Berkeley Parents Network >
Health & Medical >
I've been battling depression and anxiety for some time now.
It may be in part hormonal (perimenopause), it may be in
part circumstantial. But I have felt really horrible for
too long, and all my usual ways of coping are falling short.
I plan to go see my doctor and talk with her, but I thought
I'd ask here about what factors caused those of you who take
antidepressant medication to start the medication? Which
one do you take and why that one? How much does it help?
How long do you plan to take it? What do you know now that
you wish you'd known? Thank you
Would like to feel better
Good for you for seeking help. I would recommend talking to
a psychiatrist to help you get on the right medication--once
you feel stable, your primary care physician can deal with
Why did I start on medication? I had felt for quite a while
that I was not appreciating my life (especially my kids) as
much as I should, and that this was not fair to my family.
I tried talk therapy and self-medicating (St. John's Wort,
fish oil) before finally relenting and going to a
psychiatrist. First I tried Wellbutrin, which helped the
depression but not the anxiety/irritability. I then
switched to Celexa, which worked much better. The symptom
that I noticed before I went on the Celexa was that the
surface of my brain felt irritated and sore, and things like
my children's voices (!) felt like sandpaper against it.
Celexa soothed my irritated brain (I picture it like those
old commercials where Pepto-Bismol soothingly coated a
roiling stomach with a calming layer of pink, viscous
liquid) and let me enjoy the many great aspects of my life,
while taking the less-great ones in stride. Before Celexa,
if I had a bad day at work I'd be like, ''Oh no, my job sucks
and it's all my fault and I'll never be able to find a
better one because I'm incompetent!'' Now I'm like, ''My job
isn't so great, but it's not my fault, and someday I'll find
a better one, but in the meantime, I'm grateful for the good
things about it.''
The one side effect Celexa has for me (at the small dose I'm
taking) is that it definitely depresses my sex drive. I
wish that were not the case, but when I tried going off it,
I gradually (after a few months) got depressed and irritable
again, which was worse for my husband than having me happy
but not interested in frequent sex.
The advice I'd give you about antidepressants is that they
don't necessarily help immediately; the side effects are
worst at the beginning (e.g., Wellbutrin made me feel sort
of nauseous and it was hard to sleep) but tend to fade away
after a while; and you may need to try more than one drug
before you find the right one for you. Don't give up! What
you're doing is important. Good luck!
No longer depressed and anxious
I struggled with depression before we had kids for a while,
was put on medication (a mix of Wellbutrin and Celexa),
which helped and made us feel we are ready to take on the
responsibility of having kids. When our first was born, the
depression came back, worse than ever, before I even left
the hospital, and it lasted for 1 1/2 years. At that point I
refused medication as I felt that with it I had been in a
false state of security, and none of my problems that had
caused it in the first place had been resolved. I insisted
on a program that incorporated cognitive behavioral methods
and would allow me to access and deal with my underlying
issues. We lived on the East Coast back then and I found the
most wonderful program at McLean hospital near Cambridge, MA
(if you want to look it up to find something comparable
here). This kind of treatment is more expensive for
insurance companies and they are very reluctant to offer or
even acknowledge it's existence, but in the long run it
truly helps as it gets to the root of the problem rather
than glazing problems over as medications do. You will need
a really good therapist who will make a really strong case
for you with your insurance in order to get the treatment
approved. Expect some initial denying from your insurance
and some back and forth, but it is totally worth the fight
-- my depression has not come back (and believe me it was
BAD) in the four years since we left Cambridge, and I'm a
very happy person now.
I don't believe in meds
I can only speak to the anxiety. Last Nov. I became
overwhelmed with anxiety. No one reason why. I could not
sleep, had heart palpatations, felt so uneasy in my skin.
I tried over the counter remedies, and alternative ones.
Nothing helped. I am not big on western meds, but finally
a friend said, this has gone on for 2 months, you're a
wreck, go see the doctor. I went, told the Doc my
situation, they took my blood pressure and it was up to
170. Five months earlier at my physical I was 120, which
is my norm.She precribed Xanax. I was reluctant, thought I
would get strung out, didn't want to think I was weak,
etc. I took one, and within 45 minutes felt a difference.
I slept for 6 hours without waking, prior to that I never
slept more than 2 hours, off and on all night for months.
For the next several days I took 1/2 every day. Never felt
the need for more. Over the next several months I probably
12 total. It helped tremendously that I knew I had them in
case the anxiety returned. I still don't know why I was
griped with such anxiety, but it has not returned. I
honestly did not feel 'altered' in any way. Again, I'm not
a big advocate of meds, but when you need them, they can
help, and I wish I had gone to see her sooner instead of
toughening it out. My sleep cycle has returned, and my
blood pressure is back to 120. Go see your Doc.
