The Cure for Depression: Swallow That Pill

Now onto my favorite (*cough* *cough*) advice for treating Depression: medication.

Whoa –what?! YOU don’t like being dependent on pills? We should hang out. Oh, wait. We kind-of are.

Like, my entire anxious life I’ve worried about The Day: that point at which the doctors would finally tie me up in a straight jacket, cart me away, and dose me full of anti-depressants. As relative after relative succumbed to depressive tendencies, I’d mentally count down to when my turn would come.

I watched a friend balloon in weight on anti-psychotics; saw the not-so-fun of adjusting medications in another. I read and heard and watched people being negatively affected by their cocktail of drugs.

There is a lot to be depressed about in terms of depression medication.

But this sort of thinking is clearly that of someone in a depressive mindset (aka ME). I love to take the easy route of negative self-talk; of assuming the worst.

The truth -no, The Truth is that medications are extremely helpful. They are often vital.

A close friend of mine was married for a couple decades to a guy with serious schizophrenic issues. Super nice guy, by the way. My friend’s spouse became concerned that apocalyptic situations were nearing, and concluded that medication dependency was a bad thing. So, of course, he went off of his pills.

This is not one of those “happily ever after” stories, but it is one in which life had to keep going and did (and, still does). After severe manic/depressive episodes, a necessary divorce, and removal of his ability to get credit cards; he’s back on a higher dose and back to the person I knew before.

No, not every story is that extreme. Yes, some are more so.

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In my vast experience of talking to a lot of people about deeply personal issues like mental illness ’cause I’m nosy, most use medication for its intended purpose: a leg up. Prescription drugs are meant to give our poor minds and neural pathways a little help.

They are meant to be taken WITH therapy, because we need to teach ourselves to form automatic pathways to brighter fields of mental flowers.

I found some really great sources of information online (Mayo Clinic, WebMd, MedicineNet) that go into more details about common medications, their types, and side effects. They’re especially good if you want to get worked up about how you have a 5% chance of a limb detaching once on a course of Prozac.

So, this is the part where a psychomedicaldoctordude comes in handy. After talking through what you and he think is going on, he may prescribe you something to try.

The most common medications to treat Depression are:
-Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) like Prozac, Celexa, Zoloft, Paxil.
-Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) like Cymbalta and Effexor.
-Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) like Nopramin and Nardil.
-Other classifications, like Wellbutrin (aminoketone class), Trazodone (serotonin modulator), or Remeron (tetracyclic).

You may have a mix of mental illness, in which case anti-anxiety or anti-psychotic medications are prescribed. Ones like:
-Antipsychotics: Seroquel, and Zyprexa with Prozac.
-Lithium carbonate.
-Some stimulants like Ritalin.
-Anti-anxiety, like Buspar.

Like me, and for those who deal with related issues like thyroid deficiencies, the prescription may simply be:
-Supplements to raise natural levels in the body
-Hormone therapy
-Specific thyroid medications

Whew! That’s quite a list. I swiped it from WebMd, mostly, leaving out the fun side effects notes.

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What you need to know, besides these being a mental leg up, is that all of these affect serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine in some way. An article by Harvard Health also referenced Glutamate and GABA. The truly encouraging piece is that the medications are a bit of a shot in the dark.

In reading over these sites, I get the idea that Depression is a tricky bugger. The medications tend to improve symptoms in about 70% of sufferers, but doctors are not entirely certain why. Yes, they affect these hormones or connectors -however, simply affecting said things in isolation does not always work. That, and some people are still not helped by the good old anti-depressant classics.

Besides boring you all with technical details about prescription drugs, I wanted to hit my main point home for ya: Pills aren’t all that bad.

During my brief stint on hormones, I experienced something wonderful. The sensation was very much like the gift of sight despite not wearing contacts. I looked around at the world and saw light, felt hope, and assumed better outcomes instead of the worst possible ones.

Prescription drugs can be the big-brother boost to get into that impossibly high tree. Instead of constantly staring up at all the other people who got there, you can get help. With The Pill, you will be able to see knotholes or branch stubs or bark indentations. With psychotherapy, you’ll gain the strength to use them.

A low-angle shot of a tree with an impressive trunk

The journey to a brighter place may necessitate medication. Don’t be hatin’. Try what your paid medical friend suggests, pay attention to side effects, try again. Train your mind, young padowan, so that you may someday need fewer legs up -or, perhaps, none at all.

