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My Depression Story: How Abilify Changed My Life

Let me just start like this and get it out of the way – This post about how Abilify changed my life is all my opinion and is in no way sponsored. I was not asked to write this nor was I compensated in any way. I am not a doctor, just a person who has suffered with Depression for many years (maybe my whole life) and I have chosen to take medication to help me. This is my story, all mine, and is not intended to tell anyone else how to or how not to live their own lives. Period. Phew…

As I was getting ready for bed last night, I reached up to my bedpost to grab my medicine bottle for my one nightly medicine. I was almost out so I reminded myself out loud that I needed to call in a refill. Believe me, I will not forget to call in this refill. This nighttime medicine is Abilify and Abilify changed my life. This medicine is my #2 most important medicine that I take (the other being Effexor XR and boy do I never want to run out of that, either!) and I am not prepared to live without it yet.

I’ve told my Depression story many times on this blog, but I’ll give you a quick reminder. Oh, and I totally started this post many, many months ago, got sidetracked, and I’m finally getting around to it again. You may have wondered what this graphic is talking about – “music return”…

My Depression Story: How I made the smiles, laughter, and music return


I have been depressed for about as long as I can remember.

I’m pretty sure that when I was growing up, I was depressed on some level. I think back then it was purely a hormonal imbalance or a chemical imbalance or whatever causes depression in young children when they really have nothing to be depressed about. I had a good childhood. Sure, there were bumps and all, but overall, my perception of my childhood was great (at the time, at least). I still feel like my parents were doing the best they could and I love them so much for the childhood I had. I honestly don’t think I would change a thing. So…yeah…chemical imbalance.

As a teen, I was probably more shy and reserved than most teens until my parents divorced and my dad loosened the reigns just a little. I was working my tail off at two jobs over the summer and I was a responsible teen so my dad just figured that he could lighten up on me. Or maybe, he was distraught from the divorce and felt some guilt over who knows what and maybe he just felt like he owed me. For whatever reason, I was more free than I had ever been and I wasn’t as afraid of getting into trouble by my parents so I let loose a LOT. Having been depressed for most of my life and now having a situational reason for more depression, I didn’t think too highly of myself (and my body) and things just went awry. Let’s just leave it at that, except to say that if I ever allowed myself to regret things in life, these would be the things. But, I don’t believe in regret, only learning lessons from our mistakes, so let’s just move on.

In college, the depression just continued to get worse. I was stuck back in my shell because I was in a large city (Austin, TX) yet I had tasted the free life so I was trying to continue that. I made a lot of mistakes back then. I just kept messing up until the worst possible thing (in my mind) happened. I failed out of college. I was working full time and supporting myself and I just didn’t want to go to class. I never really learned how to study because I didn’t need to study in high school.

When I finally settled into my first “real” or “grown-up” job, it was at a psychiatry office in medical records. I love how I can look back at this and see how God stepped in and said “ENOUGH” and then started to guide my life. Of course, at the time I was just trying to survive and I had made even more mistakes in choices of boyfriends, dumping one who I thought was going to be “the one” for another who was already married, moving in with him, quitting my job of four years, and floating along until that one shoved me one day and I thought I had hit the end of the road.

This time in my life was probably my darkest time.

I was in a new job (at the psychiatry office) but I didn’t really know anybody yet. My dad had to move me from my apartment in the middle of the night. I slept on a couch in my old roommate’s ex-boyfriend’s apartment with a tank that had a large snake in it. I moved from that couch to another couch in my old roommate’s apartment and then into a spare bedroom of one of my psychiatry office coworker’s homes. I was still communicating with my shover boyfriend for some reason and one night he just got to me. That night I tried to overdose. I took a bottle of Excedrin and was scavenging my coworker’s cabinets when she came home and called the ambulance. I stayed in the ER for a few hours where they gave me charcoal and wouldn’t let me go to the bathroom (one and only time I used a bedpan). Then, they released me in the middle of the night, to nobody. I had to call around and the old roommate’s ex-boyfriend came to get me and took me back to my coworker’s home and my new room.

Wow…I’ve never really written all of that down so I hope it makes sense. I’ve told a few people about it, but I don’t know if anyone really knows all the bits and pieces in full. Well, I guess now everybody does.

Anyway…after my coworkers heard about my night, they were worried and they sent me to a therapist.

This was the best thing that ever happened to me.

