Ozy Frantz wants to go back in time and say “Just take the meds.”
Dear Teenage Self,
First things first: soon you will stumble across the most fabulous pair of boots in the world. Black leather, knee high, high-heeled, just your size, and on sale for twenty dollars. Buy them. Seriously, you will be kicking yourself for that every time you put on shoes for the rest of your life. And with some of the shoes you’ll own, kicking yourself will really hurt.
Also, right now, you think you’re lazy, unmotivated, and probably a little stupid. You never have the energy for anything other than aimlessly looking at cat pictures. Even though you enjoy reading or talking to friends sometimes and are maybe even happy, everything you do seems to be suffused with this endless dull gray mist. Sometimes you feel like getting on a bus and going somewhere– anywhere– as long as it hurts less than this. The only thing that stops you is that anywhere you go you’ll still be there. Sometimes you think that there’s one thing that you can do to make sure you aren’t there anymore. A lot of times.
As it turns out, you’ve been suicidally depressed since you were seven years old. That’s not a mood, it’s a medical condition, and you will be better off if you start treating it like one.
If you’ve thought of medication, you’ve only thought of it in terms like “never” and “oh god no.” Your parents are fond enough of talking about how popping pills is turning America into a nation of ever-smiling zombies. Breathless articles in news magazines ask whether we’re medicating away authentic emotions and drugging people into happiness. That’s not nearly as awful as it’s going to get, by the way: in the year I’m writing this from, Naomi Wolf (you’ll learn about her later) wrote a book in which she explained that men invented SSRIs to keep women from overthrowing the patriarchy with their orgasms.
It’s particularly bad for you, because you’re severely drugphobic. You would think that your parents would notice when you refused to take painkillers after you got your wisdom teeth removed or to touch a wineglass for fear of it contaminating you, but then if your parents were terribly observant they’d have noticed the suicidally depressed thing and we wouldn’t be having this conversation.
Remember your acquaintance, the one who attempted suicide by overdosing on her antidepressants? Even now I’m about as able to forget the fatal dose of Prozac as I am my own name. That kind of thing scares you, I know. I understand.
Nevertheless, I would like to say to you right now: take the meds.
Your parents will stop disapproving after a while. Taking the first pill will make you almost cry with fear, and taking the second will feel like a stab in the gut; but the third will be easier, and by the fourth you’ll barely remember being afraid of it at all. And you can talk about your fears of suicide with your psychiatrist; they’ll prescribe you some medication gentle enough that it’s easier to fatally overdose on water.
Antidepressants leave me exactly the same as I was before, except not sad all the time. Authentic emotion? I think my current range of emotion– sometimes happy, sometimes sad, sometimes angry, often filled with the boundless joy of simply being alive– is a hell of a lot more authentic than wanting to kill myself because I can’t stir a jar of peanut butter. I see no reason why the latter state gets elevated over the former just because it was the one I happened to be born with. And as for confronting the actual problems making me sad…
Long-term depression is like running a race. Everyone seems to be pulling ahead of you and you don’t know why; everyone seems to be talking and laughing and having fun, while you’re barely managing to not collapse. And then it turns out you were dragging a giant rock, probably ten or twenty pounds, chained to your leg the whole time. If you go on antidepressants, you’re still running the race, you’re just running it without a bloody great boulder attached to your foot.
Take the meds. For both of us.
P. S. I was completely serious about those fucking boots.