I have episodes of depression eversince 21. I took Prozac
for several months and stopped. A few years ago after
menopause I developed anxiety disorder and my doctor
prescribed me Lexapro. I took it for several months and
stopped. At the same time I also saw a therapist, seeked
acupunture therapy and my acupuncturist prescribed me herb
that really helps. I soon found out that acupunture plus
herb plus cognitive behavior therapy are really effective
for treating depression or anxiey. I like acupuncture and
herb because it doesn't have any side effect. when taking
Lexapro I felt mouth dried, hungry all the time and gained
weight. After several therapies I bounced out of
depression. I also try to walk and practice Yoga and eat
healthy everyday. I am now drug free, going to
acupuncture once a month, take herb when I am feeling not
happy. However, keep in mind that you don't stop taking
medication abruptly. You begin taking it every other day,
then once every two days and so on. If you stop abruptly
your depression or anxiety will get worse. TYM
I recently went on, & then off of, antidepressants. I've heard that some people
only need to be on them for a few weeks to ''re-set'' the brain chemistry &
break the cycle of depression, & I think that was the case for me.
I too had been living with low-level anxiety/depression for years, but I found
my usual coping mechanisms were no match for my child's recent diagnosis
of a degenerative, uncurable disease. Once I realized I was *willing* to try it, I
realized I should. I went to my doc & she prescribed generic zoloft, which I
took for 2 weeks. After 3 days I felt better - my moods still swung, but not so
low. I felt like the Z. was making me a little manic, & messing with my
already-troubled sleep, so my doc switched me to trazodone, which helped
me sleep, but made me logy. I found the side effects annoying - I felt spacey
all the time, & I think that it threw my digestive system out of whack (mild
thrush & diarrhea). I went to a psychiatrist & he suggested I try going off it. 3
days later, I found I could think more clearly & had more energy, which helped
with the depression.
Since being off it, my moods still swing, & sometimes pretty low, but I find
that exercise, especially, can snap me out of it. It seems that regular docs
don't have a lot of experience with the subtleties of meds - mine had
evidently prescribed too much of the T.
1 - Find a psychiatrist to prescribe & manage it. I established a relationship
with one, in case I need to go back on. Given my child's diagnosis, I expect I
may have to someday.
2 - expect it to take some time to find the right one/dosage, & also try going
off them after a month or so, with your docs' support.
3 - if you can't reach your doc about something (side effects), call a
4 - do a little research: The mayo clinic has a good description of the different
types. Find out if any close relatives had any bad reactions to any particular
Depression needs to be addressed from many angles. I've found Cognitive
Behavioral Therapy to be very helpful, & it turns out that EXERCISE is crucial.
I didn't want to hear any of this at first, but I know plenty of people who are
on them. Their experience & mine is that the right meds/dose don't change
your emotions, they just lessen the severity, so that you can live your life &
cope. It's the only one ya got, after all...
Best of luck!
been there & back
I'm really sorry you're going through this and I hope you
find help. I never considered myself a depressed person but
experience post-partum depression after my second. My doctor
kept recommending I go on them but I would never fill the
prescription. After a year and a terrible visit with my
parents, I went blubbering to the doctor and got on celexa.
I also went into therapy at the same time. The change was
amazing. It was like a fog cleared. I loved being on celexa
and miss it. I took it for 8 months and then got off of it
because I gained 20 pounds. That was 2 years ago and I'm
still struggling to lose that weight. I'd go back on if it
wasn't for that. I will say tho, that I have realized that
when I do even mild exercise (like a 30-45 minute walk a
day), I feel like I did when I was on celexa. It's a marked
difference. I just struggle with time for this and am still
fighting to change that. I think you have to go on the
medication that's right for you, but celexa was great in
getting me through a really bad time. I do remember having
headaches and feeling kind of nauseous the first week or so
but then it got better.
I am so sorry you are feeling crappy. It is awful! I recently started taking
Zoloft. I am not someone who turns to ANY kind of ''western'' medication or
medical ''interventions'' easily. I resist your garden-variety OTC stuff, like
tylenol and ibuprofen, for example. I prefer to treat the root problem as
opposed to try to control a symptom. Anyway... my perimenopause symptom
that was truly kicking my butt was migraines. I was getting a handle on them
through diet and chinese medicine, but something was still just not quite ever
totally right. Granted, I have a very stressful life (in some people's opinion,
though to me it's just my life). When summer vacation started, all of my
children were home and it was my premenstrual week. I was sooooo mean.
That was when I knew I needed something different. My family deserved a
better me. I deserved a better me. My OB/GYN suggested an antidepressant.
We settled on Zoloft because I am still nursing my baby. The issue is
hormonal, though, and she did talk about taking The Pill and about estrogen
patches, but the nursing and my very strong family history of breast cancer
nixed those choices.
The most important thing I know now that I wish I had known is really how
long and difficult the ''break-in'' period can be. I had read the literature, but
talking with someone who had been through it would have been way helpful.
Also, a little closer monitoring and more check-ins from my doc would have
helped immeasurably. My dosing was totally wrong initially (though it was
the ''recommended'' starting point according to my OB) and I ''crashed'' hard
and heavy about 2 weeks in... scary stuff, crashing like that. Got into see a
psychiatrist who treats perimenopausal women. She cut my dose by 75% (yes,
you are reading that correctly). I plan to take it until my life seems to level
out and I can get good sleep consistently and regular exercise. I don't know
how long that will be. I was initially very uneasy about how I felt on it. Now I
like it. It is really nice being ''level'' and calm without being zoned or checked
It helps me a ton!
