Last Monday I was at the doctor’s office for a sinus infection. We started talking prescriptions and, looking at my chart, he said, “You know, your body doesn’t produce enough serotonin. I can tell just from the dose of escitalopram you take.”
A little more than a year ago, I started taking 5 milligrams of escitalopram every day because I hadn’t slept for 18 months. If I woke up at night for any reason, forget it—no more sleeping for me. I was scared, and my heart raced. Last August in a blubbering, tearful breakdown, I decided enough was enough. Prayer alone wasn’t going to fix this, and with the help of a stellar OB/GYN, I started my escitalopram regiment. Ten milligrams—the smallest pill—made me loopy, so I cut it in half and got my life back.
But back to the doctor Monday. He also told me there was a very good chance my paltry serotonin production was genetic. He said if others in my family mentioned similar issues to the ones I’d faced, I should tell them about my meds because it could be “life changing.”
For a week, I’ve been reliving this conversation and wishing I could have had it 20 years ago. In high school, about the time I started becoming a woman, I also started living with depression. I had attentive, loving parents who had no idea I struggled with this—I was involved in multiple extracurricular activities, I maintained my grades, I woke up on time in the morning, I didn’t dabble in drugs or dangerous activities, and I seemed “fine.”
But I didn’t sleep back then either. Instead, I cried and hoped my life would end. I couldn’t bring myself to tell my parents how broken I felt. If it hadn’t been for a few key people and personal experiences, I might have ended it myself.
It’s almost bizarre to think that had I taken my life as a teen, people would have wondered why. Why did that happen to me? Why did she feel her life was so hard? Why are people so complex? When really, maybe the problem was a lack of serotonin from the beginning. Something that maybe a tiny pill could have solved.
Everyone’s situation is different, I know. This isn’t the answer for everyone. But maybe this post will ring true for someone out there. Maybe a mom will slip into her daughter’s room tonight, see her crying, and decide they’ll fix it together.
I hope so. Because no matter what ill-founded stigmas people harbor about mental-health drugs, those like me know it’s biological. I didn’t choose this. This is my body, and this is its weakness. Share your negativity if you must, but I don’t care. My quality of life is now the best it’s ever been, and I have 5 milligrams to thank for it.
* October is ending, and it’s prime time for Seasonal Affective Disorder to rear its ugly head. Just a reminder to pay attention to those we love and reach out to them if they have a hard time during the darkest months of the year.