Help is the difference between hurt and happiness 

The Stigma and the Savior

A few months ago a coworker popped his head in my office and asked me what I knew about flowers. "What?" I replied. He needed more info on flowers that bloom in the winter. I laughed and asked why he thought I would possibly have that kind of knowledge (I don't, by the way). "You look like someone who would know about flowers," he said.

He meant that I looked happy.

I am happy. I am, perhaps, the happiest I've been since the kind of happiness I remember in my very early years. You can't beat that state of wonder, that genuine curiosity that lives in the minds of small children.

But now, today, I am happy. It could be that I have a job I enjoy, or that I get to live with my best friend, my sister, or that I exercise fairly frequently, or that I have a good dog, or that I drink loads of coffee, which I believe sends happy sensors to your brain. It could be that I'm comfortable in my own skin for the first time in a long time. It could be my proximity to the city, the beach, the live oaks that line the streets on my drive home.

I know my happiness is a culmination of many factors. I know that part of my happiness comes from the stability I've found with a regular dosage of a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). You know, an anti-depressant. In my case, Prozac.

I've been off and on anti-depressants and anti-anxiety meds since I was 16. I've tried Zoloft and Lexapro, to varying degrees of success. I've been through hours of talk therapy, recording my thoughts and feelings, giving my current status a number from 1-10.

I've been taking 40 milligrams of Prozac for about a year and a half. Like I said, I'm happy.

Some people are terrified to admit that they take anti-whatever meds. Some people don't care. I fall somewhere in between, acknowledging the stigma of taking drugs, not wanting people to cast judgment based on my mental state ... and knowing the powerful positivity these medications can infuse into a struggling mind.

Last week I wrote a blog titled "Loneliness, renege," on my years-old blog, What I Know for Sure. In it I proclaimed my independence — unlike the writer of the past few years I am no longer burdened with loneliness. I have found ways in which to cope. For the most part, I have grown out of the anxieties and sadnesses of my past.

People liked my blog, they messaged me, they shared my words. In my proclamation of freedom, I found so many people who shared my sentiments. I said, "I am alone but I am not lonely," and the people said, "Us too!"

But my words also felt a little insincere. I am free from the sadness that has plagued me in the past. The passage of time, growing up, and lots of yoga helped with that. But so did my little blue and white pills. It's what I didn't credit in my blog that left my message feeling hollow.

I want people to know that normal men and women take anti-anxiety and depression pills every day. Some of us have for years. Some for our whole lives. I can't recommend the right course of action for you, but if you think you could benefit from a drug, shame is certainly not a part of who and how you are.

In my second year of college I went off my meds. I was happy, but in a hurried way that involved a lot of frat parties, theme parties, date parties ... you get the idea. I thought, "I'm good. I've got this."

PSA: No 19-year-old has ever "got this." I became dizzy and frazzled, my mind constantly racing, anxiety crawling into my bones like tiny little bugs. I napped for hours at a time, trying to drown out my constant state of worry. (I still do this, sometimes. Because there are some feelings you don't grow out of).

I went back on my meds. As the years went on, I talked to more therapists. I struggled and I triumphed, fell and crawled, got back up, fell again and again. When things get bad, it's not always because of bad circumstances — sometimes it can just be because of bad thoughts. It's not life, but how you live it, and I think at least one person needs to hear that.

There's nothing wrong with asking for help — and taking it.

Sitting, standing, running, sleeping in my life now, I am content. I'm not ecstatic, but I could be in a few moments, if you told me a really good joke. A couple years ago, I'd go weeks without laughing. It was too hard.

SSRIs are not a crutch, they are not a myth, they are not placebos. Medication is different for different people; it has been my savior. You don't have to struggle through every day. It's not heroic to hurt. To recognize the hurt and get help? Well, that's something I wish I'd done a long time ago.

You can find more of Connelly Hardaway's opinion writing at whatconnellyknows.wordpress.com.


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