If you struggle with depression, you’ve probably wondered at least once, should I try antidepressants?
Now let’s be honest, as a stranger on the internet, I can’t directly answer that. What I can do, is share my experience and hope it helps empower you to make the right call for you.
Read on to find my experience, as well as some tips and lessons I’ve learned along the way.
Please note I am not a mental health professional and this article is written only from my own experience. If you are struggling please consult a professional, or check out some crisis resources here.
Should I try antidepressants? Where my journey started
I first started taking antidepressants roughly 8 years ago. It’s been a long, sometimes bumpy road with a lot of lessons along the way!
So, why did I start taking them?
I was struggling. I was battling depression with a side of self loathing and without the necessary coping mechanisms or capability to see past it. I saw a psychologist and psychiatrist who suggested trying medication.
Honestly, I didn’t want to. I was still struggling to understand that seeking help didn’t make me weak. I was stubborn and determined to not need any help!
After a lot of therapy, discussions, and not wanting to feel the way I did anymore, I finally agreed to try medication.
So it was all sunshine and rainbows and I’m cured now right? Right?! Not quite.
The bumps along the way
Finally conceding that medication might help, I was cautiously optimistic.
When the first medication I tried made me violently nauseous, I was disappointed. But I agreed to try again with another medication.
I crossed my fingers that the next one would help, started taking it, and promptly became so anxious I couldn’t even sit in a car without panicking. I’d now tried a medication that wrecked me physically, and one that wrecked me emotionally.
It sucked. I was really starting to second guess the whole should I try antidepressants thing.
With much trepidation, and admittedly little hope, I tried a third medication.
And much to my surprise, it helped. I felt like I could breathe, I could feel myself smiling for what felt like the first time in a long time. For the first time in years, there was just a tiny shard of light slicing through the dark cloud that was my depression.
The rain after the sunshine
Unfortunately, it didn’t last forever. Eventually I became resistant and started experiencing some bizarre side effects. Still, I increased the dose and stuck with it. I felt those trade offs were a good deal for feeling alive again.
However, the issues kept coming. After increasing my dose, I quickly found out that missing the time I usually take it by more than a few hours would render me an utter zombie for the next 24-48 hours. The withdrawal symptoms were awful. To this day I’ve never felt anything mess with my head and body so hard.
I went online and found others had shared similar awful experiences with this medication, and even found a lawsuit against it due to its side effects and withdrawal symptoms.
I became desperate to get off it. So desperate in fact, that I quit it cold turkey.
PLEASE NEVER EVER DO THAT.
Seriously, don’t. I do not suggest or condone that in the slightest.
Coming off that was two of the worst weeks in my life and I’ve been in some pretty crappy situations!
Thankfully, the one I tried after that, my current medication, finally seems to be the right fit. No nasty side effects, no nasty withdrawal symptoms if I’m late taking it, and I’m the most stable I’ve felt in years. I’ve realised I don’t have to trade physical health for mental health, I just had to keep trying until I found the right one.
I’m now doing the dance again, trying medication for my anxiety. So far so good but we’ll see what happens!
The pros of trying antidepressants
It could help you.
When you get medication right, in can be truly life changing. Not because it magically ‘fixes’ you, but because it can finally give you that tiny bit of light and hope you need to keep on going.
That’s pretty much all there is to say on the pros front. However the potential for a better quality of life is a pretty huge plus as pros go!
The cons of trying antidepressants
I think the biggest con of trying medications like antidepressants is the potential side effects. Some are mildly irritating, some are super annoying and some are downright soul or body destroying.
The unfortunate thing with side effects, is that they can’t always be predicted. Sure, medication come with a leaflet explaining potential side effects (and your doctor should talk you through them too!) but you never know which side effects you specifically will have, or how severe they will be.
Medication also generally isn’t something you can ask other peoples objective opinions on, like you could a pair of shoes. Medication effects can vary wildly from person to person, and the only way to know how it will affect you, is to, well, try it. It requires a lot of patience and persistence!
