“Don’t these flowers smell fucking amazing?” I said to my close friend Maya just a few months ago. The sweet, fresh fragrance wafting from the freshly-cut roses seemed to be rendering me a little high. Like I had micro-dosed MDMA or something. We were standing in a long deli line in a bodega on West 42nd Street. Maya glared at me through the greasy curtain of her overgrown bangs and shrugged her sunken shoulders. Maya’s depressed. I was on Prozac.
Oh, Prozac! I could’ve written a love-letter to Prozac just six months ago! I wanted to name my firstborn Prozac. Or at least buy a nameplate with the letters “P-r-o-z-a-c” dangling from its flashy 14-carat gold chain. I would’ve worn that happy necklace on my medicated neck every goddamn day if this were six months ago.
Since starting Prozac a few years ago, I’ve become the kind of girl who stops and smells the bodega roses. The kind of girl who writes gratitude lists and means it. The kind of girl who smiles at men who hold doors open for her, rather than scowls and assumes they’re just trying to sneak a pervy peek at her ass.
“How’s the Prozac going?” My shrink, who is an attractive Jewish man with big, aquatic-blue eyes, asked me during our follow up a few months ago. His office is so plain and so white I feel like I’m in a mental ward when I’m there, albeit a chic one because it’s on a nice street in Gramercy with a pretty view.
“Please write this down. In EXACT words.” I declared, a giant SSRI grin plastered across my face. “I feel like I got back together with an amazing ex I should’ve never broken up with! If I ever think I don’t need it again, remind me I will be leaving the love of my life. Side effects include: thinking I don’t need it anymore. Holyshit, doc, I feel so much better! It’s as if the curtains were closed on my life and now they’ve been opened wide and all this sunlight is shining through!” My voice was loud and over-annunciated, making me sound like I was performing a monologue for a high school musical theatre show, but I didn’t care, because I meant every word. I would’ve broken out into high kicks if I hadn’t been wearing jeans so skinny I could hardly walk, let alone kick.
“Wow. That’s great news.” Dr. FeelGood said, stunned. “I love when that happens. Anything else?”
“Nope.” I chirped as I fluttered out of there like the successfully medicated parakeet I was.
And everything really, truly, has been going so well. Six months ago I would wake up in the morning and no longer want to burrow beneath the covers like a decrepit old dachshund who’s had it with the world. If I ate a slice of pizza I no longer wanted to slit my wrists out fear that I’d become instantly fat and unlovable. I was, like, practicing self-care, the kind of self-care they recommend in wellness publications like Goop. Acupuncture. Clean Eating. Meditation. Gross, I know.
But then it all came crashing down a few weeks ago. The great depression collapsed into my Hell’s Kitchen apartment building and crushed everything in sight.
If I’m being real, the symptoms began to reveal themselves a month or so ago. I started to feel a little shaky. I started to feel the darkness make its way into the crux of my spine. The blinds closed. I started doing weird shit like counting calories and obsessing over how ugly I am.
I guess in hindsight I knew the big, major, manic, horrible depression was slowly creeping back into my orbit. But I did what I tell all of you not to do. I closed my eyes and turned up the latest Ariana Grande hit song in order to drown out the soft snarl of the sadness beast. I pretended I didn’t see the monster hiding in between the racks of long, tattered maxi dresses holding court in my closet. (Even though I definitely saw him. He glared at me, all twisted up in an extra long vintage DVF wrap-dress).
I smoked myself to sleep most nights.
And then in typical breakdown fashion, the depression didn’t take kindly to being ignored. I woke up last Monday morning and his claws were wrapped around my neck. I couldn’t breathe.
I stayed in bed all day on Monday. Please don’t call the ASPCA on me, but I didn’t even take my beloved Luka (my dog-son) outside. Not once. Luka is the goddamn shining ray of light in my haphazard life and nothing gives me more pleasure than taking him for a walk! But I couldn’t do it. That’s how bad it was. He wasn’t pissed at me. He dutifully used his wee-wee pad and snuggled up in my heavy-sad arms the entire day, licking my face every half hour or so. My kitten who is extremely independent and emotionally withholding looked me deep in the eyes and sat on my chest purring. Unheard of for Ms. Cold Kitten Bitch. The depression was so palpable my animals went into full-blast protective mode.
It’s been the kind of depression where you don’t even cry. It’s that god-awful numb as fuck depression where you feel like the devil has snatched the soul out of your skull and you’re empty and uncreative and inhuman and nothing matters because there is nothing but opaque blackness looming ahead. The kind of depression where you withdraw from life and don’t feel much except for this flat-lined pain. It’s not even hysterical heartbreak pain, the kind that propels you to create great art, it’s bleak, uninspired homesickness. It’s a summer camp spent inside your bunk not wanting to participate in color war. It’s a summer camp spent inside your bunk wanting to disappear.
What the fuck was going on?
I called the doctor (which was painful and fucking hard because making a phone call with black depression feels like running a marathon with a cocaine hangover) who explained to me that I was likely experiencing a phenomenon known as the “Prozac Poop Out.”
A nasty name I know, but I didn’t come up with it OK? I’m just experiencing it. It basically means that a person’s antidepressant simply stops working which gives you a major depression relapse. It can actually happen with any SSRI, not just Prozac. The medical term is “tachyphylaxis” but those who travel in exclusive mentally ill circles prefer to use the simple slang term “Prozac Poop Out.” (Myself included).
There are a few things one can do when one “poops out” their happy pills, the most common being upping ye ole’ dose and/or switching up the meds. Yours truly chose to do the latter. I’d rather keep my dose on the lower end and pop a brand new pill. I’m now on a newer medication called Viibryd (which sounds very VIBRANT, don’t you think?).
I had to wean off the Prozac before starting the Viibryd, so I’ve essentially been in the swarmy pits of hell for seven days — dealing with not only relapse depression but drug withdrawal symptoms (insomnia, panic attacks, feelings of pending doom, headaches, cold sweats, the works!). It’s been a total blast for my wife.
Today is my first day on vibrant Viibryd, which is an SSRI just like my ex-girlfriend Prozac (and just like my other exes Lexapro and Zoloft. Clearly I have a type). Obviously, the Viibryd has yet to kick in, but I have high hopes for our success together.
I’ve heard mixed things about her (Viibryd), the best being that she bears no sexual side effects and the worst being that she’ll make you shit your brains out for the first few weeks. Based on a few hours of experience, I can confirm the latter.
Anywhoo, I wanted to share this shit with all of you Dirty Beauties, because I had never ever heard about this dark thing known as the Prozac Poop Out and was convinced this sudden rush of depression was all in my head and I suffered in Silence & Shame.™
I want you all to know your meds can stop working and it’s not your goddamn fault and there are solutions, so speak up, call your doctor and stop feeling embarrassed, little sister.
So, babes. Tell me. What meds are you on? What meds are you not on? How do you feel today?