In my job, I come across people that are in different stages of anxiety and depression, with the latter being something I have been dealing with since my diagnosis in 2013.
The recurring theme in these conversations with students is that they don’t want to use anti-depressants because they either want to try and recover by themselves, have heard horror stories about the pills or believe taking them has stigma attached to it.
You shouldn’t have to face depression alone. While meds may not work for you – as they genuinely don’t for some – there are other ways to find the help you need. Talk to people – whether this is family, friends, colleague, teacher or a service like the Samaritans or the Sanctuary. Even though you feel like you’re isolated and alone, you’re not. You just need to reach out – which I know can be hard, but it’s the first step on the road to recovery.
If you look hard enough, there are horror stories for every kind of medication, not just anti-depressants. For example, a cursory search of paracetamol reveals that 1.5 million Brits are apparently addicted to the stuff.
I’m on so much medication to manage the symptoms of my MS – pregablin (pain relief), solifenacin (bladder control), nortrptyline (pain during the night), venlafaxine (depression) and lansoprazole (to manage side effects of everything else) – that I have stopped reading about the possible side effects to protect my own sanity. It can take time to find an anti-depressant that works, as it’s not an exact science because everybody is different.
Some anti-depressants might make you feel worse before you get better, some might just make you feel worse completely and others may have no effect on you whatsoever. It can take time and a bit of trial and error before you find one that suits you and when that happens it can make a huge difference. For me, the combination of regular exercise and venlafaxine has pulled me out of a really dark place. For the first time in a long time, my depression doesn’t control my life.
When it comes to the stigma that is still attached to anti-depressants, all I can say is to ignore those who will tell you they’re bad or you’re weak for needing to use them. No one other than yourself has control over what you do and how you aid your recovery. In my experience, I’ve found that people throw in their two cents to make themselves feel more powerful and authoritative. But what it actually does is shows them up as being ignorant, intrusive and stupid.
Recovering from depression isn’t always easy and if you’ve found something that works – whether it’s prescribed pills, counselling or a new hobby – then keep doing it.
You are the boss of your own body.