Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Breathe in the Nil

An increasing amount of North America’s population is suffering from clinical depression, myself included. The most common ‘remedy’ is to take SSRIs (Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors). This medication promotes the reuptake of serotonin (a neurotransmitter, like dopamine and others) and in doing so is meant to help with severe depression. I am currently taking Cipralex, an SSRI with the fewest side effects. However, in the last few months I’ve noticed an increase in these so-called “temporary” effects. Here is a list of the most common side effects that Cipralex claims to last only during the first few weeks of consumption:

  • Insomnia/vivid and strange dreams
  • Confusion
  • Shaking in the hands
  • Diarrhea/constipation/nausea
  • Decreased appetite
  • Dizziness
  • Sleepiness
  • Nervousness
  • Sexual problems
  • Inflammation of the sinuses
  • Pain in the muscles and joints
  • Increased sweating
  • Rash or itching
  • Fear/Paranoia

Out of the fourteen most common “temporary” side effects, I have been experiencing eleven. Eleven out of fourteen.

I was prescribed Cipralex in October of 2007 and it is only in the last few months that these effects have surfaced. I can’t sleep, and when I do I experience terrible nightmares usually vivid enough to throw me into a rattled state of mind for the rest of the day. My deep love for the taste of foods has sadly decreased immensely and I’m finding it more and more difficult to feel alive. I gain no pleasure in the activities I once considered to be fulfilling. My sex drive, though still present, is fluctuating in levels of intensity. I’m constantly tired and without energy, even though I can’t sleep when I want to. I’m constantly on edge, nervous, anxious, and afraid. I find it hard to concentrate on issues that I am passionate about, and therefore can’t form opinions or arguments as well as I once could. In other words, my intellect is in serious question, and for me, this is the most upsetting ‘side effect.’

As a result of my recent frustrations with this ‘remedy’ for depression, I started to wonder: Is this what my pursuit of happiness has become? The path to contentment starts with a bottle of 10mg tablets? Whatever happened to inner peace, inner strength, independence? I’ve noticed that my “depression” has now manifested into the feeling that I’m simply “not enough.” I need a steady relationship to feel complete, a steady job to feel successful, a tight group of friends to feel loved, and a busy lifestyle to distract myself from the inevitable feeling of loneliness. I am a logical woman, and to me, this statement rings completely illogical. Why should all of these external entities define me? They don’t. But that doesn’t change the fact that when a relationship isn’t up to par, or a friendship is falling apart, I doubt myself. I begin to think negatively about the world and about my immediate self.

If I am a naturally emotional woman who tends to think too much and too negatively and therefore allows herself to fall into a depression, are psychiatric drugs really the answer? I don’t believe they are, at least not for me. The problem, then, lies in myself. I have a consistent need to help people and I’m in a constant search for meaning. Perhaps I’m searching in the wrong places. To pull myself out of this depression I will need to make drastic changes in my thinking patterns, my lifestyle, and my goals.

The purpose of this piece is to find others like me so we can bounce ideas around and somehow come to terms with the best ways to rectify our unfortunate states of mind. Psychoanalysis? Behavioral therapy? Yoga? For some it may be one of those methods and for others it may be all of them. But I believe communicating with each other is a wonderful way to release our fears without feeling judged. Sharing this with a shrink is all fine and dandy but sometimes it’s difficult to ignore the pen and paper they have in front of them as you speak. Friends are helpful but there remains the fact that they just don’t get it. They try to. They really do. But at the end of the day there is no universal sensation in place.

Lately I’ve noticed that sunshine helps a great deal but only provides a temporary relief from my constant struggle to feel alive and well. I’m not miserable. I’m just not happy. As Moka Only says, “it’s not that everything really sucks, I just don’t feel like a million bucks.”

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