New Meds... Who Dis?
In recent years, there has been no shortage of individuals suffering from mental illness, anxiety and depression. 1 in 5 adults suffer from a mental health condition, thats more than 40 million americans nationwide, including yours truly. Now more than ever before, people are willing to engage in a dialogue where depression is no longer something to be ashamed of. In my 29 years on this earth I have never shied away from admitting to my mental shortcomings in hopes that my honesty would somehow set me free from them. Being somewhat mentally ill-equipped is something that i have always used to my advantage. It aids me in my creative endeavors as I tend to embrace the notion of feeling and experiencing every sensation so fully and so deeply- often to the point of mental and emotional paralyzation. It wasn't until recently that I identified my creative outlets as the coping mechanisms that they are while understanding that there has to be a grey area where one is able to responsibly process the feelings that spring forth from loss, confusion, grief, sadness abandonment and so forth. Although beauty and truth are often born from the ugliest of circumstances, art does not have to suffer for depression to run its course. Truth is, depression may never fully run its course and my creative outlets won't always be able to accommodate me whilst I weather through the many storms that try to pull me under. There will always be art but art can always be without me at my minds worst.
I have grown bored with burdening my relationships and creativity with the selfish, monotone ramblings of depression. It has proven to be increasingly difficult to insure that I have a support system that wouldn't pass judgement if i began to present myself as less than a mentally stable person. Though my loved ones and life partner would never turn their backs on me, what good am I to them if I am no good to myself? If I am no longer able to articulate my distress in a way that makes sense to my art, my friends or family, that does not mean that I am unworthy of a peace of mind. So I swallowed my pride and asked for help. Growing up in an african american household where mental illness and the admittance of such was an ultimate sign of weakness, I honestly had no idea where to start. Once I got fed up with fair-weather well wishers and so called friends waiting on the sidelines in hopes that I'd collapse under the weight of my own tortured genius, I knew that my salvation wouldn't show itself in the form of man but perhaps in the form of man-made medicine instead.
Sounds fucking stupid right? …Yeah, I thought so too until I finally spoke to my doctor. She first diagnosed me with PMDD (Premenstrual dysphoric disorder) which is a severe ongoing form of PMS that includes physical and behavioral symptoms that usually come to a resolve with the onset of menstruation. Yet once my cycle would run its course, I found that I was still left with extreme mood shifts, irritability, anxiety, feelings of hopelessness and sadness all piled on top of the occasional panic attack. These issues began to take a tremendous toll on my work, my health and overall quality of life. It got to the point where I was afraid to leave my house. I began to isolate and withdraw from activities that once brought me great joy. I became increasingly sensitive to the actions of others whether they directly affected me or not. People that I thought were true friends became ghosts of good times past as I was all of a sudden too human to handle past the surface of things.
I never stopped to think that the one friend that I depended on for more than a decade may have been to blame for my sudden instability. I smoked a gram and a half of weed everyday for the past 11 years only to give it up or be forced out of my living space. I know most people would probably choose their herbal habit over living in an uptight smoke-free environment but I figured what the hell, I've already experienced my greatest highs if i never see high again. So without thinking twice about it, I quit smoking with the exception of casually hitting a blunt or bowl when offered. With my tolerance level being so high, a hit here and there meant nothing compared to my once longterm relationship with marijuana. I was able to kick the habit on my own but at what cost? With my PMDD turning into full blown depression, I started to think that I may have made the wrong decision when choosing to quit smoking. Weed was the great equalizer in my life, I never had to go more than a few hours without it. And now upon doing quite a bit of research I have learned that symptoms of marijuana withdrawal, though not as severe as with meth or heroin, can definitely take a tole on longterm users.
In no way am I saying that weed is bad (m'kay) I am just stating that I didn't realize its power until I felt it completely leave my system for the first time. After so many years of smoking everything from the dankest most exotic strains to the dirtiest of dirt weed, the novelty begins to wear off. High is high and low is low and no one hardly speaks of that very unglamorous truth. I never want to be a hostage of my vices. I will allow them to visit from time to time but never permanently set up shop. My withdrawal was harsh to say the very least. The insomnia, restlessness and post-meal nausea was enough for me to want to jump into oncoming traffic. I was the Snoop Dogg or Willie Nelson of every social circle I found myself in so it wasn't like I was handled with a ton of care or understanding when I said Im giving up the plant. Shit, my apartment number has been #420 for years. But all romanticism aside, I welcomed the very scary and ultimately alienating change that is still, to this day, one of the greatest obstacles I've ever faced. Desperate for help, I explored my options.
They say the best way to get over someone is to get under someone else. And weed, just like the ultimate lover, is very hard to get over indeed. I can still smell her in the air, and may even lock lips with her from time to time but will never let her in as deeply as I once did. So lets say I traded in one drug for another, as most people do, hoping to navigate through the treacherous waters of chemical codependency. In my search I was met with a mild antidepressant that in a short period of time normalized my serotonin levels and brought some sort of comfortable balance back into my life. Once I was able to get over the shame of not being able to conquer my demons on my own, I was able to relax and let the medication do its job. For anyone reading this, I am not suggesting that the cure for depression comes only in prescription form. Just like weed, or any drug, this is a temporary fix for something that will likely linger for the rest of my life.
In life, a quota of normalcy must be met regardless of how radical you choose to spend your days on this crazy planet. With these meds I was granted a moment of clarity, a necessary numbness, if you will, that freed me from the enormous weight of processing every emotion and sensation simultaneously as if it were my last. The racing thoughts, the dry-mouthed panic attacks that knew no end are semi distant memories because I knew several changes had to be made. Giving up certain indulgences was just the beginning. The people that left me while I was at my worst were probably put in my path just so that I could experience some sort of rock bottom. I found myself at the sour end of a breakdown that could have broken me completely. With nothing but the sheer will to exist without regret, I fought for brighter days knowing that the battle ahead would be a bitter one. I am better for knowing that I am not in this alone. I am not a failure because I needed help, I am the fierce bitch that I am because I fought for my sanity before it was too late.
With every passing day comes a new experience, another chance to try and get it right. On our best days we may never get it all right but if you care enough to fight for your happy, the cards you were dealt may end up being the best hand in the game.