Let’s start with the basics: the symptoms. Since I don’t want this article to sound like your typical boring health lesson designed to reach the bare minimum of state standards, let me tell you about my symptoms. It started with sleep deprivation. I had these incredibly vivid dreams that flowed together like a story, and left me with a funny feeling that made me not want to go back to sleep. They weren’t nightmares, but they weren’t the kind of dreams you want. These dreams made me feel as though I were losing touch with reality, a feeling that I would become well-versed in. Next, there was the overwhelming stress; it was never the big things that seemed to push me over the edge but tiny, unimportant events would trigger some kind of flight response. Having both depression and anxiety is an incredibly complex emotion because the anxiety makes you want to run from what seems to be chasing you, and the depression tells you that there’s no point in running because it all catches up in the end.
Now let’s talk about what happens when you get help. If you followed my particular journey, you were more coaxed into therapy than anything else. I wouldn’t blame you if you had to be coaxed. Therapy has stigmas, just like anything else relating to mental health. On top of everything else going on in your mind, there is fear of judgement. When I told a friend of mine that my doctor had suggested therapy as a solution for my sleeping issue, she responded without a second thought that therapy would be pushing it, and I just needed to relax. I heard that a lot from peers. That I just needed to relax. Well, let me tell you, you can listen to all the peaceful piano music and sleep playlists on Spotify that you want, and you could still end up in therapy. But I digress. The actual point of this particular ramble is that therapy was great for me. It pushed me to take my first steps towards a healthier mental state. In a word, it helped.
So, finally the fun part: the side effects of seeking help for your depression. Let’s talk about therapy. As I mentioned, there are stigmas. There’s something socially off about someone in therapy. Even close friends may struggle to view it for what it is, which is a tool meant to help you. Side effects of therapy include the tendency to keep therapy a secret, the tendency to be overly paranoid about who you tell, and of course, the fear of judgement. You may also experience sudden steps forward that seemed impossible nearly a week ago, a new understanding of your own mind, and sense of finally beginning to have control over your own mind again.
Now let’s talk about medication. For many and for me, therapy was not enough for me to completely move forward, no matter how badly I wanted it to be. I didn’t see medication as another tool designed to help me, I saw it as a pill for fake happiness, something to numb the pain but not make it go away; I thought my emotions and my struggles would just fester until I was in a worse place than before. The worst thing about medication, I thought, was that it was an undeniable acceptance of defeat, an admittance that I wasn’t strong enough to do this on my own. I know that not everyone fights medication, but I am also sure that my struggle is not unique. If you’ve been fighting the way I was, hear this: medication isn’t fake happiness. Medication allows you to get back in touch with who you are. Medication makes it possible for you to have a conversation without crying. Believe me, I’m pretty familiar with that last one. As someone who cries at nearly everything, it's a lot worse when you’re sure what you’re crying about.
It’s possible, probable even, that the stigma that goes along with being on anti-depressants is worse than the stigma of being in therapy. Medication comes with the risk of others assuming that since you’re on medication you must be fine. Unfortunately, medication is not like a magic trick! Medication takes time to adjust to; dosages have to be adjusted, one may not work so you try another. It's a process, just like everything else. The medicine makes it easier to go one day at a time, and sometimes that’s all someone needs to keep moving forward.
The side effects of seeking help through medication include a lack of understanding, a sense of impatience when it doesn’t work right away, and any physical side effects of the actual medicine. Medications may also cause progress, a greater sense of control, an energy boost to get you through life’s challenges, and some much-needed sleep.
Everyone goes through their own unique journey, their own unique struggle. The point of this article is not to define your experience or imply that your own journey will be the same as mine. It may be nothing like mine. The point of this article is to say that you’ll be alright. I know that it’s hard not to be cynical, I know that it’s hard to trust someone with the intimate details of your mental health. Most of all, I know that it’s hard to justify putting in all of the work to feel happy again when everything inside of you is telling you that you’ll fail. But you won’t. Whether your journey is like mine, or not, you are not alone. There are people out there who understand. That understanding alone was enough for me to take a few hesitant steps forward, which is all you need to really get going. I hope it will be enough for you.