By Kimberly Zapata
I have an admission to make: I stopped taking my antidepressants. Again.
I didn’t forget to take them or run out, and I didn’t have some type of breakthrough — or breakdown. Instead, I just woke one morning and decided I didn’t need them. “I am OK” I thought, and so I stopped.
Cold turkey — and against doctors orders — I stopped.
Make no mistake: This isn’t the first time I’ve done this, and (if I’m being honest) I doubt it will be my last because despite my advocacy work and stigma fighter mentality, at times I still struggle to accept my illness. I view my mental health condition — and my dependency on medication — as a flaw and a weakness, and I fight back. To feel strong enough. So I can believe I am capable enough.
I fight back so I can be OK. So, for a moment, I can be “normal.”
Unfortunately, it never works. Ever. Because my illness is just that: an illness. I cannot will it away or wish it away. I cannot pray for a cure.
But that doesn’t stop me from trying — it didn’t stop me from trying — and while I was OK for a week or two (maybe even a few days more); while I was carefree, productive, balanced and holding my own; things changed earlier this month. I found myself agitated, restless, and unable to breathe. I cancelled engagements and appointments. I began missing both deadlines and meals, and before long the idea of tackling the most minute tasks — like washing dishes or showering or changing my freakin’ clothes — became overwhelming. Sadness swallowed my soul while rage and bile burned in my heart. And I cried.
I shook and screamed and cried.
Depression hit like a freight train — just as she had many times before — but this time, she hit so hard and fast there was no warning. I couldn’t hear her coming. I couldn’t see her coming, and while I shouldn’t have walked past those blinking barriers and danced along the tracks, I ignored both logic and advice and kept going. I pushed on until my body was being crushed. Until I was buried beneath the steel behemoth struggling to think. Struggling to function. Struggling to breath, and struggling to feel anything beyond the unbearable pain in my chest, the ache in my bones, and the isolation and desperation and an outright desire to die.
I only got up because of my daughter. Because she wanted me. Because she needed me. Because she deserved the best of me, and I knew that person is a balanced momma. A healthy momma. A medicated momma.
But it took everything in me to get up and take that pill. To call my doctor and refill my script. It took everything in me to not ignore my Wednesday morning therapy session. To not find a way to avoid or excuse it. So instead of taking on everything, I started small: I swallowed the pill and took a shower. The next day I stretched and did yoga and spent a few minutes that afternoon eating lunch. Like an actual freakin’ meal. And now, I am taking things minute by minute.
I am moving through life one moment at a time.
Are things great? No. Far from it, but I am trying to get better. I am doing what I can to get better. And I am fighting to get better not the way I “want” to but the way I need to. And, for me, that means fighting to GET HELP. Allowing my ego to ACCEPT HELP, and it means admitting I need my MEDICATION.
It means swallowing that pill without fear or shame, punishment and self-loathing. Because I am more than a diagnosis. I am more than a disease. I am more than my medication, and I deserve to be happy and mentally healthy, even if I have a mental illness.