Come On, Get Happy: The First Dose

by Mandy

A few weeks ago I'd had a pretty bad day or something. Probably one of those days where I needed everyone and everything to leave me the hell alone. One of those days where I made myself crazier than I had to be. I mentioned this to my therapist, Gretchen. We talked about my mood swings. Jokingly, I ask, "Is it time for the medication yet?" A gasp of shock slipped out when I heard, "I've wondered that myself a few times" in response. I'd always assumed she'd tell me if I was "bad off enough" to need drugs. I gather she hesitated to suggest them because of that attitude, that I would consider myself "that much worse."

"Well I'm torn between saying it's throwing in the towel or bringing out the big guns," is how I describe my attitude towards taking antidepressants. Gretchen tells me those are both very depressed things to say. Um, okay. So now the possibility is out there, on the table for debate. She tells me she would describe the drugs as something that would alleviate the depressed thoughts enough that I could have more energy to take care of myself and do all of the things I need to do.

I leave the office pondering the drugs. To inhibit my serotonin reuptake or not to inhibit my serotonin reuptake? That was the question. On some level, I wanted them. I made an appointment that day to see my physician to talk about antidepressants. I had a two-week wait to think about my options.

On another level, they scared me. "I don't want to fly over the Cuckoo's Nest," I screeched to a friend as a non sequitur while we watched What Not to Wear and talked on the phone that night. I don't want to be "medicated." I don't want to be a zombie. Maybe these were just more depressed thoughts.

So I spend the two-week interim doing a little light internet research on antidepressants. I decide Wellbutrin sounds pretty nice because people typically lose five pounds when they start taking it. My friend Tarra, who has claimed for years she needs Zoloft or Paxil for social anxiety, freaks me out about the sexual side effects. I don't mind if my libido totally disappears, but I am terrified that the opposite will happen, and I'll become the town whore. In the end, I conclude that "dry mouth" is probably the only side effect I can willingly sign on for.

And poof, the two weeks are up. I tell Gretchen about my research and newfound concerns. She laughs at the idea that I'll turn into a trollop because of antidepressants. She doesn't think that will be the case. I go to work and proceed to have another day of "every damned thing is pissing me off." I leave work early in the afternoon so I can go to my physician. I am so cranked out and overwhelmed by work, the CTA, and past inability to get prescriptions out of my doctor. Denise, my GP, is great. She asks all of the routine questions about sleep and eating patterns. I describe my workplace apathy and mood swings and admit to wanting to physically hurt the guys in India from time to time. In the end she gives me a prescription for Lexapro, which she selected because weight gain isn't associated with it. It doesn't have a generic alternative, but I figured it'd be $40 maybe. I could suck that up.

I figured wrong. My pharmacist pops the prescription through the computer and comes up with a price of $67. That's for a one-month supply. His sage advice was, "ask your doctor for something generic. Humana charges an arm and a leg, and $67 every month won't help your mind." So true, brutha man, so true. So I promptly call my doctor on Monday morning and ask for generic happy pills.

I am given generic Prozac, which costs $5! I ask the pharmacist if there's any weight gain associated with this drug. She says people tend to lose weight on Prozac. (Internet research on this topic is inconclusive). She also tells me to take the pill early in the day because it can keep some people awake at night, if taken too late in the day. And yet the bottle has a sticker about potential drowsiness and operating machinery. I plan to take the pill the following morning. But I totally forget to take it. The next day is Wednesday, and I know I want to drink that night. So I figure Thursday will be the Special Day.

Someone told me they felt an initial something something when they took their first Prozac. It's day one, and I'm a little hung over so maybe that's why I didn't notice anything. The drug takes four to six weeks to be effective. I'm supposed to be watching for any increase in my depression. If that happens, I need to call Denise. Other than that, I am told to expect my mood to get better week after week. Concentration problems, apathy, and mood swings should improve.

When I took the pill this morning, I thought "well, I'm on Prozac now." You can't just stop taking it. You have to be weaned off of it. I expect to need to take it for six months to a year. The reason I'm a good candidate for it is because my depression is situational. And I have the privilege of facing the situation every day. (I was slated to lose my job last year. My end date kept getting pushed back so I could train my replacements in India a little more. Finally, I was given my permanent position eleven months after being given the first end date. The new employment status has done nothing for my depression). So until I find a new job, I'll probably need the pills. And I'm okay with that.

In the coming weeks, I plan to document any changes in my mood or general well-being--so stay tuned.