Depression, drugs, and me.

The thing about depression is you never know when it’s going to creep back in. And every day that I feel good, I wonder – is this the day it’ll happen? Is this the day the meds will stop working? I try not to live in dread of that day because I know there is nothing I can do. It’s going to happen. It’s just a matter of when.

I was diagnosed with postpartum depression a few months after Grace was born. That was December 2008. Even though I had struggled with depression in college and then had a few short bouts pre-kids, PPD seemed to come out of nowhere to me. Maybe because it was a different kind of depression than from what I had experienced before.

Depression in college ruined my sophomore year

I didn’t know I was depressed that year. I didn’t know what was happening to me. No one knew. I think my roommates thought I was a pill, my parents thought I was having a bad year, and my friends thought I was hormonal.  I thought I was just really stressed out. Until the OCD starting creeping in. And then, at the urging of my then-boyfriend, I went to a therapist and asked for help. She diagnosed me with mild OCD brought on by depression.

Back then I resisted medications. I thought that only crazy people took antidepressants. I was an earthy-crunchy, Birkenstock-wearing hippie kind of girl, and the thought of putting mind-altering drugs in my body freaked me out. (You know, unless it was the kind you smoked. Ahem.)

Then, just as suddenly as it came on, the depression lifted. The OCD eased. And I thought to myself, “See? You didn’t need drugs. You conquered it on your own.”

But depression lies. I didn’t conquer anything. In that time I was depressed, I lost friends. My grades suffered. I lost my longtime boyfriend. I created a reputation for myself as being a pain in the arse with a clique of former friends. Sure, the depression lifted on its own somehow. But what if?

What if I had taken the therapist’s advice and tried an antidepressant? Maybe those friendships would have still fallen apart and the boyfriend still would have left me. But maybe those events wouldn’t have scarred me so badly and paralyzed me for a long, lonely summer.

13 years later, postpartum depression overwhelmed me

When I was diagnosed with PPD I was more open to trying antidepressants. I knew this time I couldn’t make it without some help. I wasn’t suicidal and I didn’t want to hurt my kid. But I really wasn’t functioning. I was so, so sad. And my anger and irritability were out of control. My therapist put me on a very low dose of Zoloft.

And it was like a magic pill. Magic, I tell you. Because it made me ME again. Not “happy.” Not spacey or overly mellow. Just me. I was thrilled. I was functioning. I was feeling normal. Until … I wasn’t.

Apparently antidepressants aren’t the cure-all for me. Because for me? They stop working. And when they stop working, I lose myself again.

I’ve gone from Zoloft to Celexa back to Zoloft (which didn’t work at all that time) then to Viibryd (terrible side effects for me) and now it’s good old Prozac. I know after 9 months to a year, the Prozac will stop working. And then it’s time to play the “What med should we try on JD this time” game.

So right now I am feeling fantastic. Happy, normal, me. But in six months, six days, six hours … Who knows? Maybe it’ll be different this time because I’m working out and having more me time and doing lots of other things for my physical and mental health. So I’ll keep on keeping on and enjoy feeling normal. And try to ignore the voice inside me each morning, wondering if today is the day I’ll feel bad again.

*****

What are your experiences with depression and antidepressants? Have you found taking care of yourself in other ways, in addition to meds, helps you feel better? Or are you anti-medication and rely on therapy, natural coping methods, etc.?

 

 

 

 

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35 Replies to “Depression, drugs, and me.”

  1. I was depressed most of my teens and twenties, but resisted meds as well. It was only when my five year old son was diagnosed with terminal cancer and at the urging of family that I began taking Lexapro and Xanax. He has been gone for almost two years, but I still take a low dose of the Lexapro. I can tell when I haven’t for a long time. I just get sad for seemingly no reason and I lose more than a few fuses with my other sons. Ideally for me, exercise, enough sleep, and nutritious food would probably help me a lot (and it does when I can get it), but let’s face it – how often does that happen for busy moms? Thank you for writing “honestly” about this subject. I think there are so many factors in women’s lives that cause depression, and one thing that certainly does help is when we can talk about it and not be judged.

  2. I’m on Celexa. It’s been a year. I LOVE it. Much better than being depressed. But sometimes I forget my pills for a week or so, or I think “Idin’t need these,” and my depression charges back in.

    I haven’t outgrown the Celexa, yet. I hope I don’t. But this thought scares me so much.

    You’re right in about feeling like myself, without the doubt and self-loathing. But if I couldn’t hold on to this feeling. That’s not something I care to think about.