These pictures were swiped from JES’ database, which uses Unsplash.

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22 Replies to “The Cure for Depression: Swallow That Pill”

  1. This is soo well written! And also thank you, I have struggled with mental illness as well for many years and eventually got the the point where i needed medication too, but so many people shame you, and think you’re just taking the easy way out, I hate the comments people make and tbh I was almost afraid to read this post but i am SO glad i did! You are so brave and wonderful, thank you for sharing your own story and for helping me to feel less alone

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for the kind compliments. I am so glad this resonated with you! I tell my son who takes medication that we’re both doing it and that it’s just to give him a little step up.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Chelsea, you are amazing! Period. I loved this post so much! You made me laugh and were so informative about a great topic. I love how you can do that and take what can be a heavy topic and make it feel not so heavy. Thanks for a great read!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Wellbutrin is a Norepinephrine and dopamine reuptake inhibitors (NDRI)
    Trazadone is unrelated to any of the classifications putting it in a class of its own.
    Remeron is Tetracyclic.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. the more ya know, right? I actually had to look it up, I was under the impression Wellbutrin was an SNRI — whoops. LOL Had no idea trazadone was in a class of its own. So, I learned too! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I think I just wrote it in a way that made them sound related. I’ve tried to remedy that with the edit.

        Like

  4. You are so right! I hate taking my “cocktail” of drugs every day, but I know I probably wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for taking them to keep me semi-sane. Thanks for the good reminders.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I’m just not ready to accept that, but thank you for posting this. I cannot fathom dealing with the side effects of prescribed medication. Furthermore, I’d just rather consume cannabis when things get to be too overwhelming..

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I understand your perspective. Many options these days have minimal side effects, which is nice.
      I’m a fan of numbing because it’s easy and habitual, but know it’s not the best way to cope. 🙂

      Like

  6. Thank you so much for this post. I think one thing that I find is important, and I sense it is also what you are trying to express throughout your post, is that we are all invidividuals. Different things work for different people, and it is always dependent on where your depression comes from as well (to take antidepressants can be very counterproductive for someone with Bipolar Disorder), and if there are any comorbid conditions. I tend to suggest to people to first try less invasive treatment, like self-care, self-management and therapy like CBT; before relying on medication. And to make any decision based on being informed, talking to a professional, reading up and asking questions. There is nothing more frightening to me than blindly trusting a professional without at least asking questions.
    We are all different, for me medication has had terrible consequences. I still have neurological issues because of antipsychotics that I had to take, and with every medication I have taken, I had really bad side-effects. So it is important to be aware of the side-effects and to talk with a professional about their prevelance (I mean, one of the side-effects of Seroquel is sudden death. How can that even be a side-effect???).
    There is no magic pill, but i have seen people get better on medication, especially those struggling with illnesses like Bipolar Disorder and Schizophrenia. The stupid thing is just that you just can’t know how you will react to the chemical cocktail before you have given it a try. In most cases it is definitely worth a try though!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you!!! Yes -we are all so different, so I listed talking to a professional FIRST because who knows what you need? Not me! You and the doctor/counselor/therapist need to figure stuff out.

      Like

  7. Having bipolar disorder makes medications a necessary evil in my case. I do struggle with side effects but the pros outweigh the cons. I believe the right meds can provide enough stability to muster the strength to do the “work”. I unfortunately can’t take antidepressants because of my bipolar disorder, but I take a slew of other meds

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes; as with the case of the person with schizophrenia, there are some conditions which will always need medicinal help.
      I appreciate you sharing your experience, and that you find more pros than cons. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I love this! While the thought of overmedicating any problem is not something I agree with, I also see the use of meds for various mental illnesses, especially as part of a “both and” treatment plan (ie: both therapy and antidepressants, aka: my current treatment plan). The meds help me see the need for and have the strength to get through some of the therapy stuff, and the therapy is (hopefully) helping retrain a brain that has 30+ years of distorted thinking to rewire.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have exactly the same thoughts! That perspective helps when I’m being impatient. Like, “Well, I can’t expect immediate results when I’ve spent 30 years in these bad habits.” 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I totally struggle with patience. It took me a year to get up the nerve to call a therapist. Now I’m frustrated that, 5 months in, I’m not done yet. Lol! I just gotta keep reframing and challenging those unrealistic expectations.

        Liked by 1 person

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