In December of 2015, my OBGYN put me on a dusting of fluoxetine (10 MG). I was having a rough time, not too rough, but rough enough to ask for help. I know she’s an OBGYN, but she’s been my doctor for over a decade and I feel particularly close to her. I trust her deeply. Plus, this medication was supposed to help alleviate period pain, which I experience a great deal of.
The dusting seemed to take some of the edge off, although given the low dosage, I have to wonder if I was experiencing the placebo effect. Who really knows. I was still a touch moody; felt socially inept and my anxiety was still ever-present. I still occasionally experienced periods of mania. While things were dialed down a notch, I was still very much the current version of myself.
The one thing that Prozac treated that turned out to be helpful for me was my inability to stew. All my life, since as early as I can remember, whenever something bothers me, I beat the living shit out of it, myself and all of the emotions involved. I investigate the situation from every angle. I replay it over and over again in my head. I mean, I put my thoughts to work! I abuse them. My brain doesn’t get a moment’s rest. I basically emotionally abuse myself. If I say something stupid at a party or respond foolishly during a social situation, I won’t let myself off the hook. I won’t let it go.
I immerse myself within the situation. Forgive me for the bad metaphor, but say every problem I have is a swimming pool, instead of recognizing that I can get out of the pool and approach the situation from outside of the damn pool. I stay in the pool and swim through the situation until I feel like drowning; or I become so exhausted, I have no other choice but to get out.
That’s not healthy and the dusting of prozac helped me with that. It didn’t get rid of it completely, but it definitely helped.
So I stuck with that dusting until late last summer when things started to take a turn once more.
Summer has always been a rough time of year for me. I do not enjoy summer. Even as a kid I didn’t particularly enjoy summer. I much preferred the continuity and safety of a school day. I liked to be with friends. I enjoyed having a schedule, I guess. I don’t particularly like the sun either. So the long days bug me. I don’t like the heat. I loathe pools. (Given the above metaphor, the irony here doesn’t escape me.) I can’t stand being on the beach. (I do like the ocean, however!) And the one thing I love doing most, the thing that helps me cope with my head and my issues is running. It’s my therapy. And running in the summer fucking sucks. (Although I do it! Every day.)
I am simply not a fan of summer. There’s apparently have a term for this, and I am by NO MEANS self-diagnosing myself here, but it’s called Summer-Seasonal Affective Disorder. I gotta say: just knowing that there’s a term for this; knowing that there are people who don’t particularly enjoy the summer and suffer from depression during said season, well, that alone makes me feel better.
Anyway, last summer hit me pretty hard. Things became bad enough that I ended up crying in front of my (brand spanking new!) primary care physician. I was lost. I was feeling suddenly so unhappy about living here. I couldn’t find peace. I was dreading the long days and the heat and the bugs. I felt afraid, like everything I was doing was some different color of failure.
She listened. She gave me the names and numbers of therapists. (Incidentally, I called every single one and not one person was taking new patients. I am by no means severely mentally ill, but I would definitely benefit from talk therapy. I can’t fathom what it must be like out there for someone suffering from severe mental illness when it’s so damn hard to find someone to talk to. We need to fix this shit, America.)
After we spoke, she decided to up my dusting of prozac to 40 MG. (I know, a rather enormous leap.)
I started taking it right away.
For the first week or two, I lost my mind to irrational levels of jealousy and fear. I felt like a teenager again. Even though people told me, “Give it time! You need to adjust!”, I panicked and had her call in a 20 MG prescription instead. This was all while we were in Disney. I would step it down again once returning home.
But by the time we got home, however, I felt better. In fact, I felt AMAZING. I entered some bizarre euphoric state. I felt like I could do anything. I hadn’t ever felt that secure and amazing in all my life. I felt sexy. I felt capable. I didn’t care what anyone around me thought about me, yet I worked to be positive and happy and to try and make others happy too. I wanted to be around everyone. Nothing bugged me. I felt like I could rule the world. No kidding, it was as though someone slipped me some ecstasy. Every single morning.
