Content note: this post mentions suicidal thoughts in nondescriptive ways, but no plans or attempts or glorification.
A bit over a month ago I started taking a new (for me) antidepressant, Effexor. I have had depression my entire life, and I can’t remember a time before it. My upbringing was a catalog of Adverse Childhood Experiences and my brain chemistry seems to have come preset with imbalances. So understand what a big deal it is when I say that I am happy.
According to Veto Violence’s reporting on a recent study of adverse childhood experiences, ACEs are linked to depression, drug abuse, school drop out, job challenges, chronic diseases, and early death. I’m five out of six so far, and only 34 years old so the last one is still possible. I have never had sustained happiness before.
I’ve always had things that could make me happy in the moment: petting a cat, belting a song, and before I was a mother, quite a few recreational drugs. What I didn’t have, or even understand was possible, was a sense of contentment that persisted from one moment to the next. I thought idly of suicide every time I was bored.
I haven’t ruminated about suicide in a month. I haven’t had the unwelcome intrusive thought “I wish I was dead” in a month. I used to have it every time I remembered an unaffordable utility bill (still unpaid), with every painful bowel movement, and at least four times every day. During my menstrual period it might happen hourly. The voice in the back of my head wanted to die.
It’s my period week right now, and it has been 22 years this month since my very first period (April Fools Day 1995). This is the first time in 22 years that I have not spent at least 25% of a month wanting death. I had no idea how calming and peaceful the absence of that refrain could be. I didn’t know I could not want death. And now I am starting to want life. The right medication for your chemistry is world changing.