Feel free to contact me through the moderator if you wish.
my meds are working
Have always had depression, decided to start taking
antidepressants because coping with a 2.5 year old led me to
yell at her. Wish I had started sooner. It is good to have
therapy too but that didn't make things better for those
around me. The antidepressant gave me the reserve of
emotional resources to be understanding, to think and come
up with creative solutions, to reduce the atmosphere of
tension in the household. I will take it forever if
necessary. I have experienced no downside.
Glad for modern medicine
I waited way too long to take medication for anxiety and
depression. It almost ruined my marriage. I had small
children and was dealing with anxiety after medical trauma
as well. It was difficult to get out of bed, to do the
normal daily activities. I was even snapping when I did my
favorite things. I cried a lot and felt like I was losing my
mind. It hurt. When my GP finally convinced me to take
Lexapro, my life changed. I still feel anxiety and some days
are harder than others, but the change is evident. I still
feel like myself and have had no side effects other than
some sleepiness, so I take it before bed.
I've dealt with depression for most of my adult life. After
years of not wanting to use anti-depressants, I finally
conceded that I was extremely depressed and could not ''pull''
myself out of it without help. I ended up (after trying a
couple of other drugs) on Paxil, which is actually
considered more of an anti-anxiety drug (or so I've been
told). It worked wonders for me and I can honestly say I
think it saved my life. I was on it for about 5 years, and
then slowly weaned off of it at my own choice. I have
struggled with depression some since then (I've been off for
about 6 or 7 years) but nothing like before and I do think
it ''retrained'' my brain chemistry to not get so deep into
the funk. That having been said, the side-effect (which
seems to be permanent) is that my memory is pretty poor now.
I used to have very good ability to remember things
(numbers, events, etc) but now my memory is crappy and it
does make me sad. My husband will try to remind me of things
we did (remember our first date, when we...?) and I
seriously have no memory of these things that I'd really
like to remember. So that's kind of sad.
Also, the dosage the doctor wanted me on turned out to be
way too high for me. (The standard recommendation for Paxil
is something like 20-30mg a day, I ended up very stable at 5
mg.) So keep that in mind. People are different and respond
to drugs differently, so really listen to your own body's
response if you decide to go that route. Good luck, I really
hope you feel better.
I, too, was recently struggling with moderate
depression/anxiety, which some days was bad. I just
started Citalopram about 3 months ago and am so glad that
I did. I had been on antidepressants in the past for
severe depression. I didn't have that crushing depression
this time, so questioned whether I should go on them again.
Realization: don't let yourself hit bottom before you take
care of your mental health and get help. Realization from
my first time on anti-d's: why did I wait so long and
struggle with the idea of getting help or going on Rx? I
felt so much better. I was so depressed that I could not
pull myself up. It was night and day; it was life-
Recently, I just felt low, tired, cognitively slow. My
head was constantly spinning and never at peace. I always
felt I was struggling. I recognized the signs and decided
not to wait until I couldn't get out of bed one day. I was
also having anxiety, which was new for me.
My doctor recognized that my depression could be
hormonally related, since it came back as soon as I
stopped breastfeeding. She recommended Citalopram, saying
her female patients with anxiety/depression have a lot of
luck - especially if problems are related to PMS/hormonal
changes. I've had no side-effects to speak of.
As with any anti-depressant, you definitely feel off when
you start it for the first week or two (soupy-headed). But
you need to see it through; it passes. Now, compared to 3
months ago, I feel like myself again. I don't feel
unusually good, I just feel normal. I sing to my kids,
I'm engaged and patient. The days don't feel like such a
labor. I also hadn't recognized how much the anxiety was
interfering. One of the first things I noticed -- my mind
was quiet. It was remarkable. After about 3 weeks it
became apparent that I needed the full dose for it to be
affective for me, so that's where I am. (40 mg)
What I know now -- take care of your mental health as you
would with any other medical issue. Antidepressants don't
alter you. They just help you come back to that person
you are. You may also find that the 'circumstances' you
feel are contributing to your depression aren't that bad.
Don't struggle, just get the help you need. And if you
decide later that anti-d's aren't for you, you simply tell
your doc you want to stop. Nothing lost.
Good luck! Feeling well again
Before turning to antidepressants, I'd recommend yo get your thyroid checked
since the symptoms you experience could as easily be caused by thyroid
Hi, I'm 46 and have been taking a low dose of Zoloft (or the generic equivalent
''Setraline'') since 1994. I have been prone to melancholy and anxiety (sometimes
bordering on OCD) since I was 11 or 12. I actually wish I started on this
medication in college or my 20s -- it would have made life so much better! It
helps a great deal and I don't plan on ever going off it. I just think I'm
predisposed to despair and anxiety and need an ongoing chemical adjustment. I
took 25 mg per day for a long time, but recently bumped it up to 50/day.
