Most of us at some point in our lives will take a prescribed medication. If you’re lucky, it’s only for a short period of time. Maybe something like antibiotics to clear up an infection, or something to calm a really bad bout of the stomach bug. But there’s also a lot of us who take medications on a longer term. Now I’m talking about things like blood pressure medications, something to calm migraines, or what I’m focusing this article on, which is anti-depressants.
I’ve been taking anti-depressants for a couple years now. Every morning I wake up, wash my face, do my hair, and take my little blue/green capsule. It’s just a normal part of my routine. But it definitely didn’t’ start out that way. To this day it’s something that I keep relatively well hidden from people. And when I have confessed to people that I take a medication daily for my mental health, the reactions are mixed to say the least. But with time I’m hoping to change that. Once I explain to people what the purpose of the medication is, and what it does for me, I think it opens their eyes a bit. So with that in mind, here are a few things that I’ve learned since I started taking anti-depressants.
It’s Not a Magic Pill
Yes, you read that right. I think this is probably one of the biggest misconceptions about taking anti-depressants. Most people think that you start taking them and they give you this instant happiness. Not true at all. My medication doesn’t make me happy. If something is going on and I’m in a crappy mood, I’m still going to be in a crappy mood even on anti-depressants. Pills don’t magically overpower sadness, that’s not how it works. Although some days I wish that was the case!
The thing is, if you’re stressed out or upset, you need an outlet to get whatever is bothering you out of your system. Outlets are different for everyone. But really it’s anything that you find either relaxing or enjoyable. Here’s the thing with anti-depressants: they don’t directly make you happy. But what they actually do is give you that little boost that enables you to do those activities that you consider outlets. And in time, you become more calm and your mood improves.
They Don’t Work Right Away
When I got my first prescription a couple years ago I’m not going to sugar coat it, I was afraid to get it filled and start taking pills. Never having done any research on what an anti-depressant was like, I figured that it was going to mess with my head in all sorts of strange ways. So the first morning I took my pill and sat anxiously waiting and… nothing. The next day was the same thing, I didn’t feel any different. “What gives?” I thought, “This isn’t working at all!”
As I later found out, it can easily take 2-3 weeks before you start noticing a change in mood. The medication simply needs time to build up in your system. But before you start noticing that you’re feeling better, you’ll likely to experience a host of other fun side effects. After all, you’re changing the chemistry in your brain. I myself had headaches, nausea, anxiety, irritability, and dizziness. But I’m sure there’s a lot more than that.
Finding the Right One Can Take Time
In some ways people really all are special snowflakes. How their bodies react to medication is one of those ways. What works for me may not work for you, or your friend. But fear not! There are literally dozens of different types of anti-depressants out there. So one of them is bound to work for you. But also bear in mind that I’m about as far from a medical professional that you can get, so always talk to your doctor about these things.
I had to try 3 different medications before I found the one that worked for me. The first one honestly didn’t do anything for me. And the second one made my symptoms far worse. I’ve been taking the third one for about a year and half now. And even within that time, my doctor and I have made adjustments to the dosage to help mitigate the side effects. And I’ll be honest, switching medications is hard. It’s not as simple as stopping one type and starting another. You have to slowly wean yourself off of the current medication while at the same time introducing the new one. It’s a process that takes a couple weeks in total. And it’s definitely a rough couple weeks, but it’s worth it in the end to find something that works well and really helps.
You Likely Won’t Take Them Forever
But it’s also okay if you do. There are a lot of medications that are safe to take long term. But again, you should work with your doctor to figure out if that’s possible, or necessary, for you. Like I mentioned earlier, I’ve been taking them for a couple years now. And I’ve pretty much surrendered to the fact that I will take them long term, because without them I can hardly get out of bed. But that’s something I’m okay with.
That being said, I know lots of people who took medication for a couple years and stopped after a while. Either they just didn’t want to anymore or the side effects were too unpleasant. My psychiatrist told me once that the rule of thumb for her was that if it’s been at least a year since your last really low point, then you can slowly try to stop taking the medication. But if you found your symptoms returning while you’re decreasing it, then you should keep taking it for a while longer. Better to be safe than sorry, right?
I realize that some of this sounds pretty daunting. The takeaway here is that taking anti-depressants is actually kind of normal and not all that scary. I can’t describe to you the difference it’s made in my life. It’s not always the easiest journey, but it’s so worth it in the end. I mean, it’s your happiness that we’re talking about here. And that’s always something worth fighting for.