Throughout my life, my views on medication have shifted around more times than I can count. Well, I can probably count them, as I’m about to write an entire post recounting these different views. But that’s beside the point. When I was younger, I don’t recall having much opinion regarding the ethical aspect of medications. I simply accepted that people who were sick took medication and there was nothing wrong with that, which (spoiler alert) is also what I believe now. But there has been a time when I was pretty anti-medication, which I will expand on later in this post.
When I was younger, medication, like pretty much everything else, seemed much simpler. The world seemed more straightforward, logical and fair back then. And so I thought that medication was a one-size-fits-all solution. I thought that there was one type of medication for headaches, one type of medication for cancer, one type of medication for depression. I’ll admit that depression probably wasn’t something I gave much thought to back then, but up until I tried treating my own with medicine, I definitely thought it would be a lot easier to treat it than what my experience has been.
For about a year, when I was 19 or so, I started venturing into alternative ways to treat anxiety and depression. There is a big community on the internet (and in real life as well) who really, really believe the phrase ‘you are what you eat’. I got really sucked into this mindset, and became more and more obsessed with what I was eating. During this year, I was not on medication. I became increasingly convinced that if you ate ‘right’, your body would not get sick. Now I really believe this is a horrible, harmful and just plain untrue belief. But I believed in it so much that my eating habits became more and more insane.
I truly thought I could cure myself by eating the right things. At this point I wouldn’t even take painkillers if my head hurt, or I had menstrual cramps, because I honestly thought it was my own doing because I had eaten something wrong. I will probably write a more detailed blog entry entirely about this period in my life, and the way it still affects me sometimes, because it is a subject much too vast to cram into this post. Suffice it to say that I finally realized I had a real problem, and I decided to get help for my eating disorder and give antidepressants another try. At this point I also thought, or maybe hoped, that it would be pretty easy to find the right medication.
The truth is, there is nothing easy about depression, anxiety, or treating either of them. The human psyche is a very difficult thing to maneuver. First you go trough the, usually, long and difficult process of deciding whether you actually need medication. Even if you don’t have intense anti-medication beliefs, like I did for some time, it is still difficult not to blame yourself for the way you are feeling. Am I even sick? What if I’m just lazy? Perhaps I should just ‘try’ more. Eat better. Sleep better. Get out more. Think more positively. That’s what people always say. It is what you make it. Right? It can take a very long time before you actually come to terms with the fact that you have an actual, genuine illness. It’s been about four years since I was officially diagnosed with depression, and I still have to be reminded that I am ill sometimes. That I am not just lazy, or a bad person.
Then, when I finally decided that I needed help and that medication seemed to be the first component of that (or second, after therapy, maybe), I was hit with the reality of how complicated medication really is. I tried one type of medication. It was hard for me to tell if it was working or not. If I had a good day, I was convinced that the medication was to thank. If I was having a bad day (which was often), I became confused. I wanted the medication to work, so badly, but it was so hard to tell if it did. So I tried another type of medication. Same story. So I tried another. And another. I don’t really know for sure how many types of medication I’ve tried… But sometimes it feels like I’ve tried them all, and nothing has seemed to make any difference.
When you’re on medication that is supposed to alter the way your mind works, you can also become hyper-aware of what you feel and think. A lot of side effects of antidepressants can be hard to differentiate from the actual depression itself. Suicidal thoughts, for instance, is a commonly registered side effect of some types of antidepressants. But I would argue that they are also pretty common among people who are depressed. So how do you know if your mental state is just really bad at the moment, or if the medicine you are on is just not right for you? I honestly can’t tell you. It is so hard, and so frustrating, and when you’ve switched medicine five times and you’re still suicidal, you can be tempted to conclude that medicine just does not work for you.
I have struggled a lot with constant fatigue. Feeling like the amount of sleep my body needs is closer to 12 hours than the usual 8. I think that’s a symptom of my depression. I don’t really think it has much to do with the medication I’m on. I tried lowering the dose, and I still felt tired, so I upped the dose, and what do you know, I felt tired. I am on the brink of starting a new type of medication, so I have all my fingers crossed that I’ve finally found something that works for me. I see a therapist regularly, and everything in my life seems to be going quite well, so I don’t understand why I am this depressed. Well. Let’s hope this newer type of medication has some positive impact on my psyche. Let’s hope.
What are your thoughts and experiences with medication?