Hope this is helpful
Do it! I started taking Zoloft toward the end of my
pregnancy, about two years ago. I couldn't function at all.
My OB-GYN felt that Zoloft was the safest for pregnant women
and I take the lowest dose (50 mg/day). It makes a huge
difference in the way I handle problems. I can be present
and patient with my toddler and HAVE FUN with him. I also
have energy for my other interests. I switched to Wellbutrin
briefly in the hopes of improving my ability to have orgasms
but it didn't work on my depression and I switched back. I
plan to take it indefinitely. Good luck!
I started taking a very low dose of Lexapro after visiting my sis,
who has been taking it for years. She and I are similar in lots of
ways but at this visit I could how much less irritable and more tolerant
she was than I had become. I think my condition is milder than hers
in general but perimenopause was making mine worse. I did have one
sleepless night when I first started (so I switched to taking it in
the a.m.) and initially some problems with orgasm (but got over that
too and now am the same as I was before). I don't notice a big difference
except that my husband doesn't annoy me constantly. Which, by itself,
is worth it.
I've been on Effexor and Wellbutrin for nearly 9 years, and
just recently (with doctor supervision) was weaned off of
Effexor, and next step is getting off the other. My tips:
1. It is crucial that you are comfortable with your
psychiatrist/therapist. A bad psychiatrist can make a HUGE
difference. Different drs have different styles of dealing
with patients, which can potentially make or break your
treatment. Learned this the hard way.
2. Realize pills will not magically make you happy. They're
like good running shoes -- just wearing them won't make me
fast. You have to actively participate in healing yourself.
3. Medication can take a long time to start working. If you
feel 1 kind if not working for you though, TELL YOUR DOCTOR.
I had to try some different meds and doses before I found
the right combo.
4. Exercise and eat well. Both have a surprisingly strong
effect on mood.
Feel free to contact me with questions!
Everyone reacts to medication very differently, so it's
extremely important to recognize that when approaching
Western medication choices. You may need a much lower dose,
for example, or have a side effect not even listed. This is
actually very normal.
Find yourself a psychiatrist who LISTENS and talks to you,
not just looking at a chart and preparing a prescription.
is a fantastic website (and community) that has a lot of
info from people who experience major depression, commenting
on herbs, treatments, therapies, life-style choices that
have worked and not worked; it's an invaluable resource.
There is a section on the website about side effects from
medications that is very helpful as well.
I can personally vouch for excercise, acupuncture, Chinese
medicinal herbs, oatstraw tea (calming), DBT (dialectical
behavioral therapy), cognitive thearpy and medication, when
necessary. Yoga is amazing.
30 minutes of excercise and eating a LOT of greens will most
certainly help, with out without the meds.
Girl, not Interrupted anymore
After 12 years of taking anti-depressants, (various ones)
and not finding one that really works, I have decided to
quit. I kept taking them all this time because I thought
they were having some affect on my depression and at one
time I had panic attacks, so I thought they were keeping me
from having them. After getting fed up, I finally got up
the courage to see what happens without. I don't have
anything against them, I think they are great for some and
I know people who wouldn't be alive without them but I
decided to quit. I do know that they need to be tapered off
of and I did that. I don't really have access to the kind
of healthcare I need to have a professional supervise this
which is one reason I want to quit. I feel like I can feel
again, I cry when something is sad and feel happy sometimes
and at first had some nausea and headaches. This all sounds
fine, probably, but it's kind of overwhelming and is
starting to bug me. One more thing is I have the sex drive
of a teenage boy and I'm a woman in my late 40's, I can't
say I mind that. One physical symptem I have is a sort of
shuddering feeling sometimes. I wonder if anyone out there
has experienced this or am I just imagining things?
Just in response to the shuddering feeling: that's very
common. I've heard them called the ''brain zaps'' too. They're
not quite painful, but unpleasant, right? Some
anti-depressants are worse than others for the brain
zaps/shudders. When I withdrew from Paxil, the feeling was
so awful I had to simultaneously go on xanax while I
finished tapering off the paxil. It was MUCH easier than
going cold turkey or even withdrawing slowly. Good luck!
former antidepressant user
I'm speaking as a longtime (10 years) grateful anti-
depressant user due to diagnosed bipolar and sufferer of
severe depression (but not a doctor), so that's where I'm
But I respect that you may not have chronic clinical
depression and just needed them at one time and not now.
(Smart of you to taper down.) Just be very vigilant about
monitoring your feelings in case old symptoms of more
serious depression start to come back, and don't let your
dislike of meds keep you from returning to them *IF*
Before I was properly diagnosed as BP I too hated the idea
of meds, decided I felt fine, and tapered off. The
symptoms slowly came back, and I didn't realize what was
happening because it felt so familiar (and of course the
deeper you get into it, the less rational persepective you
have), until I was full-blown again and almost
I'm NOT saying this is the case with you, so I'm not
trying to cause fear in order to keep you stuck on the
meds. Just be aware so you can take care of yourself.
