Just like taking any medication for your health (yes, mental health is a part of your health) to improve your quality of life, taking antidepressants or any medication for your mental health is nothing to be ashamed of. If you’re still struggling to accept that, then keep reading this article (keep reading it anyway, I put a lot of time and effort into writing it).
The Stupid Things People Say About Taking Antidepressants
Taking antidepressants means you’ve failed
Failed what, exactly? Of course it doesn’t mean you’ve failed, why would it? People need to take medications for all kinds of reasons. I often take ibuprofen to help with joint and knee pains because it can reduce swelling. Does that mean I’ve failed at walking or something?
Taking antidepressants means you’re weak
How exactly does it mean you’re weak? If your body isn’t producing enough neurotransmitters to allow you to function, then you’re not weak. Just like a diabetic who needs insulin to function isn’t weak or if someone had to take medication for their thyroid. People wouldn’t bat an eyelid, even though thyroid issues can cause mental health issues (Hage and Azar, 2012). So no, depression isn’t a sign of weakness (Rethink Mental Illness) and nor is taking medication for it.
Antidepressants are just an easy fix
Dear god no, trying to find the appropriate antidepressant that works for you and doesn’t cause insufferable side effects, isn’t easy. Far from it. It can take a lot of trial and error, taking months to find one that works. Everyone’s different, so people will respond differently to different antidepressants, and that’s ok. You’re not just popping the first pill and everything is suddenly great again.
Once you’ve found an antidepressant that works for you, you can then further work on yourself without being hindered by crippling depression and a complete lack of motivation. Antidepressant aren’t a quick fix, they’re just another tool in the toolbox to help you get your quality of life back on track.
As Blurt said:
People say that they don’t want to have to take a pill to be happy. Indeed, antidepressants are often labelled ‘happy pills’. You take a pill and, boom, you’re smiling again, and the depression has lifted. This isn’t how mental health medication works. It doesn’t make us happy, it just stops us feeling quite so low, putting us back on an even-keel.
Needing antidepressant says something bad about you
Because of mental health stigma and pill shaming, people often see that taking antidepressants as a constant reminder that something’s “wrong” with them, causing shame that makes their depression worse (Cleveland Clinic). The notion that taking antidepressants suggests that there’s something wrong with you on a personal level is a beyond a joke. Antidepressants, as with other medications, are there to help us and using them doesn’t mean there’s something inherently wrong with you as a person.
Your depression is a fad
Who makes this kind of stuff up? Who “culturally” chooses to be depressed (Vice)? And then get medication for it? As I will mention in ‘How Do I Know If I need To Start Taking Antidepressant?’, there are three key criteria for distinguishing if you have clinical depression that requires medication. Someone can use other means of depression support without medication if these three aren’t in play. It’s really that simple.
Furthermore, life is tough. The generation born after the baby boomers are the first to do financially worse than their preceding generations. We work more, get paid less, everything costs more, and it’s next to impossible to buy a home nowadays. That sh*t is depressing. Working hard and having next to nothing to show for it sucks. And what do we get in return for our efforts? Reasonable pay for our labour? No, we get AmaZen nightmare wellness coffins. Instead of getting support, businesses weaponised wellness against us.
Anyway, rant over. Depression is no joke. It doesn’t take much for depression to become a chronic illness if the causes aren’t dealt with. I cannot remember a time where I wasn’t depressed. I become suicidal by the time I was eight, due to a childhood of racist abuse outside my home and emotional neglect inside my home. But I was depressed years before I became suicidal, and I’ve struggled with it my whole life. I even requested that I start taking antidepressants (mirtazapine) again, because it got so unmanageable.
My advice, don’t listen to people who say these kinds of things, and don’t listen to yourself if you’re thinking about them either. There’s nothing wrong with taking a prescription antidepressant to improve your quality of life. Don’t make life harder than it already is by denying yourself access to help.
Antidepressants will turn you into a zombie
How frightening would that be if people on antidepressant all ended up like zombies from The Walking Dead? Don’t get me wrong, there can be some tough days where you’ll feel a little out of it, but that normally passes after a few weeks. I recently started on mirtazapine, and all I wanted to do was sleep the first three days, but after that, I was back to normal.
I’m not going to lie to you. Chances are you’ll experience some pretty unwanted side effects with some of the antidepressants you’ll try. You just need to hang on. Most sides effects pass after the first few weeks, and if they don’t, talk to your doctor about trying a different one.
At the end of the day, millions of people in every country take medications for their health. In the US, the CDC reports that 48.6% of Americans were on at least one prescription drug between 2015-2018, that’s almost half the population of the US. Taking something for your mental health should be no different. If people don’t feel pill shamed for taking an aspirin for a headache or a beta-blocker for a heart arrhythmia, then you shouldn’t feel guilty or bad for taking an antidepressant. Mental health is health. I’ll say it again, mental health is health.
I take so many medications that I feel like I could start my own pharmacy. I take bisoprolol for my heart arrhythmia and chest pains, metformin for my reactive hyperglycaemia, lansoprazole for my IBS, and now mirtazapine. For a couple of weeks, I was taking naproxen for my knee problems, but had to switch back to ibuprofen. The naproxen caused diarrhoea on a scale I hadn’t seen since my colonoscopy all because I after consumed four units of alcohol the night before. I asked to start taking antidepressants because I was struggling to cope. I needed help, so I asked for help. It’s all keeping me alive and helping me function, so there’s nothing to be ashamed of.
How Do I Know If I need To Start Taking Antidepressants?
The three clinical signs of depression that won’t respond to talking therapy alone or long soaks in a bubble bath. It’s these three things that when you’re depressed and people tell you to go on a holiday to feel better, you just ended up on holiday feeling equally depressed. These three crucial signs of depression are:
This is a fancy way of saying you have an inability to enjoy pleasurable things that would usually cause you pleasure, or be a source of pleasure for people in general.
There’s two simple questions you can ask yourself:
- Is there anything you enjoy doing?
- Was there anything you used to enjoy?
Yet again, this is a fancy way of saying you have an unusually low level of energy. This is what makes depression synonymous with staying in bed and sleeping a lot.
There’s two simple questions you can ask yourself:
- Are you tired all the time?
- Are you staying in bed, sleeping, or napping more than you normally would?
This one doesn’t have a fancy name, luckily, as I don’t even know how to pronounce the two symptoms above. People don’t realise exactly how concentration and depression go together. It’s less day dreaming and not being able to focus on the task you’re doing, like with ADHD, and more lacking in motivation. For example, not starting your household chores even though they need to be done or avoiding meeting friends.
There’s three simple questions you can ask yourself:
- Do you find it hard to start tasks that need to be done?
- Are you cancelling plans with friends/family or avoiding making plans with friends/family?
- Does the lack of motivation affect you in other areas of your life?
Talk to your doctor about the suspicion that you might be depressed if you have trouble with any of the three criteria above, especially if it’s all three. Although there are a lot of other criteria that would also tell you if you have depression, the three above are the ones where a psychopharmacological intervention will be needed. Depression without those three can be treated without the use of medication, although using medication may still be a worthwhile option to consider.
As always, leave your feedback in the comments section below. Also, feel free to share your experiences taking antidepressants, being depressed, and dealing with medication stigma in the comments section below as well. Don’t forget to bookmark my site and if you want to stay up-to-date with my blog, then sign up for my newsletter below. Alternatively, get push notifications for new articles by clicking the red bell icon in the bottom right corner.
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Hage, M. P., & Azar, S. T. (2012). The Link between Thyroid Function and Depression. Journal of thyroid research, 2012, 590648. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1155/2012/590648 and https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3246784.