store bought is fine

i started taking an anti-depressant for my anxiety. here’s how that’s been going…

TRANSCRIPT

Callie: Big shouts out to Cybil and Alex for becoming new patrons and to Anna for a pledge increase this week on Patreon. Thank you, friends. Love you lots. Heads up before we jump in, I’m going to be doing a deep dive into my own mental health journey over the last few years. This includes some ableist words, some formerly kind of shitty attitudes about mental health and some descriptions of self harm ideation.

Please take care of yourself, friend. My name is Callie Wright and this is queersplaining. In some point in my relationship with my ex it became apparent. She was dealing with serious mental health problems. She had an unhealthy relationship with food. She had an unhealthy relationship with alcohol and she constantly sabotaged my own attempts to take care of myself.

We were laying in bed talking one night and I was trying to encourage her to get help. I won’t claim to have had the most progressive and forward thinking views about mental health at that point in my life. But I still knew therapy and maybe medication were useful tools for that kind of thing. I encouraged her.

Hey, just set up a single appointment with a therapist. Consider the idea of medication to help with your depression, because I know that’s a thing that you’re going through and her response was I don’t want to take crazy pills and I don’t want to just sit there and talk to some asshole about my problems. It’s useless. 

At this point in my life, I knew how terrible an attitude that was. But back then, if I’m honest, I sympathized. Medication was necessary, but only for crazy people, right? There was something seriously wrong with you if you needed it. It was a condescending and pitying attitude. I’m not proud that I ever thought that way.

But I’ve, I’ve grown a lot since then. And hopefully that’s a thing we all do, right. Anxiety has not been a constant in my life. In fact, that same ex and I used to fight over how chilled out I was over, literally everything. I was kind of unflappable. I didn’t worry about anything at all, even about stuff I probably should have worried about.

And that changed once my brain decided it was time to act on gender stuff, came out to my friends and family and was warmly received. It was incredible. But my job at the time involved working with a lot of very rich, very conservative people, my boss told me he needed time to figure things out and I was willing to give him that time.

So I got to be Callie when I wasn’t at work. Neat. At the beginning, my brain was able to focus on how awesome it was. I got to be me at least some of the time. And eventually that turned into severe and debilitating sadness, depression, fear that I couldn’t be me all the time and anxiety over having to make that switch on Monday morning, after a weekend of existing as my true self.

Combine that with the fear of being visibly trans in an area that’s a mixed bag politically. And I was scared all the time. I was anxious all the time. I imagined that every whisper was about me. Every laugh was about me. I imagined my friends were being nice to my face, but behind my back, wondered what the fuck was wrong with me.

This went on for a solid year before I was able to get out of that job and leave my old life behind completely. It was a relief and a joy, but what I’m just now figuring out, I think is that the damage was already done. I got acquainted with anxiety and depression, mostly anxiety. I was now a worrier, a high caliber catastrophizing worst case scenario worrier, and have the most absurd, random anxious thoughts.

I’d have visions of paramilitary forces storming into my apartment to arrest me for what I don’t know. My brain never got that far. Didn’t stop those thoughts from popping into my head, random fiery car crashes, my apartment just collapsing for no reason. My gender dysphoria gave me vivid thoughts of self harm, even a bit of a desire for it.

I never went so far as to act on them, had my first anxiety attack too. That was rad. And at the time I attributed this all to dysphoria, it was so acute and striking and terrible and overwhelming. It permeated every area of my life. Like, like when you burn food and you can smell it in every area of the house it’s inescapable.

I just knew that bottom surgery was going to be the solution. And it kind of was. I’m coming up on three years. Post-surgery and it’s really fixed so much in my life, I had an incredibly difficult recovery. It took me a long time to get sexual function back, but I’ve never questioned the decision once.

I’ve always felt like it was the right thing to do. And I still say it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made for myself. I knew it wouldn’t fix all my problems, but I knew it would fix that one. The worst one. Once I recovered from bottom surgery, I was able to kind of settle in. I had a stable job was making okay money. Celes was too. We got a puppy was the first time in my adult life. I felt like I had a stable, solid foundation to build a life on. Anxiety was a thing, but it was manageable. It wasn’t so present in my life that it was a major problem. I learned some self-talk exercises and I was able to cope.

Then I got laid off the same day I was told my department was being shut down. I’d gotten a call from our realtor saying we were good to close on our house. I don’t believe the universe is conscious or has a plan, but coincidences, are funny sometimes. Right. But Hey, with my resume and experience, I’d find another job soon.

Right? Kind of scary, but no big deal. We’ll survive. Except the calls just didn’t come. Celes was a contractor. So our health insurance came from my job. We had two months until we lost that those two months came and went. I applied for jobs that I was eminently qualified for and nothing. Then Celes lost her job.

