At the age of 19, the summer after my freshman year of college, I came down with appendicitis. I knew exactly what it was when I woke up with a dull pain directly beneath my bellybutton, and my mom took me straight to the E.R. when I told her. I rated my pain as a 7 on a scale of 1-10 when the hospital staff asked me, so they gave me a morphine drip as we awaited the inevitable diagnosis. On the morphine, the pain was still there, but I couldn’t care less about it.
After a while, the doctor walked into the room and said gravely, “we’re going to have to take you to surgery.”
I grinned and replied, “I’m so happy!”
I had hoped that antidepressants would be something like that.
Unsurprisingly, they’re not. Or, mine isn’t, anyway. The experiences are somewhat similar, in that the pain I was feeling before the medication took effect is still there. I still feel the boredom and the tedium of daily life. I still feel the heartbreak and the sadness. It’s still a struggle to get my ass into the shower every morning. But the main difference is that I DO care. I care about where the pain is coming from, and I see that I’m the only one who can make it stop. And I feel equipped and motivated to make it stop.
In short, the hopelessness is abolished.
My follow-up doctor’s visit was last Thursday. I felt like a completely different person from the girl who sat in the same examination room a month ago sobbing. This time I smiled brightly and told my doctor about what’s changed over the past month. How I went on a job interview last week, whereas a month ago I felt stuck in a job that’s not giving me any meaning. How I can’t get enough of Jason Lytle’s new album, whereas a month ago I wasn’t even listening to any music at all. How I love hanging out with friends again, whereas a month ago I felt unsuitable to be around other people. How I think I finally know what to do about my marriage, whereas a month ago I was utterly drowning under the huge, life-altering decisions ahead of me.
These are hard things, I told her, but not unmanageable. She said she was glad I’m feeling so much better and gave me a 2-month prescription for more Lexapro.
“You might need it longer than that,” she said. And then with a wink, “But we’ll see.”