There’s a lot of stigma surrounding mental illness and even more around the use of medications to treat them. As much as I can’t stand the stigma, drugs can be scary (ask me how I know!) and definitely need to be explored a bit before jumping on board.
As I mentioned in Depression: Doctors, Hospitals, and Medication, I was always a subscriber to the “mind over matter” mentality. I think I’ve always had a healthy respect for the power of the human mind and I know a bit about placebos and other such things that take advantage of that power. So I guess I figured that if I put my mind to it, I could overcome anything. A romantic sort of though process, I suppose, but far from the truth.
After a brief stint in the hospital receiving emergency treatment for acute appendicitis, it became very apparent that despite my mind’s unwillingness to allow myself to die, that wasn’t going to be enough to make my body fight off the poison in my system. If I was going to leave that hospital bed with a heartbeat, I needed treatment.
Mental illness is no different.
If the appendicitis analogy doesn’t quite work for you, try diabetes. If I had diabetes, I couldn’t will my body to produce insulin just because I put my mind to it. Can you imagine what would happen if I told a doctor that I wasn’t going to take insulin because mind over matter?
The look they would give me before saying:
“Thank you for removing yourself from the gene pool.”
I think you get the point.
Mental illness is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. For me, that chemical imbalance has to do with the neurotransmitter serotonin. While serotonin and insulin aren’t actually all that much alike (as far as I’m aware), the general concept is the same: without enough of the chemical, your body can’t do its job.
So, if you’re depressed, how do you help your brain to do its job?
Some people can help their brains out by exercising, making sure they get enough sleep, eating healthier, and/or being more social, among other things. Some people require counseling for a time and then can return to life as normal.
This doesn’t work for everyone.
I am one of the people it doesn’t work for.
When I was put on antidepressants for the first time, I was working a (stupidly) high-paying job, working out hard every day, enjoying my work, eating healthy, getting enough sleep, hanging out with friends every evening, pursuing my hobbies, etc etc etc. I was doing anything and everything a person could do to feel better. I would feel okay – sometimes even good – when I was doing all those things but once I stopped, I’d very quickly find myself feeling sad, hopeless, empty, and exhausted. After a while, I had no energy or desire to do any of those things anymore.
It just wasn’t enough.
In this case, medication was the only solution. I had been doing everything I could to stave off the depression. There wasn’t enough time in the day to shove any more dopamine-boosting activities into my life. Everything wasn’t enough.
So, long story short, I was prescribed some medication.
Did it take a long time to kick in?
Was it a process full of growing pains?
Did I wish a million times a day that I didn’t have to take it?
Did it save my life?
If you would like to read more about my experience with medication, dose changes, and other such shenanigans, you can read about it in my post The Drugs that Saved My Life: A Journey.
If you have any questions about medications, my experience, or anything at all, let me know in the comments section or send me an email! And remember: this blog is for you! So let me know what you want from it so I can give you the things that will help you. <3
All my love,