My Experience with Anti-Depressants
When I first realized I had depression and anxiety my freshman year of high school, I adamantly refused to take medication. No, I’ll be fine on my own. There is no way a pill can make me happy. Medication has too many side effects anyway. When I went plant-based vegan the summer of 2014 and started exercising regularly, this regimen and diet alleviated many symptoms of depression and anxiety. I was feeling happier and healthier than I had in my entire life, and I foolishly thought I had found some magic cure. Just be healthy! Just eat fruits and veggies! Just move your body! You don’t need medication if you live a healthy lifestyle. It’s a scam of the pharmaceutical industry! I am ashamed to say that I even scoffed at those who did take medication, thinking that if they only made changes to their lifestyle they could manage their symptoms like I had. But it didn’t last. In fact, my symptoms came back with a vengeance the fall of 2015. I thought I had conquered those demons. But little did I know that the real war was about to begin. With the stress of college classes and a close friend of mine going into the hospital, I buckled under the pressure and my anxiety and depression clawed their way into my life once again. I felt hopeless, alone, and scared. I began experiencing panic attacks almost every day, and I could no longer control the obtrusive thoughts that infected my mind. It didn’t matter how much I went to the gym or the amount of green smoothies I drank. I was drowning in a sea of darkness, and I had no idea how to swim. November of 2015 was the first time I seriously considered suicide and saw it as a viable option. If you have read my post “Finding a Light in the Darkness: My Battle with Depression and Anxiety,” you would know that in the summer of 2016, I finally received medical attention for my mental illnesses. Part of that was going to a psychiatrist. The first time I was prescribed an antidepressant, I was ashamed and embarrassed. I thought somehow I had failed. Somehow I was weak. But I had been drowning for so long that I was willing to try anything to breathe again.
Depending on the medication, it can take up to two weeks to become effective, if it is effective at all. After a week, I already felt more relaxed and happy. Unfortunately, because of medical expenses, I had to stop seeing my psychiatrist, and in turn, stop taking my medication. Because I was feeling better, I naively thought I could conquer these illnesses on my own.
But, once again, the symptoms came back. And this time, I barely made it out alive.
Thankfully I sought refuge at my school’s counseling center, where I began seeing a counselor and started medication again. The first medication I tried didn’t work, but the second medication I was prescribed helped my symptoms drastically after only a week. I started the medication in April of this year and am still taking it. Although it has not eradicated my illnesses, it makes it easier to get through most days. Since starting the medication, I haven’t considered suicide once, and my panic attacks have decreased drastically.
Sadly not all people are this lucky with medications. It can take awhile to find the right combination and dosage. Sometimes, people never find refuge in a little white pill. But for me, and thousands of people around the world, medication has been our saving grace.
If you’ve discovered another way to manage your mental illness (natural supplements, light therapy, cognitive therapy, diet, exercise, and so on) then I’m happy for you! For some, however, these methods are not effective alone and require the aid of medication. For myself, medication has not given me complete freedom from my symptoms; diet, exercise, and counseling are still a large part of my recovery. Medication has just made it much easier for me to think more positively, dispel my suicidal thoughts, and have the energy and motivation to do the other things that help me manage my depression and anxiety. I don’t plan to be on medication forever and hope to wean off it next year after it has more permanently balanced the chemicals in my brain.
But medication is not the easy way out. For some of us, we have expired every other option, scrapped the bottom of the barrel of natural supplements and the latest super food and have come up empty with no relief. We should not shame others for the ways they choose to recover, for the means they use to stay alive. There is no shame in taking medication for a very real medical condition. As long as one is not hurting themselves or others, they should not be shamed for trying to get better.
Medication is a viable option. And for some of us, it is the only option.