a direct result of my medication and I wouldn’t have been able to ever dream of leaving my dorm room if it hadn’t been for that mighty, little pill.

So why when I need it most does it just stop? In college, I desperately need my small tranquilizer to smooth out my edges and let me be a young, dumb teenage girl. I take this pill to experience my youth and to be the person I want to be: funny, outgoing, kind and confident. But how can I be this when it doesn’t work for me anymore? I am too scared that if I have one slight pause in this flow of a daily medicated me, it will show my friends the cracks that are deep in me: scared, shy and so lonely.

I don’t want to take my medication. I want to wake up and not have to worry about how late it is in the day in case I need to quickly rush to eat so I can swallow a pill that will allow me to feel OK for the next 24 hours. I don’t want to carry backup medication everywhere I go because I am too forgetful to remember when to take it and have to stuff tissues in the bottle because I am far too afraid of people hearing the rattle of my pills, my secrets and my effort to become who I want to be. It is exhausting knowing I have to go into the doctor’s office in a few days to find a new medication and hope this roll of the dice will result in getting closer to who I want to be rather than a pill that just lets me live without mental illness.

Then that brings on the question: who am I without it? I have grown so much since the days of not being on medication that I have no clue who Liz truly is. Unfiltered, unmedicated, pre-Zoloft Liz who has a collection of fun socks and spends hours binge-watching horror movies. Would I not like what I see? Maybe so, maybe not. All I know is, no matter what, my depression and anxiety will always be a part of me. It will get worse some days, and others much better than I could have ever dreamed of. This is my new reality and finding a new medication is not a hit against who I am, but helping myself build upward to a place where I feel most happy and calm, and not an ideal I have created for myself.

Perhaps reading this and going through this emotional journey with me will help you get ready for your next doctor or therapy appointment about medication and we can both find solace in each other knowing how many confused, scared souls there really are in this world.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a doctor’s appointment to prepare for.

Unsplash image by Guillaume Bleyer

Originally published: December 27, 2019
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