I am thankful for medicine. I am thankful for migraine medicine and antibiotics and cold medicines, but most of all I am thankful for psychiatric medications. SSRIs and all of their cousins have saved the lives of countless people. They have kept people off of drugs and out of drunk tanks. For generations, my family has dealt with broken relationships, broken spirits, and addiction issues. One of my direct line ancestors died of "wood alcohol poisoning and exposure." Seriously.
My chemical imbalance began when I was very young. When I was ten I wanted to die with every part of myself. I tried to kill myself by sitting with a wet towel on my chest in front of an open window in winter. A character in a book I'd read had been successful in contracting pneumonia and dying through this method. I failed to grasp the futility of attempting it in a Northern Californian winter. My family laughed at me and called me Sarah Bernhardt, queen of melodrama. Except I was serious. Deadly serious.
The darkness lightened eventually, but it came back, again and again. At thirteen, at seventeen, at nineteen, at twenty-four, and at twenty-seven. Between ten and thirteen I gained an irrefutable testimony of the existence of God (see Giving Thanks--1), a God who did not want me to kill myself, and a firm belief that I would continue to exist past death. So I never tried to kill myself again. But I wanted to. Oh, how I wanted to stop. Just stop existing. Never to feel the pain and hopelessness and sorrow again. At those moments a sure knowledge of God's love was less than joyous.
One day, in the middle of my major depressive disorder, something changed. I realized that my misery wasn't just affecting me. My beautiful two year old son had lost his "expensive" belt (twenty bucks) that I'd purchased for church. I found myself ranting some crazy thing about the belt and my son was crying and my daughter was searching frantically for the belt and I saw clearly. I saw how my mother and father had destroyed portions of me with their craziness and how their parents had destroyed portions of them and how I would destroy my children if I kept it up. I saw how my hours of silent crying and envy of people who contracted deadly diseases and died in car crashes, all of that crazy was bending my children toward the dark that enveloped me. I realized that my children would only get the one childhood.
And I saw a doctor. I'd seen a psychologist when I was ten and then again when I was seventeen and again when I was twenty-two and I'd learned a lot of useful skills. Skills which frankly were keeping me alive. I'd learned how to write through my feelings and recognize cognitive distortions. I'd learned how to talk back to the crazy. Useful. But still the darkness remained and that longing for death.
The doctor prescribed an SSRI. And I was healed. It wasn't simple. I had to try different kinds of SSRI and I had to work through the side effects. But it went away and stayed away. I quit taking them twice to have two more babies, during the non-medicated second pregnancy a combination of hormones and situational issues plummeted me to a level I'd never been before. I got to the point where I was sure everyone would be better off without me and a deadly suicide plan formed in spite of my best cognitive efforts. I began taking an SSRI again, because regardless of the risk to my baby, she would be 100% dead if I killed myself. Again it was like magic. I took my pill every day and the thoughts stopped. I could write. I could think. I could laugh, play games. Feel the Spirit. Love God. Love my family.
So, yes, as odd as it sounds, I am thankful for meds. I'm thankful that my now 20-year-old daughter and my 19-year-old son love me and don't fear me. If I was diabetic and took insulin because my pancreas couldn't meet my needs, I would take it and feel perfectly reasonable mentioning it in any setting, but because it's my brain, I feel a little cautious in mentioning it. Will telling come back to bite me in the butt? Given the stigma of mental illness, it might. Yeah, my brain has some sort of genetic brain chemical imbalance, but if I take my medicine, I am fine. It's really a modern miracle. I imagine how differently my family history would read if my mother and father and their mothers and fathers had taken an SSRI. The past doesn't get to be rewritten, but I sure as heck can write the future. I can tell my children and my children's children that it isn't necessary to drink away or smoke away or scream away the dark.
If you currently are experiencing depression and suicidal feelings, I encourage you to seek help. Medications and counseling can save your life, can save the quality of your life and the life of those you love. Please reach out.
Here is a link that can start you on a path to healing: http://www.helpguide.org/mental/suicide_help.htm