During my first session, I poured my heart out to her and she told me about me. Did you catch that? She told ME about ME. She nailed it, too! She knew what I had been through and knew where I had been. She knew where I needed to go next. She talked to me about the ditch that I had dug for myself in the circle of my life. Picture walking in a circle over and over for 22 years. After that long, you would be in a pretty deep ditch. Getting out of that ditch and walking on level ground can be difficult. She told me that through therapy, we would fill in that ditch one positive thought at a time. However, if I tried to start walking on level ground right away, I would just continue to fall back into the ditch. She suggested medication to temporarily cover that hole while we filled it in.

The second best thing that ever happened to me.

It took just a little while before I was able to find that Effexor XR is a great anti-depressant for me. It brought me back to life and I gained confidence. I continued in therapy and even got off medication for a little while. Situations in my life have lead me back to Effexor, but I do know that if I was back in therapy (I’ve been out for a few years now) that I could get back off the medication.

So, how has Abilify changed my life?

I always thought that taking an anti-depressant and going to therapy would just keep me in my non-depression mode, but I was wrong. After heading back to college, and graduating this time (yay!), I headed into Graduate school. I made it a little over a year and then situations hit me hard again.

I turned 30, I met my husband, I became pregnant, my mom died, I planned a wedding in 3 months, I married my husband, I had a baby, and I turned 31 – fun year, right? While it was a blessing and I can NOW see where God was leading me, in the midst of it, I was lost. I was walking my circle again and I had a false thought that my Effexor was going to keep me from making a ditch. Well, it didn’t. I walked that circle for 5+ years and found myself in a ditch.

I was not happy in my marriage. I was not happy being a mom. I was not happy with my job, my blog, my life… I wouldn’t let Howard and Benjamin talk, much less listen to music, in the car, and we spend a lot of time in the car together. I was overwhelmed with thoughts of running away, with or without my family, and even had thoughts of running my car off the road, with or without my family. Luckily, Howard is understanding when it comes to depression. Even though he hasn’t experienced it in the way I had, he knew that I needed to ask the doctor for some help. So, I did. He gave me Abilify to supplement my Effexor.

Here’s how Abilify changed my life!

Within one week, I was feeling better. I was starting to smile more and laugh a little more. I was joking around with Howard and Benjamin, and then the unthinkable happened… I turned on the radio in the car! Both of them looked at me like I was crazy when I turned it on, but they just went with it. We were on an hour long drive to Tyler when I started dancing to the music and laughing with them. Life was about to be back to normal for the first time in over 5 years. Howard just looked at me and said “no matter how much that Abilify costs or what we have to do to get it, we’re getting it for you for as long as you need it…I have my wife back!”. He even actually thanked the doctor the next time he saw him in the office. Weirdo!

I’ve been on Abilify for I guess almost a year now…and things are looking good. Of course, I still have my “blue” days, but they are truly just “blue” and not that dark grey or black like they used to be. I can enjoy my family, my son, my husband, my job, my blog, my life… Life is Good and I love this journey that God has me on right now. I think I’ll keep taking my Abilify a little longer and enjoy the view.

How do you feel about medication for depression?

Now that I’ve asked that, I will put a disclaimer that I reserve the right not to publish comments that are mean-spirited or inappropriate. I have just poured out my heart here, so just be nice. I do respect all opinions and as I stated at the very beginning, this is my story and it’s true for me.


  1. Jenna says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. I am 28 years old, and have been on and off Effexor XR for almost 10 years. I also have a lifetime of experience with depression. I have a history of challenging having to take medications, and have tried weening off numerous times. The longest I lasted off was about 10 months. I went back on medications after going to rehab for drug addiction. I finally grew up enough to admit and accept that I will probably need medications for the rest of my life.
    Now that I’ve been on Effexor XR for a steady 4 years, I feel like I’m at the crossroads. I’m on 225 MG, and was last adjusted from 150mg two years ago. At one point, when I was a teen, I was taking close to 500 mg, and I don’t want that again. My symptoms have worsened to the point where coping skills aren’t working. So, I’m going to see my psychiatrist about what can be done. I get a lot of anxiety thinking about going in, because I never know what I’m going to be given and what might happen. I know what I’m capable of when I have a break, and any new medication or adjustment can trigger that. But I need to do something. I’m going to ask about Abilify. I’ve been doing a lot of research, and the stories and articles have helped a lot. Despite the severity of my original symptoms, I have tried my best to maintain NOT taking a lot of medications. I hate feeling weak for being on meds. But hearing others speak up about what’s going on in their heads is truly appreciated. So, wish me luck! And thank you for sharing Janet.

    • janet says:

      Jenna, thank you for visiting my blog and for reading my story…and sharing your own! Definitely ask about Abilify! It has done wonders for me. In fact, as of today I am completely off Effexor XR (it took a long time) and am on a low dose of Brintellix, plus my Abilify. The side effects were non-existent for me and the benefits are amazing! Good luck and keep me updated on what your doctor decides for you. I’m here if you need to talk about anything!