It can also be annoying having to remember it everyday, or not being able to spontaneously stay somewhere without it, but I believe that’s a small price to pay.
Some key tips for trying antidepressants
If you’re still wondering should I try antidepressants, below you’ll find some lessons I’ve learned (often that hard way) to help you on your journey.
1. Temper your expectations
Antidepressants are not the be-all end-all of treating mental illnesses. Can they help? Yes. Can they make your life easier? Yes. However it’s not the magic pill to solve all your problems. Keep your expectations reasonable so you don’t end up disappointed!
2. Don’t ditch other coping mechanisms
As I said above, antidepressants aren’t magic bullets! They can’t necessarily entirely replace other coping mechanisms, which I unfortunately learned after dropping my other coping mechanisms as soon as I felt good. Big mistake!
Don’t treat medication like a cure. Treat it as a window, or extra breathing room that allows you to effectively implement other coping strategies like journaling or therapy without feeling overwhelmed and hopeless. (P.s, if you want to try guided journaling, check out my review of my favourites here.)
3. Be patient and persistent
The first medication you try may not work for you. The second third or fourth still may not work for you! It doesn’t mean you’re beyond help, or hopeless, it just means you haven’t found the right one yet. Have patience and keep trying until you get it right.
4. Have someone you can talk to or stay with when trying new medication
New medication can seriously knock you around, mentally and physically. So can weaning off it! In either scenario it’s ideal to be staying with someone you trust.
If that’s not possible, at least let someone you trust know what’s happening so they can check in with you, or you can reach out if you need. Make sure you’re communicating any issues to your doctor or therapist as well!
5. Track how it’s going
Side effects and mood shifts can be subtle enough that you don’t notice at first. To keep an objective idea of how it’s working for you track exactly what side effects or mood shifts you’re experiencing, as they happen. In fact stay tuned because I’m working on a guided medication tracker as we speak!
6. Don’t judge a medication based on others
If you google ‘best antidepressants’ right now, you’ll get thousands of articles and opinions. Search on Facebook and you’ll find the same. And every single one could say something different without lying. There is a very good reason I haven’t named a single medication in this post, good or bad!
Everyone is so different, and may react to different things in different ways. There’s a reason there isn’t just one antidepressant on the market!
It can be easy to jump online and decide that you or do not want to try a medication based on what other people are saying. There’s nothing wrong with googling a prospective medication and seeing if any huge alarm bells are ringing, but it should never be the only thing you base your opinion off.
Listen to the professionals, and more importantly listen to yourself and your own reactions before passing judgement. Keep an open mind!
7. Don’t mess with your meds without a professional
Address any concerns you have with a professional and let them chart the course of action, don’t take it into your own hands!
If an antidepressant is effective, you might feel so good that you’re convinced you no longer need it. I made that mistake once and stopped taking it because I thought I was ‘fixed’. In reality that was the medication doing it’s job!
Since then I’ve come to understand that my depression is something that I may need to treat for the rest of my life. As much as it felt like a bitter pill to swallow at the time, I’m just glad we live in a time where I have the treatments and coping mechanisms to manage it.
Doctors are professionals who are paid to know what they are doing, remember that suddenly quitting medication or changing dosages on your own can be incredible dangerous. Talk through concerns or thoughts with your doctor but leave the decisions to them!
Should I try antidepressants?
At the end or the day, this is something only you can decide. If the only thing holding you back is yourself, or someone else in your life telling you it makes you weak (yes I experienced this) then go for it! Someone told me I would be a ‘pill junkie’ if I tried antidepressants, and I’m so glad I didn’t listen to them.
That pressure from yourself can be hard to escape but it’s important to move away from that mindset. I had that mindset before I started antidepressants and I realise a tiny part of me has had it about anxiety medication.
However antidepressants gave me the space I needed to really get on top of my depression, and now I’m giving my anxiety that chance too.
I wrote this post because I know I’m not the only one who has faced stigma from myself and others. From one person struggling to another, my medication doesn’t define me, and it doesn’t define you either.
If you liked this post or know someone who might, please consider sharing it!