My choice to take antidepressants

I have a family history of depression on my mother’s side. My maternal grandmother was on various medications throughout her life. My mother, who has also lived with depression, chose not to take medication. I have grown up on alternative medicine, as my father is a clinical herbalist. Before 2014, I generally used herbs, supplements, and therapy to manage my low moods. Due to these factors and overall mixed feelings about medications (and doctors), I was resistant to try antidepressants.

There have been several times in the past where someone has recommended antidepressants to me:

1) When I was in college, the health center therapist referred me to a psychiatrist. I refused to go.

2) When I received a poor participation grade in a college class, I e-mailed my professor for feedback. She told me that I was a good student and she believed that I could rise as far as I desired academically. However, she recommended that I take antidepressants so I could be more outgoing. She told me it worked for her. I was stunned.

3) Fast forward, years later: I was working long, stressful hours at my job. I was also experiencing mysterious dizzy spells. I went to the doctor, and she told me that the dizzy spells were probably related to anxiety and recommended that I see a psychiatrist. Again, I refused.

4) Last year: Post-surgery, in my surgeon’s office for a twelve week follow-up, I burst into tears and told her how I’d been feeling. She told me that knew I preferred alternative treatments, but antidepressants were an option. I hesitated, and then told her I was willing to try. I remember saying at one point that if I ever was in a crisis situation, I would consider taking antidepressants. This seemed to apply. I took Celexa for six weeks and ended up feeling more agitated and suicidal. I went off that medication and got a prescription for something else. However, I was now terrified of experiencing similar side effects, so I didn’t take it.

In the hospital last May, taking medication wasn’t optional – it was part of the daily routine. What they gave me there (Abilify and Depakote) temporarily stabilized me, but ended up making me feel slow and extremely hungry. In the end, those medications did not decrease my emotional turmoil. When I returned to my hometown and found a new psychiatrist, I switched to Wellbutrin. I’ve now been on it for six months.

I’ve heard that some people describe taking their medication as though it were akin to a miracle: “Wow, I didn’t know how depressed I was until I started taking this. It’s like the clouds have lifted.” For me, the clouds haven’t quite lifted, but I feel like I have more breathing room. My depression and rumination still dominate at times, but they are not always at the forefront. I’m better able to think rationally and to work on deeper issues.

Sometimes, I want that miracle solution, a magic pill, something that infuses a sustainable feeling of hope within me. My conclusion, so far: there is no one solution. I exercise regularly, I eat healthy foods, I take my medication and supplements, and I go to therapy. And in the end, I am no more outgoing for being on antidepressants. No pill is going to change my basic temperament. However, the combination of supportive self-care practices help me maintain my interest in life in general, and to live actively. Am I better off for taking antidepressants at this point in my life? I think so. Do I want to take them long-term? I would prefer not to, but I want – and need – to take one thing at a time.


One response to this post.

  1. Thank you for your transparency. You are a brave soul. I too, have been on antidepressants for years. And felt that I’ve been no more outgoing. But to be alive and stable has been a God send. There are really a lot of points her that I’m just nodding in agreement to. God bless you through your valley.


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