I started taking an antidepressant today. Wellbutrin, to be specific - a low dose, 150 milligrams. It's been a long time coming. I held out after my brother overdosed three years ago, after my father broke his neck and our dog died and my mom started to lose her mind. Held out, too, when T left almost exactly a year ago. Held out even when my mother was diagnosed with dementia a couple months ago. I told myself over and over that given what I'd been through, was going though, I was doing okay. Anyone in my position would be sad, right? Anyone would struggle. This isn't illness; this is a natural response to a series of vile little gut punches, the kind that life seems to gleefully dole out every once in awhile. I'm okay.
But the thing is, I'm not. I'm not okay. I'm in a dangerous place, a place I've been before, long ago. I have the scars to prove it on the inside of my wrists. Long, vertical ones, the kind you have when you meant it. I've lost the ability to concentrate. I can't focus. Writing - pulling the words out, making something beautiful with them, the thing that's kept me mostly sane this past year - has become nearly impossible. I've slid downhill in the past few months, inexorably, but so slowly at first I didn't notice. I cry all the time now. I do have a few hours occasionally, maybe a couple days or a week if I'm lucky, when I feel a little less pain and fear, when I might actually experience little chunks of happiness. But then I tumble down that well, falling with what seems like no end. I lose hope. I start thinking it would be such wonderful relief to stop this monstrous hurt. I start thinking I want an end like my brother's...just drifting away, peacefully.
I think about it, but I don't do it. Instead, I bear down. I push into the hurt until it abates. And then I pick myself up and I go on.
But I'm so tired. I can't live this way anymore. And so I messaged my doctor and asked him to write me a script for Wellbutrin. I've been on it before; I know it's about the only antidepressant with no sexual side effects. Hell, even at my lowest there is no way now I'm going to take a med that lessens my ability to experience pleasure, or lowers my interest in having it. That really would send me over the edge. So, Wellbutrin it is.
Hello, old friend. It's been awhile, hasn't it?
At one point, after I was hospitalized a little more than 15 years ago, I was on Wellbutrin. Seroquel, an anti-psychotic, too. And Depokote, a mood stabilizer, and Celexa, for anxiety, I think. The maximum dosages of all them. I was no longer a menace to society, fucking 21-year-olds and snorting Ecstasy and taking off for Philadelphia with a guy I barely knew to a house I'd never been with nothing but chaos on my mind. Instead, I slept 12 hours a day. I never got sad. I never felt happy. I was stable, doing fine, only occasionally wondering what had become of the woman I once was. I'd been declawed, made safe by swallowing sanity in a bottle. But it felt like just about everything I'd been - good, bad, all of it in between - was lost along the way.
After a few years I went off the meds. I was with a partner, living in a beautiful old house in a small town, far removed from havoc and the desire to create it. Without any warning my girl parts turned traitor, demanding that I have children, and fast, before it was too late. So I went off the pills, those bright little bits of stability, all of them, under my psychiatrist's supervision. I stepped down slowly, by lowering the dosages of each med one by one, until I was clean. It took months, unbearable months, when I was so sick I could barely move from the couch. Low-grade migraines that never ended, nausea, exhaustion, dizziness, all day, every day - it was akin, I imagine, to what chemotherapy patients endure.
I never got pregnant, but I stayed off the meds. And I was okay. For better than 15 years I was simply Jill: Mercurial yes, difficult but not dangerous, with a shiny spirit that drew people to me. I still sought the edge, but never went over it. I began building a career, discovered that I have an ability to write that people will pay for, and found that I could satiate my need for thrills with sky diving and volcano boarding and the like - less dangerous pursuits then bad boys with big drugs and fast cars and malleable morals. And then I fell hard for T, the man I believed was him, the great love of my life. I'd walked away from the woman who'd been diagnosed as possibly bipolar, but definitely afflicted with Borderline Personality Disorder. I was no longer ill. Not me.
And now here I am, back on medication. Does it mean I'm sick again, this little dose of Wellbutrin? Or does it mean I'm well enough to know I need help, a bit of a bump, to set things right again? I thought it would feel like defeat as I slid the first tablet onto my tongue today. But it felt a lot more like relief. I might not be okay, not really, but I think I will be soon.
6/3/2017 04:07:45 am
Jill, thank you so much for sharing your story, and being so open and honest about it. Wouldn't it be wonderful if more people in our society were so open? I take medication as well, and it is a blessing in my life. It allows me to be ME. Being able to fully be YOU is worth so much. I'm so glad I'm not alone.
