How Antidepressants Saved My Life | NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness

How Antidepressants Saved My Life

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The decision to use medicine as treatment for my depression was a hard one. Not for reasons you may think, I had no fear of modern medicine nor did I believe antidepressants were more harmful than good, as was often written in on-line blogs and medical advice websites. My biggest issue, instead, was pride. I did not want to admit that I needed medicine to help me navigate my life. I, like far too many individuals, thought taking medicine showed weakness or, even worse, proved that I was “crazy.” So I would chastise myself when I felt depressed by thinking if I can be just a little stronger, work a little harder, focus a little better, everything would be ok. 

What I did not understand during this time as young single mother, struggling to make ends meet, attempting to start an errand business to alleviate this issue, and going to school, was that I was setting myself up for a mental or emotional crises. At no point during this time was I able to focus on what I was doing at any given moment. When I was at work, I planned for my business, while doing my homework I felt guilty for not playing with my children, and when I was with my children I was thinking about my business and the homework I should be doing. Needless to say I was greatly overwhelmed and I felt like a failure. I had heard of woman, who were able to pull off all these feats simultaneously, and gracefully. I would read about a single mother who had received three Master degrees and two PhDs—of course I’m exaggerating here—and I would tell myself, be a little stronger, work a little harder, focus a little better and everything will be ok. For a little while things were ok; I was able to keep up my job and take care of the kids, while I struggled with school and starting my business. Then one day I dropped it all.

I quit my job, quit school and gave up on my business. I also stopped cooking and cleaning along with most activities healthy people tend to on a daily basis. My life showed signs of distress immediately. My house became a mess and my little bit of savings went to paying rent and ordering out. I slept most of the day and rarely answered my phone. My mom, family and friends were very unhappy about this and could not understand why. The person I once was, happy and vibrant, turned into this person very alien to me. I hated myself, I always felt guilty for some reason or another and I felt like the hugest failure. I hated the world, I hated life. The only thing that got me out of bed was my children and what effect my sleeping would have on them. They were used to this energetic, happy mom. I still had enough energy, and more importantly love, to keep up appearances for them. 

My schedule during the time was simple; wake up in enough time to get the kids off to school, rush them out the door, sleep until they got home. Then I would attempt homework, which I often failed at when it came to my son, ordering them something to eat, and keeping them occupied until I could get them to sleep again. As much as I loved and enjoyed my time with the kids, all I wanted was to get back to bed. I could never get enough of sleep. This schedule was effective for a while, until even this became too much. Waking up on time became harder, often meant I had to walk my son to school. I began to sleep after the kids got home, and when I wasn’t asleep I was off by myself crying. I was too embarrassed to talk to anyone about it. This went on for a few weeks, eventually becoming unbearable and leaving me afraid of what would happen if I didn’t reach out for help.

So I called my brother crying and told him what was going on. Thankfully he made it so easy to talk about what was going on. He listened without judging. After a few conversations we both decided it may be best if I would stay with him until I got better. Against everything in me, I left my daughter, who had just started her freshman year in high school, and moved with my son to Boston. The new environment proved to be an instant reliever. My circumstances were better. I had someone to talk to and help me with my son, especially his homework. After a few months I started a new job, my son was happy and making friends at his new school. Things were going good. I thought I was cured. Then with no warning or reason I missed a week of work. I simply had no desire to go. I was back to getting my son off to school and sleeping until he got home. After this there was no denying that something more than circumstances was playing a role in my depression. I went to my doctor, explained my symptoms and walked out with a prescription for an antidepressant that day. 

The first few days were a little rough. The Placebo affect was in full swing, but eventually things calmed down. I stopped thinking about the medicine and the fact that I was taking it. As time went on I noticed subtle changes like I had more energy, my thinking was more stable, when I watched movies I actually laughed aloud and my interactions with people were less anxiety filled.

Eventually I moved back to Pittsburgh, surrounded myself with my family, found a new job that I really liked and started a new life. I also found a Psychiatrist in Pittsburgh who I was very honest with and came to genuinely trust. Together we decided I should switch to a different medicine than the one I started in Boston and add a second one. The first one worked but there were some effects that never quite went away out. The new combination of medicine worked perfectly. 

The year since I started medication for my depression has brought me a new life. I have a job I love, friends and I am closer than ever to my family. Most importantly my kids are happy and so am I. Every once in a while I flirt with stopping my medication. Then I think of my life prior to the medicine, and I walk to my medicine cabinet to make sure I am fully stocked. Of course I would like to eventually cease to need medication and I look forward to the day. For now, medication helps me to live the life I want, a life that I am proud of, and I have no doubt starting medication was the best decision for my family and I.


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