[Here’s a link to the Goodreads profile of my novel, if you care to check it out. Pardon the plug :)
When I was seventeen and needed to begin taking anti-depressants, I found that I was reluctant to begin. I’d been speaking with my therapist for a while, however wasn’t getting anywhere with the sessions. The medication wasn’t just for depression, but for anxiety as well.
One of my major concerns, along with having to admit that I had a mental illness, was the question of whether or not I would still be me after I started the medication. A mental illness is a diagnosis on an element of my personality, even if it’s an element of my personality I would rather not have, ie. being overanxious and depressed. It’s still a part of what I define as my ‘self’.
This obviously isn’t a unique concern. I remember having a conversation with a friend who raised this very question to me. He stated that I wouldn’t be myself when I started. In defence, I asked him if he was still himself when he was drunk and he said yes, when he was drunk, or sober, they were all versions of himself. And I said that it was the same as being on the medication. It is a different version of myself.
In retrospect, though, I would change this answer, in the same way I know I will no doubt change this answer again in a few years time, in that I actually felt more myself when I started the medication.
A sense of self seems like something we build through social interaction. So is easily influenced depending on who we spend our time with, in that we take on different social roles. So much is also dependant on immediate pressures in life and simple influences, such as hunger and exhaustion. We often get to know ourselves, not as a static state, but how we change based on different influences.
However, when I am unwell, I find that I am not able to respond to these different influences. I do have a static state. I obsess on certain thoughts and anxieties. In that sense, although it is my natural state, I don’t think that being unwell is what I would define as ‘me’.
When I started the medication, there was so much I discovered about my personality, which had been drowned out by the anxiety and depression.
I know the success rate of anti-depressants can be quite low. And this is just my own experience and it’s not for everyone. But my experience with it has allowed me to take on a less puritanical perception of a personality. In that, medication isn’t necessarily a distortion of my self, but an aid that allows me to learn my personality. I remember I was told that I wouldn’t know how unwell I was until I was finally better. And since then, I can see what people meant.