I’m not the kind of person to turn to medications right away.  I don’t take Tylenol for headaches unless I’m about to tear my hair out.  I don’t take cold medications unless I’m bed ridden.  It’s not that I’m an “all natural treatments” kind of person.  I just don’t take lightly to ingesting pills.  There are risks associated with taking meds, even ones as common as Tylenol.  I choose to use these medications when the benefits very clearly outweigh risks.  Taking antidepressants again was not a choice I took lightly.

As a nursing student/soon-to-be nurse I’m in a bit of an interesting place.  During clinical I spend a lot of time encouraging other people to take their medications, as well as teaching about side effects of different medications and working with people to manage these.  I have the opportunity to see people change for the better because of medications.  But when it comes to me, it was pretty difficult to convince myself to go back on them.

Last year my depression was slowly becoming worse.  A couple bad days turned into a few black weeks.  I started to have more suicidal thoughts.  It was pretty obvious to my family that I was not doing well.  I was persistently (read: obnoxiously) nagged to go see my doctor.  Maybe I hit a point in my life where I just did not want to be depressed anymore, but I made my way to the doctor’s office and told him what was going on. I walked out with a prescription and figured I’d start taking the pills and life would be back to normal.  The path wasn’t as linear as I anticipated.

I understood and have told people before that while starting antidepressants it’s not uncommon to have some stomach upset, headaches, drowsiness or insomnia for the first couple weeks while starting a new medication.  But WOW.  What a bummer.  You’re feeling depressed? How about a headache to make you feel better.  I was in my mid teens the last time I was on antidepressants and honestly don’t remember experiencing any side effects while taking them.  This time around it was very apparent.

But my mood did change.  It took a couple of weeks (which is normal), but it worked.  For me it was a night and day difference.  The fog lifted and I felt like I was getting my life back.  I wasn’t trapped inside myself for the first time in a long time.

I’m not writing this to say that medications are the best option for everybody living with a mental illness.  However, they can make a big difference.  For example, compare depression with high blood pressure.  To lower blood pressure it’s recommended to eat well, limit alcohol, limit fats and sodium and exercise regularly.  In addition to these, an antihypertensive medication is helpful.  Sometimes, a person can do all the non-medicinal but still have problems with high blood pressure.  Similarly, with depression and other mental illnesses, you can do all the right things to take care of yourself, like exercise, eat well, and get enough sleep, but sometimes this alone is not enough.

And that’s okay.  There’s nothing wrong with taking a “happy pill” to help yourself.  If you’re starting a medication – be patient.  Your mood won’t change right away.  It will take time.  Sometimes, it takes a bit of experimenting to find the medication that works right for you or the right dose.  For me, going back on mediations was the best choice I could have made for my health.  And I might even be thankful for my family’s persistence in getting me to meet with my doctor.

About Cassie S

25 year old psychiatric nursing student. I live with depression off and on and have since I was 12. Learning to ride the waves as they come. I'm an introvert who enjoys reading, art, and spending time with friends and family. I also really enjoy being active: running, biking, hot yoga, dodge ball and slo-pitch are a few favourites.

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