      • Jenna says:

        So, my appointment went better than expected. I seamed to have forgotten how at ease my doctor makes me feel (which is a sign of a good match between doctor/patient, I encourage all to seek this). I live in Minnesota, where it is very common to develop Seasonal Affective Disorder, and it looks as though this is what is happening with me. She gave me a lot of great information on what may be going on in my head, and it was great to hear her feedback and especially good to feel validated (no one likes to feel ‘crazy’ AND misunderstood). Anwho. We decided on adding Lamictal, and I was provided a prescription for a SAD light. My doctor brought up what a lot of others have said about Effexor and other anti-depressants, and that is they do have the potential of ‘wearing off’. Even after years of success, certain meds for certain people begin to loose effectiveness. She agreed that changing anti-depressants wouldn’t be effective. Effexor has worked well for me, and changing to a new one would most likely garner the same results plus months worth of adjustments. I’m two days in, and so I can’t give much for results on the new medication. But I’m remaining hopeful. Which is a lot more than I was feeling before. Thank you again, Janet. It feels good to have a place to comment and be understood.

  2. Henry says:

    Hi Janet,

    Yesterday, my pdoc added Abilify to Effexor XR (300mg), Lamictal (currently on 75mg) and mirtazapine (45mg). We starts with 2.5mg and in a week, I’ll increase it to 5mg.
    It’s important to mention that I’m taking Effexor and mirtazapine for 7 years already and these worked great for me for the past 6.5 years. 2 months ago, my depression and anxiety came back again and after adding Lamictal and noticed no results, I was asked to add Abilify.

    I truly hope to get my life back as it’s so hard for me, especially after these last 6.5 great years.

  3. Amanda says:

    Can abilify work by itself. I took it this morning and I wad so sleepy with it

    • janet says:

      I think it can work by itself, but you would need to talk to your doctor about it. Do NOT attempt to get off Effexor on your own. It is not fun and can be dangerous. Plus, I actually take my Ability at night because it can cause drowsiness.

  4. Amanda says:

    I recently had a breakdown and have been off work. I have been taking Effexor dr for 10 years with no problem. Now the doc wants me to add 2 miligrams of abilify but the reviews scared me about the weight gain and dystopia or something like that and muscle tremors. Could it be my Effexor has been venaflacine made by pharma Aurubindo and had weakened the medicine, I don’t know what to do anymore. I get to my job and obsess I will have a panic attack and lose my job.

    • janet says:

      Amanda, I think that Effexor just runs its course after a while. I was on it for 10+ years and it finally stopped working for me. I’m no longer on it. BUT, I swear by the Abilify. I didn’t notice any side effects and have continued to lose weight (I’m trying to lose weight). I think you should talk to your doctor about your concerns and if he still wants you to be on Abilify, I think it’s worth the try! I wish you all the best!

  5. Karen says:

    Abilify has saved my life. I take 40mg Prozac and 300 mg wellbutrin. That combination half-way worked. My doctor added 5 mg Abilify and I came to life. Have been on it now for about 6 weeks. Sometimes I feel sensations in my stomach similar to those on a roller coaster. No pain. Also have been having scary dreams lately. I do not want to stop taking the medication because it is the only thing that has REALLY helped my depression. Are these side effects likely to go away – or maybe get worse?

    • janet says:

      Karen, I haven’t heard of those side effects, but it affects everyone differently. It might be worth talking to your doctor about it, but you also have to weigh the rewards as well. Since you’ve been on it for 6 weeks now, I would say just mention it to your doctor. Since I wrote this, I have gone up to 10mg and never really saw any side effects!

  6. KJ says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. I honestly do not even know how I ended up here at your blog, but I read a lot of your post and could see myself. I beeive I have been suffering from depression since my childhood as well. I have a mother that has been diagnosed with Organic personality disorder and manic depressions. I also have a sister who suffered a neervous breakdown and tried to commit suicide 6 years ago and another sister who also suffers from depression. I think my issue is that I do not want to face the fact that depression may be affecting me. I call it a hormonal imbalance, PMS, mood swing. Anything but what may be the truth, depression. I have never been diagnosed in fact, I’ve never even talked to my doctor about it. It’s really starting to affect my social life. I don’t want to go anywhere, I barely answer the door let alone the phone. I just don’t know where to go or how to get help at this point. It’s really sad because the older I get, the less control I feel that I have over it. I’m usually just really solemn and sometimes sad even, but for the most part I like to live as a hermit. Sad, I know.

