It’s Time to Smash the Stigma on Antidepressants
So, for those who are unaware, being bipolar sucks. I’ve detailed my experience with bipolar before, what I haven’t described is my struggle with antidepressants and the rest of my drugs.
When I was first diagnosed, it was for depression and the doctor suggested I start on antidepressants. It wasn’t until about a year later that I finally caved in and began the long and painful road that is psychological medication.
The first, and possibly the worst part of anti-depressants is the stigma. Many people believe that anti-depressants are a tool used by the people too lazy to just work and “fix” themselves. This is the main reason why it took me so long to admit that I had to take them.
I grew up in a household with a schizophrenic grandmother, somebody with a “real” mental illness. I felt like a fraud including myself in the same genre of illness as her. This idea still weighs on my mind; I worry every time I tell someone that they will call me lazy or incompetent for relying on drugs to fix my problems for me.
But the truth is, without the medication, I can’t leave bed. I can’t eat. I can’t sleep; when I do sleep, I can’t wake up. I use the medication because no matter how hard I struggled against the restraints of my disease, I could never escape, and the medication gave me a fighting chance.
While taking the medication was tough enough, the battle does not end there. Contrary to popular belief, antidepressants are not magic-fairy pills that, once taken, will make the user feel instant euphoria.
Instead, it truly marks the beginning of the battle.
When I first began taking the medication, my depression grew worse: my suicidal thoughts became much stronger, I went over 48 hours without food, and I don’t even want to know how long without water. I had no real support system since I was too embarrassed to tell anyone I was taking anti-depressants.
It went on this way for weeks, and my experiences are not abnormal. Most anti-depressants take about six weeks to work properly.
Eventually, my brain adjusted and I felt much better. However, I still wasn’t at ‘Lisa Simpson’ level. Instead, I was just not depressed.
It was like climbing a mountain and suddenly I’m walking on a plateau. This gave me the ability to finally start winning fights: I got out of bed, ate food, socialized, and took care of myself. Unfortunately, it was still not the end.
What came next is a tough feeling to explain, but suddenly this…thing that had been a part of me for so long is gone, and in a weird, sick, twisted way, I began to miss my depression.
I have been struggling with depression for a long time (our best guess is about ten years) so it was like a part of me had been lost and all I was left with was a faint memory. The truth is I didn’t know how to live without those sudden lows which are truly terrible, but add an indescribable thrill to life.
I used to have extreme emotions and now those are gone. It made me feel empty in a way.
I remember there was one week when I decided I would stop taking my medication so I could feel “normal” again. Needless to say, that was one of the worst weeks of my life.
Ever since then I’ve been better about taking my medication, but that little voice never goes away, the one that tells you that life used to be better before the doctor came along and tweaked your brain.
I wanted to try to put into words how my medication make me feel, and the journey they’ve taken me on, so that perhaps people can better understand why I and others who suffer similarly take them.
We do not take it because the road is easier, because it is anything but that. Any depressed person will tell you the alternative is easier.
Anyone can be a loner: that rugged man trudging through the desert on his lonesome. Asking for help, continuing when the odds are against you, understanding that you need support. That takes guts.
My struggle with medication isn’t over. We’re still tweaking the medication, constantly adjusting my dosage; I still feel the desire to go off them; I still feel that social stigma whenever I choose to swallow another horse sized pill down.
However, if it weren’t for these pills, these doctors and psychiatrists, I wouldn’t be able to write this down. My battle with depression would have been over a long time ago and with a much different ending. I hope if you didn’t before, at least now you understand the reason why these pills are as important as they are.