Saturday, 19 October 2013

Of Sertraline and Serenity

One part that I find to be the hardest when it comes to blogging is to come up with a really good intro. I really feel like the hardest part is to start. The introduction has to be interesting because... I am not good looking enough for you to keep reading this if it's not. Hahaha.

And I do understand that lately I've been writing on things that are... well... unhappy. And it confuses people. Because when they see me or when they talk to me, I am probably one of the happiest people they know. I can make them laugh till they feel a six-pack coming. (really I make such a good workout who needs gym heh?). I can make them smile even when they don't want to. So I understand how people can even ask me whether I was being real. Are all my laughters and smiles fake? 

The short answer would be, no. 

I wanna tell you guys something. Something that I've been meaning to write for months now. Things that definitely changed me. Things that still haunt me to this day. Things that make me realize that I cannot go back to the way things were.

It was about two months ago when I quit blogging. And I honestly thought I will never blog again. Not because I was tired of it, not because I hated it. But because I've stopped wanting to connect with people. 

I also deactivated my Twitter, Instagram and Keek. All because I was trying to cut myself off from the world. If they can't reach me, they can't help me. 

I had a mental breakdown. The worst I ever had. It was painful to even breathe, it was painful to live. I locked myself in the room for two days. I rejected phone calls and ignored messages. 

I have no explanation to why I did all those things. And I wish I can tell you what really happened but it involves so many people that I still care about, telling you guys would affect them, too. 

It is enough for you to know that when it happened, I stopped trying. I stopped praying, I stopped thanking Him for waking me up every day. Every morning I would sigh with regret wondering why I had to wake up for another day.

I was scared. Of what I was capable of. And I knew if it kept on going, I would lose it. 

So I called my parents, and I told them that I had to go back home. 

Only a handful of people knew I went back to Malaysia during a lecture week, and fewer people knew the reason why.

My depression didn't start two months ago. It started when I was 12. From my insecurities, to my family problems to me not being sure of who I was. It stemmed from me not knowing who I want to be, and from people telling me that I was doing it all wrong.

And because going back home, even though I was supposed to have class affected my attendance, I had to provide a medical certificate or else I would be barred from taking the Semester One exam.

And I didn't have any medical certificate to give.

And I told the Dean of why I actually went back. And she suggested that I go to a specialist, to get me certified for an actual clinical depression and to produce a legit medical certificate.

I was reluctant to go. I was scared. But I had to do it.

It was three days before my exams when I went to the hospital, alone. I was nervous. What if my friends from college see me? What if they started asking what was I doing in the Neuroscience department? What do I tell them? What will they assume?

After I have told the Doctor everything about my situation, he asked me what I wanted from him.

I told him all I wanted was the certificate. All I wanted was to be able to take the exam. I don't want any medication, I don't want any therapy. 

He understood. But he told me that they have amazing drugs that could help me overcome my depression. Drugs that can make me feel better. Drugs that can make all these, tolerable.


I was scared to take it. What if I get dependent on it? What if I get addicted to it?

What if I can't live without it?

The doctor assured me that the chance of that happening is slim. The drug will be given in small doses, and limited to only 15 pills and I were to come back every 15 days to get new batches of those pills. This will control my intake, as well as to monitor my compliance. 

And above all, to make sure I don't abuse it.

But the idea of taking drugs absolutely terrified me. I feel crippled. Like when everyone else is capable of being happy by just thinking happy thoughts, I wasn't. 

I feel like an absolute fake because my happiness would be the result of a chemical reaction between my receptors and the drug. 

"Antidepressants don't cure depression. They manage it."

I understood that. 

But I went back home that day, with 15 Sertraline pills in my pocket.


That night, after dinner, I took one pill and put it in my hand. How does this actually work, I wondered. How can this tiny pill make me feel happy? 

I took a deep breath. Put the pill in my mouth and swallowed. 

I don't know what I expected. I was half-expecting to see unicorns suddenly jumping out of the walls and dance merrily around me. Or maybe suddenly the world is made of candies and diabetes is something that is fictional and I can eat all that I want. 

But it didn't feel that way. Instead, I feel numb. And it wasn't because of the drug. The effect will only start the next morning. So I realized, that I was numb because for the first time, I wasn't thinking of the things that made me sad. I wasn't thinking. Period. 

And being numb felt so good.


When I woke up the next day, I was sure that I feel no different. Was I overjoyed? No. Did I feel like dancing naked in the field? No. (Partly because that would get me arrested.) 

But I feel... okay. And 'okay' is a start. I hadn't felt okay in a long time. 

It wasn't until the third day of taking the drug that I realized I hadn't cried myself to sleep. I've stopped thinking about the things that make me sad. I could even smile without being sure the reason why. 

