'My Experience With Anhedonia': What It's Like To Feel Alone And Joyless, And How Antidepressants Affected Me

Quora Quora .

This question originally appeared on Quora. Answer by Gary Larson.

 

For many decades, I suffered from an emotional state called anhedonia - the inability to experience pleasure. Not a constant state, but it would come and go with mood level, which was relatively low compared to most people due to and underlying depression that I didn’t know I had. I learned (as an adolescent, when my depression started to get pretty bad), that I could elevate my mood with vigorous exercise - and with achieving goals - especially goals that resulted in measurable results. Goals like going to the International Science Fair, bringing home a straight-A report card, etc. This addiction to “accomplishing things” drove me for decades, resulting in (among other things) my becoming an engineer and a doctor (I’m not trying to sound arrogant - I had as much choice about doing these things as the alcoholic has about drinking).

During these periods of emotional analgesia, I felt alone - from others and even from my “self”. For most of that time, I was surrounded by my loving family and a lot of other people who loved me and wanted me to feel good - but it didn’t make any difference.

I developed more and more behaviors that seemed to help me feel good for a while. The most successful of these was by trying to help others. Ultimately , however, everything just stopped working. I was stuck for years. I derived no joy from having everything I thought I wanted in life - all the things I thought would “fix” me. I contemplated suicide, but never seriously considered going through with it because I knew too many families that had to deal with the suicide of a loved one - and I didn’t want my wife an kids to have to go through that. Nevertheless, if I didn’t have those relationships, I probably would never have lived this long.

Alone Feeling socially isolated is one of the many challenges of being diagnosed with a mental illness. Shutterstock

One day, while in a state of complete desperation, I consented to try an antidepressant. For years, I told people that these drugs were “crutches” and that they would deprive one of the emotional growth that can only occur by enduring suffering. Shortly after trying this, however, my whole attitude and outlook on life changed. For the first time that I could remember (except for early childhood), I could actually feel. I could derive joy from even simple things - things that didn’t require any effort - like being with my family or watching a sunset.

It was then that I stopped feeling alone emotionally. Although I have been through some adjustments in the dosage and types of medications I have used, all of them have helped me feel vastly better that I did before I tried them. I have been on the same one for almost ten years and it seems to keep me from falling into despair very often.

My concern that antidepressants would deprive me of emotional growth was, I think, largely incorrect. They don’t stop me from feeling sad, and didn’t prevent me from going through the formidable task of grieving the death of my daughter., In between these periods of sadness, I can feel joy - and emotionally connected to others - and to life.

More from Quora:

 

 

Loading...
Join the Discussion