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Clearing Clouds

There’s a lot of bad news swirling around the pharmaceutical industry today. Underneath the flotsam of scandal, price-fixing, and whatever-else-have-you, there is also good news. Lives are being changed. Here is my story:

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Patient: “Doctor, I’m finally ready to at least consider whether this depressiveness is an organic problem.”

Doctor: “Well, it certainly is – your brain, after all, is an organ! If you had kidney failure, you couldn’t think your way out of that, could you?”

So marked the end of a long, dark era of trying to struggle my way through feelings of depression, and the paralysis of fruitless introspection. Within two days of beginning to take an anti-depressant (at half the lowest dose!), the clouds began to clear and I began to get a glimpse of a very different “normal” – a state of peace and well-being that had eluded me for as long as I could remember.

At first, it was like walking out on a frozen pond. You gingerly put a foot forward, and silently ask, “Will it hold me?” Waking up in the morning with feelings of happiness – for no external reason! – I’d wonder if this could be real. Would it last? Where did all that negativity and uptightness go – surely a pill can’t really change the way I think and feel!

I no longer ask that question. I am a changed man. Steve version 2.0.

Some miracles come disguised in unexpected wrappings. The deliverance I sought came via a means I long resisted considering – medication. Years of futile self-effort and striving to overcome the inner darkness paled in comparison to the efficacy of an adjustment in brain chemistry.

From childhood, I walked under a cloud. Feelings of inferiority. Insecurity. Sensitivity to rejection. My emotional and psychological wiring tended toward introspection. As I progressed through grade school, I went through the painful experience of being a playground failure. Always among the last to be chosen for kickball. Undersized. Being sharp academically did not compensate for being inferior physically. Feelings of self-hatred began to settle in.

While I was relatively low-maintenance, generally conscientious and a good student, quietly building up under the surface was a pervasive sense of failure – an inability to accept myself. While the idealism of youth continued to push me uphill against the gravity of depression, there was no genuine relief from the relentless tide of melancholy. Haunted by an irrational sense of failure, I was driven to achieve, to change, to re-make myself to conform to some unattainable ideal. If I had a problem, it was up to me to fix it – you don’t lean on anyone or anything else (yes, a typical New Englander…).

So, I coped. I managed. I succeeded in life – outwardly, at least. The lonely struggle was hidden from all but a few. “Normal” was an endless inner struggle, so familiar that no other normal could be comprehended by comparison. Underneath the surface, a barbed-wire fence of unhappy thoughts, hedging every day’s pathway, best coped with by staying busy and avoiding too much time alone.

At last, I was desperate enough to take hold of the gentle hints provided for years by (who else?) my mother, who suspected that there might be something of a physiological nature going on. I had not been prepared to face such a thing – a weakness I couldn’t control by force of will! Well, what could it hurt to take an anti-depressant and just SEE if it made a difference?

It is hard to overstate the impact. I am not the same person – much to the relief of my patient wife, kids, and others! Each day is not a matter of pushing a large boulder uphill, but a level field with clear skies overhead. Now, almost three years later, I continue to grow more healthy emotionally and spiritually, almost entirely free from the dark clouds that once filled my mind and heart. I don’t see these drugs as a cure-all, but as a cure-some; and, thankfully, one of them has been a cure-me.

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