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I’m Not Working Towards an Antidepressant-Free Life

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Editor's Note

Please see a doctor before starting or stopping a medication.

When I first started taking antidepressants at the age of 15, I was told it was a short term solution. My doctor told me I would only be taking them for 6-12 months max. Apparently no one needs antidepressants longer than that. Unfortunately this was just one of many pieces of misinformation I was given by my health care providers.

Over the next 25 years, I was on and off antidepressants. My doctors would tell me at nearly every visit that if I would “just try harder,” or if I “would just grab the opportunities given to me with both hands,” there would be no need for the medication. The consensus was, I was just being “lazy.” The medication was supposed to help, but I was supposed to do the hard work.

If the topic of medication ever came up, friends and family would be aghast to learn that I was still taking medication. Comments such as “be careful, those types of medications are dangerous, they really mess with your brain” were common. Others felt the need to inform me that medication was “a mask” and “the easy way out.” The question that just about everyone feels the need to ask is “so when are you coming off your medication?” People will often say “but you’re working towards coming off your medication though, right?”

Do you know what is “dangerous and really messes with your brain” — untreated depression. If you find “an easy way out” of depression, please, let me know, because there’s nothing easy about depression, with or without medication. My depressive episodes are so severe when I’m not taking medication. I really don’t believe I would survive another episode should I have one while untreated.

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So no. I have no plans to stop medication at any point in the near future, if at all. That is not a goal I have and it’s not a goal I’m going to set. This isn’t due to laziness or lack of education on the dangers of long term medication therapy. My decision is based on my lived experiences, much research and the advice of a new team of health care professionals. My goal is to be as mentally healthy as possible. If that means mentally healthy and medicated, then that’s what I’ll do and I won’t apologize for it. My goal is to stay alive and if that means alive and medicated, then that’s what I’ll do and I won’t apologize for that.

Because being mentally healthy is the goal, I’ll still continue with counseling and occupational therapy. I will still work on coping skills and self-care. I will still work through my past and make plans for the future. I’ll also continue to take my antidepressants. So please, stop asking if I’m working towards coming off of my medication, as if that should be the most important thing.

Getty image by Ponomariova_Maria

Originally published: January 11, 2021
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