Postpartum with my first son, I had spent months locking myself in the bathroom and sobbing. Because I had always been prone to periods of feeling “down,” I didn’t realize how seriously something was wrong until I was found myself laying awake in bed one night, staring at my sleeping husband and fantasizing about punching him in the back of the head.
Don’t get me wrong, he totally deserved it (note to my 21-year-old self: 26-year-old dudes who are really into working out and being in bands sometimes don’t make the best husbands…..thank goodness for aging and maturity), but feeling violent was out of character for me.
When my doctor first suggested medication, I was hesitant and worried that only crazy people took antidepressants. But within three days of starting Paxil, I could feel a fog lifting. Within a month, I knew for the first time in my life what it was like to feel “normal.” I wasn’t crying all the time. I felt calm. Peaceful. Patient with my son. Completely rational. Things I had never really felt before.
Six months of Paxil was just the right cocktail to get my brain chemistry in perfect working order. Since that first round of medication, antidepressants have become a regular part of my life for which I am grateful, yet, even among friends and family, I find there are still numerous misconceptions about these drugs.
- Antidepressants are “happy pills.”
They’re not. Antidepressants do not cause feelings of euphoria or bliss. They slow the re-uptake of various brain chemicals which regulate mood (serotonin and in some cases norepinephrine). They don’t generally release dopamine (the happy chemical). Antidepressants don’t make you feel happy. They can help you feel normal, and able to pursue the things that do make you happy.
- Only crazy people take antidepressants.
For better or for worse, antidepressants are the number one most prescribed drug in the U.S. As many as 1 in every 10 people are on some form of antidepressant medication. We don’t hesitate to take medication for an out-of-control thyroid, high blood pressure, or diabetes. Why should someone be stigmatized as “crazy” because they take a medication to help balance brain chemistry? While depression may be characterized as a mental illness, it often has an underlying physical cause.
- Antidepressants are the easy way to avoid dealing with larger problems.
Antidepressants should be used in conjunction with talk therapy. And there’s nothing easy about taking them. They cause side effects ranging from weight gain and anorgasmia (yes, that’s the inability to have an orgasm) to dry-mouth and nausea. They can take four to six weeks to be effective, and it may require multiple medication changes and dosage adjustments in order to find the one that works.
If you are experiencing symptoms of depression, please do not hesitate to contact your physician to discuss the possibilities of talk therapy and medication. Do not let the misconceptions regarding antidepressants keep you from getting the help you need to lead a normal, healthy life.
Audrey Binkowski is a writer, a mother, a digital marketer, and a hoarder of vintage items. Seriously, her closets and cupboards are full of old crap that belonged to dead people. You can read more from Audrey on her blog, Laugh Mom.