So it turns out that what I did on my spring break, in addition to visiting my family and doing a ton of grading (and in fact I'm not quite done with the latter), is going on antidepressants.
I finally decided that my ongoing sadness no longer qualified as "winter blues" or "overwork" if I was spending hours crying for no clear reason on more than one sunny day over spring break. Plus there was the fact that I have been dreading not only the return to classes, but also this summer and next year; I mean, when one starts dreading both work and time off from work, there's not a whole lot left to feel good about.
I was on Lexapro once before, during that ghastly last year at St. Martyr's, and it was hard to tell definitively whether it made things better or not -- since, of course, I have no control group for my life -- but I did keep my head above water as things got worse and worse that year, and in the end I walked away from academia and moved several states away to start life over, all without having a lot of panic, so I guess that's something.
Anyway, D. -- who is a big believer in better living through chemistry -- has suggested more than once this past year that I talk with my doctor about antidepressants, and I have resisted every time, but when she suggested it again on Thursday, a day that I had spent mostly in tears, despairing about the future for no clear reason, I decided to listen. This was after I tried to improve my mood by getting some exercise ... and proceeded to cry for the duration of my half-hour jog. It was all pretty pathetic, and I finally decided that D. was right and that perhaps the time had come for some chemical intervention.
Now, what I probably should have done is to wait until my therapy appointment on Tuesday and discuss it with my therapist first. But the last time I started Lexapro, I felt terrible for the first couple of days, and I wanted to get that horrible feeling out of the way before I started back to school, especially since I'm chaperoning a weekend trip next weekend; so if I didn't start the drugs this weekend, it would really be two weeks before I could start if I wanted to do so without feeling horrible at school. So I went ahead and called my doctor Friday morning, and lo and behold they could squeeze me in that morning, which I took as a sign that I should charge ahead.
The doctor was very nice, especially when I started crying right there in her office -- kind of embarrassing, but I'm sure I'm not the first -- and we discussed the various options and decided to go with Lexapro, since I'd been on it once before and tolerated it fine with no real side effects (after those first miserable days, which apparently just go with the territory of starting an SSRI). So I started the drug on Friday afternoon and am now in my third day.
So far the only side effects are that I'm jittery and really tired, although the latter effect could also just be the result of having spent so much of Thursday crying. I'm taking just half a pill a day for the first week, which my doctor didn't have me do the last time and which seems to have really minimized the side effects this weekend. So maybe I could have waited and talked with my therapist first, but of course I didn't know that until I started taking the pills, so I'm not going to second-guess the timing. (I'm actually kind of nervous about telling my therapist, since I don't really know how she feels about medication, but that nervousness is probably all about my internalized sense of shame about taking medication -- illogical but still real.)
Speaking of second-guessing: Of course, right after I took the first pill on Friday, I actually felt more cheerful than I had in a few days and immediately worried that I had panicked too early and that if I'd just held on for a day or two longer, I'd have felt better anyway. But I've been doing that "just hold on" business for several months now, really going back to last summer, although it's gotten worse in the last few months. So I think I was just feeling better because I'd taken a definitive step to improve life.
So while I'm envious of my colleagues who took exciting trips over spring break and who will come back to school on Monday rejuvenated from their trips to Puerto Rico and Italy and elsewhere, I'm hoping that my spring break decision will ultimately wind up having just as therapeutic an effect on the rest of the year.