Congratulations on your new life (and sex drive!)
Best wishes to you
Hi There:) The first question is how are you tapering off
your meds? If you've been on them for 10 years, you
really need to go very slowly, even if you've only been
taking your current med for a short period of time. If
you go cold turkey you can have some really serious side
effects. It's important that you call your doctor and let
them know what you are doing, they can help you with your
taper dosage and scheduling. Sometimes you need to go even
slower than what they recommend. It might be good to get
some sort of supportive treatment as you taper like
acupuncture or homeopathy to help mitigate the side
effects. That way you can stay off your meds and not have
such trouble with headaches, nausea and shuddering.
It took me three tries to get off and stay off.The first
two times, I went with the Dr. recommended 2 weeks at 50%
and then quit. To actually stay off, I had to taper down
over 4 months, spending a full month at each dose 100%,
75%, 50%, and 25%. It depends on the half-life of the
med, but it can make a huge difference in your symptoms.
saw your post - usually I don't respond, but it was just too
familiar. I have gone off anti-dep a number of times and
experiences those ''brain shudders.'' I too thought I was
crazy, but there is a ton of descriptions of such a feeling
(often called brain shivers)all over the internet. VERY
UNCOMFORTABLE and quite strange...I often added small doses
and tapered from there before they went away - you have to
taper very slow, and even then they take weeks to go away. I
wish you luck.
I decided to take an antidepressant--celexa--after I stopped
breastfeeding my son at around nine months. I'd had pretty
severe post-partum depression and just clawed my way through it
until then, not wanting to risk the chemicals in my
breastmilk. Celexa was a godsend--helped me get my focus back
at work, make the changes I needed to make in my life, be a
better, more present mother.
It is now one year later, and I'm feeling some pressure to get
myself off the meds--and in fact, I recently tried weaning
off. After a month and a half of DAILY headaches, dizziness,
flu-like symptoms, irritability (even yelling--for the first
time ever--at my baby), I'm back on my full dose (and feeling
Has anyone found something (other than half pills for a month,
quarter pills for a month--doctor's suggestion) that makes the
weaning process tolerable with this particular drug? I mean
herbs, acupuncture, etc. I really was shocked by how awful I
felt--and am now feeling I'd rather stay drugged than go
through that again!
Another Antidepressant Addict
I read your post about staying on anti-depressants and
empathized. I had bad PPD after my first child, and was helped
enormously by medication. When I found out I was pregnant with my
second I quit cold turkey which, as you discovered, is not
recommended. In the end I stayed on AD's through that pregnancy,
breastfeeding, a third pregnancy, breastfeeding and now raising
three small kids. All on ADs. For a while I tried to come off or
cut down now and then, feeling some kind of nameless guilt or
blame or something, and each time would pretty quickly turn into
an angry harridan with a face like a stone. My husband can walk
in the door, take one look at me, and know that I've missed my
meds. I'm on a low dose, 10mg of Wellbutrin daily, and I feel
fine. It bugs the hell out of me that people nag women to come
off ADs, as if being medicated was somehow irresponsible, or
'unrealistic' (someone once said to me that life was depressing,
that was the reality, and that it was cheating to be medicated. I
told them to fuck off, and suggest you do the same if you hear
messages of that ilk). If you were diabetic no one would suggest
that it was natural to be off insulin, and being depressed is a
state where you are suffering from a similar chemical deficiency.
I'm a sober alcoholic, and used to drink to medicate myself:
After 15 years of sobriety, medicated and unmedicated, I can
assure you that there is nothing 'natural' about being depressed.
My shrink at the time of my first PPD put it well: She said that
we aren't sure how negatively medication might affect our babies,
but we know for absolute certain that a depressed mother can be
horribly destructive and damaging for fetuses, babies, small
children and onward and upward. I am a better parent, spouse,
friend and daughter when I am not depressed. Do yourself a favor
and relax about it, and try not to pay attention to the vocal few
who enjoy criticizing others for seeking happiness over imaginary
Your question concerns me. Antidepressants are powerful medications and should
be self-administered or self-managed. Any anti-depressants should be administered
under your doctor's or psychiatrist's care, not your own personal assessment or
the Berkeley Parents community. Even a doctor providing advice on BPN is doing so
irresponsibly since they have not examined you and do not know your personal
medical history. When I read words like ''I put myself on celexa'', that is a big
All drugs have some side effects and impact people differently. Furthermore, your
doctor will be able to monitor your reactions and progress and manage dosage
accordingly. They can also determine if celexa is the optimal drug for your
and if it makes sense to taper. Without truly understanding all this and how they
might interact with other drugs you are taking, you are treading on dangerous
Please see your doctor.
