Today is going to be a very frank chat about my personal view on antidepressants. I understand that opinions vary wildly on this subject, so I’m just going to throw my 2 cents into the mix. For many people, taking antidepressants/other medication for mental health is an extremely private affair, which I totally respect. However, if you feel comfortable talking about your own experiences, please go right ahead as I would love to hear your thoughts! This is a judgement-free zone.
Before I get into it, I just want to state that I am by no means a medical professional, and anything I write below is purely an opinion, not a professionally supported claim. Please do not take anything I say as medical advice! If you think you would benefit from an antidepressant, be sure to talk to your doctor about the right prescription for you.
Right, let’s get to it.
I’ll begin with the fact that I am a massive believer in medicine. This probably has something to do with the fact that my father is a doctor – if I had been the daughter of a naturopath or a herbalist, I would probably have a completely different view, but this is not the case. Of course, Dad doesn’t go dishing out pills left right and centre whenever we have a slight ache. I haven’t been raised to reach for a painkiller at the slightest sign of a headache, because I don’t see the point in putting a foreign ingredient into my body for a totally manageable about of pain. But when medicine is necessary, I gobble it up like a Hungry Hungry Hippo.
Let’s make a note of that word: necessary. It’s pretty important.
In early 2013, I had a laparoscopic surgery after years of crippling stomach pains. I would miss at least three days of school a month when my cycle began, and would lie on the bathroom floor crying for hours on end. The surgery revealed endometriosis, which, if you’re not familiar, is when the lining of your womb spreads and grows on your other organs, sticking them together. I had the growth cauterized (burnt off), and now take a bunch of pretty little pink pills every morning to stop it from growing back. Apart from the odd twinge, my stomach is pretty much normal now, and I can do so much more without the restrictions of that unbearable pain. Is my endometriosis medication necessary?
“Of course it is!” “You poor thing, how lucky that there’s a medication available to help!” “You would be silly not to take your pills, we wouldn’t want you that ill again!”
In November 2014, I got tonsillitis. My throat was so swollen I could barely breathe, and I cried in pain every time I swallowed. My doctor prescribed antibiotics and a throat rinsing solution. Within a couple of weeks, I was back to normal. Was my tonsillitis medication necessary?
“Absolutely, sometimes our bodies need a little help with things like that!” “Of course it was, everyone knows tonsillitis won’t go away on its own!” “For sure, antibiotics are miracle-workers!”
In July 2012 I had a cystoscopic hydrodistension, a surgery which involved my bladder being blown up like the grossest balloon there ever was. After I woke up from the surgery, I was in huge amounts of pain, and was prescribed a strong painkiller that made me fall asleep almost instantaneously. Was this pain medication necessary?
“Um, helloooo, of course it was! You were in extreme pain! What were you supposed to do!” “Obviously, I mean what other option was there?” “Of course! That’s what painkillers are for!”
In August, 2008, I experienced the worst pain of my life. But it wasn’t physical pain. It was crippling, crushing, leaden, ice-cold emotional pain. It was pain that rendered me unable to stand, eat, go to school, wash myself, speak, or see anyone. All I could do was cry and sleep. I lost so much weight that I could barely function. I was drained. This pain was called Depression. A disease more deadly than anything I had experienced previously, or have experienced since. So what did I do? I began taking antidepressants. Was my depression medication necessary?
“Just look on the bright side, it’s not that bad!” “Oh… I wouldn’t be putting that stuff into your body if I were you…” “…umm, are you sure you need to be taking those? Like, they really change you as a person…”
YES, THEY DO CHANGE YOU, THAT IS THE ENTIRE POINT. Do you think I WANT to stay a depressed, crying, unmotivated ball of panic for my whole life?! Newsflash: I don’t. I have had it up to here (you can’t see but my hand is touching the moon. My extendable telescopic arms come in handy for demonstration such as this) with people who have NO idea how it feels to be mentally ill, preaching about why you should avoid antidepressants at all costs. Imagine if the response to my endometriosis medication was “um, no offence, but you really shouldn’t be taking that. It makes you someone you’re not”. YEAH, I KNOW, it makes me a functioning, pain-free human being, instead of a useless, wobbling, crying heap of pain on the bathroom floor, getting in the way of people trying to use the toilet. Imagine if any time you reached for a painkiller, someone tutted and said “errr… have you tried just like, thinking positive? Maybe your migraine will go away if you’re a little less pessimistic”. WELL HALLELUJAH, I never thought of that! Thanks so much for shoving your comprehensive medical knowledge down my throat!
I’m sorry to rant and rave. I know I am getting carried away. But my point is, antidepressants are a legitimate form of treatment for a legitimate illness. Depression is classified as a “mental illness”, but those of us who have experienced it know that it is far from being all in your head. Depression has caused some of the worst physical symptoms of my life – the feeling of suffocation, the cold, hard lump that sits in my chest, the sensation that my veins are full of lead instead of blood, the racing heart that tells me I am about to cry for absolutely no reason. These symptoms are no different to someone with asthma, or someone with chronic fatigue, or someone with an arrhythmia. Yet somehow, when it’s a mental illness, you’re supposed to just tough it out unassisted. It’s ridiculous.
Now, I am by no means saying that you HAVE TO or SHOULD take antidepressants/anti-anxiety medication/anything else in order to get better. Everyone is different, and everyone responds to different treatments in different ways. For some people, exercise is the key. For some, cognitive behavioural therapy works best. For me, it’s a combination of all three. All I am saying is, if you feel you would benefit from some medical intervention, go for it. I, for one, will be cheering you on from my computer screen, because ANY decision you make is a step towards feeling better and you are an absolute champion for having the courage to do so. It is not easy to admit to yourself that you need help, and this ridiculous stigma surrounding mental health makes it so much harder. Just do what feels right for you! Of course, there are side effects, and yes, some people don’t like the idea of becoming “a zombie” or “a robot”. But this doesn’t happen to everyone, and every antidepressant works differently. If one type makes you feel numb and robotic, it doesn’t mean they all will.
For me, antidepressants are a vital part of my life. I have regular appointments with a therapist where we work on cognitive strategies to deal with my emotions, but the medication puts me at a level where those strategies are far more likely to effectively sink in. I have been on six different antidepressants over the last eight years, and have only just found one that feels right for me. I started taking Citalopram (a.k.a Celexa) a couple of weeks ago, and I can’t put into words the relief that comes with finally finding something that “clicks” with me. For anyone out there who is struggling to find the right approach to their mental health struggles: please, please know that it can and it will get better. I have lost hope so many times over the past eight years, and told myself that I will never find a way to feel better. For the first time in almost a decade, I feel like I’m actually getting somewhere, and I want you to know that it will happen for you, too. It might take a bloody long time, but you will get there. I promise.
If you would like me to write another post about the various antidepressants I have tried over the years, please let me know in the comments! I have experienced a vast array of side effects which I would be happy to discuss if you have any questions! Feel free to add your view in here – it’s ok if it’s wildly different from mine, I totally respect your opinions! I would love to hear anything you have to say on the matter.
Thank you for putting up with my ranting today, and just remember that you are NOT a weakling or a cop-out if you get help for how you feel. You are brave and strong and I am here for you if you need to talk.
All my love and thanks for reading,