Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Depression, more than feeling blue

With the constant media attention on antidepressants these days, could it be that the actual disorder is getting left behind? With the arguments going back and forth over whether antidepressants are needed or if people who are depressed just need to pull up their bootstraps, I think that those who do have true depression feel like they have to keep it to themselves once again.

Depression isn’t just a matter of feeling blue; it’s not feeling like things just aren’t going right. True depression goes much, much deeper than that. True depression makes someone feel totally worthless, as if there is no meaning in life. True depression can make someone want to hide from the world, hoping that this will keep the painful things away.

Unfortunately, hiding from the world doesn’t work. Since the cause of depression isn’t external, hiding can’t and won’t work. Depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain. If someone is sick, if they have an infection, they take antibiotics. If they have seizures, they take anticonvulsants. So, if someone has a chemical imbalance in their brain that causes depression, doesn’t it make sense to treat it with available medications?

It’s true that not all antidepressants work for all those who need them. Like all other medications, some will help some people while they won’t help others. And, for someone who is depressed, it can be hard to have to try different medications before finding the one that works for him or her. But it’s so important to do that. Medication doesn’t cure depression, but it sure makes life easier to live.

Some people only need to take antidepressants so that they can start feeling well enough to start seeking other kinds of help, such as seeing a psychologist or a counsellor. Often, once they’ve begun to deal with other aspects of their lives, they may be able to stop taking the antidepressant medications. However, not everyone can stop or should stop taking them. And there should be no shame in it.

Taking an antidepressant is not the equivalent of taking a Happy Pill – not even close. Most people won’t even feel the effects of their antidepressants right away because it can take weeks for the chemicals in the brain to right themselves. Slowly, but surely, things don’t seem quite so bad. The anxiety that may have beset them from time to time might not be as frequent. The feeling of impending doom may have stopped hanging over them, but it’s so gradual that it seems as if one day, they just realized that they’re feeling better.

After taking these medications for a while, many people want to try going off them. They want to see if they can make in on their own. While that might work for some people, others find that they need to continue taking them. Sometimes, this makes them feel like failures. They feel they should be able to manage without medication. They shouldn’t feel that way though because if they need medication, then they need it.

How do I know so much about how someone feels when they take these medications? Because I take Celexa. I’ve been taking it for almost two years now but I fought taking antidepressants for years. I tried them half-heartedly, forgot to take them more often than not and that was my proof that I didn’t need them or they didn’t work for me. With the help of a (very!) patient psychologist, I learned that I did need to take these medications. Within months of taking it, I stopped having my regular panic attacks. In fact, I can count on one hand how many panic attacks I’ve had in the past 18 months. These attacks were disabling me at one point, and now they’re as rare as can be. I still have moments of anxiety, but not to the point that I used to.

Celexa didn’t solve all my problems; there was a lot of work to get through. But I finally got it through my head that I need to take this medication. It’s not a choice to be made, it’s not a weakness or a failure. Now, I’m living my life as I should. I’m a better mother to my children, a better wife to my husband, and a better friend to my friends.

Depression is a disorder that needs to be taken seriously. If you suffer from depression, or you know someone who does, there is a way out of it. There really is a light at the end of the tunnel. I just wish I hadn’t waited so long to find it.

Today’s news:

Depression raises risk of death from many causes
Most asthma patients have uncontrolled disease
Clot-Busting Drug May Help Treat Frostbite

No comments: