The Cure for Depression: Don’t Be Hatin’ on Medicatin’

Now onto my favorite (*cough* *cough*) advice for treating Depression: medication.

Whoa –what?! YOU don’t like being dependent on pills? We should hang out. Oh, wait. We kind-of are.

For nearly my entire anxious life I’ve worried about THE Day: that point at which the doctors would finally tie me up in a straight jacket, cart me away, and dose me full of anti-depressants. I knew it would come. As relative after relative succumbed to depressive tendencies, I’d mentally count down to when my turn would be.

I watched a friend balloon in weight on anti-psychotics; saw the not-so-fun of adjusting medications in another. I read and heard and watched people being negatively affected by their cocktail of drugs. Would that happen to me, too?

Frankly, there is a lot to be depressed about in terms of depression medication.

But this sort of thinking is clearly that of someone in a depressive mindset (aka ME). I love to take the easy route of negative self-talk; of assuming the worst.

The truth -no, The Truth is that medications are extremely helpful. They are often vital.

Need an example? A close friend of mine was married for a couple decades to a guy with serious schizophrenic issues. Super nice guy, by the way. He became concerned that apocalyptic situations were nearing and concluded that medication dependency was a bad thing. So, of course, he went off of his pills.

This is not one of those ‘happily ever after’ stories, but it is one in which life had to keep going and did (and, still does). After severe manic/depressive episodes, a necessary divorce, and removal of his ability to get credit cards; he’s back on a higher dose and somewhat back to the person I knew before.

No, not every story is that extreme. Yes, some are more so.

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In my vast experience of talking to a lot of people about mental illness (’cause I’m nosy), most use medication for its intended purpose: a leg up. Prescription drugs are meant to give our poor minds and neural pathways a little help.

They are meant to be taken WITH therapy, because we need to teach ourselves to form automatic pathways to brighter fields of mental flowers.

I found some really great sources of information online (Mayo Clinic, WebMd, MedicineNet) that go into more details about common medications, their types, and side effects. They’re especially good if you want to get worked up about how you have a 5% chance of a limb detaching once on a course of Prozac.

So, this is the part where a psychomedicaldoctordude comes in handy. He or she will help you not panic after reading about arms falling off, and come up with a working plan to fit your symptoms. After talking through what you and s/he think is going on, s/he may prescribe you something to try.

The most common medications to treat Depression are:
-Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) like Prozac, Celexa, Zoloft, Paxil.
-Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) like Cymbalta and Effexor.
-Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) like Nopramin and Nardil.
-Other classifications, like Wellbutrin (aminoketone class), Trazodone (serotonin modulator), or Remeron (tetracyclic).

You may have a mix of mental illness, in which case anti-anxiety or anti-psychotic medications are prescribed. Ones like:
-Antipsychotics: Seroquel, and Zyprexa with Prozac.
-Lithium carbonate.
-Some stimulants like Ritalin.
-Anti-anxiety, like Buspar.

For those like me who deal with related issues like thyroid deficiencies, the prescription may simply be:
-Supplements to raise natural levels in the body
-Hormone therapy
-Specific thyroid medications

Whew! That’s quite a list. I swiped it from WebMd, mostly, leaving out the fun side effects notes.

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These all affect serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine in some way. An article by Harvard Health also referenced Glutamate and GABA. Once assisted, those internal hormones and neurotransmitters and such will give us our mental leg-up.

In reading over these sites, I get the idea that Depression is a tricky bugger. The medications tend to improve symptoms in about 70% of sufferers, but doctors are not entirely certain why. Yes, they affect these hormones or connectors -however, simply affecting said things in isolation does not always work. That, and some people are still not helped by the good old anti-depressant classics.

Talk to a doctor continually in order to address the issues you have, and involve therapy along with the medication(s).

But besides boring you all with technical details about prescription drugs, I wanted to repeatedly hit my main point home for you: Pills aren’t all that bad.