  3. I read this a couple of times and was unsure how to comment, simply because it will sound like I’m link-dropping when really I just want to connect. But here’s something I wrote not long ago that pretty much sums up my thoughts: http://abbyhasissues.com/2012/03/14/riding-out-the-wave/

    I hate even taking a Tylenol, but I have been on either Prozac or Zoloft for more than a decade. While I have no idea if it “works” and would love to be without it–I’m very “natural”–but I fear the consequences. When I feel balanced, I feel like it would be no problem. When I’m down, I can’t imagine how bad it would feel if I wasn’t taking anything. Its’ a catch-22. But I’m rambling. Just know you’re not alone and you’re very brave for posting. Reaching out is so important!

  4. I just want to reach out and hug you. I’m glad you’ve found something that has worked. I, too, was depressed in college. It was brought on by an event that happened and I didn’t even realize I was depressed until I was so far in. I thought I was ‘handling it’. Not so much. Anti depressants got me over the hump for sure.

    I’m proud of you for writing this. A lot of people can relate. Xo

  5. All the best to you. I admire your self-awareness and knowledge about your condition to know when things are working or not working.

  6. I too have been playing the musical-drugs game since starting antidepressants in 2000. The longest I have ever been on an antidepressant was wellbutrin, for about 4 years. It worked great for me for the first 3 years, but gradually stopped working over the last year I was on it. I’ve been on Effexor since last summer and it’s been going pretty well, but like you I am always worrying about that time when it won’t be great anymore.

  7. As always, awesome post!

    Depression is that big clueless annoying person that won’t take a hint. And when it does, with the friendly help of medication, it always somehow finds a way to start hang out with you again.

    Wish I could tell my depression to just stay the fuck away and be done with it.

    I hear you chuckling all the way over there in New England Ms. JD…. and I’m laughing along with you (while also crying). Because depression is that leech that will grab on and NEVER, EVER fully let go. Bitch.

    This is my official medical diagnosis: chronic depression brought on by environmental factors and a genetic predisposition to be chemically unbalanced.

    This is my official interpretation: Well your parents screwed you by passing on to you their bad genes and life’s continuing the job for them.

    This is my resolution: Take my meds, Cymbalta (90mg/day), and take life one day at a time.

    Even the bad days are good days. Because I survived them. And the horrible days, where I need to roll up in a little ball under my covers, away from the big bad world and that shame me so much… I learn from them and move on. I don’t see them as a failure. As long as you emerge from them, then it’s still a good day.

    One day, maybe, we will be rid of this oppressive and possessive bitch that is depression.

    Karine

    p.s: if I read a little incoherent, it might be because my Crazy pills (it’s what I call my anti-depressant so that it doesn’t sound so depressing) and my Heart pills weirdly interact and put me in a illicit-drug-like high. No worries baby is always asleep when I take my medication and there’s always a responsible adult present… who is currently letting me write this asshat long comment. Sorry about BTW.

  8. I actually just started a blog about my struggle with this too! I was diagnosed when I was 16 with depression and anxiety, and now that I’m a mom, PPD. The pills made me feel so dead inside, I figured feeling anything was better. It made me turn to self-harm, which isn’t exactly a solution, but in my mind it’s a lot better than the meds. No lie. Obviously, I try to do without it, but it’s a daily struggle.

  9. My hubby is on anti-anxiety meds, on his 2nd or 3rd type in less than a year. Mental illness sucks, I’m not going to pretend I know what you are going through, as I have never suffered from depression. But I have been surrounded by mental illness my whole life, family, friends and now my husband. Depression is nasty, it hurts and is throughly confusing. Doubts about medication may always be there, but they do help. You are very brave and strong, being so open and honest about how you are feeling. Never forget you are a survivor.

  10. I’ve struggled with depression, suicide attempts, and cutting since I was in my early teens. For years I didn’t really know what it was (or even that it wasn’t a “normal” part of growing up). I tried therapy a few times without it clicking, and resisted taking meds for the same reasons you and some of the other commenters mentioned (what if I ended up taking them forever – how would I know how the unmedicated me was doing under there). In my twenties I found a therapist I loved, and did cognitive behavioral therapy for a long while that really helped. I still had plenty of relapses, but it helped me to recognize when I was starting to spiral (usually) before it got out of control, and taught me things I could do to minimize the effects. I never did take any meds, and I haven’t had a big relapse in years (getting together with my husband and out of my previous marriage showed me that a lot of the things I internalized were products of my environment, though I had expected myself to fix them or blamed myself for them). But I 100% relate to your sense that, no matter how good you feel, it’s always looming. I don’t know if my depression will come back, but I have to assume it might so that I don’t get blindsided if it does.

