Have you been diagnosed with depression like I was? Were you prescribed antidepressants as the “fix”? Like me, have you struggled with trying to get off these toxic, dependency-causing drugs? If so, we need to talk… right here… right now. As I am coming out the other side of the final withdrawal and detoxing, I have had some pretty profound realizations that I want to share with you…. no… need to share with you.
1. We live in a society in which the classic response to expressed emotional pain is, “Don’t cry.”
Think back to when you have been feeling emotional pain and you were teary and needed to cry. How did friends and family respond? What did these caring people tell you? Don’t cry. You needed to cry and you were told not to. I have said the same words to my children, students, and friends. I think of all the times that they needed to cry to release inner pain, and I told them not to. Why in the world would I tell them not to do what is the most natural, cleansing, healing thing to do when we are feeling emotional pain? That answer is an easy one. It is the way I was conditioned. Since my first memories of needing to express emotional pain, the message has been “Don’t cry.” The words are meant well. Those who care about us don’t like to see us cry. It means that we are in pain that they can’t do anything about, and so they try to soothe us with those two words, “Don’t cry.” I learned well because I used the same words when my loved ones were hurting.
2. We live in a society in which people suppress their emotional pain instead of expressing it.
What is our response when we hear those words, “Don’t cry”? We stuff our pain down inside us, and we allow our loved ones to distract us so that we don’t feel hurt anymore. We’ve done the same thing to people we love because we can’t bear to see them crying or in any kind of pain. We are desperate to find something that will make our loved ones feel better, and so we take their minds off their pain and do whatever we can to get them smiling and even laughing again. There… all better… or so we think and hope. The outer manifestation of emotional pain may no longer be apparent, but in the stuffing down, we locked it in. As with anything that is kept locked up, this pain yearns for release.
3. Emotional pain needs to be expressed so that it can be released and we can heal.
As I went into the final withdrawal from Effexor earlier this week, I experienced all the nausea, dizziness, headache, vertigo, and brain zaps that I had read would happen. I also became a weepy, sobbing mess. People call this a side effect — “crying for no reason.” Even through the misery of the physical symptoms of withdrawal, I knew what the crying was, and I knew it certainly was not for no reason. Those tears were pain that the drug had suppressed for years. When the chemical barrier was gone, those tears ripped right from the core of my being; my heart felt like it was breaking. They weren’t a side effect; they were the expression of emotional pain that had been suppressed for years.
During a visit with a friend of mine recently, she shared the hurt her daughter had gone through when her first romantic relationship ended. I cheered this mother’s response to her daughter’s pain. This mom told her daughter to cry it out and to take as many days as she needed. Her daughter was miserable and heartbroken for several days. She cried whenever the tears arose, and her mom provided the supportive space for her to grieve her loss. It didn’t matter that it was a high school romance; her emotional pain was real. Her mom knew that she needed to express her pain so that she could release it and heal, and that is exactly what she did.
As I listened to her, I knew that was exactly what I had needed to do when I had to leave my marriage… and when I had to leave my last relationship. I had needed to grieve huge losses, but I had stuffed down all that hurt and grief so that I could be strong and go on. I had needed someone just like my friend to be okay with telling me to take the time to cry it out and to really feel the pain. In doing that, I would have felt miserable for a while, but the cleansing quality of tears would have cleared out emotional pain that became locked in and manifested as physical pain in my body.
4. Our society sees depression as an illness that requires medication.
What if depression is really the need to express our emotional pain? What if depression is really a sign of sensitive people who are deeply affected by events and experiences in their lives and who need emotional support to express their pain instead of dulling it with drugs?
I am not trained in medicine or therapy, so question my questions… and question them deeply and thoughtfully. But, what if we are drugging thousands upon thousands of people who just need to express their emotional pain so they can heal and be well? I think back nineteen years ago to the diagnosis of depression that I received, and I feel such outrage at the quick and easy diagnosis and chemical “fix.” At that point in my life, I had left a dysfunctional, abusive marriage to begin life on my own as a single parent. I was working full-time plus doing contract work on the side to make ends meet. I was worried about my children’s healing and well-being as they had to adapt to a new life in a different community and school. I was worried sick about my son who was frequently physically ill due to severe anxiety attacks. Yes, I was emotional and teary when I talked to the doctor. Yes, I was experiencing constant headaches that were affecting my sight and the feeling in my fingers. Yes, I even answered yes when he asked me if I ever thought about suicide. But, did all of that need to be suppressed with a drug? Or, did I need to fully express the pain of becoming the target for my ex-husband’s attacks? Did I need to fully express my grief over the loss of my partner, my relationship, the hopes and dreams I had for our family?
My physician explained depression as “running out of gas.” He told me it was like I could see where I needed to go, but I no longer had the inner resources to get there. Okay, that made sense to me; I had been in survival mode for a long, long time, but was prescribing a toxic chemical that causes dependency the answer to “running out of gas”? Or, would time off to rest and grieve — to become a weepy, sobbing mess for as long as it took to get all that pain out — have been what was needed more? If I had known what I know now, I would never have agreed to taking a drug that was so toxic that it took me a month to “get on it.”
I have tried to get off Effexor twice before. Both times, as I experienced the debilitating withdrawal symptoms, doctors’ responses have not been to support me through it or to help me be proactive about dealing with the detoxing process that was happening in my body. Their responses were to get me right back on it. Because I didn’t know better, I allowed it believing them when their words convinced me that I had a lifelong chemical imbalance that drugs would rectify… and feeling like a complete failure as I agreed. This time, I have focused on allowing the chemical withdrawal and supporting my body with the detoxing process. I am being proactive about my own health and well-being… and as I do that, I am allowing my own healing.
Every day this week, I gave up my healing to Holy Spirit, and I released and allowed it to happen. My healing is not all my own doing. I have the best guide possible! If you are willing and open, I would like to share a prayer with you:
Dear Holy Spirit, I give up this healing process to You. Be with me as I give up toxic chemical suppressants and open to the true healing of God’s Love. Hold me in the reassuring, soothing arms of Your Love as I release the drugs that suppress my pain and allow it to be expressed and released. I rest easier knowing that all that I give up to You is healed and that I am held in Perfect Love always. Let me be still and know that I am not alone for You are always with me. Help me to open into my healing and Your guidance. Amen.
If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with depression, I pray that what I have experienced and realized will resonate with you. I hope that you will share your thoughts and experiences with depression below so that we can support one another toward true healing and well-being. With great love always, Linda.