Every morning, I turn off my alarm, put on my glasses, and walk downstairs where I choke down four pills: Sertraline, Bupropion, a Vitamin D supplement, and the fact that many don’t believe in antidepressants.
While the matters of depression and anxiety are more normalized in today’s culture than ever before, antidepressants are still scarred by stigma. Just in the last few weeks, a friend flippantly threw it under the bus in conversation (not aware that I took them), and I heard again of someone else’s fundamental aversion to them. And while I can understand and appreciate a person’s hesitancy (we should always treat any sort of medication with intentionality and care), it’s hard for me to grapple with the fact that some just “don’t believe” in antidepressants. It is not a question of whether the Easter Bunny exists; it is life. And whether you believe it or not, antidepressants are benefitting people everywhere.
From Tylenol to Morphine, thousands of medications are widely accepted as honorable remedies. So, why not antidepressants?
My Story With Antidepressants
As I share a bit of my personal journey, if you’re wearing glasses, I suggest you take them off until I tell you to put them back on. Think of it like going to see a 3D movie only you don’t need to wear chunky lenses. (Obviously, if you can’t even read without them, keep them on, but at least take them off for a few moments).
I was a skeptic too.
Having had a wonderful experience with a counselor but hesitant to seek medical care for my depression and anxiety, I believed antidepressants were a mark of weakness, an evidence for lack of faith, or a sign I had succumb to delusion. But when, through many tears and heavy sighs, my wife and I had that difficult conversation late into the night about the severity of my condition, I finally agreed to seeing a family practitioner.
He shared with me the science behind antidepressants, explaining serotonin levels, vitamin deficiencies, and a myriad of other medical justifications while presenting the possible benefits of taking medication. I wouldn’t say that I was sold at that point, but my experience in a depressive state was only getting darker, and my world was only shaking more violently in the grip of anxiety. I was desperate enough to hear him out, and when he prescribed Zoloft, I was desperate enough to pick it up at the pharmacy and introduce it to my morning routine.
Now, antidepressants are in no way the cure-all for depression or anxiety, but it is a positive aid in a collection of healthy efforts. It has the potential to pair wonderfully with a counselor, loving support, and change in personal habit and routine. At least in my experience, medication took the edge off. It sobered me enough to rediscover hope; it calmed my anxiety and shined a light into the darkness of my depression; and it quieted my suicidal thoughts so that I could focus more on pragmatic steps toward healing.
I wish that I was more scientifically minded so that I could help to rationalize antidepressants, but, alas, I’m not. I don’t know how it all works, but I do know I wouldn’t be where I’m at today had it not been for that doctor. This blog certainly would not exist.
Simply, I am a man who once was blind but now I see.
Okay, if you were able to take them off, put your glasses back on. Better, right? Was it confusing or frustrating to not see clearly? Tell me about it…
Blind But Now I See
One of the most helpful analogies when it comes to medication came from a conversation I had with my friend, Dave. He had reached out to me because of Dadding Depressed, and less than a week later, we sat in a coffee shop, comparing stories and cultivating ideas.
Sipping a pour-over out of a wheeled and glazed mug, from behind thick-framed glasses, he likened antidepressants to prescription eyewear.
Such a comparison is genius.
When an individual has blurred vision, it is socially acceptable to depend upon glasses or contacts. No one questions it. No one thinks that maybe the person just needs to pray harder, or see clearer, or prove their inadequate vision, or simply learn how to live with it. As a man who takes antidepressants, and as one who depends on prescription eyewear, I can attest to the fact that the benefits that each of them offer are indeed analogous.
Before antidepressants, I lived in a blur. I could function, but I couldn’t thrive. I saw the world around me (my wife, my son, my friends, my family, my job, myself) but could often only make out the shapes, having a misinterpretation of reality and a lack of clarity for how to function in this world. I was blind as everything had been seen through a personal cloud of depression. And I was in a state of constant confusion and frustration followed by more confusion and more frustration. When I finally accepted the aid of medication, it was as if I put on glasses.
The antidepressants helped me to see a clearer reality, and though my issues were not miraculously fixed overnight, I was able to function in a more beneficial way, pursue mental health more appropriately, and begin learning again how to thrive in this life.
A haze had lifted. I could see again.
Why Write This Piece?
So, my hope for this piece is bifold.
First, I want to try and chip away at the wall of stigma surrounding antidepressants by welcoming others to relate to the suffering through prescription eyewear. If you know what it’s like to operate without needed glasses or contacts, you can begin to understand how a person might live daily with a mental illness.
Second, I want to encourage the depressed, the anxious, the suicidal, the functioning-but-not-thriving to go see a doctor. Never put all of your eggs in one basket though. Medication is not a cure-all, but it is an incredible tool that can help you see the world a little clearer.