I’m scared that I’ll never be able to write again, that the words that once flowed through my fingers and onto the page with an unparalleled effortlessness will be forever trapped in the void that exists somewhere even outside of my own imagination. I am scared that my not writing again will not be for lack of vocabulary, or for lack of time spent with a pen balanced in my right hand, but for a complete and total emptiness of ideas. It is as if the creativity that fueled me before has been stripped away, and in its place is a sort of calm. I am terrified that I cannot exist peacefully in the world and still be a writer; it’s becoming clear to me that I must choose one or the other.
It’s only been three weeks since I started taking Prozac, and even less since I upped my dose to the current 10 milligrams. There is a chance, albeit slight, that my inability to write is just happenstance, and that if I continue on this route, weeks from now, I will be both less depressed and less blocked. There’s a chance all of these seeming effects– an ability to get out of bed each day, motivation to leave my apartment, the panic attacks that have become more frequent than ever– are coincidences that will resolve over time. It is possible that what I am feeling is a mere placebo, or even less than that, and once my brain gets tired of pretending I will revert back to my fetal state, writing powers restored.
Back when I was unmedicated, I was able to predict the rise and fall of my moods as one would the seasons. I could tell you, nearly to the day, when I was going to slip into a depression so dark that I would only leave my bed for mandatory activities where my absence would be noted. I would know it was coming because of the near mania that would ensue just before, where I would spend my nights wandering hallways at my school, yanking on locked doors that I hoped would take me up to a roof where, once I gained entry, I would sit on the ledge recounting my perceived sufferings to the empty air beneath my feet. The period after both of these was the calm month, the time when I was so worn out from my emotions that I was forced into almost functioning. Then, the cycle would repeat.
I miss the regularity of my breakdowns that made each change seem, if not comforting, at least a predictable part of my life. While I was not doing well, I at least knew that I would be doing better in due time, a certainty which was stolen from me when I started Lexapro in January and slipped into a deeper brain fog than ever before, caught in a trap of motivation with no ability to act on it. In the before, if it got worse at the very least my writing would get better, a truth I once held self evident that medication ripped away.
There’s the obvious contradiction that I have not lost all ability to write because I am, of course, writing this essay that you are now reading. But it isn’t my fine motor control nor my control of the English language that is lost– in fact the former is much improved since I stopped taking the medication that slows me down and started taking the medication that speeds me up– it is the far more dangerous skill which my new brain has taken from me.
My mind, once a playground for fanciful ideas, a place that kept me up well into the night spinning webs around not just the most darkly anxious thoughts I could muster but also the most glorious fantasies that one can only live in their head, has become empty. In place of a vortex of thoughts too complex to sort through is a dearth of any amount of critical thinking. I am no longer depressed, yes, but I am also no longer constructing faux-histories of the people I pass on the street, or reciting terrible self-written poetry in my head as I wait for an Uber, or coming up with ideas for future novels that I may or may not ever write. And maybe all of this would be worth it in exchange for sleep, except now the sleep will not come and neither will the stories that once kept me occupied as I lay there.
My self-satisfied motivation is an artifice for the shell of a human that I have become. I am starting to understand why all artists are depressed, and why they say medication makes you numb. It is the painful feelings that drive even the most joyous of innovations, built as they are on the contrast between two. In my new state, somewhere in between, I am able to complete the daily tasks required of me but rather than feeling the delight which I expected would naturally replace my sadness I merely feel empty. I am trading away my depression in exchange it took everything else good about me, and I only wonder how long it will take before the craving for more overtakes me once again.