Original article appears at: https://themighty.com/2017/05/forgot-to-take-antidepressants-what-happens/
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It’s 3 a.m. and I’ve been awake for about two hours now. The house is silent, aside from the periodic squeaking of the kids’ bunk bed and my husband mumbling in his sleep from our bedroom. The furnace kicks on and I finally have background noise to mask the third wave of sobs I’ve been choking back since the last time the furnace finished its duty and fell silent. This is the third wave of tears since I climbed out of bed, tired of tossing and turning. This is also the countless time of uncontrollable, unexplainable sadness in the past 48 hours.
The furnace kicks off again and I manage to stop crying so I don’t wake the entire house up. I look at the time and realize I potentially have less than an hour before my husband crawls out of bed himself. He worries about me enough as it is, so the last thing I need is for him to find me in the state I’m in right now. With that thought in mind, I unwillingly pull myself out of my chair and head back to bed.
I lie in bed, trying to concentrate on my husband’s breathing to lull me back to sleep, but my brain is moving too fast. I want to know why it seems as though the sandman has forgotten me over the past few days. Then it hits me; not only is this the second night of being haunted by my own emotions, it’s also the consecutive 24 hour period during which I’ve forgotten to take my antidepressant. Normally, I’m very vigilant about taking my meds as soon as I get done getting ready for work in the morning, but the past few days I’ve been running behind and have totally forgotten the two tiny, yet important, pills that keep my mind and emotions stable. Surely two missed doses couldn’t cause this much emotional chaos though. My husband crawling out of bed interrupts my thoughts and I feel myself finally begin to succumb to the unconsciousness I have been praying for.
My husband, thinking I have achieved more sleep than he did, is confused at my behavior when I stumble out of our bedroom three hours later. Every noise is irritating me and I choose to sit on the couch, absolutely silent, until I get in the shower. I don’t have the desire to even put on lip balm, let alone follow my normal make-up routine and I know, as I’m reluctantly heading out the door to work, that I’m forgetting something.
Once at work I begin to realize I should have just called in. The exhaustion is setting in and everything is making me that much more irritated. One colleague tries to help me and I bark at her for assuming I can’t do my job on my own. Another makes a comment about how hard of a day he’s having and I scream at him for not knowing anything about having a hard day. My boss makes a comment about how my speed isn’t what it normally is and I threaten to quit. As my boss and my co-workers are trying to piece together what would make me acting like a royal princess all of a sudden, I’m screaming deep down in the depths of my brain for someone to help me. That’s when I realize I’ve forgotten to take my antidepressant again. I’m half tempted to text my husband and have him bring me my meds, but I already know I will get a lecture about not taking care of myself, so I make a mental note to take the stupid thing when I get home from work. I don’t know why I bother, however, because by this point the wires in my brain are so confused from three days of not having the one thing that makes it function properly that I’m lucky I remember my own name, let alone to take a medication.
A week has now gone by and I’ve gotten to the point where I’ve forgotten I’m even supposed to take an antidepressant. My co-workers have started staying away from me because of how mean I’ve become and even my own children have begun walking on eggshells around me. My husband is becoming more and more concerned, and I swear if he asks me what’s wrong one more time I’m going to lose my cool. He’s absolutely correct though. There is something wrong and I’ve forgotten how to fix it. I’m at the point of being panicked all the time and I’m starting to feel trapped inside my own mind.
After a week of missing my antidepressant I don’t even realize how lucky I am that I still have a family, let alone a job. Nothing seems real and I feel like I’m constantly walking through a thin blanket of fog. I look at the mountain that overlooks our town and catch myself thinking how strange it is that something I look at every day seems so unfamiliar. For crying out loud, my own living room has begun to look unfamiliar and I feel like I’m constantly stuck between limbo and the real world. My mind is so confused that I don’t realize my depression is starting to overtake my life again in just seven days. Then it happens: I begin to notice that pain is the only thing that feels real. I want more of it just to feel real again, even if it just for a moment. I can’t though. My husband would leave me. I feel positive he doesn’t want to deal with my “craziness.” But if he can’t deal with it, then did he really ever love me at all? Of course not. No one could ever love me.
At this moment the volcano finally blows its top and my husband realizes that something is terribly wrong. The next time I leave the house I come home to find him standing in the kitchen, my normal dose of antidepressant in hand, as mad as a hornet. He’s counted my meds while I was out and has figured out what my “major malfunction” has been. After taking my meds and a nap, the healing process from the previous week begins.
I no longer have to worry about forgetting my meds. For the next week or so, until my mind resets itself, my husband gets my meds for me in the mornings right after I wake up. He’s still really upset with me, but he also thinks I purposely neglected myself the week before. He doesn’t understand that once the first dose of my antidepressant is missed, my memory is the first thing that is affected and the odds of me remembering to take my meds after that are slim.
After a couple of days, my mind is finally getting back on the right track and I begin to feel myself again. My body no longer fights sleep as though it’s a disease. I no longer feel as though the entire world is against me, nor do I feel unlovable.
Most of the time, I love what my antidepressant has done for me. Then there are times, when I forget a dose or two, that I wish I had never started taking it. Before the antidepressant, I felt overwhelming sadness most, if not all, of the time. Now, I’m happy most of the time but if I forget even one dose of my medication it begins a domino effect that I cannot stop on my own. The hardest part is getting my thoughts to slow down enough to trust someone to help me.
