Revolution: How Cipralex & I Saved My Life
By Niki Chanway - 17 Years Old
You’d like to think there’s a quick and easy fix to depression. Exhausted, beaten girl that you are, having spent a large portion of your life wiping the metaphorical sweat from your hypothetical brow, you’re wondering why you just can’t access it.
You waste your Friday nights with your knees curled up to your chest.
Your Saturdays, in bed.
Sundays you force yourself to socialize.
Mondays you’d rather do anything than live through the week again.
You suffer. Struggle. Simper. You pretend that nothing hurts; you thrust candy-coated lies into the mouths of the people who love you. If the words seem sweet enough, maybe they won’t notice the limpness in your fingers, your voice, your spirit.
There are so many lonely nights, but you have yet to find any lonely knights. Nobody seems to feel the same, girl or boy, man or woman, human or extra-terrestrial. Even one would be enough.
At night when you lay awake and listen to the crackling deadness inside your head, there’s that familiar weight on your chest (like an old friend or ex-lover, whispering, hello, beautiful, here we are again) and you feel like the future has transformed from being full of promise to brimming with lies and threats and torture and you choke on each breath because somewhere along the line, the air turned to carbon monoxide and there’s no way you can live a poisoned existence forever.
Dark feelings control your mind; you are furious without reason. Your jealousy is rampant. You hate those who love you for not loving you enough, and shove them back when they love you too much. Do-gooders, good Samaritans, they anger you, for they are far too beautiful. And oh, you loathe yourself; you are filth. You are patchy skin rot on an ancient camel’s parched back. You are the necrotizing flesh on an unclaimed corpse. You are lonely, but unwilling to make the effort to love.
It began when you were only five. Innocent little thing with bright eyes and moist palms, you seemed ordinary at first.
It began with nightmares. Nightmares of things that weren’t even scary, like cartoons and games of tag. In your mind, they were twisted; when darkness fell, they became mutants that you couldn’t understand. You would wake up trembling like feathers on a nervous dove with no answer as to why. Before too long, these nightmares carried over into the daytime, and you spent your seconds fearing an evil you could not name.
As the years pass, it grows with you; you begin to refer to it, affectionately, as your “darkness.” Your “disease.” It is beautiful and terrible and helps you create, but also helps you destroy. The difference is that you create pretty words whilst destroying yourself.
You know that your darkness is a part of you; it can’t be abolished easily. Or at least you think you know. You fear that if you were to somehow give it up – if such a thing were possible – it would devour your words whole. Snatch away your passion. You worry that you would no longer sigh at bruised apple sunsets, and would lose sight of the beauty of fish scales. Worst of all, it could take your writing, the one thing to keep you sane. You have learned that though many writers already border on crazy, taking away their words can only end in casualties.
On those nights without knights, you scribble furiously into notebooks, scribble furiously the words of a drifter weighed down by stones. A dreamer whose eyelids are fused open. You write sentiments like words, you’re the only ones I’ll ever love and the Muses are my goddesses. You wish to pluck the sugary words off the paper and place them on your tongue; you would love to swallow them, to keep them inside of you forever. Maybe eventually they would reach your heart, would be trapped there. The thought of losing them tastes like cyanide.
People without the virus, they recommend therapy. Medication. The last therapist was too expensive, and you’ve always soured at the thought of drugs; you’ve seen firsthand how they can rip a defenseless human down to nothing. Your father, your depression and anxiety came from him and you saw the zeal with which he loved his Zoloft. And then his Ativan, his tranquilizers. His marijuana. And finally, his heroin. You refuse to end up like him.
But you can only crawl so far, and after a while, you’re desperate. You can’t resist any longer, and you’re already submersed, anyway. Submersed in poisonous thoughts and that carbon monoxide mixture healthy people call air. You’re petrified of death, more than anything worldly, but sometimes it feels welcoming. A metaphorical blanket in a hypothetical freezer.
You give in.
You give in.
And you aren’t even ashamed. It hurts too much for that.
You start with pills. Half a tablet of Cipralex per day, and sleep. Rinse, lather, repeat. You fill out the psychological evaluation form your doctor gave you and she tells you that you’re far gone. People have started out on meds with half of what you scored on that test. You don’t comment because your serotonin levels are readjusting and really, you can’t feel much of anything. You’ve heard that numbness is the worst kind of sensation, but you don’t mind. You haven’t had a depressive episode in a couple days and that’s not so bad. Rinse, lather, repeat.
A full tablet of Cipralex per day, and breathe. That pressure on your chest that sat atop your quivering heart on those nights without knights, it’s eased a little bit. You remember that you have reasons to smile. You remember that there are people you love. You don’t fear honesty as much as before, and the word hate feels like overkill. You might be okay. You just might be okay, but no promises yet.
A full tablet of Cipralex per day, and optimism. The scars on your tabula rasa (minus the rasa) may be there forever, but they’ve healed over.
A full tablet of Cipralex per day, and disbelief. If only you’d known eleven years ago that a readaptation in attitude and serotonin levels could do so much. If only you’d stopped to appreciate the beauty of SSRIs and sanguinity. You no longer see it as giving in; no, it’s re-equipping yourself. Filling up your tool belt. It’s being wise enough to know when to go on without help and when to stop and reassess a situation.
You’d like to think there’s a quick and easy fix to depression, but there isn’t. Not metaphorically or hypothetically. Oh, you love your Cipralex; you could write novels about how you’ve come to adore it, much like you could have for the disease that once ruled your mind, which you both, distortedly, revered and loathed. Even so, you know that everything works in moderation, and smaller is sometimes better. Those 10 milligrams may have changed your life, but you recognize the danger of taking too much. You love your Cipralex for loving you back, unobtrusively.
Your disease, it’s at bay now. Sometimes it visits, but not for long, and you’ve learned that you can harness it when you wish. When you write, sometimes you use it; sometimes you channel the feelings that it creates in order to craft something beautifully devastating. But it is no longer an all-encompassing darkness; it is another tool, much like the pills, that you keep in your tool belt.
Looking back, you find it hard to believe that it hasn’t always been like this. When you wake up, your flesh doesn’t feel stretched and haggard. Your mind isn’t broken. Your feet take you where you tell them to, and you walk to school grinning. You dance because you might as well. You tell people the truth if they ask how you are, and you no longer refuse their love. More so, you give them yours in return, and you treat yourself with respect. Bruised apple sunsets still evoke your wonder, and fish scales have retained their idiosyncratic shimmer. You have remembered that life should be a privilege and not a burden.
You reached your limit, and you gave in. You were pushed too far, and you bled. This was the turning point, the climax; and Cipralex is the denouement. The rising action is, and always will be, you. Cipralex could not have done this alone. Your smiles are not born merely of serotonin, but of true happiness and hope for a future you will work to create wonderful.
At night, you lay awake in bed and listen to the building around you snoring; the walls pulse with each heartbeat, and the floors seem to vibrate with life. Someone in the apartment next door is watching television. You are not the only human in the world and knights do exist. The carbon monoxide is gone. You have learned to believe in breathing again.
This place is home, and life is vivacious.
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