It was early February 2012, but it felt like mid-f*cking-July. I was a displaced New Yorker in Florida, where the air felt suffocatingly thick and densely humid.
I had just moved to Florida from London for a job. It was supposed to be a temporary, fleeting move, but I had fallen in love (love always ruins your plans, doesn't it?) with a bartender named Luna.*
The moment I laid eyes on Luna, I was addicted to our intense chemistry. Luna just had that energy, that palpable fun-loving charisma that made everyone around her feel good. Especially me.
So she was the reason I found myself NOT in the wonderfully chic city of London, but at a bro beach tiki bar in the middle of winter.
Imagine a spindly 25-year-old Wednesday Addams (black braids and all) hanging out in a bikini on a powdery talcum beach amidst a crew of deeply tanned, ankle-tattooed girls with frosted highlights in their shiny waist-length hair and warm beers nestled between their olive-skinned fingers. I was sorely out of context.
I really clashed with an impossibly LOUD entity named Phoebe.*
She was the kind of girl who spoke louder than everyone else and was, more often than not, in the thick of a total and complete whiskey blackout. She constantly interrupted you and blew cigarette smoke in your face. She sucked the air out of a room.
It's rare I ever say this, but Phoebe was just too much. And my best friends are drag queens and wild, sexually deviant eccentrics, so that's saying a lot.
In her usual drunken haphazard state, Phoebe pulled a bottle of antidepressants out of her canvas backpack and slurred "F*ckkkkk theeeeeese pills. I don't even TAKE THEM!" at the top of her lungs for no necessary reason.
"Oh girl, don't be ashamed. I take Lexapro," I blurted out, totally forgetting that I hadn't yet told my new girlfriend that I took antidepressants.
I almost got away unscathed. It was easy to go unnoticed around Phoebe. But unfortunately for me, Luna's best friend Maria* had overheard me.
"WHAT, ZARA, YOU TAKE LEXAPRO? LUNA, ZARA TAKES ANTIDEPRESSANTS!" Maria shouted, breathing beer into my face.
I went into immediate fight-or-flight, electric shock mode: "NO, I was totally kidding!" I lied, straight through my newly whitened teeth.
"Thank God!" Luna sighed. "I hate antidepressants. They turn you into a f*cking zombie. I don't want to date a zombie."
Then, everyone began firing out anti-antidepressant rants at the speed of rapid fire.
"Yeah, this country is waaaay over medicated!" "Yeah f*ck antidepressants, they're the worst." "Oh yeah I could never date someone who chose taking pills over confronting the pain..."
And I stood there, feeling self-consciously pale, clutching my hot pink Rebecca Minkoff purse laughing along, nodding my head in vehement solidarity and stone-cold agreement with Luna and her friends about how "antidepressants are BAD and ruining America."
Meanwhile, resting in the small zipper part of my little pink purse were 20 mgs of the little blue pill I had been taking for the last seven months, that I'm pretty sure had saved my life.
But I got it. See, I had been one of those people in the past, who scoffed at the prospect of medication, thinking all I had to do was strap on my black combat boots and put on a brave face and get the f*ck over it. I'm British; we like to suffer. We are the very face of the "stiff upper lip" movement.
However, I had recently been hit with a bout of depression so black I couldn't see my way out of the pain. It was the kind of depression that's so severe, simple acts like brushing your teeth or combing your hair feel taxing.
I couldn't eat. I couldn't sleep. And to be perfectly honest, I didn't want to be alive. Things got so dark in my head that I no longer felt like I was in a safe place.
Finally, a family friend got worried about me and took me to her doctor. I got prescribed a low dosage of Lexapro, and after about two weeks, I could finally muster up the energy to get out of bed.
Lexapro wasn't a miracle drug that fixed all of my problems, but it gave me the strength to start going to therapy and confront the slew of painful memories I had spent the past decade suppressing.
In that time in my life, I needed the help of medication. It was life or death.
But in that moment with Luna, I felt ashamed. I felt like a f*cked up loser who wasn't strong enough to deal with life. And when I feel ashamed, I start to lie. Humiliation and embarrassment have the ability to silence me like nothing else.
For the next several months, I hid my pills from Luna. I kept them in a delicate daisy-decorated sponge makeup bag, the kind of contraption that respectable nice girls would probably use to store their tampons. (I've always been the girl who recklessly tosses her tampons into her bag.)
I so badly wanted to fit the image of what Luna wanted, and needing medication wasn't part of that image. Luna wanted fun-loving Zara. Fashion-crazed Zara. Unafraid-to-tell-anyone-off Zara.
Who wants to be with the Zara who suffers from depression and anxiety so severely that sometimes she's scared of her own thoughts? No one wants to be with that Zara. And all I wanted was to be the girl that Luna wanted to be with. .
Finally, it all came crashing down. I grew sick and tired of keeping a huge part of my life hidden from Luna. I loved her and craved her support. I wanted to tell her what I had been through and what I was going through.
So one day, it spilled out of me. I told her everything. The shame. The trauma. Why I had lied to her for the better part of a year.
"Luna, I can't hide this anymore, but I've been battling depression and taking antidepressants. I know you're super against antidepressants, but I need your support. I've been lying to you and hiding my medication from you."
We were in the car on our way to the airport. We were taking our first couple's vacation to Brazil (excellent timing for a heavy conversation, I know. My bad.). I gazed out the window and stared at the palm trees lining the streets. I braced myself for a judgmental lecture or massive argument because I had, after all, committed the worst relationship sin of all (especially for lesbians), I lied.
Much to my surprise, my confession didn't end in a screaming match. She felt instantly terrible that the drunken comments from her friends almost a year ago had made me feel so insecure. She didn't judge me like I had feared. In fact, my confession made her love me more.
And it taught me one of the most life-changing lessons I've learned in my adult life: People don't really fall in love with the perfectly curated version of you. They might admire the filtered, air-brushed version of you. But it's not love.
People are only going to fall in true love with the whole you. The you who has nightmares, and awkward birthmarks, and a loaded past, and strange phobias. I've found the things I've been the most ashamed of are the very things my partners have fallen in love with me for.
So sweet kittens, don't be shamed into silence. Don't water your eccentricities down because you're afraid of being "too much."
And if people try to shame you for needing to take medication, or your weird family, or the funky scar on your body, f*ck them. Who needs false love when you could have real love?
Find the person who loves all of you, blue pills and all.
*Name has been changed
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