Welcome to the third instalment of ‘Shit depressed people have to hear.’ This time we’re discussing a topic which seems to be everyone’s fucking business, my medication.
Before I start, I’d like to make it clear that I know antidepressants don’t work for everyone. I should know, I had to go through three lots of them to find ones that worked. I am aware that some people may never find that unique cocktail of medication that helps them. This is part of the reason why I don’t say which medication I’m on. What works for me, may have not worked for someone else and vice versa.
I’m also aware that medication is not the only solution, and has to be supported with other means as well, such as counselling. There is a difference between treating an illness with medication and just chucking people back on the street with a pill bottle.
Right. Now that we got that out of the way.
The attitude surrounding antidepressants really winds me up. I remember when I started with Antidepressant#1, and someone said to me: “Be careful, you don’t want to be on them for the rest of your life!”
What an odd thing to say. If I had a headache, I would take a pain killer. If I had a vitamin deficiency, I would take a vitamin tablet. If I had an infection, I would take antibiotics. That’s what tends to happen when you’ve got an illness. You try to treat it in any way possible in order to get better again.
How, in the name of god, is this any different?
Then we return to that thing again where some people don’t think that depression is an actual illness. Things such as exercise and the right diet do help, but unfortunately like with many things, alone they are not enough.
Also there seems to be this idea that your brain is somehow so sacred that you shouldn’t touch it in any shape or form, as if it would permanently change your personality or the very core that makes you a human being.
I have a thyroid condition, for which I have taken manufactured thyroid hormone for several years. Nobody has given me grief about this, not even once. Nobody has suggested I should come off of it as soon as possible. Nobody has suggested I’m doing something wrong. And this is a medication I KNOW I will be on for the rest of my life. Why is taking antidepressants so fundamentally different?
My brain is fucked up. It doesn’t provide me the right neurotransmitters. Apparently store-bought isn’t as good, you have to make your own. Even some depressed people seem to think that, going off their meds cold turkey once they feel better without any medical attention and it still comes as a complete and utter shock that they are now feeling shit.
And these people who seem to have a mission to get me off antidepressants aren’t hate-filled internet trolls, oh no. These are perfectly pleasant people I encounter every day.
I met one woman, who turned out to be on the same antidepressant I’m on to support her cancer treatment. I was quite pleased, since I had never met anyone else who is on the same medication. I haven’t been able to compare what it’s like to someone else.
What followed this joy was pure astonishment. She started off by saying that the medication we are both on is not an antidepressant (it is), and I should try to get off it as soon as possible. Why, if it’s helping me? Also, why was she lying? I’m someone who TAKES the medication. I know what it is. Is it really THAT shameful to be taking antidepressants?
I mentioned to her that I’m on sleeping medication. Her response to that was that sleep is something I should be able to do naturally, and went on to fetch her phone in order to show me a sleep hypnosis video on youtube.
I didn’t say anything because she was still a perfectly pleasant lady who thought she was being helpful. I didn’t tell her about the weeks and months of insomnia that I had suffered, waking up nine to twelve times a night, sleeping 90 continuous minutes at tops, crying with exhaustion after waking up for the final time at 3am to face another, excruciatingly long day.
Had she come to my bedroom with her hypnosis video then, I would’ve shoved that phone up her arse sideways, without Vaseline.
And another thing. I don’t look at the depression section when going to a bookshop anymore because the information available is so one-sided that I just might pop a blood vessel.
There seems to be two camps: The tinfoil-hatters, who think that antidepressants are part of a satanic scam and wellness warriors, who went rogue to ‘seek health’ without medication of any kind. Good for them if it helped. What if it doesn’t help someone else?
I recently finished my first book since I got ill. I was quite pleased about this, as reading used to be a dear hobby. It was called ‘The woman who fooled the world’, and it tells the story of Belle Gibson, an Australian social media sensation who claimed to have kept her terminal brain cancer at bay with healthy eating. Turns out she never had cancer at all.
Now, I’m not saying that these depression wellness warriors are scammers as well. Not at all. If they have found a way to get healthy, that’s fantastic. My problem is that these sort of books mentioned above overlook the fact that even though mental health is one of the least-known-about specialities in the medical world, there are still many, many people these antidepressants genuinely help. I’m one of them.
Let’s make this extremely simple. Without the right medication, I’d be dead. No question about it. I’d be dead and not writing this blog in a vague hope of helping someone else. I would’ve killed myself because of the sheer insufferable pain that I was in.
The medication I am on, though not without its side-effects, has given me back things I thought I lost: laughter, enjoyment of things, energy to get out bed in the morning. This isn’t my only treatment but an essential part of it.
Belle Gibson appealed to an extremely vulnerable community, terminally ill people who’d be willing to do anything to have some hope. Nobody knows how many people she might have turned away from possibly beneficial traditional treatment to pursue her means.
I take part in an anonymous depression forum. You have a lot of young people there, and the questions and fears I come across sometimes are so basic that it’s absolutely astonishing but that’s a matter of another post. But the reason why I brought this up is that a lot of their fears are to do with antidepressants. Who can blame them, when the attitude towards them is so negative?
Again, they don’t help everyone. But the fact that a young, vulnerable person is afraid to seek help they desperately need because of these ridiculous prejudices regarding antidepressants is unacceptable.
One girl was really afraid of the possibility of going on antidepressants. I’m not a medical professional, so I told her to do the same thing I did: to book an appointment with a GP, take the leaflet out of the packaging and go over every single one of her concerns with them. Whether she would go on antidepressants or not, she would be able to make an informed decision. The last I heard of her she had made the appointment.
My attitude towards antidepressants is ‘don’t knock it until you try it.’ This comes from someone who had to go through two lots of antidepressants that didn’t work, increasing all the way to the maximum with weeks and weeks of waiting and disappointment when the latest increase hadn’t helped either. Not to mention the side-effects and initial nausea. Unlike often enough the perfectly pleasant people making these comments, I have been there myself.
All of you perfectly pleasant people, can you just please take the opinion of the method I treat my illness (successfully) with and just kindly, most politely, fuck off?