Friday, January 6, 2017

Prozac and Me: A Love Story

As you know, I broke my arm at the beginning of last summer, so I spent a lot of time Rear Window-ing the internet. Like all of my LGBT friends, I shared a million sorrows and liked a million rainbows for the Pulse shooting victims. I paid brokenhearted witness to the grisly murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. It was a bloody, broken summer for everyone.

Around the same time, my landlord decided to landscape the weedy side yard I loved so much, wiping out my forget-me-nots and all of the jillions of wild purple morning glories. Coming home to a starkly pretty and mulched yard instead of the overgrown area I liked to keep in pleasing chaos should not have been a big deal, but it was. I tried to let the weeds grow back, but the landlord sprayed them with weed killer. Because she owns the property and they are weeds.

I marched and vigiled for the murdered people all summer, and I went back to canvassing as soon as I could, but I couldn’t move on from the morning glories. I transplanted them as soon as they popped up, enlisted the cute neighbor in re-cultivating them, bought a new trellis, and bought seeds upon seeds upon seeds, but it all seemed hopeless, I couldn’t stop checking vigilantly to see if the weed killer had come, if it had encroached on the green space I’d just started to cultivate. It seemed that the weed killer was the law of the land, the only thing true, and I felt helpless against it.

I wrote to my (very kind, thorough, and attentive) landlord about it and she predictably (and as nicely as possible) said that it’s her property and she’ll use weed killer if she needs to. Perfectly reasonable, but I couldn’t stop myself from seeing hate in her landscaping choices, from feeling that she was trying to force me out along with the lost weeds/flowers. Her email came the night before my 42nd birthday and resulted in me crying on the floor and insisting that the world was trying to push me out.

I have suicidal ideation once or twice a year, when I ruminate too far and can’t climb out of deep depression fast enough. It never goes as far as planning or action, but the “I have to die” thought does come. More often, I have the feeling that I don’t exist, wasn’t supposed to be born, or that I have to erase my personality completely to be loved. It usually passes within a few hours when I stop talking about it.

After poor Amy calmed me down and I had a pleasant birthday doing voter registration in Wissahickon Park, I realized that if I was going to cultivate a life, if I was going to hang on to the work and connections I’d already accomplished, I was going to need help. I felt too raw and defensive to try talking to a new therapist, so I took my primary care doctor up on a years-ago offer of a prescription. Since I was a teenager, I’ve stubbornly refused to be medicated for depression, but I realized that my brain was not going to be able to help me on its own.

And it was like a miracle. I’m still sensitive, defensive and insecure, but I have new resourcefulness and hope. Sometimes, for seemingly no reason, joy surges out of me in laughing bursts and I feel closer to the best version of myself. After a year or so of dressing invisibly and forgetting about the possibility of romance, I started to feel pretty and feminine and inclined to get dolled up like I used to be.

But I still didn’t understand depression’s toll on my life until a couple of weeks ago. I was talking to my peer counselor at William Way LGBT Community Center (CALL THEM! They are amazing and you can have eight weeks free counselling per year, in person or by phone.) I was making 100% of a problem out of 5% of information, filling in the other 95% with self-defeating worst-case scenarios. Once she helped me realize that math, she simply said “That’s depression.”


I never really saw it that way—depression is the weed killer. It tries to destroy whatever I’ve managed to cultivate and even tries to un-happen wonderful things that have totally already occurred! I always saw the sadness as inextricably linked to the rest of me, and in some ways it is, but it’s such a relief to see it as something that’s separate from me, something that can be treated.

So treating depression is my main theme for this year. I’ve signed up for counselling at Women Organized Against Rape and I plan to attend their support group as well. I want to be generous and kind and loving and understanding toward myself, and of course I’ll keep taking the Prozac as long as insurance exists. Thank you for coming with me on this ongoing journey to serotonin. I couldn’t do it without your loving support.

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