Reprinted from "Women's" issue of Visions Journal, 2004, 2 (4), p. 36
I was 23 years old when I received an article from my father about the benefits of taking Prozac for depression. I found it quite odd that my father would send me such an article, as we had never had any heart-to-heart discussions about anything before, let alone depression. I guess he saw something in me that caused him to think I would benefit from antidepressants.
It was a year before I actually tried Prozac. I was scared to take medication that would alter my brain chemistry. I didn’t know what to expect. Would taking medication change me into a completely different person?
I finally came to realize that my personality had actually always been suppressed due to my depression. Depression robs you of your energy, your passions and your will to live. So, I thought, what did I have to lose?
Prozac caused me to become hypomanic—I had an abundance of energy and felt highly elated. I began to do things that were completely out of character for me. I transformed from a shy, introverted and low-energy person to an extremely outgoing, extroverted and gregarious person. It was great to finally break out of my shell and to break free from the dark cloud that had followed me everywhere. What I didn’t realize was that my high would eventually peak. I crashed, and depression hit me hard.
Prozac was not the right medication for me, but it was the first step in finding the right one. When I finally stabilized on the right medication, my true personality came out. My social anxiety and shyness decreased, my anger diminished and I became more motivated and outgoing. For the first time in my life, I didn’t want to die.
Despite my new-found ‘normalcy,’ however, depression wasn’t finished with me. Depression took much more from me than my mental health: it also took my good friend and soulmate. Jonathan was my guardian angel. He had always helped me through my darkest times. He encouraged and supported me, and would hold me when I couldn’t face the world. His unconditional love got me through my years of depression. But after discovering the miracle of medication, I didn’t rely on him as much as I had. I was so caught up in my own newly found happiness that I didn’t notice Jonathan’s depression. Jonathan lost his battle with depression: on June 26, 1997, he took his life.
Jonathan’s death didn’t force me back into the depression I had fought so hard to overcome, but it did lead me into mourning. Even though I was dealing with this huge loss, I was determined never to go back to living a life filled with depression. I grieved but remained on my medication. This prevented me from going into a deep depression. After about a year, I came out of mourning. I was still on medication, which continued to control my depression.
Despite my loss, I was so grateful for having my depression under control that I decided I wanted to give something back to the community. And so, I became a child protection social worker.
Through my work, I have discovered that many mothers known to child protection services also confront some form of mental illness. Unfortunately, many of these women’s illnesses are undiagnosed and untreated, and often interfere with their parenting ability.
Mental illness can be crippling and if not properly diagnosed and treated can render people dysfunctional. Many people self-medicate when they suffer from mental illness, which can result in substance abuse. This, in turn, often prevents people from being able to fully function in life, which sometimes causes them to lose the things most important to them. As a child protection social worker, I help these people get the help they need to put their families back together again.
It has been 10 years since I started taking medication, and I have been on several different antidepressants. Every couple of years the medication stops working, but I manage to find another one that does work, and eventually I go back to ones previously taken.
I am forever grateful for the medication that has taken away the dark clouds that I lived with for so many years of my life. I have developed nothing but strength, motivation, happiness and serenity, and have a very rewarding career. I feel like I have my life back!
About the Author
Linda moved to Vancouver from Montreal in 1993. She has been a social worker for five and a half years