My Experience with Taking Medication for Depression

Well, today I did something that I've been dreading all week.  I took my anti-depressant.  It's not that I have anything against the medicine; in fact, I'm very thankful for it.  It's just that I've been off it all summer and taking it means admitting to myself that the sadness of depression is once again creeping in.  It's admitting that the winter might be long and hard and humbling.

Since medication is on my mind today, I thought I'd share my experiences with taking an anti-depressant for depression.

I first tried to get on an anti-depressant in December of 2013.  This was about 1 year after I started dealing with depression and about 4 months after I got married.  I knew that I needed help, so I called and set up an appointment.  Because my insurance didn't cover very many doctors in my area, my husband and I stopped at a doctor about 45 minutes away from where we lived on our way down to Utah for our Christmas Break.  I remember waiting alone in the doctor's office for the doctor to come in and wondering how I would ever explain what I was thinking/feeling/experiencing.  I didn't know what words to use to describe my deep pain, sorrow, and heartache.  Before I could figure out what I was going to say or how I was going to say it, the doctor walked in and asked how I was doing.  I smiled and exclaimed, "Great!"  He looked down at his paperwork, then back up at me, and with a slightly confused tone in his voice asked, "You're in here for depression?  You seem like the most chipper depressed person I've ever met."  My heart sunk.  I needed help, but now he would never believe me.  My mind started racing.  Why didn't I have him come in the room to find me crying?  Why did I give him the same fake happiness that I gave everyone else?  Why did I say that I was doing great when really I was experiencing more pain than I ever knew possible?  He asked a few more questions, gave me some advice about how to handle the stress of being newly married, and sent me out the door.  I talked to my husband about the visit on the rest of our car ride, but I felt more lost and helpless than before the doctor's appointment.

When I got pregnant with my daughter, I attempted to go on an anti-depressant again.  I can't remember what it was called, and it really doesn't matter since everyone reacts differently to different medications, but it didn't work at all.  I didn't notice even the slightest edge taken off my sadness or anxiety.  I was uninformed about all things depression at that time, so I thought this might be my only option of a medication.  I kept taking it but didn't tell anyone that it wasn't working, until one really awful day!  I was on BYU-Idaho's campus and felt completely overcome with emotion.  I made my way to my car and got in the front seat.  I didn't even feel like I could drive home with how I felt.  I called my OB/GYN and told her that the medication wasn't working.  She asked if I would want to try taking another one.  I was glad that was an option, so I agreed.  I went to pick it up and felt this little nudge in my heart to read the risks of taking the medication.  The packet of information that came with the prescription said that caution should be used when taking this medication while pregnant, because it could cause deformities in the baby.  I felt like there was a reason I needed to look at the risks, and I didn't feel good about taking the medicine, so I didn't.  I called my husband in tears telling him about my terrible day, and how I thought there was hope in taking another medication until I read about the risks.  He agreed that I shouldn't take it, even though we both knew it would be really hard on me to continue feeling the way I did.

I managed to make it all the way until after having my daughter before I went in one last time to get on a medication.  I called my OB/GYN's office to tell them that I was feeling post-partum depression and would like to start taking an anti-depressant.  They took me very seriously and got me in the next day to be evaluated.  My OB/GYN (a different one from the first part of my pregnancy) was so great and agreed that I needed to start taking an anti-depressant.  He prescribed Zoloft (Sertraline) immediately and then scheduled another appointment to check in on how the medication was working.

It took about a month before I really felt significant changes, but once it "kicked in," I noticed that I started to feel normal again.  I felt like I could function; I wanted to do things, I enjoyed my baby, I didn't get overwhelmed by dishes or dinner as often, I could go days without crying, I didn't feel panic or fear all day, I could think more clearly, and I felt genuinely happy most of the time.

The only down-side I've had with taking my anti-depressant is that it makes me sleepy.  I didn't recognize this until after I was able to stop taking it and I felt a surge of energy, but I would rather be sleepy than sleepy and sad any day.

At first, I did not like taking an anti-depressant.  I thought it made me weak or fake, since I needed a medicine to make me happy.  Since then, I have learned and accepted that taking a medicine for depression is just like taking medicine for diabetes, high blood pressure, or arthritis.  Depression is an illness, so it's alright to treat it with medication.

I was talking about my concerns with a friend one day and she brought up a good point.  When I wasn't taking an anti-depressant, I was constantly faking happiness in front of everyone so that they wouldn't know about my depression, so feeling true happiness while on an anti-depressant was not fake at all since the happiness was there.  The medication was just an aid to feeling genuine happiness instead of pretending that I was happy when I wasn't.

She also helped me to feel thankful for taking an anti-depressant by pointing out that a long time ago, there wasn't anything to help with depression, and that must have been so miserable for those people.  I am blessed to live in a time when I can get help when I feel sad, and I don't just have to endure it.

I have heard the rumor before that anti-depressants change your personality or make you a non-emotional robot.  This is not my experience at all!  My anti-depressant helps me feel normal, happy, and peaceful.

If you are struggling with depression and think that a medication might help you, this is what I advise:

  • Make an appointment with a doctor today!  Don't wait.
  • Tell the doctor up front that you are struggling with depression and would like to try taking an anti-depressant to help.
  • Give the medication 4-6 weeks to really take effect.  
  • If it is working, keep taking it and don't miss a day!  Take it at the same time every day to keep the same amount of medication in your bloodstream.
  • If it isn't working, call your doctor again.  They might switch you to a different medication or up the dosage.
  • Don't be ashamed of getting medical help for your mental illness!

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