  7. Tammy says:

    Thank you fir sharing!!!! Glad that you made it through with help of medications. I have had similar exoeruences and have lows and highs. Wrrevyou diagnosed with bo. May I ask what dosages you arevon. I think my Effexor needs increased. Thank you for sharing your lufe’s story to hekp othets. Tammy

    • janet says:

      Hi Tammy, I have not been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, but rather Major Depression and Anxiety. I was on 300 mg of Effexor and 5 mg of Abilify. I just recently got off Effexor and now I’m on 60 mg of Fetzima and 10 mg of Abilify. I’m working my way through some new issues and I’ll be posting tomorrow about them. I’ll let you know when that post is live so you can read my current story. Thanks for stopping by and Good Luck with your medication changes!

      • Tammy says:

        Thank you for your reply! I found your blog yesterday on my smartphone. The first response had no typos, but the 2nd had typos. It sent it three times I think. I appreciate you sharing the dosages after getting through the typos. Kind regards, Tammy

  8. Tammy says:

    Thank for your story!!! I am so glad you received help. I think you had some normali life stuff too, but definitely sounds like depressed states and manic states. Were you diagnosed with bp? I am older and similar situation. Was windering what your doses are as I see my psych doc tomorrow.? Inspiring life share! Thank you!!!!

  9. Hi. Thank you for sharing this. I suffer from the some of thesame things you went through. The music part really got to me…I love music, but it all makes me too sad to listen to.
    I just started Abilify in addition to the 60 mg of Prozac daily. I don’t know what to say yet …it makes me tired, but most meds do until I adjust, but I feel a little less bleak and a little less like staying in bed, in the same pajamas day after day. I am at a very low dose, 2 mg, but doc says we can adjust. Your story has truly given me a ray of sunshine. Here’s to hoping I can bring the music back soon as well.

  10. Kristi says:

    Hi! This is my very first time EVER to post anything…so be patient with me if I say something stupid or hit enter before I mean to!

    I just started taking Abilify yesterday at a very low dose…2 mg for a couple weeks and up to 5 after that. I’ve taken many different meds over the years but it wasn’t until a couple years ago that I actually accepted the fact that I have a problem with depression and social anxiety and agoraphobia. Hard to deny that after awhile!

    Anyway, I take 15 mg of Lexapro and 300 of Welbutrin and I still could care less if I get out of bed, shower or even get dressed. Going anywhere? Not even an option…which my job takes issue with. My pdoc has added Abilify and from what I’ve heard this might be the solution to getting rid of the little black squiggly Charlie Brown cloud over my head. That reference probably just have away my age, I’m 42!

    Long story long, I’m desperate to have a life again. I was very social until my mid-20’s and by 40 I was the hermit that I am now. I’ve heard good and bad stories about Abilify but it gives me hope to see your stories of success. Hopefully this will be the little kick in the butt that I need to get out of the house and living life again!

    Thank you for sharing, all of you!!! I needed to hear good things today!

    • janet says:

      Kristi, I am so glad that you found this post and more importantly, that you found Abilify! I hope and pray that it works for you because we all deserve to enjoy life while we are here! Please keep me updated by either emailing me (janet(at)goingcrazywannago(dot)com) or just by commenting here so others can see how it’s working for you…even if it doesn’t, I still want you to know that I’m supportive of you feeling better. Take care!

  11. I suffer from anxiety and depression, as well, and Effexor is the only thing that works! And no, I don’t run out of it, either! (And any pharmacists that has every tried to tell me that I can’t get it when I need it quickly sees that oh-heck-yes, they’re going to get it for me and fast!!! Lol!) My anxiety/depression are just chemical based and it runs in the family; no amount of therapy will ever get me off of medication because most of the time there isn’t anything “wrong” in the traditional sense of the word. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t situational things that get me down, but the Effexor helps keep the highs and lows moderated (and keeps me from falling into that ditch you mentioned). (Side note, I think that’s what people who don’t have issues or take medication don’t understand–there are a whole lot of us that KNOW that medication can’t “fix” us…it just helps even things out! And there are those of us that absolutely cannot meditate, talk out, or self-medicate our “issues” away because it’s just the way we’re wired!) Anywho…thanks for spilling your heart on this! I’m so glad you’ve found something that works. It took me a whole bunch of medications in a variety of doses, nights of hallucinations from Lexapro, weight gain and more depression from other medications…just to find the Effexor XR. And it makes a world of difference! And I’m glad the Abilify works for you, too. :) Hang in there and steer clear of ditches…
    DesignedByBH recently posted..Google+ It Up! Come Link Up & Grow Your Circles!My Profile

