This is something that is debated among those who struggle with depression and those who don’t.
Whether or not to take medication.
The answer depends on the person. For some, like me, medication is necessary. I would probably be dead without it. I have a chemical imbalance in my brain and the only way to balance it out is with medication.
For some people, medication will make things worse. It can cause awful side effects and actually make the mental illness worse. I had a friend who reacted this way to any pills he tried.
What’s unfortunate is that many who are suffering from mental illness will refuse to take medication. They believe they should get better on their own, and shouldn’t need to take anything.
This is logic I don’t understand. If you had strep throat, would you refuse to take meds to get better? What if you had asthma? Would you refuse to use a puffer?
I’ve said this many times in this blog, but I’ll say it again. Mental illness is a disease that needs to be treated. If medication is necessary, then don’t be ashamed or too proud to take it.
Some may only need to take meds briefly. Others, like me, will be on them for life. That was extremely difficult for me to accept. I hate that I will be probably be on medication my whole life. But at the same time, I’d rather have a life than not take my meds.
One important thing I have learned over the years is not to blindly take whatever treatment doctors hand out. There are many doctors out there who are pill pushers and will constantly keep upping the dosage if things don’t get better.
But there are also really good doctors who will take the time to work with you to find out which drug, and which dosage is most beneficial for you. You will probably have to try a few drugs before you find what works for you.
And do your own research. Take your doctor’s suggestions and then do some investigating on the medication being recommended. Look online, talk to a pharmacist (they are often incredibly helpful and can tell you about specific side effects), and talk to someone who is either on that drug or has been on it.
I was diagnosed with my depression at 16, and I was put on Prozac. Yes, my deep depression went away, but so did every other feeling a person can (and should) experience. I was a robot – nothing going on inside.
After a couple of years I switched to Celexa. It was a better drug and it worked well for me. But it had some unfortunate side effects including weight gain. However, I dealt with the slight weight gain because I felt better. And most importantly I felt emotion again.
Then I switched doctors. My new doctor put me on Cymbalta. I was on this drug for nearly 4 years and it really helped my depression. But I was tired all the time. I slept so much and constantly felt fatigued. I would go to work late, miss social time with friends, and spend at least one full day a month sleeping all day. But I wasn’t depressed, just tired.
Then I found out that in the US, Cymbalta is sometimes used as a sleep aide. I basically lost 4 years of my life, 4 years of my twenties, because if this drug. And all that time I had complained to my doctor about my fatigue and she never put the two together.
I immediately demanded that my medication be changed.
Now I am on 2 anti-depressants, and the combination of them works really well. Plus I have no side effects.
Another thing I have learned is to take my meds as instructed.
Missing days, trying to ween yourself from your meds, or taking yourself off meds without consulting your doctor are BAD ideas. It doesn’t matter how good you feel – you CANNOT play doctor and make decisions like that.
If you miss days, it will affect how you respond to your medication. I have missed the occasional day for various reasons, but more than one day is really bad news. I once ran out of pills and failed to immediately make a doctor’s appointment for a refill so I was without my meds for almost a week.
I went through withdrawal.
It was not pleasant.
I was shaking uncontrollably, I couldn’t concentrate, and I was unbelievably irritated.
I am now very careful to take my pills as directed.
Taking medication every day an be annoying. It’s a hassle to remember to take it with me every time I’m away for a night.
But if you need it, then take it.
And don’t give up if the first drug or dosage you try doesn’t work. It is a bit of trial and error to find what’s right for you. But once you get it, you’ll be glad you did.
It’s never fun starting a new medication. When I switched to my current meds from the Cymbalta, it affected me physically for the first few days. My stomach was a mess and I was exhausted. But once it settled into my system and I started to feel better I was very grateful I made the switch.
Don’t be afraid to take medication if you need it. And don’t be ashamed. All you are doing is treating an illness.
But do ask questions when something is prescribed to you. Stand up for yourself and your body if you don’t think a specific drug is right for you.
You are your best advocate. No one knows your body as well as you do.