We were facing down that instability for almost a year. I thought it was safe. I thought we were safe. Then we had the rug pulled out from under us two separate times. If I didn’t have Celes and roller Derby, I don’t know what the fuck would have happened. But my mental health was in the tank. I was not okay.

Not approaching okay. I managed to build my freelance business and the podcast grew enough to be a significant source of income. And both of those things are amazing and I’m so grateful, but I was a giant ball of anxiety and occasionally depression. Of course at this point, I didn’t have insurance and thus no real access to therapy or medication.

I had a therapist when I was going through gender stuff at the beginning, and I loved her dearly, but she retired. My primary care doctor retired. So I had no one to prescribe hormones assuming I could afford to pay for them out of pocket. So I was off hormones too, for about a year. I swore as soon as we had insurance, again, it was time to find a therapist and probably time for some medication.

Thankfully I had long since gotten over any notion of crazy pills that are the silly idea that needing meds was pitiable or represented some kind of weakness or defective character. So I made the phone call a little over a month ago. There’s a place called Equitas Health here in Cincinnati that just opened.

They do primary care mental health stuff and trans-specific care all in the same place. It sounds like my kind of place. So I made the call. May 29th. My first appointment, I’m seeing a nurse practitioner. I’ll call her Sarah. I did all my paperwork digitally. There’s a place for pronouns. That’s kind of cool.

There’s a section for gender identity with like eight options. I’m feeling pretty good about this. I get on zoom and Sarah is there. She’s super friendly and chill and ask lots of questions as doctors do. She introduces herself with her pronouns. That’s pretty rad. And I was wondering if it was going to be gatekeepy, right.

Was I going to have to profess debilitating gender dysphoria and pretend to be miserable to get hormones prescribed again? And it turns out. I just had to be like, yeah, I want to get back on hormones. Here’s the dose I was on before. And that seemed to work for me. And she says, okay, cool. Let’s get you in for some blood work and I’ll send the prescriptions over.

I almost didn’t trust it. I was waiting for the hiccup, but it didn’t happen. I just went and got some blood work a day or two later, the results came in and then a day or two later, I had a prescription for hormones again. It’s pretty neat. June 12th. My first visit with a psychiatric nurse practitioner.

I’ll call her Nadia. Nadia tells me she’s not hyperfocused on diagnoses though. She has to make one for insurance purposes. She’s about treating symptoms. We talk for like an hour. I’m trying to work on this debilitating anxiety and this serious inability I have to focus. I’d get to work and be distracted by the smallest thing.

And before I know it, I’m down some YouTube rabbit hole for hours or arguing with someone on Facebook. I can’t focus. I get anxious about my inability to focus and it feeds into a deflated sense of self worth. I don’t feel in control of my attention. I don’t feel in control of anything. And she asked if I’m interested in trying medication.

And I tell her, I’m just interested in, what’s going to help. If that’s therapy work I’m into that. If it’s medication I’m into that, I just need to function better than I do. And I’m open to whatever’s going to make that happen. So I left that appointment with the prescription for Lexapro. I definitely have no stigma about medications at this point. I was worried about the side effects. I’ve heard it can be quite a ride when you’re adjusting to an SSRI, but Nadia told me that it was a small enough dose that coming off of it would be pretty easy if it didn’t work. So I felt good enough about it to give it a shot. I’d had my hormone prescription for about a week at this point.

I was on the cusp of a radical body chemistry reorganization. Woo. Ooh. He was thinking a lot about how things were when I started hormones the first time, how, uh, uh, Calvin and Hobbes comic made me sob uncontrollably for like 10 minutes, how I had this uncontrollable craving for ice cream once, but also how hormones seem to open a new layer of reality for me, how they helped my thoughts and emotions make sense how they made my body more comfortable to live in. Definitely worth the turmoil.

I remember when I started hormones, I knew it takes time for their effects to show up. Right. But that didn’t stop me for feeling my boobs the first day. Like, just to see, you know, you never know, looking at my hips, wondering if any fleeting thought or emotion is because of the hormones, there’s no manual for the shit. Right?

And like I said, you never know. And it was like that when I started taking this antidepressant, if. I had a moment where I was sad. Did that mean that the medication wasn’t working? If I laughed or was happy, was that the meds working? Anxiety brain is extra fun when you do actually have this new unknown thing going on, when you don’t really know how it’s going to affect you?

It was maybe two or three days before I really felt something for sure. I woke up feeling good, not like euphoric or anything. Just good. Level. Content. It was a Saturday, I think, or a Sunday. I had some work to do so I went at it and I was weirdly able to focus antidepressants. Aren’t really supposed to help with that.

