May is Mental Health Awareness Month.
It’s strange to think about where I was one year ago. Sitting in a psychiatrist’s office in my hometown, I started learning about antidepressants, having come to the realization (thanks to my therapist) that I was, in fact, depressed. I had been for some time.
The doctor explained my prescription, and I felt anxious, empty, and scared of what was to come. But I also felt hopeful; antidepressants could very well be a viable solution for me. Most of all, though, I felt fragile. But with the support of my family and friends — and through constant communication with my therapist and psychiatrist — I’ve found recovery by taking a small daily dosage of Lexapro.
After a year of being on my new meds, coupled with stronger friendships than ever before, I’ve finally moved past my depression. That’s not to say that I’m immune from depression and anxiety in the future. By “moving past my depression,” I mean that I feel like a completely different person. I’m no longer who I was during my depressive state. Life feels more bearable.
In the winter of 2016, the days when I wasn’t in tears were few and far between. I was in a dark place — crying constantly and struggling to get out of bed in the mornings. I wanted to be in total isolation, to the point that I even found myself unable to respond to texts from my family, who I normally talk to almost every day.
Doing anything besides emotionally breaking down and staying in bed felt like a challenge. Why was I so sad? I was hard on myself for feeling that way without a concrete explanation. I kept wondering, what is wrong with me? Am I just super sensitive? Nothing got better, and I told myself that if this was what being in my late-twenties entailed, I was over it.
Eventually I knew I needed help. When I started to face my depression head-on in therapy, I still felt alone. That’s why my therapist suggested I consciously carve out time to hang out with friends a few days a week. She told me this was key, because with depression, you not only feel alone in your dark and tired state — you also feel alone in life more generally. It’s like you’re detached from just about everything.
Looking at my calendar and just imagining scheduling phone calls with friends, let alone IRL hangouts, felt like an impossible task.
She told me that, after a while, I’d start to get sick of scheduling hangouts with friends because my calendar would be booked. I didn’t believe her and laughed at the fantasy of me creating a full social calendar. But her idea was that, yes, these plans might feel forced at first (like the last thing I ever wanted to do, to be exact) — but soon they’d happen organically and wouldn’t even feel like work.
I remembered the days of not needing to consciously add get-togethers with friends to my to-do list; friendship had never felt like work in the past. But this was a different season of my life.
I’d always prided myself on being a good friend, but now I needed to know if my friends could handle me at my lowest point.
In the early stages of being on Lexapro, it wasn’t easy. I had to get out of my comfort zone, which meant getting out from under the covers and trying to be honest with those closest to me. When you’re dealing with mental health issues head-on — when your vulnerability is front and center — you realize how impactful time with friends can be. Talking to friends about what I was going through felt challenging — some just didn’t understand how antidepressants worked and, truthfully, I was still learning, too. But in lengthy and tearful conversations, I actually felt closer to some of my friends than ever before.
It would have been so easy to get sucked back into my depressive state, wallowing in it all on my own, but I learned that I don’t have to fake happiness with real friends. Instead, I can lean on them to help me through it all. I made time for those closest to me even when I didn’t feel 100% because those human interactions were not only perfect distractions, but reminders that I wasn’t navigating this journey alone. Weeknight Skype sessions with my college bestie, long hikes with old friends, and ridiculous trivia nights with new friends soon became an additional form of medicine.
Lexapro has been so helpful in treating my depression, but it’s not a magic pill that solves everything. Incorporating Lexapro into my routine was part of a larger journey to wellness as I conquered that feeling of being completely alone.
While I enjoy spending time by myself, I value my relationships with others on a deep level. I couldn’t have moved past my depression and anxiety solely with Lexapro. I needed to strike a new balance in my life that worked for me — one that involved reprioritizing time for friends, family, adventure, therapy, and overall wellness. These parts of my life were out of whack and out of reach, but now I actually feel centered again. I feel like myself.