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Before being diagnosed with major depression and anxiety in May of 2016, I had not really given much thought to how anti-depressants worked. I did not know how many different kinds there were or if there were even side effects. My understanding of them was very limited to say the least. So when I was diagnosed and prescribed my first anti-depressant I thought I was pretty much cured... I know, I know. Not my brightest moment, but I genuinely thought my mental illness would disappear. Which leads me to my first point:
1. Taking anti-depressants does NOT cure your mental illness.
One of the unknown things about mental illness is how long it will last. One of the repeated sayings I heard in group therapy was "Mental illness is not a life sentence." But in a sense it is, isn't it? Sometimes people don't get to live there full life because of their mental illness. So for their limited time being, their mental illness was in fact a life sentence.
When I first began taking anti-depressants I thought I'd be on them for a few months and then be all good again. However, when I spoke with my family doctor about the logistics of the medication it was going to take AT LEAST a year in order to "reboot" the chemical imbalance in my brain. And even then she said depending on how things work out I may or may not need to revisit them.
2. The first anti-depressant you try will not always be the right one for you.
I had to tweak my medication three to four times. It was a draining process where a lot of the times I just wanted to come off of them altogether. I thought I couldn't be helped. I was doomed with the idea that this was my destiny and that the dark hole that I was trapped in would indeed be my forever home.
My family doctor explained to me it'd take a minimum of two to three weeks for the anti-depressants to kick in and that I may feel minor side effects such as nausea for the first few days. All of those things were very much true except none of it lasted. In relation to the nausea it did only last a couple days (thank God) and I did feel a difference in mood after two weeks of consistently taking the medication but that sadly did not last either. So when my mood would take a dip again rather than stabilizing itself, I'd take a trip back to my doctor and change my meds. My mood felt like it was in a constant tug of war with my anti-depressants and it became a long, tumultuous and toxic relationship that I just wanted to escape...
Until I found the right combination.
3. Mental illness is a full-time job, anti-depressants are either part-time or seasonal.
I previously mentioned in my intro that I thought anti-depressants were the cure to rid me of my mental illness. However, moving forward once I found a combination of anti-depressants that worked best for me, I once again thought that would be the end of my journey. Spoiler alert, I was wrong yet again.
Finding a comfortable combination of anti-depressants to take routinely was indeed the end of a chapter but also the start of a new and challenging one. I was now in the beginning stages of understanding that my mental illness and I were in a long term committed relationship whether I liked it or not. The anti-depressants were like our counsellor at couples therapy and my Depression and I were the couple. And just like couples, we had and continuously have our ups and downs. The last 2 and a half years have felt like a consistent down and I've wanted to give up so many times, but I'm glad I stuck around because I now feel like we're on an up and I don't think we'll be coming back down any time soon.
I wish I could share more, but I'm still on this journey like many others and am learning every single day. I started writing this piece about a year ago. It took me that long because well... life. But also because this is not a subject where a lot of people feel comfortable in sharing their testimonies and for a lot of people who may read this will see this piece as an intro to the inside perspective. I just wanted this piece to be honest and somewhat educational to those who are reading in hopes to inspire others to share and open up this discussion in hopes that it will make others not feel so alone.