Toby was convinced my serotonin was set into overdrive and I was basically acting as though I was on MDMA.
I won’t lie: it was awesome. Toby was thrilled. After those initial first two weeks, I was golden. I was happy, outgoing. I made new friends. I started throwing parties—ALL the parties! So many parties! I was throwing parties for complete strangers. My goal was to overcome everything we’d experienced on the previous street and bring people together. And I loved that goal. I loved me. I showed up to events. I became a super version of myself, a version I hadn’t ever experienced before. It was outstanding.
During that time, I apologized to Toby repeatedly for having had to deal with my mood-swings all those years. I felt bad, but promised I’d continue to make it up to him. I felt worthy, excited. Guys, life was really fucking great.
I became the poster child for treatment.
Of course it didn’t last. By November, things had leveled out. I was no longer euphoric. I was still quite social. And I no longer stewed. There were no pools to mention. Instead I stood on the outside looking in and I was able to watch the problem and not give it too much thought.
I also totally stopped crying. Which is crazy. I cry ALL the time and have my entire life. But on 40 MG of prozac? Nope. I simply could not squeeze out a tear. They were gone. My brain just didn’t allow for tears.
Also gone? My disdain for the mundane. I no longer pined for something else or better or different. There were no real “ups” because the downs were gone too. Life became even.
And then my clothing stopped fitting. My face grew fatter. And I felt tired a lot.
I hopped on the scale in February: 163 pounds.
When I started taking 40 MG of Prozac I weighed 142. I had gained over 20 pounds in 6 months.
Yes, life was even. Yes, my periods were tolerable. But my hatred toward myself grew with every added pound. I was, and continue to be, miserable about the weight gain.
One morning I told Toby, “I need to lose this weight. I feel like the more I weigh, the more space I take up in the world so there’s more of myself to loathe. I don’t want to take up this much space in the world.”
Again: not healthy.
I am absolutely certain at this point that prozac ruined my metabolism. It explains why I would fall asleep at 8 or 9 PM and sleep like the dead until morning. (Well, whenever Walter wasn’t waking me up every hour.) I had such little energy. I still ran, but my pace dropped from 9-minute miles to 11 plus minute miles. It is not unheard of for me these days to run a 12-minute mile. I changed even though the only thing I actually changed in my daily life was medication.
About two months ago, I had had enough. I visited my OBGYN again. I topped out that day at 168.
We discussed tapering. She was shocked at how much that other doctor had upped my dose, but agreed that that much weight gain is likely linked to the medication.
She ran a my thyroid levels: all fine. Everything checked out as normal, the same.
I stopped the meds. I couldn’t take it anymore.
That was a little over 2 months ago.
My weight is SLOWLY going down, although nothing to write home about; I’m still considered overweight and I can’t fit into any of my clothing, which is heartbreaking for me. My running pace has moved up a minuscule amount, so I’ll take it. The bouts of insomnia are back, which admittedly sucks. I had forgotten about so much that the prozac had been treating. My periods are downright awful again. Those things I can handle.
But the biggest problem I see with the untreated me is that the insecurity is back. The fear of human interaction has returned. I am up and down and sometimes moody as fuck. There are days I can barely say hello to a person let alone have a conversation.
I know I come off rather shallow that I gave up a medication that was doing a lot of OK for me because it was making me fat. But it’s the truth. And now I am facing the fact that I am back and because I was someone else for a while, I am now very much aware of all the things I could be.
So that’s where I am now. I’m trying to mentally turn myself into that person regardless of how I actually feel. Fake it to you make it? Maybe if I force myself to rework my initial feelings, I can rewire the way my brain works? I’ve got to try something.
I don’t know why I’m writing today, frankly. I guess it just feels good to mark it down. Maybe since I can’t seem to find a doctor, and if I continue to pour my guts out online, maybe I will begin to feel better as I muddle through all of the bullshit.