Below you will find four common myths about taking anti-depressant medication. There are many more than what I have listed, but these are the reasons that kept me from taking the drugs in the beginning. I wish someone would have told me these things years ago. I might not have been so hesitant to take them. Anti-depressants are not as bad as you think.
Typically, after the first major depressive episode, doctors suggest taking anti-depressants treatments for 9-12 months. After a year, 90 percent of patients fully recover and don’t need meds ever again. If the patient has a relapse, however, it is recommended to take the drugs for another year. After the second try, 50 percent more people enjoy full recovery. So, out of all the people who seek treatment for their depression, only 5 percent have to continue to use the anti-depressant drugs through an extended period of time for health maintenance. For 95 percent of the treatment seeking population, anti-depressants are not meant to be taken for life.
In order to bust this myth, I have to talk about balanced treatment. Depression treatment is most effective if viewed as a tripod. The first leg of the tripod is medication. The second is counseling. And the third is self-help methods. While taking an anti-depressant, patients continue to go to therapy and continue to learn how to deal with the depression in a healthy way.
When it is time to taper off the medication, if the person has effectively gone through the recovery process, he/she will be prepared and less likely to want to depend on the pills. Unlike other drugs, anti-depressants do not have a chemically addictive quality. So any medication dependency is only the result of a lack in the other two areas of the treatment tripod.
I shouldn’t say “only” because, it is still a very big deal. That is why, while taking medication, the person works with a doctor, a counselor, and his/her support system to determine when it is time to start tapering off the medication. If the patient is not ready to give them up, it is because they have not developed good coping skills or have not dealt with important issues during counseling.
This is only true for 5 percent of people who seek treatment for depression (as stated in Myth #1). For the other 95 percent, anti-depressants can actually help cure the depression disease. When a person is suffering from depression, often times, it is really difficult to benefit from the other two components of recovery, counseling and coping skills, without the aid of anti-depressants. It is possible to do it without medication, but not encouraged. Anti-depressants help bring the patient to a higher cognitive level, thus, allowing counseling and coping skills to work their magic.
In my own experience, I was going to counseling and trying to implement self-help methods for several years before I started taking an anti-depressant. My emotional state, however, was often in the basement. I made small steps in those years, but I could not get ahead. One small step forward usually accompanied two giant steps backward. Everything that happened to me was a major catastrophe. If it was raining outside, my life was over. If I forgot to finish a task at work, I was not worthy of my life.
Needless to say, it was a slow and painful process. I am not saying I couldn’t have done it without the drugs, and I am not saying that I could have. I am just saying that before I started the medication, I was not making any notable progress and things were not looking so good. After I started taking medication, I made leaps and bounds toward a healthier life. The anti-depressants helped balance out my emotions. I was able to think through things rationally and without having a major breakdown. I still had bad days, but I was able to use my coping skills to get me through the tough times. I still struggled with uncontrolled emotions and feelings, but I was able to combat those negative thoughts with the tools I learned in counseling. For me, depression medication worked like a remedy.
There are very few anti-depressant medications anymore that have terrible side-effects. Because of the scientific advances with medicine, most drugs are free of side-effects. Often times, someone going through a severe depression will lose weight prior to receiving treatment because of the nature of the disease. Depression causes fatigue, feelings of worthlessness, and no desire to live... Eating is often one of the first things to go as far as self-care is concerned. Until the person receives treatment, they could possibly lose vital nourishment needed for their body to function.
So, say that person starts taking anti-depressants, goes to counseling, and works on developing healthy coping skills. They start to feel better and start taking better care of themselves. Naturally, one would return to a healthy weight, if they had lost weight prior. If they started off lower, then yes, taking an anti-depressant kind of, sort of, allows for weight gain. The doctors tell you that it could cause weight gain, but it’s not in the way you think.
But is gaining weight such a bad thing anyway? In my opinion, being alive and healthy is better than being on the verge of death and severely depressed. Stick thin and miserable? Or heavier but happier?
Those four myths kept me from being open to medication in the beginning. I was so hesitant to take it when I first realized that I needed help for my depression because, as I’ve said before, it is so dang hard for me to take a pill.
In addition, I believed that taking drugs would mean I was weak. I thought it would mean I was a bad person. I couldn’t “heal” myself the natural way so I thought I was a waste of a human being. I must have not tried hard enough to get better. I must have not eaten the right foods, exercised enough, or prayed enough. I must be a failure at life.
One of the most notable steps in my recovery was finally believing that “It is OK to take medication”.
Once I started the anti-depressant medication, within days(!), I began to feel better. And I continued to get better as the months went on.
I began to see that my life was worth something again. I started taking better care of myself. My obsessions with calories and weight started to fade away. Life was enjoyable again. I started painting again. I have a garden. Instead of mornings of fear and despair, I wake up and look forward to the day. Instead of routine crying spells multiple times a day, my routine consists of things like writing, helping others, teaching, or babysitting.
You may still think that anti-depressants should never be the answer. But, in my case, I am thankful that they helped me recover. For me, it was a good day when I realized that it was more important to stay alive than to never take prescription drugs. If you are fighting to take medication, remember that you are worth it. You don’t have to just survive, you can thrive! You deserve to have a nourishing life.