I don’t think, but I wasn’t asking questions. I felt good. I was being productive, but towards the end of that podcast edit, I just tanked. It was miserable. Everything was terrible. Everything was awful. I wanted to crawl into a hole and die. I finished my work and I laid down. Celes realized something was wrong.

And she brought in the big guns to cheer me up. She shows up with Wedge in hand, puts her arms around me and holds me. And she got me out of my head. She’s really good at doing that. And, uh, and I thought, Hey, you know, what? I should get up and move around. Some that usually helps me, the grass needs mowed.

So maybe I’ll go do that. And sure enough, it did. I went outside, I mowed the grass and I felt really good. And then when I came inside, I immediately overheated. Because yay hormones. Felt the full range of hormone and antidepressant side effects all on one day, that was a ride. Um, I was warned about sexual side effects and yeah, I masturbated for like an hour, one night without coming.

And that was real frustrating. I also think I discovered a new and terrifying level of consciousness. Because for probably three to four straight nights, I’d spend an hour or two in some kind of liminal space between sleeping and waking. That was kind of surreal. It reminded me of waking up from anesthesia.

The couple of times I’ve had surgeries. And then there was the yawning, apparently yawning, somehow involved the parts of your body that create and process serotonin. It’s not super common, but it is a known side effect. Every few hours I would yawn. Over and over again. And here’s the weird part. The yawns felt good, like really, really good.

Each one came with a wave of pleasure that just like started on my head and radiated slowly downward, like a body high or something like that. It was really, really weird, but I wasn’t arguing with it. Part of me didn’t want the yawns to stop, but what about the whole, you know, anxiety thing, like, you know, the, the reason that I started taking the meds in the first place?

I was definitely told that I’d experienced the side effects before the main effects. So I saw that coming, but the main effects did come. I still have anxious thoughts, like the random idea that my house is going to suddenly implode or that I’m going to open the front door and a cop will be there waiting to arrest me. 

Or that I’ll walk into the kitchen one morning and wedge will just be randomly dead for no apparent reason. The medication hasn’t stopped those thoughts, but it’s made it easier for me to set them aside. I can more critically and objectively engage with them. I can say, okay. Yeah, that’s silly. That’s not going to happen.

And then I can set it aside and move on. My moods are better. I’m not consistently euphoric or anything, but if I’m rating my moods on a scale of one to ten where one is like eminent danger of self harm, and ten is greatest euphoria I’ve ever felt like the average is definitely trending upwards over time, even as it bounces around a little. 

It’s kind of wild. Like I take this little pill every morning and my brain gets a little less fussy. My problems get easier to deal with. I’m a little more able to be reasonable about the wild shit. My brain throws at me. It’s not perfect. It’s not the end all be all solution and that’s okay. No one thing ever is. I still have lots of trouble focusing, but I’m working on that with my therapist.

I still get sad. I still get anxious, but it’s so much less intense. I can move through it more easily. I can inhabit and analyze those feelings. It’s just awesome.

It kills me to think about how many people have suffered needlessly because of the stigma around therapy and medication, and to think about all of the people who want those things, but don’t have access. It’s not weak or wrong to get help. It’s not weak or wrong to get some store bought happy chemical.

If your brain isn’t making enough on its own. And of course, access to the stuff as a privilege, not everyone has. Like I said, and that’s a fucking travesty. I shared my story today to hopefully give some perspective and some encouragement. If you’re on the fence about dealing with mental health stuff, and you’re able to, make that phone call your health and wellbeing are worth it.

And you deserve to be okay. I’ve heard a few people say something like, well, so many people need help right now. I don’t want to take up space. And that impulse is a good one. I understand where it comes from, but like your wellbeing matters too. Right? If you can find a therapist with an opening, you deserve that spot as much as anyone else does.

Thanks for listening friends. I love you. And I hope you’re doing as okay as possible in the middle of this mess of a time we’re living through. A special shout out to my friends in Portland who are dealing with the federal occupation of their city and in other cities that are under threat of that right now, if you want to help keep this thing going, please.

Consider heading the patreon.com/queersplaining. Making a per episode donation to help you support the show and keeps Celes, Wedge. And I housed and fed a share and a shout out on social media. It goes a long way too, either way. Friends. Thank you. I love you and appreciate it before I go. I want you to know that if you’re lost, you’re scared.

You feel like no one cares and no one understands. You need to know there’s a community out here that loves you cares for you knows that you’re capable of amazing things and that you are worthy of love. If you’re struggling, please, don’t be afraid to reach out until next time friend. My name is Callie Wright and this is Queersplaining.


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