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Column: Good damage

When do you know to start taking medication for depression? It’s a hard question to answer, but I finally did a year ago.

But when do you stop? Now that’s an elusive question, one that resource pamphlets in the psychiatrist’s office don’t tend to answer.

I was watching the Netflix comedy “BoJack Horseman,” when I suddenly found myself babbling and choking in tears because this cartoon made me realize more about myself than I knew.

This ridiculous cartoon is my absolute favorite, a wild blend of whacky-animals and humans who deal with issues far more real than you might expect. Seeing a cartoon horse struggle through human problems adds a layer of irony that just makes people a little more comfortable with sensitive topics like alcoholism and heartbreak.

Episode 10 of the last season is called “Good Damage.” It follows a writer named Diane who takes antidepressants. She goes through a montage of negative situations, from the Wi-Fi going out to wasteful companies overusing plastic and she’s thankful for her pills. She holds them up in the air like a prize. I relate. It makes me chuckle.

Then, she sits down to write her book but can’t.

It’s not writer’s block. She can’t access the feelings she needs to write. This artfully-crafted cartoon depicts this internal struggle as a doodle of herself fighting through the words she types. The main point here is that she’s missing the inspiration behind her words.

And it’s something I felt but never knew why until that moment. That crazy little doodle-cartoon.

My antidepressant medication has been incredible, and truly has helped me stay afloat in what have been my life’s most treacherous waters. It keeps me from sinking, but always places me at the surface.

And that instability, those giant waves, are the times I can be creative. When my mind is so full of emotion that I physically have to pour it into my guitar or pen, I do my best work.

For the last year and a half, all I’ve really felt is okay. And I’m so fortunate to say that, which is exactly why it’s

so confusing to want to stop. There are so many people struggling daily with mental health, looking to feel okay. I don’t want to invalidate them.

But like Diane, I think my damage can be good. Good damage.

I haven’t picked up my guitar in about a year, and I used to fill pages with songs. This isn’t me losing interest, it’s me not experiencing the emotions that make me pick it up.

I used to write short stories and listen to the same song for days because it captured the exact feeling I had. I probably listened to “Hide and Seek” by Imogen Heap over 30 times in one day and looked forward to the refresh of my Discover-Weekly playlist. I hate to admit that I barely listen to music now, but I know it’s because I don’t feel the urge to anymore. I miss it.

I’m terrified to accept all of it back, the good with the bad. What if the confidence I feel lately when I speak in class was just a side-effect? What if I can’t cope?

I don’t know, honestly.

For those who struggle with depression, my experience isn’t yours. I whole-heartedly support medication and have experienced the benefits myself. But for someone whose identity is formed on a foundation of creativity, I need to give myself that chance.

Today, I started decreasing my dose and will continue to until I’m no longer taking them, because this ridiculous cartoon got me thinking that my damage can be good.

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