When I posted the piece on depression the other day, I admit I was a little concerned. Although I joke quite often that I’m “not quite right in the head”, it’s a whole other ballgame to lay it out on the table and give people a realistic view of what it’s like to experience this problem.
I was diagnosed with mild clinical depression at the age of 20, and then with post-partum depression after my 3rd child was born in 2005. Until my bout of PPD, I’d never been on any kind of anti-depressant. I knew the mood swings and depression had gotten considerably worse, so I talked to my OB and was given a prescription for Zoloft. Although it made me a little sick to my stomach, the relief I got began within days. I noticed right away an increase in energy, my moods were more stable, and I just felt more normal. I took it for several months, and then gradually went off it. Then in November of last year I started to have trouble again, only with the depression came constant anxiety. I am not the most mellow person to begin with, at this point I was wound tight as a tick, and I felt like I was a bomb just waiting to explode. I called my doctor, and they called me in a prescription for Celexa. This stuff was a godsend for me, and for the first time as long in as I can remember, I felt like a normal human being. I have been on it since, with the exception of a few weeks here and there where I get lazy and slack off. I never have withdrawal symptoms, but before long the mood swings, exhaustion, and anxiety start up again(like this past weekend) and it’s clear that I do much better on the medication than off.
For the most part I am ok with that. I’m not big on taking any kind of pills, but between that and the depression I’ll deal with taking medication. I know there is something of a backlash right now against anti-depressant use, but I didn’t realize how much so until I came across a thread on a message board yesterday debating whether or not prisoners should “be allowed to take anti-depressants”. I thought it was such an odd question, until I saw a couple of comments about how “That’s why they are in prison, they SHOULD feel bad about what they’ve done!”, and “Why should they get pills to make them happy when they’ve committed a crime?”. Luckily that was not the opinion of the majority, but I was startled that this kind of ignorance still exists. If there was one thing I wish people understood about anti-depressants is there is no such thing as a ‘happy pill’. These drugs do not make you happy, they make you stable, so you are able to feel the same emotions other people do, and on the same scale.
I realize people who haven’t struggled with depression could not hope to understand it, but it’s frustrating to hear people spout such opinions on things they haven’t experienced. Unfortunately this attitude is not isolated to a couple of people, I’ve heard all over how these drugs are bad, and how if people just took more vitamins, exercised more, or had a more positive attitude, they could get over it. (Underlying implication, “I was once depressed and I got over it that way, anyone should be able to.) If it were that easy, we’d all be investing more in vitamin B and fish oil supplements rather than pharmaceutical companies. But it’s not. Depression is not having a bad day, or even a bad week. It’s normal emotions, amplified. Minor annoyances become rage, forgetting something at the store turns into a crying breakdown, and you are so exhausted a simple load of laundry is as overwhelming as a trip up Mount Everest.
In reading more about as I call it the ‘anti-anti-depressants’ attitude, I came across this quote. It says a lot about the way people look at medicating for mental illness versus medicating for other things.
If a pill was developed that could restore the body after spinal injury without painful physical therapy, everyone would rejoice; well, everyone except unemployed physiotherapists. But the reaction is so very different to pills that restore the depressed mind without a need for emotionally-harrowing therapy.
Antidepressants are routinely dismissed as “Band-Aids” that merely hide the real problem, or they get smeared as being nothing more than nice little earners for “Big Pharma”. On the other hand, the talk therapists who oppose medication are portrayed as standing up for their patients, rather than as professionals protecting their own jobs and interests.
But why should those who already suffer from an illness have to suffer more to recover? Why, if medication works, shouldn’t they take a chemical shortcut to a healthier mind? Since mental health is not a struggle for most people, why do we demand extra work from those for whom it is?