During my brief stint on hormones, I experienced something wonderful. The sensation was very much like the gift of sight despite not wearing contacts or eyeglasses. I looked around at the world and saw light, felt hope, and assumed better outcomes instead of the worst possible ones.

Prescription drugs can be the older-brother boost to get into that impossibly high tree. Instead of constantly staring up at all the other people who got to the top branches, you can get help. With The Pill, you will be able to see knotholes or branch stubs or bark indentations. With psychotherapy, you’ll gain the strength to use them.

A low-angle shot of a tree with an impressive trunk

The journey to a brighter place may necessitate medication. Don’t be hatin’. Try what your paid medical friend suggests, pay attention to side effects; try, try again. Train your mind, young padowan, so that you may someday need fewer legs up -or, perhaps, none at all.

These pictures were swiped from JES’ database, which uses Unsplash.

 

*Chelsea Owens is not a licensed anything, except a Class D driver in her home state, and shares all information and advice from personal experience and research.

Wilhelmina Winters, Seventy-Four

“That’s okay, Wil,” a scruffy voice said from the hallway. “I’ll get the breakfast.” Wil turned and saw her father, but did not believe she had. Her father was never up so early on a Sunday, never so vocal, and never used her favorite variation of her given name.

“Rob?” Cynthia asked, her tone indicating a similar disbelief. She immediately began coughing and the man who looked and sounded like Rob crossed over to the couch to comfort her.

“You all right, Dad?” Jakob said, talking over their mother. He stood from a paused action of pouring cereal into a bowl.

Wil felt tears form; she blinked at them. “What is going on?” she cried. First, her father was calling her Wil and now Jakob was calling Rob Dad. If the hospital nurse had walked in and announced she, Nurse Bea, was Jakob’s real mother, Wil would not have been surprised.

Cynthia laughed through her coughing, which exacerbated the condition. “Get some water, please, Wil,” Rob instructed.

Wil complied, wiping at her sleeve and sniffling as she went. She filled a large, plastic cup Jakob handed her without comment, and walked to the living room unsteadily.

“Sorry to worry you, Wil,” her father said, once her mother was drinking the water. He sighed. “I’ve been awake for a while. I -” He ran a hand over the stubble of his unshaven face; over his right cheek. “I didn’t sleep much all night. Or the ones before.” Another pause. “I’ve been thinking about things.”

Besides the time she had asked him about whether she could kiss a boy in first grade, and the few moments she was able to get him to tell her favorite story, Wil had never heard such a long, voluntary explanation from her father.

The noise of the utensils drawer opening behind them made her jump. She turned back and watched Jakob open and close the refrigerator next, tread across the floor with milk and bowl, scrape a kitchen chair out, sit heavily upon it, then set his bowl down and pour milk into it. He began stirring his cereal with a *clink* *clink* of spoon against bowl. “Well?” he said, taking a mouthful of Wheaties. After swallowing, his next word was spoken more clearly, “Thinking?”

Wil faced her father again. Rob rose and moved to the nearby armchair. Frowning, he stood and pushed the armchair closer to Cynthia on the couch. He sat again, his face cleared, then he frowned again and rose once more. He looked at the two women he loved most in life and smiled. “I forgot the breakfast.”

Her mother wiped at a few lingering tears from her coughing fit and smiled in return. “That’s okay, Rob.” She and Wil watched him until he moved past the couch. While Rob moved around the kitchen, Cynthia swallowed heavily and drank more from the water. “While he’s getting that, Wil,” she directed at her daughter, “Would you please get my medications?”

Wil nodded, stood, and headed down the short hallway to her parents’ room. She stopped in the doorway and scanned the space for her mother’s bag. Since the last time Wil had been in the room, even more clothing and paperwork had joined the mess across the floor. Her father was the sort to keep things in their place, always looking faint at the sight of Wil’s bedroom compared to his own. Wil viewed the lumpy piles. Perhaps the world really was turning upside-down.

“Wil?” her mother called from the living room. Wil tried to focus. The bag. I need the bag. Searching for it by color would help, she knew. Red, she thought. Red, red, red -ah! She finally located it shoved between her mother’s side of the bed and the nightstand.

