The Worst Summer of My Life, Chapter 12: The Darkest Hour

“The darkest hour of the night comes just before the dawn.”

~ Thomas Fuller, in the cleverly and jauntily named 1650 text, ‘A Pisgah Sight of Palestine and the Confines Thereof: With the History of the Old and New Testament Acted Thereon’

It’s mid-June. I’ve been burned out and bottomed out for 7 weeks. And I’m now armed with a little orange canister of tiny white Lexapro pills. A canister that I resisted adamantly, then eyed warily, then accepted reluctantly.

Desperation can drive a man to hang up his hang-ups and avert himself from his aversions.

But here’s the thing I didn’t know about antidepressants: They don’t work quickly. Like, at all. And even worse, they can make things worse before they make things better.

On a beautiful Friday morning shortly before summer solstice, I spent a few hours at a lake with my family. It was a moment that would have been heartwarming and vividly memorable under normal circumstances. But it felt dishearteningly colorless and forgettable in my grindingly greyscale mental state.

This was the morning when, in distracted agitation, I called in my Lexapro prescription. On the drive home, I picked up my prescription at Target. Shortly thereafter, I popped my first little white pill. I knew it wouldn’t immediately kick in, but I hoped that it would at least help alleviate the insomnia that had ravaged my body.

No such luck. I couldn’t sleep that night. Or the next night. And even worse, the pills made me feel even more anxious while I tossed and turned in the dark and listened, in quiet desperation, to the most somber and sedated songs I could find.

My relationship with music was an odd aspect of this bleak chapter in my life. Typically, I am as intensely and viscerally connected to music as anyone I know. There are 50 different bands I adore and am drawn to in any given mood, at different times of the year, and even during various types of weather. Bands that connect me to 100 different specific points from my own personal saga.

But while I was depressed, I was ambivalent to 98% of that music. I had no desire to listen to anything that had energy, or a propulsive beat. I didn’t want to hear music with either buoyant hopefulness or even a darker, poetic angst. I was frozen in time and numb to nostalgia, so I resisted any musical artists that would remind me of other chapters of my life.

Nearly all of my usually-favorite music simply reminded me of how not-myself I was. How turned-inside-out I had become.

The only thing I could bear to hear was hyper-tranquil, hyper-ambient, hyper-sedated music. Bands like Stars of the Lid, A Winged Victory for the Sullen, or Hammock (but only their more narcotized albums). On a day when I was marginally more inspired, I would type “relaxing classical music” into my search bar. I spent one week listening exclusively, over and over again, to a theoretically sleep-inducing soundtrack to a Disney nature documentary that I found oddly haunting (and by the 6th listen, faintly and oddly haunted).

But no matter what sleep soundtrack I chose, I could not sleep. I tossed and turned even more miserably in my first few Lexapro nights than during the previous 6 insomnia-ravaged weeks.

So after 4 days, without consulting my doctor, I quit taking my antidepressant. I pictured how dilapidated my body would be after another few weeks of terrible sleep, and I couldn’t bear to risk it. I was ravenous for sleep. And the idea of an antidepressant increasing my anxiety seemed like a maniacal grift. Like a painkiller that heightens your pain.

A few days later, I messaged my doctor to tell him of my decision. He wrote back to say he would instead prescribe me Remeron. This was apparently a combination antidepressant / sleeping pill, which sounded like a miracle drug to me in that moment.

I started taking the Remeron, and it did indeed zonk me out. I would still wake up in the middle of the night, but I could fall right back to sleep. I started building up reserves in my sleep bank for the first time in months. However, and this is a pretty big however, my depression continued unabated. My primary burden was as heavy and as dark as ever.

So about a week in to my new regimen, I again messaged my doctor with an update. And he then informed me that Remeron, at the dosage he had given me, was primarily just a sleeping pill. I would have to take double or even triple the dosage to also get the antidepressant effects. To which I thought, but didn’t say: “Is that something you could have perhaps told me, oh I don’t know, when you prescribed it to me?

I was once again frustrated with Doctor #1, the one with the bombastic personality. Should I have stuck with Doctor #2, the one who had gaslighted me but at least had a fairly empathetic bedside manner?

In any case, I was once again back in the vicinity of square one. Which was the last square I wanted to be in. Heck, I would have preferred Red Square at that point in time.

My frustration with Doctor #1 aside, he recommended that I restart the Lexapro I had quit. He told me I needed to be patient this time. So I gritted my teeth for the journey. Although now I would be taking it in conjunction with the sleep-inducing Remeron.

Maybe that pair of medications would help me escape the mind-obliterating labyrinth of depression. Maybe they would help me find my way back to the place I needed to be.

That place being clarity.

And hopefulness.

And restfulness.

And above all, the place that each of us should inhabit.


This is part of an extended series of posts about my recent mental health struggles. Thank you so much for reading. Facebook is my primary platform for sharing this blog, so feel free to give me feedback there. (Unless you somehow found my blog independently, in which case… welcome!) I am deeply grateful for your interest, and I hope that you find some warmth, validation, or solidarity in my memoirs.

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