Heartbreak and Happy Pills

When someone you love tells you they’re, “No longer in love with you,” it doesn’t immediately register. It must be a mistake, surely. That someone who you love can choose to up and move on. Move on? You feel like your investment of trust, time, money and all-round energy has been a waste. Of course, when you’re dumped the absence of rational thought is just part of the process. Nevertheless, this hit to your ego can be paralysing. For some men, it can lead to depression, anxiety and self-deprecating behaviour.

If this has happened to you, you know the bottom of the dry well. It’s a cold and lonely place. It smells funny, it’s dark, and looking up is a dangerous thought, let alone action. For the light should bring hope. Instead, it’s nothing but a reminder of how far your self-esteem has plummeted.

The brave seek help. Whether it’s a counsellor or psychologist, or perhaps, a psychiatrist for the more serious cases, the light calls and draws you up a better man.

But it’s a process.

Men like myself – owners of an obsessive personality – can need extra assistance to get back any kind of normality. It’s true that time is a great healer but sometimes the melancholia can be so debilitating that time simply stands still. You’re stuck in a chasm of doubt – all the time.

When my girlfriend left me, I couldn’t cope. To outsiders, particularly men, I needed to drink some cement. Those outsiders did mean well, but or course, comments like that lack empathy. Empathy is what you need in bucket loads during these times.

My trip to the psych provided me with some reprieve from the internal torment of feeling unloved, and scarily, unlovable. The psychotherapy I’d received was like having the pieces of a puzzle in your hand. With more and more sessions, the puzzle began to present some sort of picture of myself. It was working.

But I needed more.

I was prescribed some anti-depressants. The names of them were intimidating enough, as I’d heard of these being used for people I’d thought were completely mental. Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft (SSRIs) and Effexor (SNRI), and others became my Panadol. Heartache is a headache on acid.

What the hell was an SSRI?

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor is a mouthful. I’ll put the science to one side and just say that the drugs I took lifted my mood. In doing so, I felt little to no sadness, which got me out of the dry well. The flip side was, I felt no happiness. I was simply, neutral. Incapable of any more tears, similarly incapable of laughter. And my dosage was low. The psych told me that lots of people take four times the amount prescribed to me.

Often, depression is accompanied by that lovely feeling called anxiety. More drugs. Valium or the less addictive, Seroquel were prescribed. I took them. They helped me. I look at the whole experience as a learning opportunity, one to own and to remember, when committing to another relationship. I fell hard.

Could I have recovered without the drugs? Definitely.

I believe it would’ve taken longer, though. And as time passes, I reflect with a greater appreciation for my family and closest friends. To watch your mates who looked up to you, see you in such a state is a deeper blow to the ego. But they suffer with you. They’re there for you, because they do love you.

As someone who could’ve intellectualised depression prior to it happening to me, I say this to every man: accept its presence.

A brave man is one who puts up his hand and asks for help.

I’m now in the most amazing relationship of my life. And I’m grateful.

Perhaps, the most honest piece of advice I’d received was from a close mate.

“You’re in a maze right now. You can’t get out. You don’t know where to go, so you don’t move. But if you’d just turn around, you’d see the exit. And you can walk right out,” he said.

And I did.

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