Something’s been going on for the last 9 months that I haven’t really discussed because I’ve been trying very, very hard to be optimistic. But I recently started doing some research about what’s going on and it turns out, I have reason to be angry, frustrated, or distraught if I could muster any of those things.
I always used to joke that I “felt things in Technicolor.” My whole life, I would hurl 1,000% of myself into everything I was interested in – which was always too many things – and I had this almost-obnoxious excitement and passion about everything, whether it was “good” or “bad” in my book. I was known to excitedly rave about something I adore and find fascinating (like the impact of the Grunge/riot grrrl movements of the early 90’s, or the cultural significance of the Powerpuff Girls, or Muhktaran Bibi/Mukhtar Mai, or regional history) or get right up on soapboxes to rail against insufferable things. Truthfully, it was exhausting and it made me seem a little nuts, but it pushed me forward, and it gave me big dreams that I was all too eager to act upon. I was always feeling inspired to do something new and I adored learning and exploring cultures/subcultures and arts and practices and belief systems and whatever else struck my fancy. I was constantly “into” something.
As I’ve discussed a LOT before; before I detoxed from antidepressants last spring, I was on antidepressants for 12 years, starting when I was 19. In the months I’ve been off of meds, I’ve learned that my routine severe suicidal tendencies are just a product of really, really severe PMS (also known as PMDD) from which I only needed relief for 3-ish days every month. (I’m currently learning how/weighing options on how to treat that, but that’s irrelevant at the moment.) In the years of being put on a variety of antidepressants, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, which stunned me because I’d never had manic episodes before. I had always been just naturally energetic, but never exhibited any actual manic tendencies; all of those started after I started taking the cocktails of medications… which makes sense as it turns out they weren’t necessary for 3 weeks out of every month.
ANYWAY, what has me terrified is that, slowly, as the piles of medications have worked their way out of my system, I have completely lost the ability to care about most things. It isn’t depression; I know exactly what that feels like, and there’s no anger or self-loathing or projecting misery on anyone else. It’s just cold, hard apathy.
At first, I’ll admit, the quiet in my mind was an enormous relief. As the meds had made me increasingly manic over the years, I was exhausted from my brain going nonstop and causing me to religiously hang onto outdated emotions; my brain just constantly made everything so much bigger and noisier than I really wanted. It has been amazing to actually have peace in my mind for a change, and not have to struggle with involuntary obsessions nonstop. It was quiet. Finally. And things around my home have been peaceful for a change. For awhile, I’ve been reveling in it instead of worrying that it didn’t “feel right.”
But the truth is that I have no drive to do anything. And hardly anything elicits real emotion from me. And, worst of all, there is absolutely no creative spark anymore.
I initially assumed that this is just how I am when my emotions and mind aren’t being amplified by medication or mental illness; this must be what it feels like to be “normal.” I thought it was godawful boring, but again, I was really just happy to be free of the destructive rollercoaster of nonstop emotions for the first time in my adult life. Being boring and wading through life was a LOT better than constantly being possessed by some unnecessary emotion that comes out of nowhere and drives me to doing ill-conceived things I don’t really mean or want to do.
But this apathy feels wrong. I haven’t been willing to admit it to myself for a long time because I really, desperately am trying to stay optimistic about getting my life together and recovering from this mental illness saga, but this apathy isn’t healthy and I know it deep down.
After going through the couple months of withdrawal, my brain slowly came to a resting point of perpetual “Meh”. I felt no real drive to do anything, but furthermore, my ability for excitement waned. I figured my joie de vivre was something that would have to naturally “grow back” with time, but as more time has passed, I seemed to be getting worse. Nothing excites me anymore. I don’t actually care about most things and have a set perspective that a LOT of what I’m surrounded with is futile and empty and – more often than not – a little stupid. I’ve contemplated that maybe I’m just living a lifestyle that’s causing me to mentally, spiritually atrophy from boredom, but 1) I have a really great home life with people I genuinely adore being around in a location I actually happen to love and 2)I don’t feel any motivation to seek out a lifestyle that makes me feel happier than this, like embarking on a new career.
I don’t write anymore and have zero desire to do anything with the writing ideas I’ve had in the works for years. I barely read, which is bizarre because I’ve always had at least 3 books going at time since I was in the 2nd grade. I don’t feel like going out. When I’m in big groups of people, I’m sort of just on autopilot. I went to Disney World with my family and was just sort of “meh” about the whole thing (although I DID really treasure being able to treat the Bear to something so awesome during her childhood. That’s where it was rewarding for me. Other than that, I don’t care if I don’t go back.) Nothing is stimulating to me and I feel sort of lifeless and empty, despite my real attempts to generate energy and excitement in my mind/body/spirit… which is almost constantly.