6/3/2017 04:56:59 am
Low dose Zoloft for years. Off and on couple times before I just stuck with it. It's the little bump my brain needs to not get sucked into the depression I can't crawl out of. I am not a zombie still cry , get sad appropriately etc. It's just that little umpf I need
6/3/2017 06:47:11 am
Self care is not easy but so important. I'm glad you figured out that it's time for change. Sometimes the first dosage needs a tweak or two or more, but you're moving in the right direction toward a better place. I'm here to support you and listen and walk by your side. <3
6/3/2017 07:44:16 am
LOVE you for writing this, Jill. went on Zoloft a month after 9-11 (after a month of despair and dread for my two little kids..."what the hell kind of bullshit evil world did i bring them into?"). i'd always had a history of depression, and up until this point, i'd always resisted the idea of meds...at first, it was AMAZING. i could deal. reason. function...ALMOST. there were no intense feelings, good or bad. so, after months of that frustratingly-nice and calm low-amplitude sine wave, i switched to Wellbutrin. it's not as AMAZING. i have to work harder to function, but i feel like a real person ♡
6/3/2017 10:54:52 am
Brava! Antidepressants for those of us with a chemical imbalance be it sporadic or chronic are like insulin for a diabetic. Necessary for life. Recognizing that is an achievement.
6/3/2017 11:13:11 am
I resisted antidepressants because it meant I am weak, plus years of a good WASP upbringing taught me that I shouldn't even talk about it let alone acknowledge it. With the help of friends, I came to realize that it was way more courageous to take care of myself and get it n Zoloft. I became the captain of my own soul when I decided that I get to define what's right for me. So, brava, Jill! Proud of you for your self care and your willingness to write about it. It inspires me and so many who share the struggles of life.
Jill, this is beautiful.... I had been on wellbrutrin and cymbalta for 8 yrs diagnosed with PTSD..... I discovered threes weeks before a trip to peru that these meds combined with ayahuasca would probably kill me.... this was news to me... i quit both meds in apr of 2013 for my may 20th, 2013 trip...... went to half the first week every 3 days the second week and then three of each total the last week... I locked myself in my home.... (: it was crueling. U are an amazing, gifted, energetic, beautiful woman.... and U have lived many lifetimes in the last 15 years alone... a little help once in a while is not a weakness... but as u say,.... it is wisdom... and from personal experience, i agree welbrutrin is the best alternative.... U will navigate these difficult waters.... a thought on the writing... try writing in rhyme ... not necessarily poetry.... and see if this might jog ur clogged juices..... Must Love.... U are honored and valued and greatly appreciated...
6/3/2017 02:11:55 pm
Taking care of one's mental health is very much as important as caring for one's physical health. No shame. Thanks for using your gift to let others know you are not alone.
6/3/2017 03:28:03 pm
How do we find the best version of ourselves? And before people started reciting these psychobabble, Oprah quotes of the day we were not aware how every life decision could move us into different directions. I remember the moment in my 40's when I wanted to change direction and what I did to achieve that. I wanted calm so I went looking for it.
6/3/2017 06:30:37 pm
Thank you Jill for that truthfulness. I have been there also. Kept putting on the mask everyday till that mask no longer worked and I needed help. Those lows are awful..and emotional roller coasters are beyond fun. I cane off a lot a psychiatrist prescribed was being overdosed. Now I get what I need and balances me out well. No shame in helping yourself is what I learned like a battered women eventually you say enough and take the help. I wouldn't want to lose you. This was well written. Ty !!!
Jill, I am currently living your story. I am also in my 50's and was left the year I turned 50 by the man I had been with for 24 years! I've turned my heartache into a humerous and insprirational blog. If U so desire, check out Leftat50.com, Facebook, et al. Girl, we should talk!
7/5/2017 01:20:35 pm
Sometimes self-care is recognizing when you need help, and then seeking and accepting the help. I perceive this step in your journey as significance progress toward healing/health. Your courage to process through raw emotions and share your struggles is inspiring. The world needs more of this kind of vulnerablity.
Ellis C. Barthe
7/23/2017 03:50:53 pm
I have found thee out, Sis. Is it the meds or just special effects? I too have Churchill's black dog always finding himself my porch to lay up on. The same porch I saw far and away to the northeast what first seemed the Northern Lights. Nope. Just Jill's birthday candles flaring up. I have me a blog, but have never really pursued it. P'raps now? I will try to be more regular in my postings. A form of self-publishing, or a form of self-flagellation? For now, not another mumbling word and climb that mountain, Sis.
Lisa Wisong Miller
7/23/2017 05:44:27 pm
Thank you so much, Jill for your honesty and inspiration. Love Lisa 💜
7/24/2017 11:49:27 am
Thank you for sharing your story. We are all in this thing called life together. I'm sending love your way - I hope you can feel it.
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Jill Gleeson is a journalist based in the hills of western Pennsylvania. She is a current contributor to The Pioneer Woman, Country Living, Group Travel Leader, Select Traveler, Going on Faith, Wander With Wonder, Enchanted Living and State College Magazine, where her column, Rebooted, is featured monthly. Other clients have included