I was on antidepressants for years, finally decided to get off
due to side effects. I lowered the dosage with the supervision
of a psychiatrist, and very slowly got off them, but still had
horrendous withdrawl (headaches, brain zaps, irritablity). when
the stuff was finally out of my system I couldn't handle
anything-my fuse was so short, and I took everything
personally. I realized I had to go back on to another one. I am
on a different SSRI, and I feel like myself again. I think
doctors underreport the effects of going off antidepressants,
and who knows how they alter us-but I've accepted the fact that
I just need to be on them, to be a good mother and enjoy my
PLEASE see a doctor about reducing your meds. There are several
newer anti-depressants that require a very specific weaning
process. I am not a doctor, but have been on different
anti-depressants since 1991. My sister self-weaned from Paxil
and it was a nightmare. She had to go back on so she could
properly wean. Please talk to a psychiatrist, not your regular
doctor- you really need a specialist here, IMHO.
Hi, I just wanted to say that I don't think there's anything
wrong or ''inferior'' about staying on an antidepressant. The
biochemistry of many people is such that they are ''wired'' to
feel a certain level of sadness, anxiety, etc. and an
antidepressant acts as a chemical adjustment to this. I've been
taking a low level of Zoloft since 1994 -- I feel it lifts me
to a higher contentment ''set point'' than I naturally reside at.
Back in 1998 I felt like it was weak to be on an antidepressant
and that I should be able to be fine without it and so went
off, but soon was back on after sliding back into inordinate
sadness and anxiety.
... my thoughts
I have been struggling with depression for many years. I am very
sensitive to psychoactive drugs, and tried many antidepressants
as well as lithium many years ago. The side effects of the
antidepressants were brutal, so that I was only able to tolerate
them for a few days. Lithium had no effect on my mood, but
horrible side effects. In those days, apparently, higher doses
were initiated when starting a drug. In any case, I gave up on
psychiatry a long time ago and had great success with quitting
drinking (also many years ago now) starting a very vigorous
exercise program, stabilizing my life, getting an advanced degree
Now, with a 2 year old son I am mildly depressed and have bad
pms. I have very little support, and am pretty isolated: no
family, no insurance, no money (waiting for my husband to finish
grad school) etc etc. I saw a psychiatrist recently because I
didn't want my depression (just sort of blah--not major) to
affect my son. Well, she put me on a TINY (one-fortieth--yes,
one-fortieth--the typical active dose) of a mood stabilizer
because of my history with antidepressants and I was too sick to
get out of bed, with physical symptoms like the flu. It took a
week of being sick and a week to recover.
My question is: should I keep trying different drugs? Is this
roller coaster worth it? Should I instead focus on all the life
changes that helped me so much in the past? (this last is my
The doctor confirms that I have a very rare, unusually sensitive
system, so this isn't a case of dealing with the usual side
effects at the usual doses. I want to do what is best for my son
and my husband and myself, but I just don't know what that is. It
is unlikely that there are many folks out there with this
experience, but any insight is appreciated.
I also have this hypersensitivity to antidepressants and mood
stabilizers. Eventually, through trial and error we found the
appropriate dose of the right medication and my life was greatly
improved. However, I continue to struggle with low-grade
depression but not major depression. I would say keep it up and
if your psych dr doesn't seem to understand, keep looking for one
If anyone in your family (blood relative) has successfully used
antidepressants you might want to try the same kind. Also if
you tried antidepressants many years ago there are some newer
ones out there that work very quickly and exit your body pretty
quickly also so that if you do have terrible symptoms and can't
stand it then at least when you stop the side effects won't
continue for long. Lexapro, Effexor, Wellbutrin. Seems like
you can try one and then give your body a break for a month
without trying another one right away. Can't you do BOTH--
methods that worked for you in the past and also be slowly
trying antidepressants at the same time?
Hello, I would recommend that you do all of the lifestyle things
that are possible for you and include time for yourself with both
exercise and rest. I realized about a year ago that I had
depression/very emotional pms. I decided to see a psychologist
about once per month (all I can afford, but she's incredible - -
Dr. Geraldine Alpert in San Rafael). She suggested that I might
benefit from an antidepressant. I considered it and my doctor
offered to write a prescription for me, but I decided instead to
go to an herbalist and it has helped. My psychologist is not
advocating for the medications anymore, so I think she's seen the
improvement as well. For me, the biggest help is private
exercise time (yoga) away from my family; it's not always
possible to find the time, but the difference in how I feel is as
striking as night vs. day. Good luck to you!
I wonder if the mood stabilizer you're talking about is Lamictal-
I take it for my mood disorder & it's been a godsend, but as I
was building up on it I felt flu-ish for a few days at every
dosage increase. My doctor was pretty conservative & I'd proved
sensitive to meds in standard dosages in previous trials, so I
began Lamictal at only 6.25mg (the standard beginning dose then
was 25- 50mg, I think now it's 12.5- 25mg), & increased VERY
slowly. I had an intuitive sense that it was going to be a good
medication for me, so I managed to hang in through the days of
feeling sick, & I turned out to be right.
I've been through many, many medication trials & I know that it's
a huge drag & can be very scary. Side effects really frightened
me at the start, but over time I began to take them in stride.
With some drugs I tried I felt so awful that just I had to say,
''Nope, can't do it'', & with others I was able to give them a
chance, even if I felt pretty weird for awhile at the start.
I hear what you're saying about being unusually sensitive & I'm
not meaning to diminish that, only to say that you're not alone.
One advantage for me, the flip side of being med-sensitive, has
been that I've gotten benefits from some medications at
sub-clinical doses, so low that I had a hard time convincing my
doctors they were doing anything at all!
The life changes you've managed to make are fantastic & go a long
way to helping depression & you definitely should keep them up.
You're the only one who can say if your low-grade depression
affects your life enough to make it worthwhile to continue to
pursue medical options, you're the only one who knows how it
feels to be you, but since you're asking the question, I'd say
yes, it's worth it. You don't know without trying if any of the
dozens of medications available can help you. Low-grade
depression can be just horrible even though it may not be
dramatic- it's kind of like living in a gray world.
I need to take a combinations of several meds to keep me feeling
okay, it's taken years to work out that combination, & they
require tweaking from time to time. I sure didn't go through all
that for entertainment, & I know people who've given up on meds
and decided to live with depression.
Whatever you do, be sure to have a COMPLETE physical examination
including thyroid tests & evaluation by an up-to-date
endocrinologist. As has been discussed here recently, thyroid
disorders can be subtle, & can cause depression & other mood
disorders. And maybe look for a psychiatrist who has a lot of
experience with med-sensitive patients- you could try calling
either UCSF or Stanford where they have excellent psychiatric
teaching hospitals (& out patient clinics) with sliding scale fees.
Growing up I was often depressed, and once took Wellbritin which
worked fine, but couldn't take it more than 6 months at a time.
When I was perimenopausal 5 years ago, I was moodier than usual
and on a recommendation I started taking flax seed oil (cold
pressed 1000 mg) and evening primrose (500 mg) capsules daily. I
was skeptical that it would work (simply because my doctor did
not suggest it) but I had nothing to lose. To my surprise it
worked amazingly well. Today, although I am no longer
perimenopausal, I still take flax seed oil, but increased them to
2000 mg a day. (I stopped the evening primrose - I did not think
it was needed). To date, even though I am going through an
especially challenging time personally and professionally, the
depressions did not return. I suggest you give it a try. It takes
several weeks to feel the effect. An alternative is to increase
Omega-3 foods in your diet. If you do some googling you will find
more info on omega-3 and depression.
I'm so sorry to hear that you are struggling. I, too, am
incredibly sensitive to any medications, so I can truly
understand your predicament. Have you tried acupuncture or
Chinese herbs yet? I recently finished my degree to become an
acupuncturist and in the school clinic where I put in hundreds
and hundreds of hours, I successfully treated many cases of
depression in women with both acupuncture and herbal formulas.
Sometimes the results were slow and subtle, but often they were
quick and remarkable. Everybody I saw in my case load with
symptoms of depression was able to either completely get off
their meds or substantially lower their doses. It might be worth
a try. As a student clinic (fully supervised by very experienced
acupuncturists, of course) patients pay from $24 - $30 for a
treatment, so it's great for those who don't have insurance. If
you decide to go, do commit for at least 6 sessions so you can
give it a fair try. I hope you find relief soon. Here's the
contact info: Acupuncture and Integrative Medicine College on
Shattuck at Blake 666-8234.
wishing you well
Since February 2002, two companies have been measuring urine
(endogenous chemicals that communicate information between neurons)
identify reference ranges for a healthy population. Using this data
(and the CDC's
reference ranges for laboratory blood and urine tests were amassed this
recommendations can be offered for people whose urine levels are outside
reference ranges. The suggested interventions are using the building
neurotransmitters, amino acids. Recovery Systems in Mill Valley (see
two books and her websites) uses questionnaires to identify these
corrects them with similar interventions. Because you mention hormonal
imbalances such as PMS, test panels that include hormones (using
to capture the free or active hormone levels) may be useful. It may be
worth a try
since you are sensitive to pharamaceuticals.
The two companies are Neuroscience, Inc and Sanesco. I have experience
nutrition practice using these assessments. I cannot say they are 100%
to biochemical individuality, but enough clients have been significantly
helped that I
felt it might be an avenue for you. I have seen improvement with
sugar cravings, ADD, and Tourette's thus far.
I'd try St. John's wort as a high dose gel capsule(New Chapter, St.
John's Sc 27).
It is highly concentrated plant extract with the whole natural spectrum
medicine, mostly hyperforins that ''modulate'' serotonine. It's fairly
expensive ( $24 for
one month, but I take it only during half of my cycle, around the time
ovulating and the following two weeks, which saves money). I've tried
thought it was too strong, St. John's feels just right!
I also am extremely sensitive to medications. I started on a
very low dose of and SSRI to treat OCD and anxiety. I had
horrible side effects and did not believe that I could possibly
be helped by this medication. Both my therapist and my
psychiatrist urged me to keep going. Finally the side effects
faded and I saw an amazing change in my anxiety levels. Each
time we have increased the dosage slightly I experience side
effects. Each time the side effects are a little less intense
and clear up more quickly. If you can stick it out for 2-3
weeks you might get past the bad part and experience some
Granted, I don't have your particular sensitivety issue. But,
I spent about 2 years trying different drugs and doses before
getting it right, and my life has never been the same. Or put a
better way - I am living now rather than existing and
just 'doing'. Yes, I knew joy before, but not the simple
appreciation for being alive.