  12. Shell says:

    I’m so happy you found something that works. I think that some people need meds- whether it’s depression or something like ADHD- they need them. Their lives are better because of them and so are the lives of those around them.
    Shell recently posted..Worrying When He’s Just Like Me: Pour Your Heart OutMy Profile

  13. I am so happy that you can out of your depression, and I am glad you found medication that suits you so well.
    I was going towards depression when I started with a little yoga and meditation and it helped me. Feel like a new person now :)

    Stay healthy :)
    Payal Bansal recently posted..(Nocturnal Urinary Incontinence) Bedwetting Remedies and SolutionsMy Profile

  14. Shannon says:

    I am so happy that you found medication that helps you. I have tried Abilify but for me it did not work Effexor is something I make sure I never run out of. I love it. Without it I am not the same and I cannot function at all. I hate having to try all of the different combinations of pills until something works and having faith that it will finally work. I also take good old Lithium for my bipolar and I have Ativan for just in case anxiety. I would like to thank you for sharing your story with us.
    A joke for you. Here is something that is weird that this is my husband’s fave memory of me. One year we went to the Baltimore (MD) aquarium. I am a vegetarian and I love almost all animals. I have seen pictures of Puffins but never had I see one close up. I think they are so cute and even though I am a vegetarian I like all cooking shows, even No Reservations and Bizarre Foods. Weird. In any case, on one show they ate one and it made me sad that they could eat these birds. So we went in, looked around and one display was a puffin tank. Most of the birds that were in there we just laid back. But there was one that was flying around the display and skidding across the water. I looked around and no one was laughing at it and even though I tried not to laugh I did. It was just so cute and goofy. He says this is his fave memory of me because even though I hardly talk to anyone, even though I am afraid of others, I made a whole group of people relax and enjoy themselves. I highly recommend this aquarium if you are ever in the area. The VA Beach one, not so much though 😛

    • janet says:

      Effexor is definitely my first wonder drug choice. I don’t go a day without it!
      I love your story. So cute!

  15. Mari says:

    I do not feel I’m qualified to really have much of an opinion on this. But, I have one anyway :-) Since you asked…
    I think SO MANY people run to drugs to fix all of their problems. They feel sad one moment so they need to be medicated. My husband’s mother is on so much medication, we honestly have no idea how she’s still alive (and it’s not for depression…as far as we know. Some of it probably is. She thinks that if the sun doesn’t shine for the day, she needs to be medicated. Or if the sun IS shining she needs to be medicated. She finds any and every excuse. And there are doctors out there that love to prescribe. That’s the kind of stuff I’m talking about.)
    My mom has bouts of minor depression (and they are completely circumstantial), and she has always said “Depression is a sin.” I finally let her have it one day 5 years ago when I told her that God gave us emotions. Being depressed is NOT A SIN any more than feeling happy is a sin. It’s what you do with it that can be a sin.
    All medication also has side affects that you have to be careful and aware of.
    That being said, I can’t tell one person what is right or wrong for them. I know that some people truly do need medication for this condition. My whole point is that depression is over diagnosed and the medication way over-prescribed. I just am not qualified to judge which people truly need the medication. And, I don’t even try.

    So – I hope you don’t mind my mixing a message in with answering your question about a specific topic. My husband lost his job 12 days ago :-) It was very heartbreaking, but the Lord is slowly healing our broken hearts. For the most part, we’re doing alright. I did go to bed crying last night, but “joy comes in the morning”. We just loved his work family to death which is the only part of this that is sad.
    He is currently looking for new employment. I don’t know how much he’s actually looking in Texas. I know he mentioned to someone earlier today about Dallas (as I’ve mentioned before, we’re specifically looking more toward Tyler), but that’s the first I’ve heard Texas mentioned in the last 2 weeks. So, we may not be going there after all. Or, we may be. Who knows? What we do know is that the Lord knows, and we completely trust Him for a new job to come along in the right time in the right place.
    And, I’ve been wondering for 4 days…where’s Fatty Friday?

    • janet says:

      I’m praying for y’all to find the right answer, Mari. And…we didn’t have the money to go weigh in this week so no update. I might not have one this coming week either because I have to go out of town for work. I might have a chance to get over there earlier in the week. We’ll see…

  16. robyn donnelly says:

    I saw the tag effexor as a depression med. I took it for two years and I agree I needed it because I had road rage in the worst way. If someone just hung out in my blind spot for more than a few seconds I was ready to help them move off the road. I came off the drug on my own after two years because I didn’t feeling like a zombie.

    • janet says:

      I know that Effexor affects different people in different ways. I’ve never experienced the zombie feeling from it. I wouldn’t like that either.

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