First, let's start with a list of a few different illnesses and ailments antidepressants can be used for or to help treat:
- obsessive-compulsive disorders (OCD)
- childhood enuresis, or bedwetting
- depression and major depressive disorder
- generalized anxiety disorder
- bipolar disorder
- posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- social anxiety disorder
The problem with a lot of the information about mental health and illness out there right now is that it's largely stereotyped, generalized, or stigmatized. Especially when it comes to medication. Some people don't take medication as a general rule, whether it's a lifestyle or belief, it's just not a method they'd ever entertain. That's OK. Some people are more medication forward than others. That's OK too. And some people sit somewhere in the middle. Also, a-OK!
The sad part is that people are still getting shamed for using - or HAVING to use medication. Especially when it comes to mental illness. That is NOT OK. No one wakes up one day thinking yeah, I'd like to be on antidepressants for the foreseeable future. Just like no one wakes up begging to be depressed, anxious, bipolar, abuse substances and so on. So if you have the urge to speak negatively about a way someone ELSE has chosen to cope with their mental illness, disease, syndrome, etc... Please don't. It's not helpful or supportive in the least.
So, why is it relevant that I took my first antidepressant today?
Because I used to be someone who thought they'd never need them. I was someone who thought I was doing a pretty okay job of coping on my own and with psychotherapy (counseling). I was someone who thought antidepressants were only for people who would normally feel depressed 100% of the time. As you noticed from the list above - antidepressants are for a lot more than depression. The more I talked to other people about it, the more I realized how many people around me take them every day and genuinely have to in order to maintain at least a somewhat healthy/happy lifestyle. Typically the most effective treatment for a good portion of mental illnesses is medication PLUS psychotherapy. Because here's the thing - you aren't just going to take one pill and feel all better. It's simply a piece to the puzzle.
And it's the piece I've been missing.
I thought long and hard about introducing a new medication into my life. You hear about the challenges: they take 4-6 weeks to notice a difference, they can have horrible side effects, prescriptions cost, it can take a lot of trial and error to find the right fit... and on and on. To be honest it was the side effects that kept me away for the longest time. I already live with depression, anxiety, and insomnia... Can I really handle more or worse symptoms around the ones I already live with?
We're somewhere around week 4-6 with 24/7 anxiety and panic attacks.
So as I prepared to make my decision, I thought back. Do I want to go for another month and a half with no hope in sight? Constantly shaking, vibrating, tense, grinding my teeth, clenching my fists, being so sick in the mornings, nauseous throughout the rest of the day, not sleeping, lack of appetite... Or do I want to try something where maybe in the next 4-6 weeks my symptoms will become less constant? Where maybe after some trial and error with other antidepressants if this one doesn't work out, I won't feel hopeless or doomed with no help or support. The fact that there's even a possibility that they WILL help or that I'm on the right track gives me a teensy peace of mind - which I'll gladly take right now.
Taking medication doesn't replace my other coping strategies.
This piece is very important. Like I said earlier, a combination of treatments is better than just one or none at all, to be honest. So it doesn't mean with the swallow of one pill that I'm canceling all of my appointments and quitting self-care. It means I'm starting a journey, one piece at a time, to find what works best for ME and MY mental illness. Have I mentioned it's entirely different for everybody?? This could be the piece that helps me manage on the daily. Or it could completely not work and antidepressants may end up far out of sight for me. I guess I won't know until I try. And I'm sick of waiting until it gets worse to find help or a solution. Because truly if it gets worse, I don't know that I'd be able to search out that support.
Do you take medication for your mental illness? Share your experience in the comments and let's all agree to stop pill shaming, shall we!?
1. Antidepressants: Types, side effects, uses, and effectiveness. (2019). Medical News Today. Retrieved 14 December 2019, from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles