An Ode to Psychopharmacology

vintage_cymbalta.jpg Get your dirt in. image by thessa67

I used to be one of those people that was very anti-psych-meds. 

I grew up around an array of fabulously charismatic and complicated women, who seemed to pop a pill at the drop of a hat – and a glove, a scarf, a handbag, or a kid.  Of course, oftentimes these mothers-little-helpers were often washed down with a bucket-sized glass of wine.  I was the only kid in high school I knew that would invite her girlfriends over for an afterschool wine & cheese party and think nothing of it. 

We were like a cross between Valley of the Dolls and Bev Hills 90210.

Anyway, even though I myself have also suffered from depression on and off for years (having two major depressive disorder episodes to boot), I was still staunchly anti-meds…afraid I was going to turn into one of the cast of characters, starring me as the neophyte of the serotonin-sauced, witchy women, family coven.  I loved these women to pieces, but I was afraid that the drugs would cloud my judgements – make me put up with people and situations longer than I should.  Always letting the good fight die for the sake of peace.  So I resisted, and I suffered needlessly.

girl.jpg girl fight image by saysaysara

(A day in the life of the demons in my head)

But when my last episode almost led to the collapse of my marriage, I gave up the fight that didn’t seem to be doing anyone any good anymore. It took me a while to get it right too.  I started off with Zoloft, and while it certainly worked well, I also gained close to twenty pounds while taking it (why do they even offer possible weight gaining drugs to women? Don’t we have enough to contend with??).

mytattoo.jpg chubby fairy girl image by braddog98

Then I tried Lexapro, which did absolutely nothing for me.  Now, most would have given up by now, but I held on – largely because with a husband and two young daughters, I couldn’t afford NOT to find a solution.  I didn’t want my girls growing up with a depressed and lacklustered mom as a role model.  I didn’t want them programmed to think that life is something to be endured and survived. So onto med #3.

cymbalta.jpg cymbalta image by casperthefrendlyghost

Meet my new best friend. Cymbalta.

It took a little while to kick in, but man…was it worth the wait. Unlike the others before her, Cymbalta increases levels of both serotonin and norepinephrine, which helps enhance my general feeling of well being, and even gives me an occasional sense of euphoria.  I have a pretty good life, and that in and of itself contribute to these feelings, but I also notice that I’m able to let the little things go, and actually fight the big fights with a sense of optimism and hope instead of futility and rage. I used to ruminate the same idea in my head over and over and over, making myself batty in the process. 

Now, I find if I can’t figure something out, or plans are not falling into place like I want, I have an extra layer of patience and fortitude I didn’t have before. Of course, some of that is maturity, but I can’t negate the positive chemical enhancement as well.  Instead of masking my life, I’m actually able to see it – and the people I love within it – more clearly.  By giving up the illusion of control I actually gained a better version of myself.  Which is even better than control – it’s being on top of the world.

So, there’s that.

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8 responses to “An Ode to Psychopharmacology

  1. This is a great posting, and I love the graphics. I am a poet, songwriter, and doctor. For the past four years, I have been working with poets to understand how psychiatric treatment – medication, psychotherapy- enhances the creative process. The results have just been published in POETS ON PROZAC; MENTAL ILLNESS, TREATMENT, AND THE CREATIVE PROCESS. The bottom line: treatment helps people work at their highest creative levels. I believe this blog is excellent evidence of how medication can enhance the creative process. That said, creativity also requires motivation, hard work, practice, and passion.

  2. Thanks, Richard. I’m going to pick up a copy of your latest book. Looks like something right up my alley.

  3. Solvex…I don’t know if it is available in the States, but I got it two days ago..and reading the side effects..it actually seems to be the only anti depressant that lowers your appetite. But it works similar to what you’re taking right now.

  4. Cymbalta is actually next on my list to try. I’ve been on Zoloft for a few years and I’m maxed out. Like you, I resisted for years but eventually gave in.

  5. I tried Lexapro and it made me a zombie. My doctor put me on Effexor XR and I really felt like I was high… even my pupils got bigger when I took it. I am weaning myself off of it now, slowly, hoping I can keep it up on my own. I am down to 75mg a day from 150. My coworker takes 300mg a day and there is no way I want to be like that.

  6. I just gave up the anti-drug fight too. Been on Zoloft for little over a month. I feel a little better already, It especially helps to come across others that have been there, done that.

  7. I’ve taken Zoloft for about three years now, and it pretty much literally saved my life. I ran into this site randomly, and after reading a few of your enteries, I really want to show this page to one of my best friends. I know he has struggled w/ depression on and off for a few years, and I hope your words could give him some insite and inspiration into fighting depression and being open minded to trying many different methods to fight it, chemically or not. But the fact is, depression IS a chemical defficiency, and the easiest way to correct it is thru the use of medicine. I do believe it is possible to change your brain chemistry thru intense understanding and practice of “retraining your brain” – and I do believe this is achieved by most people by touching a deep spiritual (not necessarily religious) aspect in their lives. Again, this requires a large amount of introspection and willingness/eagerness to change your mind (literally). And this is not easy – or fast – at all. Chemical medicine is much faster, typically working in weeks to months. Retraining your brain can take literally years, and more patience and persistance than most people have. Either way you do it, you can and DESERVE to be happy. Like you said – you are the architect of your own life – creating your own happiness or your own misery.

  8. Pingback: Just Say No to Drugs? « Mix Tape Therapy

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