What people don’t understand about depression is how different it is for every person who experiences it. Not only may the symptoms vary (I struggle with insomnia while others are addicted to sleep like it’s a drug) but the intensity of those symptoms may vary as well. This means that the medication used to help manage the depression will affect all of us differently. While the antidepressant is made to build up in one’s system, therefore making one missed dose not that big of a deal, my body and mind react differently when I miss even one single dose of my medication. What I just described is only the bottom layer of the cake when it comes to my lack of functionality without my meds. It starts out subtle enough that I don’t notice right away and it progressively gets worse.
My Memory is the First Thing to Go.
I have a horrible memory as it is, so the fact that memory loss is the first snowflake to fall in a blizzard that could potentially take place makes it hard for me to recognize there is something wrong inside my brain.
It starts out as little things, like forgetting where I put my car keys or that I haven’t taken my antidepressant that day. After the first 24 hours without my medication, it gets more extreme. I forget major things such as birthdays, appointments, and in some cases that I’m even supposed to be taking medications.
Sleep Goes Out the Window.
While other people who struggle with depression can’t seem to stay awake, I can’t seem to stay asleep. From the first day, I forget to take my meds until a few days after I start taking them again, I can’t sleep. I will toss and turn until I can’t take it anymore and climb out of bed. This usually results in two to three hours of sitting silently in the living room crying for absolutely no reason. The lack of sleep, of course, amplifies the effects of the depression and makes the entire situation that much worse.
Food Becomes a Foreign Object.
After about three days of not having my meds, I begin to lose my appetite. My body starts treating nutrients like a foreign substance and I can’t seem to hold much down. After a day or two of this, I don’t even have the urge to eat out of the fear of being in the bathroom not too long after. I have yet to determine whether or not this is caused by the lack of sleep or if it’s the depression itself that causes this reaction. Honestly, it’s not a science experiment that I want to purposely try, so for the time being it must remain a mystery.
Patience? What’s that?
About four days into the cycle I have absolutely no patience. From the kids asking me what time dinner will be done to the goofball at the stop light that can’t figure out that green means go, everything makes me irritable. Normally I have more patience than my husband does and this is about the time in which he starts asking me what’s wrong. It’s a question I can’t give him an answer to and I start getting irritated more at myself than him.
I Lose Interest in Things I Normally Love
There’s not a lot I enjoy doing, but about the same time my patience goes out the window so do the few things that I love. Writing especially. I pass it off as writer’s block to my husband and he usually buys it. More often than not, it’s because I’ve lost every ounce of interest to sit in a chair and make letters with a pen. I don’t enjoy going to work by this point and good luck getting me to even think about leaving the house unless I absolutely have to.
I Forget What Happy Feels Like.
By day five, not even Adam Sandler can get me to crack a smile. It’s horrible and I don’t know how else to describe it other than I’m trapped in my own personal hell. This is the point in which it seems everyone starts avoiding me like the plague, for which I can’t blame them.
Nothing Can Ever Go Right.
On my meds, I handle everyday challenges like a champ. The hot water tank isn’t working? That’s fine. We figure out what’s wrong with it, and in the meantime, we split up showers so everyone has hot water. The sink doesn’t want to drain? Nothing a little drain cleaner can’t fix. If I’ve been off my meds for a few days, then this becomes a different scenario. The car just threw a check engine light? It’s time to throw the hunk of junk in the garbage. The ceiling is leaking? It’s time to burn the house to the ground and find a new place to live. Everything becomes so much worse than it actually is and it makes day-to-day life overwhelming.
Everyone is Against Me.
No, this isn’t really the case, but in my mind it is. If I hear you whispering from down the hallway, you must be talking about me behind my back. If my husband is texting and smiling, then he must be texting another girl. I begin to turn myself against everyone around me and I start pushing people away. It doesn’t matter how much you love me; in my mind, you have to be using me for something.
I Begin to Think About Death.
Oh yes, there it is. Six to seven days into this lack of medication, my thoughts begin to be overwhelmed by either suicidal ones or thoughts of death in general. There have been times where I’ve worried about one of my parents dying for no explainable reason. There have been other times where I’ve thought about family members that have already passed away. Either way, the thoughts are horrible and if I wasn’t screaming to myself before, I most definitely am at this point.
I Feel Absolutely Helpless.
This is when I have reached my maximum capacity. Usually, it takes one wrong thing coming out of one of the kids’ mouths or my husband making a comment about how different I’ve been and I blow my top. I’ve been screaming at myself in my head for days now and no one knows the thoughts I’ve been thinking. No one knows I’ve been at the point of curling up in a ball, hands over my ears, hoping I can silence my own thoughts. No one knows that for a week or longer I have felt helpless and trapped in my own thoughts.
Every person who struggles with depression fights a different battle and knowing what I go through, especially when I forget my medication, I can’t imagine what it’s like for someone who has worse depression than I do. I can’t imagine what it’s like to be battling this curse alone. For those people who don’t have anyone, following are a few numbers you can call where there is always someone who is willing to listen.
Editor’s note: Please see a doctor before starting or stopping a medication.