A fortnight ago I took the last pill out of a snap pack, looked at it and realised that this would be the last time I had a crutch for my emotions. I was struck with both excitement and trepidation. I put the pill on my tongue, swallowed it and looked myself in the mirror. I thought to myself ‘That’s it, no more safety net’.
It took a lot of cajoling and ultimately a threat for me to actually reach out for help, and then reach out a second time. The first time things didn’t go as planned and I had been lost in the shuffle for both therapy and an evaluation for depression. The tipping point was my partner at the time essentially bartered our relationship for it, that she couldn’t be with me any longer with how I was, and honestly I couldn’t blame her.
I went into therapy and started taking the pills. I was given Citalopram, an anti-stress drug; the best way I can explain it is that it narrows out your emotional range. If emotions are a scale of one to ten, it felt like I was constantly in four to six. It worked but at the price of feeling any of the extremes. It’s similar to Prozium in the film Equilibrium, a film I highly recommend. The therapy was cognitive behaviour therapy, and despite what some say, if it works for you, then it works for you. Sometimes all you need is to look at yourself and talk about why things are how they are, and look at that as your starting point of change.
That was two years ago, and I’m now two weeks since taking my last pill. The side effects are almost over, and I’ve gotten off easily in regards to those. Slightly less well-tempered and the desire to sleep a lot are all that I had and I know of some that have had a lot worse. But the loss of the positive effects is honestly negligible. I still feel like I did when I was on citalopram, but with a wider range of emotions to feel. The therapy was a single course and it gave me an emotional ‘off’ switch. If I wasn’t prepared to feel what was coming my way, CBT taught me to stop the feeling, and look at it from a logical perspective, tweak a few things then look at the situation as a whole again. It took my involvement out of the situation and made me a spectator with the power to change things. My problem was that I was locked in a cycle of self-loathing because I hadn’t taken control, or that I had and I should have known how to handle it, but there are a thousand other equally destructive problems that therapy can be used to help.
As an example, before I started the pills I was looking for reasons to avoid social interaction. It wasn’t just that I was lazy, it was that I couldn’t deal with other people. I think I was slightly jealous of people that didn’t feel the way I felt, like I knew something was wrong. Tonight I missed the weekly group for D&D and I was angry, because I’d slept through it thanks to working myself hard enough to need to sleep in the afternoon. It sounds tiny, but it’s a start, and you have to start off small.
Only downside is the increase in appetite to keep myself awake without the matching metabolism, which means more exercise, and I’m oddly looking forward to that too. I want to accomplish something, and that was the major problem with my life before I asked for help; that desire was minimal if outright non-existent. I still occasionally get panic attacks, which is something the citalopram stopped, but I know I’m in control. I can sit down with a drink in my hand and just breathe my way through it, assure myself that I am not helpless, and return to work a few minutes later with a smile on my face.
I’ve rambled on for nearly seven hundred words so I’ll try and condense what I want to say into this: There’s a stigma about men not coming forward to seek help with emotional issues; seek the help. It’s OK to feel embarrassed about it; just remember that at least you’re feeling something. Pills may not be the answer, temporarily or permanently. It may be therapy, or exercises, or something as simple as a diet change and an hour in front of a sun lamp. I took a huge compromise in my personal morals in taking antidepressants, but on the other side I can say that it’s worthwhile. It allowed me to feel content again, and to feel (if only a little) happy. It reminded me what that felt like and now gives me something to pursue; and we all have the right to be happy.