“Wil?” called her father’s voice, again using her preferred name. “Need help?”

“Only always,” she heard Jakob respond.

“Jakob!” (her mother.)

Wil stepped back through the detritus of the floor like a ballerina. After reaching the door, she felt safe enough to call back, “No, I got it. I’m coming.” She cradled the medium-sized bag that housed her mother’s small infirmary, and walked down the hall to her waiting family.

 

Continued from Seventy-Three.
Keep reading to Seventy-Five.

Wilhelmina Winters, Sixty-Three

“You sit, too, Mina,” Rob gruffed, not taking his attention from Dr. Sullivan. Blushing, Wil moved to the couch and sat. She almost missed, but only Jakob’s sigh indicated anyone had noticed.

The doctor, meanwhile, closed her eyes for a second and released her own exhalation. “I see, from your hospital notes, that you were in here just two days ago, Mrs. Winters.” She ran a clean, practical finger down her tablet of notes. “Respiratory infection, wasn’t it?”

“Yes,” Wil’s mother answered.

“And you were discharged with intravenous medications?”

“Yes.”

“Have you been following your regular medication and exercise schedule as well?” Dr. Sullivan’s left eyebrow rose as she looked up at Cynthia for answer.

Cynthia, however, looked down. “Just the medications.” Her thumb stroked Rob’s comforting hand. “Oh! And the lung therapy. Once.”

“Well, that’s to be expected,” her interrogator replied, not unkindly. She scrolled through more notes.

Wil shifted on the plastic couch. She stifled a yawn, studied the painting of a girl over the bed again, and watched the neutral-colored window curtains sway in the room vents’ warm air. Her letter and birth certificate crinkled as she sought a new position for her hands. One look from her father settled them into her lap.

“I see that you were also informed about Cystocaftor, and that you were able to receive a lung transplant over a decade ago.”

“We know all this!” Wil blurted. Jakob snorted in amusement.

Rob was not amused. “Wilhelmina!”

Wil returned to fidgeting with her papers. “Sorry,” she mumbled.

“I realize you want to move on to the main topic at hand,” soothed Dr. Sullivan. “However, Wil -may I call you Wil?”- Wil glanced up to meet the professional woman’s cool, dark eyes and nodded. “Wil, it’s important to be sure we are all on the same page. Also, these points are imperative to discussing the immediate issue.”

Wil blinked from a blank expression.

“They’re important as …things that led to what I am going to talk about,” Dr. Sullivan simplified. She looked around at them all, finishing with and lingering on Cynthia. “Number one big issue: despite the effectiveness most patients are experiencing with the new drug options, I’m afraid that your current state severely limits that efficacy.” Clearing her throat, she said, “Your more advanced age and the state of your complications are the main causes.”

“But,” Rob stammered, “We were told it would guarantee her at least five years.”

The respiratory doctor dropped her gaze to give a slight, negative shake of her head. “No. I’m sorry, Mr. Winters.” She pulled a stray wisp of graying brown hair back with its fellows at the sides of her head; patted her strict bun. “I’ve read over the trials, and the most optimistic bet puts you at two years.”

The silence following her words was filled with a thousand shocked thoughts and at least as many silent denials of what they were suddenly faced with.

“We have two years?” Wil asked in nearly a whisper.

“No, Wil,” Dr. Sullivan’s eyes met Wil’s again. “Probably less.”

“How-” Jakob’s voice was husky. “How long?”

“I’m afraid that is the question everyone wants the answer to.”

“But,” Cynthia spoke up, startling her family. “Surely you have some estimate?” Her clear blue eyes and openly trusting face would have melted a statue.

“Of course.” The doctor folded her hands around her tablet and rested them in her lap. “Depending on how this ‘flu season turns out, I’d give you between three months and a year and a half before serious complications interfere with normal life.”

 

Continued from Sixty-Two.
Keep reading to Sixty-Four.