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We Need to Stop Thinking Antidepressants Are 'Magic Pills'

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Perhaps it’s the way they are shown in the movies. Maybe it’s the way we see them in commercials or even just their names. But let’s get something clear. Antidepressants are not “magic pills” you take to magically make you a happy, dancing unicorn.

I’ve struggled with depression for many years since my official diagnosis and for many years before that. I didn’t even know about antidepressants when I experienced my first serious depressive episode. When I started seeing a psychiatrist, it was the first time I learned about antidepressants. And from their name, I thought they were going to do wonders for me. I thought if I was good and took the prescribed amount at the right times of day, I could revert back to being the happy, go-lucky girl I used to be.

Boy was I wrong.

This, my friends, is the ultimate example of expectation vs. reality.

Expectation: Wake up sad, empty, numb. Take your pill and suddenly the colors are brighter, food tastes better and you’re in the best mood you could be in. Nothing can stop you from taking over the world!

Reality: You take your pills at the right time in the right amounts and there are no fireworks. No “aha!” moment. No jumping out of bed to go take on the world.

Why did reality fall short of my fantasy?

Because antidepressants are not some magic “happy pill” potion designed to make you invincible. They usually don’t make you happy and chippy, they usually don’t make you feel like you could take on the world and cook gourmet food. You usually don’t magically have pep in your step.

But what they can do though, is allow you to live a better-adjusted life. It’s not whipping up a five star Gordon Ramsay-approved meal. It’s sometimes just being able to drag yourself out of bed. It’s not luxurious bubble baths with rose petals and champagne. It’s sometimes just finally showering after spending three days in bed. It’s not Cinderella’s magical birds and mice helping you clean up so your apartment is sparkling clean while you sing songs and dance in the wind. It’s sometimes just finally picking up the dirty dishes and putting them in the sink because the garbage is starting to smell that bad.

Whether it’s a romanticized version of what we think they are or just a misconception of their name, antidepressants aren’t a magic potion that suddenly makes you happy. All they do is level the playing field so you can fight your depression. They give you a fighting chance of being able to live the life you want to life — the one you know you can have. It lets you do everyday things without feeling like it’s the end of the world.

Editor’s note: Please see a doctor before starting or stopping a medication.

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Thinkstock photo via Purestock.

Originally published: February 17, 2017
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