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Why I’m happy to take anti-depressants

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Though depression is also an isolated illness in its own right, it is also a common side-effect of many other psychological conditions, including other forms of mood disorder, anxiety disorders, OCD and eating disorders. 

With counselling and other forms of talking therapy critically limited, anti-depressants are often the primary point-of-call for a vast number of mental health sufferers, as an often temporary means of coping their condition. But for many, this quick-fix solution is not quite as simple as it might first appear.

I was first offered anti-depressants by my GP a whole two years before I started taking them. At the bottom of a three-month waiting list for a place at an eating disorder clinic at the time, my mood constantly at rock bottom.

I should have leapt at the idea that popping a pill could open the curtains I had drawn around myself, even if just as a temporary solution; however, having an already heightened anxiety about putting anything into my mouth which I wasn’t one-hundred-percent sure of, it goes without saying that I refused the offer without a second thought. 

When I later came to do my standard Google search, in the same vain that I did with all my food at the time, I came to the solid conclusion that I had had a lucky escape, and didn’t think on them again.  

Anti-depressants do not have a good name for themselves online. Believe me - I must have read every blogsite out there, and there is not a single strain of mood-enhancing medication which does not come with an encyclopaedia of side-effects including: fatigue, blurred vision, dizzines, nausea, stomach pains, increased anxiety, heart palpitations and (wait for it…) increased appetite and weight gain. Who gives someone with an eating disorder a tablet which lists weight gain as a side effect, and expects them to swallow it twice a day?

But now, two years and  six months down the line, I’m here to tell you that the only people who write on online forums are the 1-6% who have a bad experience. I mean, when was the last time you wrote a review on a product that actually works? Oh, yes this kettle heats my water nicely.

It took me three attempts to find a strand of anti-depressant I felt safe taking. The second time I went back to my GP with a full box of tablets I expected him to give up and throw me out for time wasting. But he didn’t. In fact, he sat and went through all the different strains of antidepressant, explaining how they worked and what they were going to do to the chemicals in my body. This was a great comfort to me. I can work with science. Science is logical. It has rules that are followed, and his rules made sense.

I am now on a regular dosage of SNRI anti-depressants and can confirm that so far and to the best of my knowledge, I have experienced none of the side effects listed above past the first three weeks of taking the tablets.

Giving in to medication, I felt like a cheat and failure. I felt ashamed and weak for needing to take a tablet to be able to function without three breakdowns a day. I wanted to be strong. And I felt the need to prove it.

But taking anti-depressants is not a sign of weakness. In fact, I think it’s the bravest thing I’ve ever done.

I’m not saying that medication is the answer for everyone, and they haven’t cured me of my underlying condition (in fact I'm still on a waiting list...), but they’ve certainly helped me clear my head enough to see that there is a way forward.

I'm relieved to see that the stigma of mental health is beginning to lift, that we are now able to speak up and say, yes, my brain is a little messed up too, but somewhat ironically the stigma around actually getting help to better our mental health is something which we still seem to be struggling with. So let's end this now, and remove the social taboo on words like, counselling, therapy and anti-depressants.

In the words of our very own Prince William, the good old British 'stiff upper lip' should not be maintained at 'the expense of your health'. 

For information and support  with mental health visit one of the following charities sites:

Mind: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/

B-eat: https://www.b-eat.co.uk

Young Minds: https://youngminds.org.uk

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