After a significant period of living in progressively worse despair and anxiety, I've begun to reacquaint myself with the feeling of absolute joy. The feminist in me is sheepish to admit that what ultimately motivated me to make an appointment with my doctor (and thus receive the much needed prescription for antidepressants and therapy) was my lover's exposure to my mental condition. Essentially, it was tolerable, in my mind, for me to privately endure this shadow life, but to drag this innocent, near stranger into my emotional maelstrom was unacceptable and, frankly, embarrassing. Following a particularly dark and frantic interaction with him, I realized I needed to immediately reorient my capsizing mental space.
The first time I took antidepressants was about ten years ago when I was prescribed Zoloft (a SSRI). The Zoloft (and therapy) eliminated my depression and reconfigured my brain chemistry. This time, my primary care physician prescribed bupropion (an atypical antidepressant), which took effect fairly promptly and also has all of these wonderful peripheral benefits such as a lessening of social anxiety, relief of insomnia, *and* a reduction in the severity of nicotine cravings. Also, unlike Zoloft, it causes no sexual side effects (ie loss of libido). Since last Monday, without fail, every morning when I awake and every evening when I arrive home from work, I take glorious, magical, happy pills and I don't really care who knows it. In fact, I feel truly pained to think of all of the people silently suffering from untreated mental health issues who could find near immediate relief with one trip to their physician. (If any of you reading this now fall into that category, please learn from my example and seek help!)
The change in my mood has been abrupt. I went from endlessly ruminating on the most trivial of perceived slights to spontaneously dancing around my apartment bursting with what could only be described as pure joy. I honestly forgot what joy felt like. To be sure, in the past year or so I've experienced moments of hilarity, moments of ecstasy, and moments of fleeting contentment, but genuine, boundless joy has been absent from my life; it wasn't until this weekend that I fully comprehended what I had lost. It was astounding to discover that my mood, which seemed so hopelessly monolithic, could so drastically change over the course of seven days. And with that change in mood came a change in my overall outlook and my expectations of future success. It is as though I had not only lost my joy, but I had lost a sense of my own strengths and innate capabilities. I had lost sight of my goals and the things that brought me joy.
For instance, if anyone has been following my Twitter feed, you might notice that I have been excitedly tweeting about my considerable weight loss. I am now getting into my former "hot girl" weight range. When I am healthy and active, I have a perfect hour-glass figure (a friend of mine recently described my body as that of the classic pin-up girl). Although over the course of the past year I've lost forty pounds, I took no real joy in regaining my figure. It wasn't until yesterday that the change truly hit me. I was at my folks' place and my whole family was commenting on how becoming my clothes fit. My dad said to me, "You were born to be thin - you have an athlete's genes. You will always be happier when you have a body that allows you to be active." I think he is absolutely correct in this regard. No wonder I, a smoker, could go from not running at all to running five miles in sixty minutes over the course of only a month. I finally realize that this is no chance happening; rather, this is something that I achieved and something that I can maintain. This is who I am.
Moreover, I've regained an interest in all of the things I used to very much enjoy. For instance, blog writing ;) Or reading poetry. Or listening to my favorite musicians. Or yoga. I can conceive of doing well in my job again and of the positive aspects of the work I do. I've taken on new challenges and new responsibilities. I've been thinking about my future and how I want to shape it. I'm actually excited about dating (instead of seeing it as a second job). I haven't had a drop to drink in five days. (Do you know how long it has been since I went that many days without drinking any alcohol?! I couldn't even tell you.)
Over the course of this past week, I have certainly felt regret for not having sought help for the depression and anxiety sooner (especially considering that I subjected this unfortunate boy, who was kind enough to give me the good lovin', to my madness), but more than anything I'm glad that I am better now. I'm also disappointed to have lost that much time to depression, but the poor mood comes on so gradually that you become accustomed to the incremental change and don't fully notice the depression until your mood has been completely eviscerated. Therefore, I make a concerted effort not to blame myself.
The next step will be therapy, which I'm starting Wednesday evening. I'm curious to see if I will develop a good rapport with my therapist and if she will be offering me evidence-based therapy. I know she is somewhat trained in cognitive-behavioral, but she didn't sound all that enthusiastic about the prospect when we initially spoke on the phone. Also, she is a lot older than me, so I hope she is working from a sex positive and feministic paradigm. If not, there are plenty of other therapists in this city. I'm sure I'll find someone who will be a good match for me :)