Antidepressants Offer More Than Just Side Effects

Antidepressants in Cabinet

Those of us who subscribe to more of a “natural” lifestyle are not immune to depression. While there are many natural lifestyle controls that help combat depression, there are times in everyone’s life that may be overwhelming or a person may suffer from chronic depression. While depression is a slippery slope, at times natural methods of management may not be enough to control severe symptoms of depression and antidepressants may be necessary.

Four years ago, I was consumed by depression. Many factors led up to this point including a divorce, bankruptcy, legal battles, becoming a single mom, moving to a new town, a new job, and entering into a new unhealthy relationship. At the time, I didn’t realize that I was sliding into depression.

My Natural Approach

I was accustomed to treating my health with alternative natural methods. I had been successful at controlling Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) for almost 20 years mainly through lifestyle, supplements, and diet. After becoming very aware of my state of depression, I was convinced I could treat my depression using similar natural methods to my IBD control. This would include cleaning up my diet, managing stress, exercise, and getting more sleep. I started seeing a therapist and gave my approach a go.

What I Experienced

  • I couldn’t sleep, my brain would just ruminate. I was suffering from complete insomnia
  • There were so many issues that were leading to my depression. I couldn’t treat the depression until I dealt with the root of all my depression.
  • Because I wasn’t sleeping, I had no energy to exercise or motivation to make myself healthful food choices. Because I suffer from IBD, and food can be an extreme irritant, I would often choose to not eat.
  • I could not control my depression naturally because I was out of control.

For most of my life, I have kept journals, likely the reason I love blogging so much. With these I can look back at those very depressing years, re-read my words, and try to understand what I was feeling. These keys to my past help me better understand my present. I am sharing excerpts from my journal that chronicle the change in my mental state from just before I starting taking antidepressants to when the antidepressants actually started to make a change in my mental state.

These journal entries were written when I was at the pinnacle of my depression. I was already in the process of seeing a therapist and had decided things were spinning out of my control.

My Journals

September 1, 2014

My mood was especially difficult today. I don’t even remember what was said and what wasn’t. I don’t know what emotions are real. I can’t go with my gut because I don’t trust myself. My reality is like a carnival fun house full of mirrors. The mirrors shift.  

September 4, 2014

I fake a very good smile. No one would be able to see the pain inside my head. I am a very good actress. Although, it is getting harder to keep everything wrapped up in a pretty little package. I am afraid the tape is getting old and everything is going to fall out. Not sure if everything will fit back in the package.

September 8, 2014

I have succumbed to Apathy. Just like the Yin and the Yang, there must be darkness and light.  The darkness is drowning the light.

I miss the light.

I began taking antidepressants on September 11, 2014. I can see a clear transition in my writing where the antidepressants start working.

September 18, 2014

I tried to look pretty today, to make myself feel good. I finally showered last night, it had been two days.

My brain is hazy. I’m assuming only half of my brain is working, but that is ok for now. The other half usually doesn’t stop talking. The rumination is not as intense. I see the potential for quiet maybe someday. I can block some things out and convince myself I am not anxious.

September 26, 2014

Organize, get rid of the clutter. Whether it is clutter in my head or physical clutter in my house, it is time to organize and get my life together.

There is always that beautiful state of confusion before clarity.

October 3, 2014

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.”

– Melody Beattie

I would like to feel gratitude for what I have in life. For I have so much. I would like to start saying a “prayer” or for those who are not god fearing, such as myself, a wish before bed every night. Maybe just a simple statement of gratitude. What am I thankful for?

I am living. I am alive.

Let it all go, live my life and be happy.

October 10, 2014

I am not expecting this transformation of clarity to happen overnight, but it is a start. I am also going to be easier on myself when the days don’t seem as positive as I think they should be. So tonight, I have the house all to myself. I am going to go through all those boxes and consolidate and let go. It is time to forgive myself. Finally put a lid on the past and let it sit in its proper compartment. Finally say goodbye to past grudges, past hardships, past suffering. It’s the past. I need to live in today, in the present. The future is yet to be written and it depends on my decisions today. My ability to let go.

I want to dance.

October 20, 2014

It is a very strange thing, a sense of calm. I am not feeling anxious or restless. I am feeling a general enjoyment in life. I am seeing some of the good in this job of mine. My hobbies are starting to take more interest. My passions are starting to surface. I feel ambition creeping back. I feel like a part of me that has been lost for so long is starting to reappear. For the first time, in a long time, I feel good.

Are the antidepressants working? It has been about six weeks and this is when the drug companies say I should start feeling good, like magic. Well, originally I didn’t believe in this magic. I didn’t believe one day I would wake up and just feel good. Now, all evidence points to the magical pill as the cause of my general state of well-being.

For the first time in a long time, I haven’t suffered from obvious PMS symptoms. My cycle came and went without drama. I felt ok. I did not feel like a tea kettle ready to blow steam. I felt a twinge of uneasiness, and the full moon, of course, signaled my coming fate, but it passed, without drama. It is a relief.

October 25, 2014

I am left baffled. How does a little pill change my entire outlook on life? How could I go from “doom and gloom” to a “light at the end of a tunnel”? My brain chemistry is being controlled by pharmaceutical intervention. Is my perception the result of a designed state of being invented by scientists? This would be an ironic fate for a woman who has relatively little faith in anything but science.

Or, is this magic pill just medicine? Am I suffering from a very serious medical condition called depression? Is this medicine just helping to restore me back to my original state of being? Will I someday be able to continue a positive and ambitious outlook on life without the medicine?

The final conclusion is hard to admit. I never thought I could suffer from depression. But, now, after six weeks of anti-depressant therapy, I am finally able to admit, “I suffer from depression.”

October 28, 2014

What a difference perspective makes. I don’t know how those pills do it, or if it’s me, and those pills are just a placebo, but I feel happy. I don’t even hate my job right now. I know, hard to believe. I have made other positive changes. I’ve embraced my love of wine have been making wine videos. It’s a way for me to focus my wild creative energies, and I am loving it. That alone makes me happy.

I have been making more of an effort to be more positive at work. I’ve been putting myself out there.

I don’t want to jump ahead of myself and say, “I’m cured.” No more depression. I know I can fall back. I know, without watching, I do have more of the tendency for a manic state of being. I am a restless individual. This restless state of being has to be fed. It won’t sit at bay for too long. My job is so analytical, so science heavy, so math heavy. There is no creativity, there is no opposite. I need to find an outlet for my creative energies. Could that be the key to my mental balance?

My Antidepressant Results

I have chosen to share these moments with you because natural methods, while very beneficial for depression management, alone may not be enough to control severe depression and medical intervention, including antidepressants, may be necessary. Depression is not a rare affliction. You, a family member, or a colleague may be fighting.

My extreme depression was short lived and so was the time I spent on antidepressants. I was able to change certain aspects of my life, seek counseling, end my unhealthy relationship, and regain my mental health. I am very aware of my inner struggles and my propensity for depression. I still struggle and the long cold winters of the great white north have been very hard on my mental stability. I am working on ways to manage that aspect of my mental health.

Finally, blogging my own personal Experimental Vitality is an amazing outlet for my creative energies and proving to be the best therapy. I am currently enjoying better sleep and a happier life.

About Melissa Schaar

I am a scientist, teacher, student, friend, and mom. I am on a journey to my ultimate vitality. That journey includes living to the fullest, loving everyday, laughing whenever possible, and a constant state of learning.

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