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Leaving Myself Behind

My personal story of starting antidepressants.

I am not the same person I used to be. I had to leave myself behind. This was different than just growing as a person; it was artificial, and it was intentional. It was the most challenging thing I have ever done. I don’t think I could have survived without it. It was for the best.

Last year, I started antidepressants. I knew it could change me. I got to a point that if I didn’t start the medication, I wouldn’t be able to keep going. I was having three to four panic attacks a day, everyday. It was unbearable.

My panic attacks became a problem in the beginning of eighth grade. At the beginning, it happened when I was around large groups of people, or if I had to speak in front of an audience.

Over time, it progressed:

If I was confused in class, I had a panic attack. If a teacher talked to me, I had a panic attack. If another human being existed anywhere near me at any given time, I had a panic attack.

It got to the point where the majority of my day was spent on the bathroom floor.

In a school of 200 kids, it was manageable. Once I got to high school with 2000 loud and scary kids, it was not. I had a panic attack every passing period. I couldn’t handle all of the people aggressively pushing through the hallways. The chaos of the commons made me hyperventilate. I didn’t know any of the teachers. I didn’t know any of my classmates. I was isolated and absolutely terrified, and no one noticed. How could they? With this many kids, the suffering are pushed into the background. The teachers assumed I was shy. My classmates thought I was rude. No one knew me. No one saw me. No one noticed. I was used to knowing everyone and everyone knowing me. I was used to a warm, welcoming community, full of familiar faces and loving families. I had never felt so alone.

I started seeing a therapist in eighth grade. And a second one that summer. As freshman year progressed, my doctor prescribed antidepressants. I thought it would be a magic pill that would make my suffering disappear. I thought I would go back to the curious, excited, innocent girl I used to be. I thought I would still be myself, just without the pain. I started out on a small dose. After a few weeks, I felt terrible. The pills made me sick. It felt like I had a stomach flu for weeks. It was absolute hell.

Once I finally found a medication that didn’t make me sick, it took a while before it actually made me feel different. It took about two months. During this time I was still having three to four panic attacks a day. I started this process at the beginning of freshman year, and I didn’t improve until the end. Once I got to a point of feeling not as terrible, I realized how bad I was before. I didn’t even realize I was depressed. I didn’t realize that staying in my bed the entire weekend was a sign of depression. I was on antidepressants for anxiety and panic attacks, but they also saved me from the depression I didn’t know I had.

Once I was at a point that I could get out of bed, take care of myself, and function as a human being, I realized I didn’t know who I was. I didn’t recognize myself. I was trying to leave behind the pain and suffering, but I wasn’t aware I had to leave myself behind to do that. I didn’t know myself anymore. While I was busy with my anxiety, everyone else was figuring out who they were. I came out on the other side, without having the slightest clue who I was.

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