And even though I fundamentally oppose the “fake it ’till you make it” mentality (because I’m really not good at being fake. I stopped feeling comfortable faking anything after high school in any circumstance), that’s essentially what I’ve been doing for a long time now. To keep myself from rotting away into real despair, I got myself a part-time job at a tiny natural health shop close to my house, and I am doing yoga teacher training as a means to advance to something else once I get tired of this retail gig. I figured both things would serve to get me out of the house/my head and actively taking care of my body, but the truth is that I feel like I’m just going through the motions. I have no actual drive or passion to become a yoga teacher after the training is done in May; however, I don’t have any passion to do anything with my life right now, but I figured standing still and waiting for something to happen was no way to treat chronic apathy. So I’m going through the motions and trying whatever I can. I’m eating better and exercising and trying new things and putting plans on the calendar and getting out of the house… I’m putting in the effort daily… Still, though, it all just feels like I’m performing a half-hearted role in a really boring play.
And while I could always reason that this is just a season of life I’m going through, I’m really troubled because my thoughts about a lot of things have gotten really dark; I’ve honestly found myself wondering what keeps people in dire circumstances fighting for life a lot, like why don’t people in famine-ravaged countries just give up? I don’t get anyone’s drive to “make it” with regards to futile things like fame and/or wealth, and I no longer respect people who are known for being business moguls to promote shit we don’t need. I’m constantly repulsed with how much of society’s energy is wasted on absolute bullshit like celebrity “news”, sports/political scandals, oversensationalized news stories about horrible people, trends in material objects, the obsession with improvements in technology, etc. I feel like 90% of what’s going on is godawful noise and I just don’t have the energy to deal with it anymore. And I don’t really want to talk to anyone who cares about any of it, which, as it turns out, is most people.
Hating everyone and everything around me and wishing I was somewhere else isn’t the answer. This mentality is going to serve no one.
I gotta get out of this.
I finally just started doing some research.
And LO AND BEHOLD, what I’m experiencing is a real, actual thing that the scientific community is screaming warnings about, but the medical community is still “Meh. I guess. But we have money to make, so whatever.” There are literally thousands of articles about what is known as “Tardive Dysphoria”, which is basically when antidepressants suck your will to live by robbing your body of the ability to create its own drive and joy (“drive” and “joy” have actual chemical titles when being neurotransmitted, by the way; I just don’t know them at the moment.) I’ve been reading A LOT that antidepressants were only designed to be used for short-term depression spells (like 6-8 months of post-trauma relief) so the fact that so, so many doctors are expecting patients to become dependent on them for far longer than that is baffling and terrifying to me. In fact, being prescribed antidepressants long-term is undoubtedly the norm now, and the fact that most of us who take the doctors at their word that this will be safe is staggering.
Why haven’t we been privy to the mass amounts of information about how psychiatric medicine is developed and for what purposes specifically (which, by the way, is a lot different than what we’re being told) and why have doctors been allowed to prescribe things that aren’t anywhere near market-ready!? How the hell is the medical community getting away with keeping people on this type of treatment for so long?! Why the fuck am I having to still deal with this when I’ve been “on the road to recovery” for almost half my life now?! The worst of my depression happened more than a decade ago and was mostly the product of a culmination of abuse and other bad circumstances (which were perpetuated for a few more years by my being put on a medicine I shouldn’t have been and staying in abusive relationships – romantic and otherwise) so why am I still dealing with the medicines used to treat it now!? And why was I just cycled through a dozen ill-performing medicines instead of learning tools for healing?! WHY ISN’T ANYONE PROMOTING HEALING IN THE PSYCHIATRIC PROFESSION (as opposed to just “treatment”)?!?!
The bottom line, I guess, is that I have hope I can heal from all this neurological damage that was happening to me for so long.
No, that’s a lie.
Honestly, I don’t have hope that this is going to get better because there’s no evidence out there that this specific psychiatric issue ever improves… because we know so little about it… because not enough people are discussing that antidepressants are maybe not the right way to treat depression… Right now the top scientific research is saying that antidepressants cause more harm than good and raise the potential for Alzheimer’s and dementia, so I might just be fucked if we’re being honest here.
HOWEVER, I have a legitimately amazing daughter and a better-than-anyone-deserves husband I care too much about to stop trying to improve. I don’t think it’s going to be easy and it’s certainly not going to happen quickly. I’m not good at faking things I just don’t feel, and faking a will to be an enthusiastic participant in my own life is a lot harder than it would seem given what a really wonderful life I actually have.
So yeah. That’s the deal. First I was depressed because of a few minor things that probably could’ve been worked out in a couple years if I’d just been listened to and had a counselor interested in helping me gain independence and heal. Then I was put on medications that made me increasingly insane and physically ill. Then I developed Antidepressant Discontinuation Syndrome for about 3 months when I decided that enough was enough and took myself off of them. And now I have no desire to do anything with my life or participate in the world or see life as a gift because all those years of meds sucked my body/brain’s ability to allow me to give a shit.
I’m not saying it’s a hopeless situation. I’m just saying I’d feel pretty hopeless if I could muster any feelings right now.