“You don’t need to be on antidepressants.”
The person who said this to me long ago had no idea how presumptuous it was. He also didn’t know how dangerous such a statement could be.
There’s something people who don’t suffer from depression and anxiety (and some who do) need to know: we are very good at faking it. If we were better at showing our true emotions in public, we’d likely not have problems in the first place. We are terrified of people learning the truth, terrified that we’d lose control and lose that last semblance of respect that we possessed.
Many of us try to solve our problems on our own or even just surrender to the belief of hopelessness. The second group lead a kind of living suicide; they are living, but there’s no life. It takes great strength to expose ourselves to a health professional for therapy and, yes, for medications.
There is a great stigma in our society against therapy, especially drug therapy for depression and anxiety. While some might benefit from this “pull yourself up from your bootstraps” approach to mental health, to those it doesn’t help, it only serves to push them further backwards. Years ago, I would listen to these opinions and go off the medication. They would become some of the worst years of my life, fueled further by my sense of worthlessness and failure by not being able to live up to this ideal.
The truth is that I need medicine. I take Effexor because my brain doesn’t process neurotransmitters correctly. I also take Singulair because my lungs don’t function properly and Synthroid because my thyroid produces the wrong levels of hormones. Does this make me a bad person? Does this make me weak?
How ridiculous would it be for someone to tell me, “You don’t need Singulair, your lungs work just fine on their own.”? Why do people feel it is acceptable to say that about my Effexor?
Let me use the analogy of a runaway car to show what medicine does for me.
Imagine there’s a car sitting idle on a slight slope. A gust of wind knocks something heavy that disengages the parking break and lands on the gas pedal. The car shoots off down the hill and you are unable to catch up to it. You watch as it careens on, hoping it runs out of gas or hits something before someone gets hurt.
That’s what an emotional trigger was like for me when I wasn’t on medicine. I was always a little on edge, but when a trigger came along, my panic center received a full burst of fuel and spun out of control. I couldn’t do anything. I was powerless until it ran its course.
Now, imagine the same car except there’s no fuel in the tank. When the heavy object disengages the break, the car starts to roll, but slowly. You’re now able to catch up to the car and park it properly. No harm, no foul.
That’s what medicine does for me. It drains the gas from my panic center and allows me to address the situation. I’m still able to feel. I’m still able to act, but now I have the ability to stop the runaway car.
That is where therapy comes in. Therapy teaches me how to catch the car. Therapy conditions me so that I can respond quicker. Eventually, therapy teaches me that I don’t have to leave the car in idle, that I can park it like normal people do.
Are there people taking antidepressants who don’t need them? Sure, just like there are 20 year-olds who take Viagra just for that added effect. Does that mean everyone does that? No, they just probably aren’t as vocal about such a private problem.
Take care of yourself. Don’t let others’ ignorance stop you. Do what you need to do to get better, that is what is most important.