I felt... perhaps... happy.

And that kinda makes me feel sad. Because a small part of me wonders if I was being really happy. Was it the drugs? Or was it me? 

And what scares me was that I was starting to get slightly dependent on it.

Not addicted. Dependent.

I didn't take more than one pill per day. I don't feel like I NEED to take it. But I know that if I don't, I will have another breakdown. 

So that scared me. A lot. 


I was packing my bags for my 8-days trip to Kashmir when I realized that I only had 5 pills left. And I was to leave the next morning so it was impossible to go to the hospital to take more.

The very idea of not taking the drug was enough to make me feel sick. I was on the drug for 10 days then, and I forgot how it feels like to be sad. I was terrified of what will happen if I don't take it for a few days.

On the first day, at the airport, I didn't take the pill. I figured that the journey will take the whole day so even without the pill, that would keep me preoccupied and distracted.

And it did. I wasn't sad or depressed because I was too excited for the trip. So far, so good, I thought. 

But that night, when we arrived, I felt a sudden surge of emotion hitting me like a sumo-wrestler. I felt like the walls were closing in on me. I knew I was having withdrawal symptoms. It's uncommon with Sertraline, most probably not due to the drugs, but because of my own negative thoughts.

I believed not taking the drugs would make me sad, so it did. 

But I told myself that I have to get through this. That I am stronger than I thought I was. 

That night, I slept, thankful that I survived the whole day without the drug. 


Kashmir was my drug. Turns out I didn't even have to take Sertraline because being in such beautiful places with amazing friends made me so happy, the happiest I've felt in years. 

Kashmir was exactly what I needed and Alhamdulilah, for the rest of the trip I was smiling.


So I've stopped taking the pill now. 

And I am sure you have a lot of questions in mind.

"Are you okay now? Are you happy?"

If happiness is defined as wanting to randomly sing Disney songs in the middle of the forest with squirrels and chipmunks, then no. 

But if happiness is defined as being thankful of all the things that I have, feeling loved by friends and family, and feeling that I am lucky to be where I am right now - then yes, I am happy.

"Are you still depressed?"

Depression is something I would have to live with for the rest of my life. It comes and goes. When it does come, it hits hard. But the good thing is, I become stronger each time. And I've stopped feeling sorry for myself. I started each day with a smile, and I end my days with thanking Him for all the good things that has happened to me.

"Why are you telling us this?"

Because I want you to know that that boy that made you smile today could be depressed. And it's okay. Depression is not the opposite of happiness. The human emotion is complex. Happiness is not the absence of sadness but it is the sense of gratitude and love of yourself and others.

When you can accept your own flaws, when you have forgiven those who have hurt you, when you can look into the mirror and like what you see, when you can be thankful for the things that you do have, when you feel loved by those who matter - then you are happy. Even if you're sad, you're still happy. Does that make sense?

I also want people to know that sometimes I won't be in a good mood. So please forgive me. I do try to smile to everyone, everyday. But sometimes I can't. I do hope people don't have this high expectation of me to be always happy. Sometimes I get down. But trust me, I will always get back up. I promise.

"Are you writing this to gain attention?"

The reason that I was so reluctant to write this in the first place is exactly because I was so scared that people might think that I am writing this to beg for sympathy or to appear like I am a victim and I should be respected for being a survivor blablabla.

I do want attention. But not for myself. I want to bring attention on depression itself. Often I hear people correlate depression with something that is negative. That everyone who admits that they are depressed are doing it for attention. When in fact, most of the time, they are actually asking for help.

Depression is common. The extend of depression varies from people to people. And while depression is manageable, unfortunately however, it is not fully treatable.

Depressed people are not always suicidal. We don't blame everything that has happened to other people or to God. We don't look at the glass half-empty.

We smile, we laugh and we are sincere about it.

One thing that being depressed has taught me is how to appreciate those small happy moments that life has given us. I learn how to let go of people who leave, and I learn to hold on to those who stay. 

I learn that families are not those who merely share the same DNA as you, but those who stayed when the situation gets difficult.  

I learn that I have a lot to be thankful of and that everyone has their own sets of challenges in life. 

I also learn that happiness is not the destination, it's the journey. Full with obstacles, detours, u-turns and forks. But it's how we walk through it, and who we walk through it - determines how happy we are.

I wish I can say that this post has a happy ending. I wish I can assure you that I will always be happy.

But that's not what life is all about, is it?

How can you appreciate joy if you've never experienced sorrow?

Am I happy?

Yes. Yes, I am. 

As always, Peace be upon you all. And thank you for reading this ridiculously long blog post.