The Story Behind The Surface

I have a pharmacy on my nightstand. Every night, I pop a number of vitamins from four different containers. Water, vitamins, water, vitamins, water. Then there’s the orange pill bottle. It’s not a multivitamin and I can’t get it over the counter. Out of all the pills, this is the one I’ve taken the longest, and it’s also the only one I’m quick to hide when staying at someone’s home.

I started writing because I wanted people to know me. I would think, Oh, if you only knew. As an external response to my inner world, I would write. Over the years, I have written hundreds of pieces, yet I’m not sure any of them speak to my experience with depression and anxiety.

I hesitate to reveal my bottle of anti-depressants because I’m not sure where the story begins. The pills aren’t just a quick reflex to feeling sad, but what if other people think that? Many days, my story behind the pills feels too important to risk being misunderstood. Is that why we talk so little about mental health? I want mental healthcare to be more widely accepted, yet I’m so afraid that my own story will be rejected that I remain in the same cycle of shame I encourage others to break free from.

I started taking anti-depressants a few years ago, after many conversations with my therapist eventually led to a softening resistance to the idea. If I’m honest, it felt like a personal failure—a surrender to the truth that I’M JUST CRAZY. The softening, however, came after feeling utterly exhausted from actually feeling crazy.

At some point in your mid to late twenties, “teenage angst” is no longer an appropriate excuse for one’s behavior. My teenage angst and depression had always seemed to coexist and blur together. During my early twenties, while living in a home with ministry partners in Australia, I recognized something was different.

I would sit alone in my room for hours, listening to the voices of my friends on the other side of the door. I genuinely wanted to be out there with them, but I couldn’t move. I remember waiting until the voices died down before running to the kitchen to get something to eat. I wanted to nourish myself physically but felt incapable of receiving the same nourishment relationally. I felt stuck, sometimes for just hours at a time, other times for days.

The pattern continued for years. I wished I could send a telegram to my loved ones from the cave of my depression:

I want to be with you. I care about you. I love you. I’m trapped.

Before the anti-depressants, I described my depression as a predator. I didn’t know when she was going to attack me, so to speak, but she would drive me into an abyss that demanded isolation. I knew myself to be outgoing but I felt incapable of pursuing others.

Pray against it, it’s a spiritual attack, people would advise. I did. I still do. God has pulled me out of the abyss many times. He has also led me to resources that protect me from further attacks. One of them is the therapist who listens and affirms, another is that orange bottle on my nightstand, which chemically balances that which was imbalanced.

After Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain committed suicide, people started talking about mental health again. I’d hear comments like, We should be able to talk about depression, just like we talk about having the flu.” Yes! I thought. I want that! Except the flu doesn’t feel quite as personal to me. People don’t get as emotionally charged about the flu. In fact, it’s encouraged that we stay home, rest, and hydrate when we have the flu. No one tells you to snap out of the flu.

I’m more afraid of the “crazy” I am when I ignore my anxiety and depression than the “crazy” I am when I see my counselor and take my pill each night. I’m happier because I have the resources that help me face my depression rather than ignore it, and I’m pulled into the abyss far less frequently these days.

That’s what I want you to know and that’s what I’m afraid to tell you.

When you see the pills, will you pause with me to hear the story behind them?

Mallory Redmond embraces anomalies–she is an adventure-loving homebody who keeps a clean house yet always makes a mess whenever eating or brushing her teeth. She loves dry humor, clean sheets, and gathering around the table with friends. Mallory and her husband, Darren, live in Ohio with their beagle, Roger, and [soon!] their first child. You can follow her writing here, where her stories are told with the hope of further uncovering the places of connection in our humanity.