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To drug or not to drug?

March 23, 2011

Part of the life of most people who live with depression is, at least in the United States, drug therapy. Although I have had this since I was young (I am pretty sure of it, though it was not diagnosed until I was in my mid-twenties), I was not always on medication for it. Since I was officially diagnosed, though, my various doctors had me on one medication or another – the magic pill theory – and eventually I was also “allowed” a (limited) number of talk therapy sessions each year.

It is amazing, how in the U.S., insurance companies are more interested in providing you with a drug than they are in something like talk therapy, which is actually more effective in helping people. I mean, with one of my plans, I was allowed five sessions, and after that, my therapist had to prove I was making progress but not enough that they would say “okay, she’s better”. She had to play a game in order to help me, which I hated.

No, they wanted me to take the drugs. As a consequence, through trial and error, I have taken nearly every anti-depressant that is out there in the past 15 years, and of course the ones that are pushed are the newer ones, that are still protected by their patent. So I went along with it, changing drugs, changing doses, but never really feeling better. When I was allowed the talk therapy, that started a whole new process – finding a therapist to whom I could talk, with whom I felt comfortable, etc.

Sounds fun, huh?

I have to admit – part of me always hated the fact that I was taking this medication, which I was told I would need for the rest of my life. I did not like the thought of being so dependent on an artificial drug, even if is does supposedly “balance” out your body chemistry. Then a few years ago, I was still in the middle of all of this, and I was laid off. Twice. After that, I had no more health insurance, which means no more medication. I was a little bit worried about how I would react to it – my proverbial security blanket was being taken away – no more medication. I had been on it for so long I did not know what it was like when I was not. Well, I found out.

I’ll admit – it was a tough couple of years, but I attribute that to the fact that I went through umpteen networking meetings, job interviews, etc. and could not find a position (I kept hearing “we decided to go with the other person, who had just a little bit more experience” or found out that they hired internally – why post the job at all???). The economy sucked long before the housing market “crash” in late 2007 and subsequent pains that we are still experiencing.  As far as the being off medication, well, that was actually beneficial, I believe. My crutch was gone – the crutch that was not that helpful anyway. I was more clear-headed in general. I had emotions again – real emotions, not muted ones like I had on the medication. They were not always pleasant, but they were real.

I also did a great deal of self-analysis, self-reflection, and the like and got to know myself a whole lot better than I had previously allowed. I got to know the good and not so good parts of me, and had to learn to accept them (work in progress – I am always trying to improve). I realized some things about my life that I liked, and others that I did not, and decided to live more true to myself. Benefit to all the time unemployed, I guess, personal growth if you are open to it.

Then I came to Ukraine and of course, have gone through some dark times here – everyone does, even the people with the most outgoing and “sunny” dispositions. I was doing pretty well in general, though, I thought. Last fall, after having a terrible few months (extenuating circumstances), I spoke with the counselor, who recommended that I go back on anti-depressants. Okay, I said – here is what I was on most recently in the U.S. Well, said they, that is not available in Ukraine – we need to get approval to order that from the United States. I said fine, thinking that would pretty much be the end of things.

In February, I was told that the medication had arrived, and that I could start taking it. When I asked what the dosage was, and heard the answer, I laughed out loud at the doctor. With a puzzled look, he asked me what was so funny. I told him that when I had most recently been on the medication, my dose was nearly ten times the one they wanted to give me, and that I did not really see what impact such a small dose would have on me. But I agreed to take it anyway.

Now I am having second thoughts. I mean, sure, I have had some hard times but in relying less on medication over the past few years, I have learned to rely on other means of getting through a dark time. I also, after starting to take the low dose, noticed that I seemed to feel worse rather than better. So I wonder – how effective is this medication, really? Is such a low dose doing me more “harm” than good? Has my body chemistry changed, so the medication is no longer effective? Do I really want to get back into this cycle?

Whatever the answer to some of the other questions, the answer to the last one is “no”. I don’t want to get back into that pattern and to think that I need medication to help me through the day. Having ups and downs is normal – perhaps I have more downs than others, and they are darker times than other people have, which people, in general, don’t understand. But that is part of what makes me human, after all.

So I ponder how to tell the doctors that I don’t want to take the medication, thank you for ordering it for me. Should I keep it as a “just in case” for when I REALLY feel bad? Would it really help? I don’t know. But I like not relying on medication. I like the fact that the only pills I take every day are vitamins, and that is because I want to take them.  My emotions may not always be happy ones, but they are mine, and they are genuine. Just like me.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. March 23, 2011 9:00 am

    IMHO – throw the medication in the toilet and rely on the sensory input around you. It seems too many people in the world are “drugged up” these days (there are over 11 MILLION children on prescriptions for ADD/ADHD alone!!!).

    Being off of it and then taking the low dosage and feeling like crap is a sign – your body no longer wants/needs it. Why continue to feel like crap and up the dosage? Just my opinion.

    Love, Ross

  2. Stephen Comfort-Mason permalink
    March 23, 2011 9:39 am

    I am of the same opinion as Ross – forget the medication. Some years ago I was “diagnosed” with depression, and went through several medications with generally the same effect – made me sleepy. No effect on my outlook. After about a year I decided this was silly, tapered off, and finally quit. Not sleepy any more, but with a better understand of myself. Most of all, I am certain that our society’s idea that we must be HAPPY at all times is counter-productive. Happy is one extreme; unhappy is the other. Most of the time we will be somewhere in between. What is wrong with that?

    Stephen

  3. Lisa permalink
    March 23, 2011 10:57 am

    Another viewpoint – I thought it took a least a month for the meds to kick in. Isn’t it normal not to feel any different for awhile? I definitely believe in the value of meds when necessary and then in the value to ween off when no longer necessary. Depression is real and meds have been found to help.

    • March 24, 2011 2:40 am

      Lisa – I am not discounting the value of meds – when they actually help. But in this case, they were not helping at all.

  4. Renate Strina permalink
    March 28, 2011 4:57 am

    Hi Karin,

    Talking about depression and medication is another ‘heavy’ topic and all I can say is that if I were faced with it, I would want to know, whether I had a chemical imbalance, and if I did, then I would accept medication; otherwise, because of my believes, my healer and psychologist/psychiatrist is GOD. I’m blessed enough not to suffer from depression based on a chemical imbalance, so I don’t need medication, but as you well put it, everyone has ‘good’ days and ‘not so good’ days, and I’m no exception to that, so there are times, when I don’t feel so good, but as soon as I feel it coming on, I turn to my ‘advisor’, so if you have been able to deal without medication for a few years and have been a functional individual in society, I don’t see any reason, why you need medication, but if your depressions have kept you from functioning throughout the day, then you do need ‘professional’ help! I sincerely hope that you get the appropriate assistance in figuring out what it is you need! In the meantime, I wish you peace and God’s blessings! Your friend, Renate

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