  11. I never had an issue with depression until after my son was born. It wasn’t exactly PPD because it didn’t start until he was about 6 months old. And I have little doubt it had something to do with his autism, though it wouldn’t get diagnosed for another year. My husband finally had to push me into agreeing to see someone and once I acknowledged I needed that it was okay for me to accept meds. I kept insisting it was just situational depression and so I didn’t need meds, but the psychiatrist was able to get me to understand that situational depression needed to be treated, too.

    I stayed on them for about 6 months. After we moved I didn’t find a new psychiatrist and let my prescription lapse. Then I left my job and got seriously depressed again. Finally found a new doctor, got a new prescription and things have been good. When I got pregnant I tried to decide whether I’d stay on the meds. After a lot of thought, I looked at our lives and how much was going on in our family and decided that I needed to be stable so I stayed on. And I’m still on them.

    I feel great. And for now that means I leave things just as they are. Maybe it’s situational depression, maybe it’s not, but my family needs me to be able to deal.

  12. I’ve not experienced depression except for a short bout of PPD after my third baby, nor have I taken antidepressants, so on those I can’t speak from experience. But I do know that so many times when I have felt stressed about my life or overworked with the kids and home, having time to myself, a chance to exercise or do something for me does make a difference. That mental break from all the bickering, fighting, “mommy do this”, “I want this”, screaming and so on is such a godsend. Often when my hubby is home long enough, I will have a few things to pick up for the house and will go out with those as my goal, but I always stay longer for some personal shopping or just browsing, just so I can have a longer break. He tells me to get back before the kids wake from their nap, but I know he can handle it if they do and it is good for him to be with them for a while so he can sort of understand what I face daily. 🙂
    I hope this time that you are doing well will last for a long time.

  13. I have not experienced depression myself, but I can relate to what you are saying about wondering when it is going to return. My husband was diagnosed with bipolar disorder three weeks ago and started on medication a week later. I am starting to see changes already, but every day I wake up in dread wondering what today is going to be like. Since the medication hasn’t fully started working yet, we are still seeing pretty significant swings. It is a tough life to live. I’m guessing your depression is much the same. I wish you the best. You are amazing, just for sharing this post and being honest about a subject people want to shy away from.

  14. Pretty impressed with the honest voice and full disclosure here. While I have never struggled with depression, I have loved people who have and they were not as forthcoming. They felt embarrassed and ashamed of their condition which made me feel guilty and unsupportive. This was an insightful, brave piece. Nice job, Erin

    1. Unfortunately our society makes it very hard to be honest about mental illness. It’s hard to be supportive, though, if we, as loved ones, don’t know what’s going on. I wish we could find a way to let people know it’s okay to be this honest. We could all help each other so much more. When my husband was diagnosed with bipolar disorder a couple of weeks ago I felt incredibly guilty for all the things I’ve said over the years that were VERY much less than supportive. I felt extremely guilty, like you say. Please know that your loved ones who suffer don’t try to hide from you intentionally, most likely. They just don’t know HOW to put it all out there. My husband and I are going to family therapy so I can learn how to be a good support, but also so he can learn to lean on someone other than himself. It’s tough work!

  15. Depression is my monster. My black hole. My frenemy. I’ve suffered from severe bouts with depression off and on since I was 23 years old. I’ve had two very, very bad episodes. I’m taking meds and literally forcing myself to “get better” -We both know that getting better is a figment of our imaginations. It’s always with us. Even when it’s dormant. My best advice for you is to surround yourself with friends and family, people who will support you, who understand that sometimes you will go off the deep end for no reason. Find the right medication for you. This is key. While I hate being on them, I know that without them, I cannot function. I hope your bouts are fewer and fewer for you.

  16. Although I’m sure the experts would have a fit, I’ve always used the comparison to diabetes when talking about Mental Health and the need for medication. People understand that diabetes is a real illness that you can’t help. They know that sometimes you have to change your lifestyle to accommodate diabetes. They know that it needs careful management. They know that sometimes you have to take a chemical to get things in balance because nothing else will work. If diabetes’ chemicals sometimes can’t be ‘cured’ by wishing or management or lifestyle then that is so true of Depression. Sometimes you have to give in and take the meds, it’s better to be well and to live a life. Me, I’m meant to take them, but the side effects suck. Stay strong, keep well. 🙂

  17. Thank you for sharing. Isn’t it amazing how when you open up about it, you realize you’re not alone? I am on Lexapro for depression/anxiety. I didn’t realize I was even depressed until after I started taking the meds. I, and others in my life, just thought I was a really stressed out person who had a short fuse. I only went on the Lexapro because I was going through something very difficult in my life. It was meant to get me past the dark spots. But within a week of starting it, I felt an immediate effect! I was like, “hmmm… I think I’ve been depressed for years!” A few times since then I’ve tried going off. But when I do, I find that I’m weepy, I yell at my kids more, I fight with my husband more, and so on.

