The misconception and stigma behind antidepressants

For many, a painkiller or an antidepressant can be the difference between a functional life and a life of unrelenting despair."Users themselves must decide about meds’ helpfulness in their own lives," said David Cohen, a professor of social welfare at UCLA. (Dreamstime/TNS)

Yes, I am on antidepressants and mood stabilizers and no, that does not make me crazy.

Why am I telling you this? In all honesty, I might be oversharing at this point. Yet, truthfully, I want to break the stigma that only crazy people take medications, like antidepressants. 

When it comes to talking about mental health, I take pride in educating myself and others on any issues that need to be addressed more often. Yet, antidepressants seem to be the one conversation I shy away from being transparent about. 

I am in no way a professional physicist. However, I want to share my personal experience with these medications.

Firstly, I want to explain why people take antidepressants. According to Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI) are a class of antidepressants that increase the amount of the neurotransmitter serotonin available in the brain.

SSRI’s block the reuptake, or absorption, of serotonin in the brain. This makes it easier for the brain cells to receive and send messages, resulting in better and more stable moods, according

A misconception I often find is that people think that antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications are the same. That is not the case. 

Antidepressants are medications that are taken daily to produce more serotonin in the brain.

Anti-anxiety medications are more commonly benzodiazepines. These are medications such as Lojra Poem, Xanax, Tranxene and so forth. These medications are commonly used in cause of emergencies that arise with anxiety such as severe anxiety or panic attacks. 

These are not everyday medications, like antidepressants, which a misconception that often people abuse and is why there are so many people addicted to benzodiazepines. 

Usually, when I try to explain the medical aspect of antidepressants, it usually follows with, “So it’s just a pill that makes you feel happy?” If only that was the case. 

The medication does not make you happy, it simply eases some of the symptoms and severe side effects that result from depression. My brain, unfortunately, just produces lower amounts of serotonin than others. Therefore, my medication allows me to function daily at a higher serotion rate, like everyone else’s brain around me. 

Taking medications does not make me crazy, in fact it makes me brave and resilient. It takes a lot of willingness to accept help with mental illness.

There are many steps that go into starting a medication regimen. 

Seeing a therapist to talk about what is going on is the first step. Then, one must see a psychologist to have proper testing and diagnosis. The last step is seeing a psychiatrist in order to determine which medication will best remedy your symptoms.

These are the steps involved in the process of getting access to medication, but the most difficult part is figuring out which medications work for you.

I remember taking antidepressants for the first time and thinking they were just going to magically make everything better and that my psychiatrist would be able to immediately prescribe a  medication that would be right for me.

However, when I was trying to function at school or work, I was constantly feeling physically sick from shaking tremors, nausea, headaches, dizziness, drowsiness, irritability, insomnia, stomach pains, you name it. 

I found myself telling my family and friends, “Sorry I just feel so sick right now.” That was until that excuse just ran its course. I decided that I was tired of pretending that my physical sickness was a common cold because it was not. 

Antidepressants can be extremely difficult to work through the first month or during the waiting game of seeing how they work once they kick in.

It is a confusing process to go through because you feel physically sick, and you cannot understand why you would want to put yourself through physical sickness to feel mentally better.

I remember three weeks in, I wanted to give up and just stop taking them. 

However, something important that everyone should know is that you should NEVER stop taking your medications abruptly or without your doctor’s consent. This can cause severe symptoms, mood swings and dark thoughts.

Usually, if a medication is not working, I had to lower the dose and keep halving my doses until I could finally wean off it. 

I know you are thinking, “Well I hope she just stopped after having all those symptoms and could not get through day-to-day tasks.” However, that was not the case. I had to go through many trial and error processes with medications until I found the right one for me.

Finally, after months of changing medications, I found the perfect antidepressant for my symptoms and diagnosis. After the side effects decreased, I had never felt better in my life. 

I could finally live day to day without wanting to isolate and hide from the world. Yes, I still had some fatigue and a few symptoms, but they were very mild.

I decided that I would much rather live a life of trial and error than to continue doing nothing about my depression.

I want people to understand that medication also does not mean that everything you are struggling with goes away. I still continue to go to therapy and group therapy weekly. 

I have to put in the hard work of talk therapy to better my life. However, the medication makes that process a lot easier for me to continue so I can build a life worth living.

I want you to know that if you are someone who judges people or calls people names for taking medications, please take the time to educate yourself on the process and research behind medications.

And if you are someone who is looking to start medications or take steps to getting help, please know that is worth it. 

I am living proof that if you put the work in, it does get better.

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