Red and blue medication capsule

I remem­ber the night I knew some­thing had to change. 

I was lying in bed, not sleep­ing, angry at the hand I had been dealt, when I sud­den­ly thought, “pass­port.” I knew exact­ly where it was. I men­tal­ly packed a bag, tried to remem­ber how much cash an ATM will allow you to with­draw at once. Alli would take me in, no mat­ter what time of night I arrived. She’d pour me a bour­bon and tuck me into the guest bed. And Alli lived 15 min­utes from the Cincinnati air­port. From Cincinnati, I could fly… any­where. I would stay with Alli for a few days while I decid­ed on my final destination.

Hiraeth is a beau­ti­ful Welsh term mean­ing a yearn­ing for a home you might nev­er have real­ized you were miss­ing. A com­bi­na­tion of hir, mean­ing long, and aeth, mean­ing grief, hiraeth’s lit­er­al trans­la­tion refers to a home­sick­ness for a place that might not even exist, a long­ing to be where your soul resides.

I had hiraeth in spades. I want­ed to be some­where – maybe any­where – oth­er than where I was. I imag­ined myself in a cab­in some­where in the Smoky Mountains, star­ing at trees, drink­ing cap­puc­ci­nos, writ­ing. Renting a trul­li in Tuscany, those cone-shaped, white-tipped hous­es that look as if they’ve been per­pet­u­al­ly dust­ed by snow. I would eat olives and drink wine. Maybe the French coast­line, buy­ing fresh bread every day and wear­ing long fisherman’s sweaters to ward off the chill. 

I had been fight­ing for so long. The fight part of my stress response was deplet­ed, had switched to flight. The list of places I longed to escape to was end­less. Anywhere alone. Anywhere but here. I had nev­er want­ed out of my own life more.

That’s when I start­ed tak­ing Prozac. 

Let me explain why this is such a big deal. I have spent the last twen­ty years wit­ness­ing the ups and downs of men­tal health phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals as my hus­band and daugh­ter have attempt­ed to bal­ance their neu­ro­bi­ol­o­gy. Going on and taper­ing off mood sta­bi­liz­ers is our normal. 

Paxil, Clonidine, Lamictal, Hydroxyzine, Depakote, Zoloft, Ritalin, Risperidone, Abilify, Clomipramine, Propanolol. If it’s FDA approved, we’ve prob­a­bly tried it in this house. 

The peo­ple I love most have bril­liant brains that are both genet­i­cal­ly pre­dis­posed to suf­fer­ing and extreme­ly hard to med­icate. The sort of brains that stump pre­scrib­ing psy­chi­a­trists because the meds rarely do what is promised and often cause sur­pris­ing side effects that leave those docs scratch­ing their heads about what to do next. I can recall the dosages and side effects of every last attempt. That one made him sui­ci­dal. That one gave her scream­ing night­mares. That one left him jit­tery. That one left her a zombie. 

So, for me, start­ing an anti­de­pres­sant was… com­pli­cat­ed. It’s yet to go well for any­one I love, so why would I assume it would work for me? David didn’t want me to do it. My mom didn’t want me to do it. One friend sug­gest­ed it would kill my sex dri­ve. Another warned I would gain weight. Yet anoth­er pre­dict­ed it might dull my cre­ativ­i­ty and I wouldn’t be able to write. 

All I know is that I want­ed to live the life I have, not con­stant­ly yearn to run from it. Which is how I came to swal­low­ing 20 mg. SSRI every morning. 

Prozac has swept me off my feet and the hon­ey­moon stage is glo­ri­ous. My doc said it would take two weeks before I noticed any­thing at such a low dose, but I felt it the first day, a but­ter­flies-in-my-bel­ly sort of feel­ing as the sero­tonin recep­tors in my gut woke up from their dor­man­cy. On day three I noticed I was smil­ing for no rea­son at all but sim­ply because I felt good. A month lat­er and it’s as if the col­or has been brought back to my world. I’m less hope­less. More opti­mistic. More like Erin.

I’m no longer day­dream­ing of escap­ing my life. The hiraeth I was feel­ing was real­ly just a home­sick­ness for the true me.

  • Erin Skinner Smith

    Erin Skinner Smith wants every­one to slow down, eat real food, move their bod­ies, go out­side, and hit the pil­low a lit­tle ear­li­er for a more pur­pose­ful exis­tence. She is a pub­lished writer, yoga teacher, and mind­ful­ness coach. When she’s not stand­ing on her head or typ­ing on her trusty lap­top, you’ll find her read­ing, play­ing gui­tar, enjoy­ing a glass of bour­bon, or snug­gling on the couch with her peo­ple and pets. Send her a dig­i­tal high five at erintheomplace.net.