This article was originally written for The Odyssey Online and has been posted here with the author’s permission.
I’d had enough of the constant nerves riddling my mind, the constant sickness in my stomach and the fogginess that would creep up on me.
In all honesty, I had given up on my therapy. Not because my counselor was bad — she was excellent — but in a state of anxiety and depression coupled with panic attacks, it felt impossible to focus on the tasks given in my cognitive behavioral therapy.
I decided it was then time I tried something else: antidepressants. I’d done my research, and, as a person with anxiety, I had done a lot of research. With everything on the internet there are positive and negative representations of things, but when you’re in a state of constant nervousness it’s incredibly easy to only see the bad things.
There are a lot of bad things said about medication.
It’s not just the notion that one is weak if they use medication to help with their problems, or the groundless advice on Facebook posts and websites that suggest all one needs to do to de-stress is to visit nature; it’s the forums full of horror stories about using medications.
While this is not intended to be a critique on people sharing their bad to awful experiences using medication — to have transparency in such a complicated and potentially expensive treatment is a must, and the ability to share potentially traumatic experiences cannot be downplayed — it made attempting to use medication that much harder than it already was.
As I sat with my newly prescribed Sertraline my skin crawled with that cold sensation you get when you are in a fit of panic; that cloudiness that forms in your head when it grows harder to think. I read reviews of antidepressants where people had almost died as a result of complications with other medications, and that people actually became far more anxious and depressed after using it.
It was a little off-putting, to say the least.
Yet, I feared for more than an escalation of my anxiety and depression: I was afraid of what I might become. In my worst periods of anxiety and dissociation, I felt like I had lost who I was. When you look in the mirror and can’t look at yourself without your brain freaking out, you start to question things: who you are, or what you are, or whether things were even real.
I had kind of become my anxiety, for it interfered so much with my existence that I forgot who I was. Call it an existential crisis, but the idea of me going on anti-depressants that would help calm my nervousness and depression actually worried me because I didn’t know what it would leave behind. Isn’t that weird?
Initially, using medication was tough. Side-effects are commonplace and these can even enhance your nerves and depression at the beginning, and after a week of this, I began to get sick of it. Again, going on medication felt like my last hope: it just had to work.
My God, did it work.
I’ve written about this before, but my antidepressants gave me my life back. My anxiousness was slowly fading, and I grew confident enough to leave the house without worrying about whether a panic attack would creep up on me. In fact, panic attacks are a rarity for me, now, and even if they occur I just wait for them to pass.
The fog that encapsulated me, the intrusive thoughts that burrowed into my mind and paralysed me had lost their effect. I went to university, I got a job, I worked and studied in another country, I am the Head of Editorial at Trident Media and will soon complete my degree.
Medication did not fix me, but it sure as hell gave me the equipment to allow me to recover. Not everyone has positive experiences on medication, as I’ve referred to, and this should not be ignored; but, what we do need to do is de-stigmatise this method of treatment.
Using medication to treat mental illness isn’t feebleness: it’s chemistry. Many disorders, mental and physical, require medication to treat or manage symptoms because sometimes talking and other methods of therapy aren’t going to work. While going out for a walk in the woods might help some people de-stress — and, hell, it helps me too — don’t imply it’s all there is to fix one’s problems. Not everyone implies that, but the ones that do need to stop.
In my experience, using antidepressants has saved my life. I use sertraline to this day, and it’s still working for me, and persons like me should not feel ashamed for that. If a friend or family member needs help, and medication will solve the problem, support their decision to follow that route — trust me, it helps way more than you think.