Are You Still On Your Depression Meds?
My Mom is 88 years old. She loves me. She worries about me. Almost every time we talk she asks me, "Are you still on your depression meds?" I respond patiently, because I know she probably doesn't remember me saying this to her dozens of times in the past. "Yes, Mom. I'll be on my medication likely for the rest of my life." She nods. She understands. For now. Until the next time she asks.
Please understand, my Mom doesn't ask me with an exasperated tone. She doesn't say, "Are you still on your depression medication?" No, no. It's a genuine, heartfelt question. And every time she asks me that question I am reminded that, indeed, I will likely be on my depression medication for the rest of my life.
That thought has plagued me since I started taking medication. The self-stigma of taking depression medication has twice made me do the most stupid thing; I went off my depression medication on my own, without a doctor's recommendation or assistance.
Going Off my Depression Meds
The first time I went off my medication was about eighteen months after my first (diagnosed) major depressive episode. I was diagnosed; I took meds and attended psychotherapy and felt better - except for the weakness I felt inside for having to take medication at all. I went off my meds and a few months later, I fell into my second major depressive episode. Back on the meds, I went and more psychotherapy.
I had learned my lesson. And, while the burning self-stigma and feelings of weakness continued, I stayed on my meds - for a full ten years.
I can honestly say that I cannot remember why I decided to go off my medication the second time. In the ten years that I'd been on medication, the stigma of mental illness was lessening: campaigns had begun, websites in support of mental health were popping up, Twitter handles. Google+ groups, Facebook pages. A great deal of effort was being poured into understanding mental illness, educating people about mental illness and educating those stricken, with the options available to them.
Why Go Off Depression Medication?
So why then did I choose that time to go off my depression medication? A part of me had to know. I knew other people who had gone off their medication successfully, so why not me? I was smarter this time, while still being utterly stupid. I weaned myself off my meds over a few weeks. I suffered withdrawal symptoms, sometimes quite serious ones, but I was determined. Within four months of my stupidity, I was in the throes of my third major depressive episode. I went back on medication and went back to psychotherapy. Part of my treatment was accepting that I needed depression medication in order to be healthy.
"I accept that I need medication to be healthy."
I still have to say that to myself, often. Sometimes I believe me. Sometimes I don't. Either way, when my Mom asks me that all important question, "Are you still on your depression meds," I hug her and say, "Yes, Mom. I'm still on my depression medication and likely will be for the rest of my life."
Scott, L. (2014, May 18). Are You Still On Your Depression Meds?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, April 7 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/copingwithdepression/2014/05/are-you-still-on-your-depression-meds
Author: Liana M Scott
Right now, I'm (supposed to be) taking an SSRI. It really doesn't help, interacts with other meds I need to take but can't because of it, and it upsets my stomach. So I am doing well to even remember to take it more than about three days / week. I am going to see about going back on an SNRI - those work best and without any of the aforementioned problems. My current psychiatrist has tried everything else (including an MAOI) since the Effexor-XR stopped working last year. I've been off it for a year now - maybe it or another SNRI will work...
I have come to accept that, like any medication, there are pros and cons. Antidepressants help me get out of bed in the morning, they help me think more clearly. But, they are not perfect. I still get depressed. There are times that I struggle to get out of bed. I struggle with brain fog, anxiety, irritability, and hypervigilance. Additionally, severe headaches are a common ailment when I am under stress. Fatigue is so debilitating that I am in bed by 6PM after working all day. Waking up at 5:00am is still a struggle. I want to go back to bed within a few hours. My sleep apnea machine helped me feel better for a few months, but the fatigue returned. I was diagnosed with diabetes which contributes to the fatigue. I have recently started energy therapy, EFT, which has been helpful. I just purchased a sun lamp for SAD which I hear is very helpful. I am taking 10,000 units of Vitamin D daily because I have a deficiency. My Dr. just added a new diabetic med. I have made changes to my diet such as avoiding flour and sugar, which has helped. Its difficult to be consistent with a healthy diet when I am depressed. I had been neglecting my spiritual health. I have started taking 30 minutes of quiet time in the morning to connect with God and pray for the strength to do His will. So, my point is, there isn't just one solution to depression. Everything is interconnected. My health depends on a variety of treatments that work together over time. Acceptance and self-compassion is the key to managing any type of chronic disease. I am not my disease, but a spirit having a human experience in a body made in the image of God. We are born dying and are vulnerable to the limitations that come with having a body. Stress accelerates disease and I believe that seeking a strong relationship with God has helped me cope with life on life's terms. This has resulted in more peace and serenity which gives me the hope to continue to take care of myself. My goal is to build up my reserves
and give from the overflow. I can't help anyone until I help myself.
I have been on pretty much all of the antidepressants out there and been diagnosed with clinical depression/ type 2 bipolar for the last 12 years... I am 27 years old with 2 boys and a husband. I work in the mental health field and still not worked out all the kinks. I hope I am now on the right meds and on the right track but I constantly have to fight. Daily, hourly, even by the minute sometimes. I hate that I have to take meds and fight this constantly but whats the alternative? Roll over and die? I have to be a mother, wife, employee, friend and all the roles women carry. I have just had to realize I cant make everyone happy and im not superwoman. I have to delegate things instead of do everything by myself. I am not perfect and cant try to be anymore. I have never blogged before or even read any but I was looking for resources and this one really spoke to me. Thank you!
Hi Hayley. So glad you reached out. So glad this spoke to you. Hugs.
Just remember that depression is caused by chemical imbalances in the brain. Medication helps to correct this. Having that chemical imbalance, why would you quit taking medication if it works? If you were a diabetic, would you quit taking insulin? And as for side effects, if you read every possible side effect of every medication, you wouldn't want to take anything. As for not working, I would probably not be writing this comment if I hadn't taken antidepressants. Yes, it takes time to find what works. They are not a "one size fits all" type of medication. It does take a bit of trial and error. But I would rather go through that than being miserable or suicidal for the rest of my life.
Hey Ginben. Very well said.
I can tell when meds work and when they do not. I have bipolar disorder and everyone can tell when I am trying to go off of the 6 meds it takes to keep me from destruction. The thought of being on this mountain of meds for my entire life and it does make me feel weak for not being able to control myself, so to speak. But I cannot handle another self-induced catastrophe in my life.
Hi Margo. I know how hard it is to accept the meds as a part of life. My life. Your life. I have the dual angels on my shoulders... One who mocks me and calls me weak... while the other comforts me. I try to think of the meds as my life jacket in a sometimes swirling sea of distress. Without them, I'll drown. With them, I live.
Thanks to the author. Hope to write some more. Have a nice day.
I have stopped taking my meds before because they didn't work. It takes forever to figure out what will and what won't work for a person. The effects are so gradual you cannot tell if the pills are doing something or if it is the therapy or something else.
How many people have you met that say their depression meds are working the way they want them to. As a class of drugs they are a huge failure. Everyone is on them, no one thinks they work the way they should and they come with a lengthy list of side effects.
Hi Mark. I'm sorry you've had such terrible results with medications. I understand that a lot of the times people require a veritable cocktail of different meds to balance themselves, which can be so frustrating. I count myself among the lucky few, I suppose, who has had success with medication. I know (now) that life without my meds is so much more unbearable. Thanks for commenting. Hugs.