The Time I Tried Quitting Antidepressants


I’m hesitant to tell people I’m on anti-depressants, even though I’ve been crazy for as long as I can remember, because I don’t necessarily want people to look at me as such.

While all my girl friends in high school were play-acting crazy, I was the real deal. While they dressed in all black and scratched band names into their skin, I was succumbing to irrational and disturbing thoughts that would leave me sobbing into the arms of whoever was present at the time.

There are lots of targets for the cause of my neurosis, though I think pinning it down on one thing would be stupid. I’ve seen every low rent psychiatrist in Pittsburgh, none of them offering any solution more profound than ‘let’s talk about it.’ There is no one reason why I’m like this. No one did this to me. This is just the way that I am, and either I learn to live with it or I prepare for a life of fear and isolation and above all, failure.

I also believe that this is none of anybody’s business, which is why I don’t usually talk about it much with those outside my family. Everyone has problems, most far worse than mine, and talking about my insignificant business seems like I’m inviting sympathy. Even the denial that I am sounds like an elicitation of it.

I’m on these pills now that are pretty potent in terms of withdrawal symptoms. While I’m certainly no angel, when it comes to drugs I’ve never favored pills and powders and things that can really get their hooks into you. One of the few times I’ve taken pills for sheer recreation I wound up passed out in some gay bar with my head lodged between a toilet and the wall.

If I stop taking the pills I’m on now, even for a day or two, a barrage of withdrawal symptoms overtake me. They have hilarious, hackneyed names, like brain zaps, which only sound hilarious and hackneyed if you’ve never experienced them before. If you have, you realize that they’re the most accurate description of what it feels like — someone continuously zipping and unzipping the skin around the back of your skull.

The one time I tried quitting, cold turkey because I lost my health insurance for making too much money, I found myself crying over road kill on the side of the highway and never wanting to leave the house. I’ve always been moody, but never at this pace and fluctuation. My cessation experiment ended when I found myself incapable of even shutting my eyes for three days straight. Every time I would fall asleep something would grip me in the dark. It felt like some foul monster wrapped its cold green hand around my heart and I had to wake up to breathe again. I edged up to the precipice of insanity. During the worst of it, I considered checking into a mental hospital because I didn’t feel I could survive another second in my own skin.

But that moment passed, just like all the others do, good or bad. I started taking the medicine again, deciding my sanity was worth the exorbitant fee for uninsured medicine. The greatest part is that the pills don’t even really help. The medicine is supposed to control panic attacks, but they still occur with the same frequency, and I’ve only recently — within the past year or so — learned to control them through sheer will and maybe a little bit of maturity. The only thing the pills do now is save me from their withdrawal effects.

But it’s still my fault, because I’m the one who tried to OD on my previous antidepressants and ended up in the emergency room. Everyone in the hospital seemed cold towards me, and now I don’t blame them. I’d really done no more damage than a typical night out, and at the end when I was declared healthy, the doctor questioned me in the hall.

He asked if I would hurt myself if he let me go, and I had no intention of doing so (meaning, I didn’t and still don’t have the guts to off myself), so I said that. While we were talking a woman on a stretcher was being checked in. The staff was working all around her while a lone child clung to her side. The kid wasn’t crying, but appeared terrified, and the nurses were treating her with all the sympathy they withheld from me. Her mother was hooked up to a breathing machine and the people tending to her acted with a quiet urgency that made me think she was dying.

I remember looking at that woman and feeling like such an idiot. She was f-cking dying and I was just playing around. I didn’t even want to die, I just wanted the attention that every teenage girl so desperately craves, yet doesn’t have the wherewithal to understand that the sun does not rise and set on them. But she didn’t have a choice.

I do have a choice. Some days getting out bed seems impossible, but I do it anyway. Sometimes I snap at the people I love for no good reason. Now, instead of crying on my bed Scarlett O’Hara style all day, I apologize and explain it’s not you, it’s me. It’s always me, but I guess I have to live with it. Because if I don’t then no one else will.

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