Originally posted on my facebook account on May 2nd, 2012
I am writing this now because, even though I have a 9 AM final that I haven’t completely studied for, I feel like I need to share something with as many people as possible especially students.
For those of you who know me, you know that I have panic disorder (http://www.webmd.com/anxiety-panic/guide/mental-health-panic-disorder). Fewer of you, however, do not know that I have been on antidepressant medication since Christmas Day. Antidepressant really is a partial misnomer as selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors help with many psychiatric (OCD, generalized anxiety, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, social anxiety disorder and major depressive disorder) and even some medical disorders.
This medication saved my life.
There were days where I was paralyzed by bouts of such unremitting anxiety and panic attacks that sleep and tranquilizers were the only reprieves I found. Panic disorder has a particularly nasty symptom that occurs more commonly in younger people: depersonalization/derealization. This symptom is a comprehensive and complete feeling of dissociation from the self and reality. I have described it as being underwater in a pool. You can see clearly the world outside the water; you know that world is “reality” but you can’t feel it. You can’t connect with it. You can’t access it. You can’t be a part of it. Though little is known about it, most people agree that it is some kind of internal mechanism that protects the self from overwhelming levels of distress. The sensation cannot be fully described or appreciated. It must be felt. Everyday was like being captive in a prison of my own mind’s making. Who knows your greatest fears and insecurities better than your own self?
For the first time in 3 months I experienced this sensation again because I forgot to take my medication accidentally. The worry, the non-stop, intrusive thoughts, feeling unreal, outside of myself: all of it had returned. Almost the moment after taking my Zoloft I felt so much better. This is the reason I chose to write this today.
The reason I am telling you this is because 1/5 of all college aged students will be diagnosed with a mental illness during their time in college. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for young adults. THIS IS A PUBLIC HEALTH CRISIS! But because our society tells us, collectively, to just “get over it” and hide our legitimate pain and suffering, these diseases ruin people’s lives.
I WANT people to know that I have this disease and I got help and continue to get help. And my life has gotten back to normal. I can enjoy the mundane and don’t have to pre-conceived plans of escape for hypothetical situations that will never happen (another common symptom). Medication and psychotherapy gave me my life back. Zoloft is considered the safest SSRI on the market with minimal side effects and huge efficacy for both anxiety and depressive syndromes.
The point of all of this is: there is always hope and people willing to help. Don’t give up! If you feel trapped by mental disease or even just want to have someone to talk to, get help!! Therapists, medical doctors, priests, friends, family. There are so many people (and medications) ready and willing to help; you just need the courage to ask.