Wednesday, March 16, 2011

End Date

Taking a review of my health today, I came across the dreaded list of past diagnoses. Having been a relatively healthy girl, I check through the "No" column feverishly. I think my pen is starting to run out of ink. How many medical conditions are they going to list?
HIV? No.
Diabetes? No.
ADD? No.
Bi-polar Disorder? Well, there was that one time that I was misdiagnosed, but that doesn't count. No.
Cancer? No.
Heart conditions? No.
High cholesterol? Nope.
Nope, nope, noers, notta, nein, non, nah....
Oh, wait, here we go: Depression. Diagnosed when I was in my teenage years, I've been taking medication for it on and off since then. For about a decade, I've been on something to treat depression. I've tried Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, and Effexor, the latter I've been taking for approximately half that decade. I've attempted to discontinue medication and see how I would react to life, as a sort of experiment to see if I could cope with those constant feelings of sadness, hopelessness, lethargy, and the persistent achy feeling I succumbed to time and again that left me unable to enjoy anything that I usually enjoy doing. I'm sure you've seen the commercials with the little wind-up doll. No matter how much she was cranked, she was still incapable of leading a normal life. And, believe me, I was cranked up a lot, but to no avail. I always ended up going back on the Effexor, despite the odd dizzy spells it gave me if I missed a couple of doses.
Recently, however, since it's been approximately 4 1/2 years since I last attempted to discontinue my medication, I decided that I would try again. My thought process was that since I'm in a different place now, with a slightly different perspective and with different (more beneficial) people in my life, I might be able to deal with not having to constantly be on some kind of medication. After all, I don't want to have to be on medication my whole life. Let me at least wait until my body begins failing in old age before I have to ingest a constant stream of medication!
So about a week ago, I ran out of my Effexor, I didn't have any refills left at the pharmacy, and so I decided to attempt self-sufficiency. Despite the withdrawl symptoms of dizzy spells, slight vertigo, and quick dizziness that feels a little like "brain shocks," I don't think I've been this collected before in a long, long time. I feel good. Not only that, but I feel focused. Everything seems more vibrant. The sensitivity has returned to my body. I hadn't realized just how much my medication was dulling the experience of life for me!
But am I "cured"? Is there such a thing for depression?

The medical history chart wanted me to specify when the depression began and when the "end date" was. End date? Of course this chart is designed without individuality in mind, every type of medical diagnosis with the same "Start date" and "End date" next to it. But I really began to wonder: Is there ever an end date for depression? Sure, I feel much better. This doesn't necessarily mean that I won't feel a little depressed at some point in my life in the future, but I think that's normal for most people. The depression I once experienced was a constant, never-ending surge of sadness, cyclical negative thinking, and a complete drain of energy to the point of feeling pain at the notion that I would have to leave my bed at some point to put on a face of wellness for others. That depression has ended, or if anything, as paused in my life.
Will I ever know for sure that it's gone, that this kind of hellish sapping of my mind and energy will never return, or at least not in the full force that it once was?
Like a recovering cancer patient, am I "depression-free" now, with the chance of it returning at a later date? Or, as Ani Difranco has said of alcoholics in her song, "Fuel":
They say that alcoholics are always alcoholics
Even when they're dry as my lips for years
Even when they're stranded on a small desert island
With no place in two thousand miles to buy beer
And I wonder is he different
Is he different
Has he changed
What he's about
Or is he just a liar
With nothing to lie about
Am I always a sufferer of depression, even if I've felt fantastic for years? Am I still depressed, but with nothing to be depressed about? Is there an "end date" to depression? 

After mulling over this question for a few minutes, reluctant to even disclose my past depression, I said "fuck it," and scribbled in the date that I discontinued Effexor. Even if the depression is currently in remission, I think I have ended the streak of depression that plagued my high school and post-high school years.

P.S. - I do not recommend that anyone else discontinue their medications without first consulting their doctor. Some cases of mental or physical illnesses do require medical treatment, and is, in fact, not their physicians over-prescribing medication (though there are some cases of that as well). Be good and take care of yourself!


  1. Depression is so exhausting. It makes a lot of sense to me that you have struggled with depression in the past. You're a deep thinker and as such you most likely discovered and dwelled upon the inevitable imperfections of life and society at an early age. I know I went through a really dark phase right after college where I felt the utter pointlessness of life, and saw each day as just another spin in the cyclical rat race. I think it is easy to feel depressed if you actually take the time to sit and think about life whether it is on an individual level or as a whole. LIFE IS DEPRESSING. Period. I think you're just smart enough to notice that fact.

    So according my theory the answer to your question is... no, depression never ends because you already have the knowledge about life and you can't "unlearn" something.

    The tricky part to being happy is that you have to purposely choose to forget that life sucks. Live in the moment and discover that the only thing that matters is family, friends, and your experiences.

  2. 30 to 40 years of it. I just handle it and take the meds. Life is hard and I can't un-know that.
    But I can slip in some happy now times,and day dream about changing the world, and hope my efforts has a measure of redeeming value.

  3. I'm new to your blog, i hope you don't mind me throwing in my 2 cents.

    I'm not depressed and i'm unfamiliar with the medical definition of it. What i am familiar with is the state of the world. It's true that there's a lot of bad out there. There's also a lot of good. You have a choice on which you focus on. But, if you choose the good, i'd recommend staying away from most forms of news. That shit gets me depressed every time, hah. I wish you the best of luck with your depression, or lack thereof.

    I'm also a fan of the SGU podcast. As a matter of fact, my most recent post was spurred from the science or fiction segment in their last podcast. Feel free to check it out sometime.

  4. @Stuck in a Window: Thank you for your 2 cents! ;) Also, I semi-discontinued this blog in favor of another one: Meaningful Memes. That one will receive more frequent updates.

    Hope to see your presence on my other blog as well! Take care!

    P.S. - SGU rocks my face off!