    It is a scary feeling. I know. But we all have to tell ourselves when we feel that darkness creep in, it will creep back out again soon. It will!

    What makes you an amazing person is that YOU are getting help for it. YOU are taking something for it. I have a friend who desperately needs to take something and she refuses.

    You are an awesome woman, from what I can tell from your posts. You are a real person dealing with real problems and not afraid to talk about it. Yay you.

  18. I have been dealing with depression for most of my life. I come from the typical "dysfunctional" home and took my burdens with me when I finally left. I have been in therapy a few times and have taken meds since the mid 90's. It was either take the meds or lose my boyfriend and more of my friends. I didn't realize I had problems until I stopped drinking. I thought, at first, that I just had really bad PMS for a week out of the month and that the other symptoms were guilt over things I did and said while PMSing. Maybe that's what started it but it definitely wasn't the only problem. Most of my family took meds for "nerves" but I was going to be strong and deal with things my own way. Then I found out I couldn't deal well enough to cope with life. I started out on Zoloft and it worked well until after my second child was born. I had PPD and didn't deal well with any of the problems my son had – where was my perfect child who didn't have milk allergies and reflux and who slept through the night? I tried many other meds – can't even remember them all – and finally ended up on Effexor. I still had PMS but seemed to be dealing okay until my daughter started having anxiety and social issues and my mother was diagnosed with early Alzheimers. I decided I had to do something about the PMS – so, of course, I went to the extreme and had a full hysterectomy. I didn't think about menopause and all the problems that came with that. Then came my daughter's teen years, issues with my husband, stress at work, life in general. I've been off on stress leave since last June, I've seen counselors, doctors, psychiatrists, tried lots of different meds (too many bad side effects to be worthwhile). I'm now on Pristiq but it doesn't seem to be working. I feel like everyone is getting sick of my complaining that the meds don't work and that they are giving up on me. I struggle everyday with irritability, sadness, panic attacks, etc…. Your blog makes me feel not quite so alone. Thank-you.

  19. Dealing with PPD as I type..ugh mornings. I'm on zoloft but HD to bump it up because of my crashing hormones. Some say two weeks some say 6 weeks but whatever it is, it goes by slowly.

    1. Michele I am going thru exact same thing right now. When you bumped up your zoloft did it make your anxiety worse? i went up to 125 and i cry when i wake up and only thing that helps is ativan ugh

  20. Wow I could have written that post! Everything you said I have gone through as well. OCD which led to anxiety which led to depressoin, its such an awful cycle! Recently I had my fourth child 4 months ago and my hormones are so out of control. Doc bumped me up to 125 of zoloft from 100 and I swear my anxiety is even worse which makes me depressed. I cry off and on all day its terrible. Does anyone know if this is common when upping your dosage? is it worse before it gets better?

  21. Thank you so much for your honesty. I have a loved one currently battling depression and I have so many questions! Can any of you recommend some places on the web for good information and real life experience dealing with depression? I don’t even know where to start trying to help this person but it’s breaking my heart. She is currently taking Zoloft which started with general side affects of not feeling good, those went away so the doctor said she was ready to increase her dose, this led to full-blown sadness and crying for what she describes as “no particular reason”. She is so lonely which amplifies her depression which then makes it near impossible for her to even get out of her room. What can I do to help?

  22. Zoloft definitely makes my anxiety worse. I can only handle 25 mg of it else I get really jittery, anxious and tense.

  23. Tried Zoloft a decade ago or so. it was a fail. I've been on lexapro on and off (helps more with the anxiety). Been on that for a solid year and I think it isn't working as well anymore. i have klonopin prn for anxirty. It just makes me so sleepy I can't be anxious. I actually prefer the xanax as it was less sedating but didn't last long enough. This is the worst bout of depression I've had in 10 years. I've had a rough year, not personally, but with those I care about and I'm sucked absolutely dry. I lost any sense of self so long ago I don't when I'll find her or have confidence if I do. I need to get my butt to a therapist but i don't see when

  24. I failed out of university due to depression, was hospitalized as a teen, have suffered on and off for the next 30 years and still do t have an answer. I am currently trying wellbutrin and while still depressed I am secretedly hopeful is the wellbutrin is helping me lose weight. I have tried so many meds and nothing really works. I even looked into the mri directed magnetic treatment but for that you need to be able to go every day for at least 5 weeks. So that plans scrapped. I am also just one rational thought away from suicide

  25. Sweet blog! I found it while surfing around on Yahoo News.
    Do you have any suggestions on how to get listed in Yahoo News?
    I’ve been trying for a while but I never seem to get there!
    Many thanks

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