Monday, March 8, 2010

Depression: to drug or not to drug

Over the past few months I've come across at least a half-dozen posts about depression. Some of these writers have expressed hesitation to use antidepressants. Reasons vary; people are wary of side effects, or of the social stigma, or they feel that it's more authentic to deal with life without those drugs. I respect these considerations. But after writing a lot of comments on other people's posts, I thought I would tell my own story here.

I was diagnosed as clinically depressed about a dozen years ago. For months I had been fatigued, forgetful, weepy, irritable, and unable to concentrate. Making the simplest conversation took a huge amount of effort...I felt like I was standing in a trench several feet below ground level and had to haul myself up to make eye contact before falling back down in a heap.

I was putting all my effort into doing my job, which of course suffered from my lack of focus. I had nothing left by the time I got home, which created more problems. I fixated on every big or little thing that went wrong in my life, failing to realize that most were things I should be able to take in stride. Finally a friend, herself a therapist, spelled out the obvious. I had Seasonal Affect Disorder, a chemical imbalance not uncommon in places like Minnesota, where daylight is in short supply in the winter. I realized I'd been getting sad and irritable every year from November until April; this time it was simply worse than usual.

I never hesitated to take antidepressants. Fortunately, they worked. I was lucky that I didn't have the dangerous side effects some people have suffered. TMI warning: Some antidepressants also suppress libido, but you know what REALLY suppresses libido? Sobbing and griping and hiding under the bedcovers and being so dazed that you drive past your own house. Yes, please, I'll take the drugs. I did swallow hard at the prospect of seeing a therapist in order to get the prescription, but I soon got past that. After a half-dozen superficial sessions (or maybe I really am remarkably well adjusted other than the SAD), I just have to check in every year or so to have the prescription renewed.

I used to hear people say they worried that an antidepressant would deprive them of experiencing normal feelings. But I still feel appropriately sad when sad things happen, and elated by happy things. The way I see it, my meds have simply straightened out a chemical imbalance and allowed me to be the person I am meant to be.

20 comments:

IndigoWrath said...

Hey Blissed-Out. This is a smart post, and one I hope a lot of people will take to heart. I wish I'd read it (and been reminded) a few months ago. Indigo

Chantel said...

Bliss...coming to the point of acceptance--full acceptance--of ourselves must be the beginning of joy. The beautiful, the ugly...the hairy, scary, and the complicated. How blessed we are to live in a world with help...but the greatest hurdle is reaching out. I love your honesty, thank you for sharing this.

DJan said...

I think there used to be more stigma attached to taking antidepressants. I'm glad you are now able to be in "bliss" all year round. Your story will, I am sure, encourage others to feel it's all right to get the help they need.

UberGrumpy said...

Interesting! I'm lucky to have never had the need but you obviously took a smart and pragmatic approach.

JenJen said...

Hi hon
Yes. I'm with you. Been taking something for anxiety since my daughter was born 8 yrs ago. I like to describe the help as being a reduction in a physical response (sickness, forgetful ness, etc) to an emotional trigger. For me.

Moogie said...

Hey girl... Been there and done that. In fact I'm still doing that. Give me the drugs!!!

Fragrant Liar said...

You hit it right on. The meds SHOULD just level you out, get those synapses making the connections they need to, and allow you to focus on living life to the fullest. Regular therapy and counseling are always, always, always good to have in conjunction with the meds.

You're lucky you just have to "check in" to get the rx renewed. A lot of people can't be on their own with meds because they just have too many issues to work through, and meds alone can't do it all.

I have my own experience with anxiety and clinical depression, stemming from a childhood experience and more so from an abusive husband. Getting the right meds and therapy for those issues were the best things I ever did for myself.

Sometimes you just have to say "I come first," go see the therapist, and get the appropriate drugs (yes, you might at first feel like a guinea pig) that get you on the road to recovery.

Thanks for posting this! So many people suffer needlessly because of social stigmas and a variety of fears.

Captain Dumbass said...

Glad to hear they worked for you. My mom went through quite a few different ones and different dosages until she found something that worked for her. That wasn't pretty.

@eloh said...

I tried mind medication once and it was a nightmare for three years of wasted life.

Now, with the advances in medicine war brings to my problem... there is a new one... I've been on it a month now... it seems to be doing what it was designed for. I still know what I know but with less despair.

Nanette Stearns said...

There have been times I WISH my therapist and doctor would have said I needed medication (to take the edge off if nothing else). Sigh - unfortunately no. And I guess deep down I know they are right. Just like treating other chronic conditions and imbalances, I know there is a time and place for anti-depressants and I'm glad they are available if needed.

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

I appreciate and admire your honesty and thoughtfulness in this post. We have some family background in these issues and so have thought and read a lot.

Also wanted to thank you for your equally thoughtful comment on my Ninth Ward NOLA post. Your comment was right-on.

CatLadyLarew said...

Antidepressants are drugs I can live with. Without them, I have a hard time living.

Allyson said...

I would have to agree with you...that our society (for some reason) tends to frown upon antidepressants. And as the daughter of a psychologist (y'know, the one who CAN'T write a prescription) she always wanted me to talk about it over anything else. But there is a definite thing called a "chemical imbalance" and if just levels you out a bit then I think that is an advance in medical science that you should take advantage of, if need be. And when you can't move to the Keys, then you're entitled to a whole lotta SAD during the Minnesota winter. Gah!

Colleen said...

Bravo for this post!! I will stand beside you and say I took my little pill for a spell several years ago (divorce is depressing!) It takes a strong person to say "yes" to help, not a weak one and it's a shame that some feel that way =(

Far Side of Fifty said...

Minnesota is really bad for the Seasonal effective Disorder..I try to get out everyday that the sunshines to stave off weepy jags.
My Husband does take an antidepressant..it helps his lows and highs equal out..he just sees his GP..and has his blood tests once in awhile.
If they help, I say take them..life is tough enough without being severely depressed:)

Writing Without Periods! said...

What a brave post. I think people are so afraid of meds and they do so much good. Some people need a little help and it's all chemical. Congrats.
mary

Midlife Jobhunter said...

How brave of you to write your story and take on your life and deal with the depression. You may find you have helped many by writing this.

I, too, can become become weary when the sun disappears. This year has been very dreary. However, sometimes I like when the sun goes away for a day or so - for then I don't feel I have to smile all the time.

gayle said...

It is a smart person who takes meds when they need to!! Great post!!

Matthew said...

I'm with you on this. The stigma attached to anti-depressants is so outdated. It's just an imbalance and should be treated the same way you'd address any other imbalance.

BPOTW said...

Thanks for sharing your story.

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