People probably think I'm almost TOO open - I mean, that girl at the checkout probably didn't need to know about my cat's mole and how much he hates going to the vet, but I wear my heart on my sleeve. So I'll just jump right in.
I’ve had depression since I was only 12, and have battled it on and off again for well... since then. The truth is that although it's probably improved over the years, my coping skills I've collected are really the knight in shining armor here. If there is one thing you take away from reading this, it's that medication alone is not enough to take you from A to B. It's all about finding what works for you and WORKING HARD AT IT.
I'm really glad that (for this instance) my parents were familiar and supportive of mental health because when I started to complain about symptoms (like sleeping through my entire grade 8 year, and getting physically angry when people were expressing happiness around me) they brought me in to get checked out. I know a TON of kids are not lucky enough to be taken seriously, so I'm extremely grateful. The doctor prescribed an anti-depressant and I guess we all hoped that would be that. Obviously it wasn't, and I'm not here to write That One Time I Was Medicated and Cured. I lost a LOT of weight. I'm talking starting at around 115 lbs standing at 5'5" to dropping around 85 lbs. This was entirely based around side-effects of the drug (I won't name it, because although it didn't work for me, it might work for you). I only took that medication for about 2 months, and when I told the doctor I wanted to stop, he actually responded with "Oh, really? You sure don't want to try it a bit longer?" Like, NO THANK YOU!? So we tried another one.
Seven actually in total, all of which came with terrible side effects. (This was probably over the course of 5 years or so - just to give you a timeline.) Certain side-effects were more tolerable - weight gain, headaches, daydreaming... but some were impossible to cope with without the necessary skills. Numbness was easily the hardest. I'm such a feeling person. I tend to feel all emotions like they're on blast and that is something that helps me feel alive and present, so when ALL the feelings were gone, I stumbled into self-harm. Remember when I suggested coping skills were incredibly important to learn?? Yes, this was why!
With a doctor who was happy with a prescription pad and no proper therapist, it took YEARS longer than it needed to in order to learn how to handle both my symptoms and the side effects effectively. Because of this, I (not unexpectedly) stopped using medication to treat my depression and sought out to self-medicate (ahem, marijuana + alcohol) and when that gave me side-effects I couldn’t handle too (extremely intense anxiety attacks) I finally made the decision (with a massive amount of encouragement from a friend) to begin therapy.
Here are a couple of the methods I learned that I still use regularly:
1. Grounding Kit
This is a little package I carry around in my purse. Whenever I feel very anxious or like I’m drifting out of the situation and into my head, I try to engage 2 or more of my senses which serves as a distraction. My go to (which are super easy to do/use in public without risk of being found out) is: popping a Hall’s – the overpowering super menthol ones in the black package, and putting on chapstick and rubbing my lips together. Usually it’s enough to pop me back into reality, if not, I’ll try things like running my hands under pretty hot water, or making a snowball outside. Extremes help.
2. Pride Costume
I wasn’t sure of a name for this one, but it’s all about feeling like a bad ass. On weekends when I’m not forced to get out of bed, I sometimes won’t. This is my way around that. I’ll play dress-up more or less. Do my hair, put on my favourite outfit that just fits right no matter what mood I’m in. Take my time to do my makeup. By the time I’m finished, I’ll often feel too good to keep it all to myself, and maybe take a walk up to grab a coffee. Smile at a couple people on the way, and then when I come home I’m feeling inspired and motivated (not to mention caffeinated).