Should I take anti-depressants? Should I go to therapy? Can’t I just manage my depesssion with lifestyle changes and natural supplements? These are the questions that everyone who suffers from depression must try to answer. It’s not easy.
At one time I was more likely to suggest natural options. I’m still thankful to get information to people about alternative options to pharmaceutical anti-depressants, especially since the alternatives aren’t usually talked about. I think everyone should always know their options. However, whether to focus your recovery on therapy, medication, natural supplements, or a combination of those is not an easy decision, especially when you’re not well.
There does come a time when medication is not only an option but it is the only viable option. Often, we don’t even realize that we have reached that place. While I encourage people to know their other options, I also know that have ruined relationships and years of my life through my refusal to take psychiatric medication and I don’t want to see anyone else go through that.
I’m concerned for the health of my lovely readers, who may put off seeking help from their doctor for a serious condition. Depression can be so debilitating that we are completely unable to function. Depression can even be life threatening. We cannot hope to get out of a crisis mode with alternative methods alone. If you’re in a crisis, you need to see a doctor, be professionally supervised, and get on medication immediately. This is not the time to be looking for alternative options! Please come back to this issue when you’re not actively wanting to kill yourself.
Because I have written in the past about natural options, I am also concerned that readers will come to this blog and get the wrong impression, thinking that I’m against medication or that I believe depression can be fixed with some Vitamin D and a little exercise. Nothing could be farther from the truth! That’s not what I’m about here. In fact, I get extremely frustrated when people try to tell me that if I exercised more, read my Bible, or chose to look on the bright side then I would no longer be depressed. Depression is far more complicated than that and I’m trying to change that stigma, not perpetuate it.
Depression is an illness just like any other illness. Sometimes illnesses can be managed with supplements, vitamins, and a healthy lifestyle. Sometimes they can’t.
In the same way that diabetes or hypertension, for example, can sometimes be managed with lifestyle changes and alternative options, depression can also sometimes be managed without pharmaceutical medication. At the same time, just as chronic physical illness sometimes needs lifelong management medication, people with mental illness sometimes need lifelong medication as well. For both physical and mental illnesses, people often need medication to treat the worst of the illness, but with time people often learn to manage their disease naturally.
And there is absolutely nothing wrong with any of those management options!
We have to start seeing physical and mental illnesses as equal and we must start understanding them holistically. We must remember that our emotions and spirituality affect both our mental and physical health and we can’t ignore the definite biological aspects of both types of illness. There is no shame in realizing that your stress level is affecting either your liver or your blood pressure. There is also no shame in determining that your illness needs lifelong medication.
So should you take pharmaceutical anti-depressants? I wish I could give you that answer, but that’s a decision that you need to make in conjunction with your mental health team and important people that love you. I’ve said it in every post about health and many times on my disclaimers page: I am not a doctor and have no professional medical experience. You should always discuss your health options with your medical team.
Personally, I found anti-depressants to be a crucial step in my recovery. Did they fix it entirely? No. Not for me personally, but I know they do work that well for some people. They got me out of the pit enough that I was able to seek recovery in college and they were absolutely crucial to my recovery from my most recent episode and are essential my remaining well. For a while I chose to not be on pharmaceutical anti-depressants for a variety of personal reasons.
A year and a half ago I wrote, “I have a lot of personal reasons for choosing to manage my depression without anti-depressants right now. However, I used them in the past and I’m still considering them to be an option in the future. Should my situation change and my medical team and I determine that the benefits outweigh the negatives, I will take anti-depressants without any guilt or shame. As should you.”
I reached that point. And I made the decision to take anti-depressants. After a couple of tries I found one that works and honestly I had not realized how much it would help. I have come to believe that my depression, or at least this past episode, is primarily biochemical and I need to faithfully take my anti-depressant every day. I finally feel like myself. The irritability and anxiety I didn’t know was a result of the depression has been virtually non-existent. I now have no plans to get off of my meds and no shame about that decision.
Each person needs to do what works best for their own health. For most people that will be a combination of lifestyle changes, therapy, nutrition, vitamins, and medication. For a few people it will be just one of those. More importantly, we must continue to support each other’s decisions. We’re all in this together, no matter the differences in our treatment plans.
Even though I found one that works, I still have some concerns about the reported efficacy rates of anti-depressants. But I am also hopeful that one day we will have much better medication options as scientists learn more about depression’s causes and symptoms. In the grand scheme of medical science, we are at the beginning of understanding and treating mental illness. The already hopeful treatment rate will only continue to improve.
Will I continue to write about how lifestyle changes have helped my depression? Yes, primarily because everyone is already aware that medication can be helpful and I prefer to write about less apparent things. Additionally, most doctors will tell you that recovery is never due to medication alone and that lifestyle changes toward living well are a crucial component. But as I do, please know that I am not against anti-depressants. Remember that there is no more shame in taking an anti-depressant than in taking a daily dose of insulin.
Now excuse me while I go take my psych meds.