Taking Antidepressants

Anti-depressants help to lessen the impact of intense negative emotions that depression produces.

After being diagnosed with depression, in the fall of 2009, I started taking a low dose of antidepressants. I soon found that going on antidepressants was a much more complex process than I had thought or hoped it would be.

I was told it would take weeks to determine if a medication was having positive or negative effects. In the meantime, I would have to wait and hope I’d be feeling better in a few weeks.

At the time, each day seemed so long that to find out it would require weeks, maybe months or years to find the right medication or combination was demoralizing. Had I know more about antidepressants beforehand it would have helped to lesson the dejection I felt. Any release from depression was fleeting and painful negative emotions crept up throughout the day. After a few weeks, I increased my medication, but I had trouble telling if I was getting better.

I always consult my doctors in regards to medication(s) and make sure to take my medications as prescribed.

Medications for mental illnesses are complicated and starting, increasing or decreasing medications can also cause positive or negative blips in symptoms. I’ve found that changes in medication coincide with a drop in my mood and increased anxiety. While I wait for my emotions to settle, I go about my days as normally as I can, noting but mostly trying to ignore changes in my emotions that may be caused by the new dosage or medication. After a few weeks, I begin to see the general affects the medication is having and decide, with help from my psychiatrist and doctor, what to do next.

Can antidepressant cure depression?

On their own, antidepressants were not enough to cure my depression, though they did (and continue to) help lessen the intensity of despairing emotions and anxiety.

I was on antidepressants for approximately three months before I attempted suicide in January 2010. I continued taking antidepressants afterwards and in the summer of 2010, I added another medication. This provided me with more mental and physical energy to dedicate towards other aspects of my recovery. I made small adjustments to my medications the following summer in 2011, as well as 2012. Both times I wasn’t able to find a better combination or dosage, though I learned  the upper limits of one of my medications, above which a further increase left me feeling antsy and anxious.

I’m not entirely sure if I am on the best combination of medications, as I am still capable of getting bogged down and sidetracked by periods of increased anxiety and low mood. Finding the right balance of antidepressants in combination with other aspects of my overall recovery (CBT, talk therapy, mindfulness, etc.) has proven to be a very slow, and at times frustrating process. I’ve learned antidepressants aren’t going to cure me of depression and recovering from the lows I felt In 2010 has taken much more work than simply adjusting my medications.

Is my goal to stop taking antidepressants?

In the past, I had hoped to one day wean myself off antidepressants, but I think that idea was more of a reflection of misunderstanding of what depression is. I wouldn’t expect a diabetic to be able to stop taking insulin. Since there is a chemical and biological nature to depression it makes sense that I may have to stay on antidepressants if my body is unable to balance these biochemicals on its own.

That being said medications do complicate evaluating my emotions and seeing what parts of my recovery are really working. Medication adds another factor into the complex problem of treating mental illnesses and I would do my best to try other strategies before going on them again. In my case, I was severely depressed when I first presented to my doctor, and medication though far from perfect was likely to help alleviate my pain.

I also have to be careful to refill my prescriptions as I know missing doses can cause sways in my emotions. Fortunately, British Columbia’s provincial health care system and another medical plan (provided through my university, and now alumni) cover most of the costs.

With mental illness and depression there are no quick fix solutions, but antidepressants have helped me. My medications assist in providing me with enough mental and physical energy to focus on the other aspects of my recovery.