I used to feel embarrassed about it, but now I’m not. I’d rather not take them, just like I’d rather not take lemsip when I get the cold. But there have been times in my life when they have really, really helped.
Genuine depression is more than temporary sadness or feeling a bit low. It’s a hoover, that sucks up hope and personality and then has the cheek to deny its very existence.
And it’s difficult enough, without hitting yourself around the head with the shame stick.
For me, anti depressants have been one of the rungs on the ladder out of the pit. They’re not a ‘cure’, but they can sometimes help. If you think they might help you, then here are some qs you might want to ask your dr;
- what type of depression do I have and how serious is it?
- what treatment options are available?
- what should I do if I’m in a crisis, feel suicidal or need emergency help?
- what type of drug are you prescribing and how does it work?
- are these addictive (and if so, are there alternatives?)
- could it interfere with any of my other medications?
- what are the associated side-effects?
- when will it start to work and how will I know?
- how long will I need to take them for?
For more on depression, check out Mark’s great post here .
In my experience:
The term ‘happy pills’ is a misnomer. Antidepressants don’t make you ‘happy’. But they’re not meant to either. When they work, they help bring you closer to what you normally look like. That might be bursting with life and positivity. But it’s equally likely to be a very human mixture of sadness and hope and despair and longing and confusion and all kinds of other stuff that ‘happy’ doesn’t describe.
I say ‘when they work’, because like most medications, finding the right antidepressant can be a case of trial and error. Normally you start on a fairly low dose – and this may need to be adjusted for you to see any effect, (but give it time first). Antidepressants usually take a few weeks to kick in - and sometimes longer. When they do start working, it’s not like a sudden burst of sunshine, (in my experience at least). It’s a gradual lifting and loved ones may spot signs of improvement long before you do.
If you try a course of tablets and they’re not working, then don’t despair! There are different kinds of antidepressants and they will work for different people. The first kind I tried made me feel sick and permanently groggy. Going back to the doctor was not easy and I was tempted to think it was ‘my fault’. But it was worth it: when I changed to a different kind, these issues went away and I felt a lot better. If your doctor is unsympathetic, then ask for another one. Remember, you are not a waste of time and it’s their job to help you.
Don’t however, come off antidepressants ‘cold turkey’ or without checking with your GP. I tried this once and felt like I was going absolutely bonkers. When I did it gradually, it was much, much easier.
Antidepressants won’t work for everyone. They have some side-effects and can be over-prescribed. It goes without saying that if you’re made redundant or you’ve been dumped or you can’t pay the bills, pills won’t fix these problems. But what they can do, is get you to the point where you can look at these issues without wanting to crawl under a rock and never come out.