Commercials for antidepressants always show the depressed cartoon woman sitting up in bed and opening up a bright window, going outside and playing with her kids. She smiles at her husband as she opens up more curtains and then makes a large meal for her family and smiles at something off in the distance. This sudden urge to smile is just that– sudden.
This is great, but not at all what I’ve experienced. I’ll give these commercials the benefit of the doubt though, because I’m not a cartoon woman. Maybe they feel these things. I haven’t really met any.
No, instead I’ll give you another example. You know in those vampire shows/movies, where a newly made vampire wakes up suddenly with a giant headache, cowering away from bright lights, and smelling every smell? And they’re so HUNGRY. That’s all they can say. They also have, like, no memory of recent events and are angry but also excited to be free for the first time ever? But they have a hard time connecting to this new world and OMG THEY ARE SO HUNGRY. And impulsive? And very, very moody?
Yeah, that’s me.
Anhedonia is the inability to feel pleasure, and is often associated with MDD. And if you can’t feel pleasure, can you really feel sadness or worry or anger? I’ve found that I can’t. I feel literally nothing at all when I’m in a period of anhedonia. So when my meds get adjusted and I finally start to feel again, I may feel pleasure, but I also feels everything else. And because I haven’t felt in a long time, it feels painful at first, physically and emotionally. Then the good stuff returns and I’m able to paint or hike, or sing. I can taste food and smell my weeks of dirty laundry and see how greasy my hair has become. I’m able to get dinner with friends, and I’m able to take care of myself.
The main reason I’m writing this is to let those of you experiencing this for the first time know that what you’re feeling is normal. Maybe you feel good immediately; maybe you feel like a vampire.
Just remember that if you feel like a vampire, it’ll get easier. The TV and movie vampires always feel normal again. Recovery is a process and it comes in waves. Just know that I’ve never regretted it for a moment.