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To the Person Who Dismissed My Need for Antidepressants

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To the person who dismissed my need for antidepressants:

I generally try to believe best intentions in people. That’s why, when you said what you did, I assumed you were simply misinformed about mental illness. I’m happy for you. Maybe it means you’ve never experienced the horror that is clinical depression. I’d like to think it was merely ignorance that, when you found out I was taking antidepressants, led you to say, “Emotional cycles are a natural part of life. I don’t think it’s good to dull them.”

I’d like you to know that clinical depression is not simply “natural emotion cycles.” It’s far more than that. It can be weeks of vomiting and not being able to eat. It can be losing the hope that things will ever get better. It can be feeling devastated and not knowing why — even if you rationally know things are “objectively” going well. Clinical depression is often completely debilitating for weeks on end. It’s an illness that can often prevent people from working or studying at their full capacity and can cause immense suffering. Like any illness, treatment is important, and for many people that involves antidepressants.

I’m not suggesting that antidepressants are the best option for every person in every case. I and many other people live with side effects from medication on a daily basis. I know people who have decided to stop taking them as a result of these side effects. For many people struggling with depression, psychotherapy is just as important of a treatment, either on its own or in conjunction with medication. Antidepressants are not magic, nor are they an automatic cure for depression.

I also promise that my emotions have not disappeared since I started taking medication. I have done my fair share of crying. I have felt emotions at both negative and positive extremes. I can assure you that these experiences haven’t been taken away. But now, I have more good moments than bad. I haven’t vomited in a very long time (whereas it used to be a common occurrence for me). Most days I can eat, I can sleep, and I have the energy to get through the day.

I know your statement is just one opinion, but it reflects sentiments that I encounter frequently. It doesn’t help that antidepressants are referred to as “happy pills,” or that we use a similar word for a clinical condition that we do to refer to an “everyday” low mood. I just want you, and others, to understand the reality of depression, and the hope and relief that antidepressants can provide.

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Originally published: January 3, 2019
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