Now that I’ve broken the seal, the depression words are spilling out.
There’s, like, a stigma?
Even amongst people who acknowledge that depression is A Real Thing (as opposed to something you need to just get over), there’s an uneasiness around treating it with medication. People who have never been depressed believe that the first line of treatment should be enhanced diet and exercise, then changes to routine and sleep schedule, then self-help books, then talking therapy, then voodoo, then antidepressants.
Now, I’m not saying that lifestyle changes don’t help. But they didn’t get me close to functional – and I had professionals keeping me on track for 6 months. Without support, and without fairly immediate results, it’s not really feasible for someone who’s severely depressed to take on these kinds of changes. When you’re barely coping with life as it is, how do you fit in 5 hours a week of cardio?
Part of the problem is a misconception that antidepressants are “happy pills” which replace all genuine emotion with unspecified elation, and so taking them really just avoids the problem. This couldn’t be more wrong. If people want to feel good regardless of what’s happening in their lives, they have options – we go to doctors to feel normal again. Antidepressants don’t replace real feelings – they enable them in a person who would otherwise just see grey.
There’s also concerns about the effectiveness of some antidepressants (most notably the SSRIs, which have never worked for me but do for some other people) as well as generic fears of Big Pharma. No fears of Big Diet and Big Exercise, I would note.
Me and my meds
It wasn’t easy to find meds that work for me. I am currently on a cocktail of 3 different drugs (an antidepressant, a stimulant, and an anticonvulsant, for some reason) which get me out of bed in the morning and let me taste food. It took YEARS to find this combination, and it’s changed my life.
For a long time, each new treatment I tried worked for a while and then stopped. For medication, the pattern usually went something like this:
- One month to build up to a therapeutic dose.
- Two months of things working out pretty well.
- One month where it starts dropping off. I understand that people have good times and bad times, and put it down to bad times, and give things a chance to clear up on their own.
- One month where I stop being able to function. I miss work, can’t socialize, and otherwise exhibit full-on depression.
- One month to taper off the drug; and the cycle starts with the next one.
Throughout this I’d have ups and downs at work and in my personal life, making commitments when things were going well that I’d break when they weren’t.
The current regime has been working for about 9 months now. Let’s hope there isn’t a next one.