Antidepressants: My Story (So Far)

by Stephanie on January 29, 2013 · 5 comments

in Heavy Stuff

Several months ago I started taking antidepressants.  This was not a decision I came to easily and I still struggle with it.  The decision to make this known to the whole of the internet was not an easy one either.  But if I am struggling, perhaps sharing my experiences will help someone else in a similar position feel less alone.

Oh, and since this is a pretty serious post and I have absolutely no depression-relevant pictures (just black would work, I suppose), there will be random pictures of puppies to lighten the mood and spread some cheer.

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(I don’t know about you, but I feel better already :))

The Background: Sliding into Depression

It’s been no secret on this blog that at the beginning of 2012 my world fell apart with the ending/changing of a relationship that meant a great deal to me.  In addition to the relationship I lost some friends and my home.  Even worse was that I lost hope, a sense of self-worth, and belief in the goodness of people.  It was a hugely traumatic situation for me.

In addition, my Dad was diagnosed with cancer in June of 2012.  This added to my distress; worrying about him and not being able to be close to him (Iowa and Georgia are not neighbors).

Perhaps I could have handled either one of the situations on their own but together they overwhelmed me.  I started to see a counselor, which helped, but I was to a point where I couldn’t get out of bed.  I couldn’t function.  It was affecting my work.  Several people suggested antidepressants but I was completely against it.  I know this is silly but I remember seeing more than a few postcards on PostSecret saying some version of “I went off my antidepressants and I can feel and cry again”.  I didn’t want to be numb!  That wasn’t better!

puppy1

Turning to Medication

The turning point came slowly from talking to my sister.  She’s a PA (Physician’s Assistant) and she shared her medical knowledge.  We had several conversations about what depression does internally and how the medications work.  I won’t get into the science of it because I wouldn’t be able to do it justice, but I can honestly say that without those talks I would never have been willing to try it. (Thanks, Chrissy!).

When I did decide to try it I made an appointment with my regular doctor, who is kind of awesome.  I talked to her about what was going on, how I was feeling, and my fears about medication.  She took the time to talk me through it all and, reassuringly, the information was the same that my sister had given me.

As with anything, you have to find what works for you.  My doctor was great at that.  The first drug we tried made me anxious and I wanted nothing to do with it.  The second worked much better, and with a little finagling we found a combination and dosage that seems to do well for me.  You have to give it a chance though.  If one drug doesn’t do well, that doesn’t mean they will all be bad.

puppy2

How the Medication Makes me Feel

I was so terrified of what the medication would do to me.  You know what it does?  It helps.  More specifically, it makes my emotions manageable.  I still feel angry, sad, worried, stressed, heartbroken, etc.  I feel whatever I would normally feel.  But those emotions don’t overwhelm me.  I am able to get out of bed (most days… it’s not perfect).  I’m able to go to work and concentrate.  I am able to experience my emotions and work through them which is something I was incapable of before.  And I can still laugh, cry, scream, run half marathons, and leap tall buildings in a single bound.  I’m still ME.

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(half marathon puppy!)

Struggling with Medication Stigma

I struggle like crazy with the fact that I am taking antidepressants.  So much in fact that twice in the short time I’ve been on them, I’ve stopped taking them completely.  And both times things got much worse for me.  Both times I got snowed under emotions I couldn’t control.  I lashed out or stopped functioning.

It wasn’t pretty, but if I’ve learned anything about myself it’s that I seem to pick the hardest possible way to learn things (seriously… why do I do that??).  And these experiments showed me that the drugs are in fact helping me.  And that I am not yet in a place where I should go off of them.  That makes me feel weak.  Maybe it shouldn’t but it does.  But it takes strength to get help when you need it.  That’s what everyone tells me and it’s probably true.  I just need to keep reminding myself of that.

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Medication Isn’t Enough

I am by no means advocating for antidepressants alone.  They should not be the first or the only type of treatment.  Talking to a therapist has to come first because this can help you work through so much.  In fact, I think it would be wrong for a doctor to even give a prescription unless the patient is seeking counseling as well.

I was in such a bad place that I couldn’t get much out of therapy.  Now I feel like I am actually making progress.  This also doesn’t make you weak.  90% of the people I know have sought counseling for one thing or another in their lives.

puppy8

It Can Be Temporary

I wasn’t depressed nor did I need medication before the hell that was 2012.  I don’t have chronic depression.  So I have every reason to believe that when this traumatic time in my life has passed (both the fallout of the relationship and my Dad’s illness aren’t over just yet) and I have worked through my feelings about it, that I will be able to go off of the antidepressants and be okay.  Better than okay.  Grrrrreat!

But I have to do the work.  To make my life better.  To build healthy relationships.  To develop ways to deal with stress and emotions so they don’t overwhelm me.  It’s not easy but it is necessary.  The medication shouldn’t be a crutch.  It’s a tool to help.  And it doesn’t have to be a life sentence if you don’t want it to be.

puppy3

 

Have you had experiences with depression and/or antidepressants?  Share in the comments!

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Kristen January 29, 2013 at 6:14 PM

Firstly – that white dog running is one of my go-to “make me happy” pictures.

Secondly – while I don’t have any experience with depression or anti-depressants personally, I do within my family. I’m really glad you posted this. I find it really unfortunate that there’s such a stigma surrounding mental health and antidepressants and I think the only way to “normalize” it is to talk about it.

I’m glad things are starting to get better for you. Good luck!

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Stephanie January 31, 2013 at 10:30 PM

That white puppy is SO cute!

I agree, there is definitely a stigma around mental health and medication. Hopefully that continues to break down so people can/will get help. Thanks!

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Kim January 31, 2013 at 2:11 PM

I have a really good friend who went through similar struggles about taking medication for depression. Here is something that helped her:

If you were diabetic, would you take insulin as needed?
When you have strep throat, do you take antibiotics?

Depression is no different – the medicine will help you be you!!!

I hope things in 2013 improve for you!

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Stephanie January 31, 2013 at 10:31 PM

My mom used the same logic when talking to me! Great minds… =)

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calee February 7, 2013 at 7:46 AM

I’m really glad you posted this. Your 2012 sounds a lot like my 2009′ I feel the same way about antidepressants. I actually can’t be on them unless really really necessary because they zap all my anxiety, which is a driving force for me to get my work done. I found myself just sucking around at work and missing deadlines while on them.

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