One in every four Americans struggles with a mental health disorder. One in four. That’s 25 percent of 320 million people who struggle with their emotional well-being and their ability to get out of bed in the morning every single day.
And we don’t do nearly f*cking enough for them.
Let’s cut to the chase. I'm going to recklessly throw my personal sh*t out there because I vehemently believe in the deepest part of my heart that we don't talk enough about any of this, because those of us caught in the struggle are clothed in a toxic cloak of shame.
And I'm sick of being shamed into silence. And I'm tired of staying quiet. And I'm done with feeling alienated.
People have zero problem believing you when you're coughing, sick from a cold or sporting a cast from a broken arm. However, when it comes to how you feel inside, people are so quick to invalidate your pain.
I have always wished that there was some sort of outer damage, a big black bruise, that could reflect the inner damage I've felt. It's like if people don't see it, they don't believe it.
But the struggle with emotional well-being is here, and it's real, and it's not going anywhere. So let's talk about it.
My name is Zara Barrie, and I'm one of those 25 percent. I have major depressive disorder, panic disorder and another fun little disorder known in the medical community as "obsessive compulsive disorder," a harrowing issue that makes my eyes and brain obsessively fixate on disturbing images and ornate textures (don't all line up to date me at once, people).
I've grappled with all three of these conditions for just shy of a decade, and I've tried many a method to naturally work through these pressing issues.
I go to therapy once a week. I've done cognitive behavior therapy (CBT). I go to f*cking yoga. I run for miles and miles in Central Park, regularly.
I meditate and create art and write it all out in leather bound journal and talk it all out and take heaps of vitamins and do my best to eat healthily and NOT drink my face off too often. It all helps.
Despite the nurturing lifestyle I've cultivated, however, I recently found myself once again needing a little medical help in order to be pulled out of this bout of black depression.
So, every morning, I take a low dosage of Prozac.
It doesn't numb me from the swell of emotions, but it stops the all-consuming bad feels from swallowing me whole. It helps me avoid staying shackled to my room with blinds drawn as I stew in an endless pit of sadness and suffocating anxiety.
It keeps me functioning and moving forward into the life I deserve to live.
I take my medication seriously and am under the care of a wonderful, kind, caring psychiatrist with whom I check in on the reg. I'm a wildly responsible girl-creature, as we all should be when it comes to matters of mental and physical health.
I was off the meds for the past three years. I wanted to rip the Band-Aid away and see if I could navigate the tepid waters of life, naturally.
But, once again, I found the walls closing in around me. The pressing fear came back. It scared the sh*t out of me, and I knew I had to take action.
The debilitating depression, the clusters of panic attacks that make me terrified to leave the confines of my apartment, the dark images that play out on the surface of my brain and prevent me from being present, the cutting pain that pulls me out of living in the moment -- the weight of it all came crashing down like a tidal wave taking out a small island (only I was the small island).
Maybe it never really left. I don't know. But this time around, no amount of yoga, meditation or therapy seemed to quell the brutally bad feels from overtaking the entirety of my being.
And sometimes you just need to remember what it feels like to feel good again, to remember that it is possible to live outside of the limbless existence of depression. So, under the recommendation of trusted professionals, I went back on the meds.
Allow me to disclaim: I'm only speaking for myself. I'm not saying medication is right for anyone else, but it was the right choice (at this point in time) for me.
I own it. I used to hide it with a great ferocity, but f*ck it. This is me -- take me or leave me, kittens.
And if you're currently medicated and feeling ashamed, please don't fret, we're in this together, as a united force working to de-stigmatize mental health.
Prozac is an SSRI, which stands for "selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor." According to The Mayo Clinic, SSRIs alleviate depression by “blocking the reabsorption (reuptake) of the neurotransmitter serotonin,” a chemical that, when balanced, “helps brain cells send and receive chemical messages, which, in turn, boosts mood.”
For little ol' me, Prozac seems to be doing just that: boosting my mood. Balancing me out, helping me to breathe again and take an objective look at patterns in my life that are making me feel so unhappy.
I'm not in any way unaffected or numb, but I'm finally able to see a semblance of light at the seemingly endless tunnel of darkness.
Of course, everything has a catch doesn't it? Antidepressants come with a laundry list of possible side effects: weight gain, insomnia, nausea, weight loss and reduce in sex drive.
I don't care about gaining 10 pounds. I don't care about losing a few hours of sleep. But I do fear losing my sex drive like I fear hepatitis or rats infesting my apartment.
After all, my sexuality is a huge part of my identity. I pride myself on being an outrageously sexual being. An irrepressible, insatiable, sexual creature.
I had no one to speak to about this fear, because no one wants to ever discuss sex, and no one ever wants to discuss antidepressants let alone sex and antidepressants.
So if my antidepressants kill my sex drive, will that actually make me more depressed?
There’s always a catch to everything in life. I don't know about you, but I always feel like I'm compromising something: a thriving career or a thriving love life. The marvelous taste of cake or feeling good in my damn skinny jeans. Happiness or f*cking horniness.
Nothing will ever be perfect. If I take Prozac, I might gain a few pounds or have a decreased sex drive. I might also be a part of the stigmatized 25 percent of society who’s shamed for having a mental illness.
But if I didn’t take Prozac, I would be battling the uphill climb of major depressive disorder.
Isn't that life? There is always a give and take. And you want to know something, kittens? That's okay. Medicated or unmedicated, life will never be perfect. We can only do our best by making decisions that serve us.
Maybe the side effects of Prozac are too much for you. Or maybe the depression without Prozac is too much. Figure it out for yourself and hold your gorgeous head up gloriously high and listen to NO ONE except your own gut and your trusted medical professional.
Personally speaking, I'm two months in and Prozac has helped me tremendously. I'm still wildly creative. I'm still quirky and definitely still bat-sh*t crazy (I'm writing about sex and meds on the internet. No one in his or her right mind would do such thing).
But best of all, I'm still me – a more balanced, stable version, who’s moving forward and feeling good about herself. And I'd take that over the desperately horny, hot mess trainwreck who doesn't have the wherewithal to get out of bed in the morning any day.
If you or anyone you know is struggling with mental health, you're not alone. For professional help, visit Mental Health America.