Only my experience
Thank you to those who suggested that I see my dr. trying
antidepressants for depression. I should have done this a long
time ago! Now, my teen daughter, with whom I'm fairly close,
found the bottle of Lexapro and asked what they were. Since
depression runs in both sides of the family, it would be good for
her to be aware of it, but is she too young to know right now?
Any advice from those who have been there?
Hi -- in this day and age, I do not think that a teen is too young to
talk with you about any types of drugs, including prescription drugs. If
your family runs a history of depression, your daughter finding the
bottle of Lexapro affords you a great opportunity to have a gentle
conversation about depression and its symptoms. Much as you might hate
to realize it, perhaps your daughter has experienced some of these
symptoms and they scared or confused her. This is a great opportunity to
talk, not only about the Lexapro, but the fact that sometimes drugs are
helpful when our bodies need a little help healing. I do not think that
a teenager is too young to hear this! Good luck --
I really think it's a very good thing to tell your daughter about.
First of all, she probably has been aware of your moods and would find
relief in you getting treatment. Secondly, as someone who was diagnosed
with depression at age 13, I strongly believe knowledge is power. And
if your daughter may be susceptible to it, there are three things that
are really important for her to know. First, it's nothing to be ashamed
of. Unintentionally, by hiding your condition, you may send the message
that it's something to be ashamed of. It's okay for your daughter to
know that it's hard to deal with, but that you are not a lesser person
for having it. Secondly, if she does start to have signs of depression,
then it's good for her to know what it is and that she has someone to
turn to that has first-hand knowledge and loves her unconditionally.
When I first started feeling the depression, I felt like I was going
crazy. Fortunately, I had a very supportive mom. Lastly, by her
understanding what's going on with you, it may give her a sense of
empowerment to help you. Without knowing what's really going on, when
you are having ''episodes'', she may feel completely helpless. While
she can't cure you and shouldn't feel like she needs to, you may be able
to give her suggestions on what might give you a little comfort.
Helping you feel a little better may make her feel a lot better.
I really feel for you and wish you the best.
I have been functional but depressed for many years; I am not in
counsling but was in college and was told I would always have anxiety
problems. There is a history of depression on both sides of the
family, so it should be no surprise. My mother's sister takes
medication for depression; my cousin is bipolar and my mother suffered
from depression thoughout her life, though never got treatment. Worst
of all, I have a 10 year old son, IQ in the hg range, who is
clinically depressed. Have already been told by two psychologists
that he will likely have anxiety thoughout his life. I feel I need to
get treated so I can create a more positive, happier environment for
my family, esp. my son, and break this sad cycle. For those who take
meds for depression, how does one go about this? Is there a test to
confirm depression for get treatment? Who to see? How to choose the
right doctor? Do the drugs really help? Which ones to take and which
to avoid? Is it safe? Will I be a better parent?
In my experience, depression screws everything up.
I'd say Thing One is to contact your doctor and get a referral to a
psychiatrist. A therapist can also help, though cannot prescribe drugs.
I think there are many levels and types of depression, and it takes some
doing with your qualifed professional to figure out what's right for
you. I've had a few bouts of depression over the years, and most
recently taking time off work, learning to relax better, and working
with a therapist bi-weekly (talk), and psychiatrist (drugs) saw me
through a tough two-year stretch. I personally was on Lexapro as an
antidepressant and Trazadone (a non-sedative
antidepressant) as a sleep aid and it worked for me. What's right for
you might be different.
I would recommend acting sooner rather than later.
Doing OK in Berkeley
You are to be commended for trying to tackle this issue. I grew up in a
family affected by mental illness, which includes clinical depression.
You also mention bi-polar disorder which can affect not only the person,
but their families, extensively. I recommend you get the book: ''When
Someone You Love Has a Mental Illness, A Handbook For Families, Friends
and Caregivers'' by Berkeley family therapist Rebecca Woolis (available
local bookstores or Amazon.) This will give you some important
guidelines for managing both the identified person and those affected of
the family and/or friends. It includes info on drugs and what to expect.
In my experience, pharmaceuticals can play a critical role in recovery,
and my family members' life was improved immensely with the use of
drugs, which basically made her life productive again, rather than the
quagmire that had become her existence. You'll need to find a good
(MD) to manage these for you, as there are many indicators and
contraindications to their use, depending on other medical conditions,
age, other street or recreational drug use, alcohol, and other meds,
etc. (Many people who are ill, self-medicate with street drugs and
alcohol, so the entire situation must be dealt
with.) Also, some drugs need several weeks to take effect, so patience
and perseverance are also important. An experienced and trained
professional (MD) is really essential, and a family therapist (MFCC,
MFT, LCSW) would also benefit your family. Some problems are too big for
the talking cure alone. Best of luck to you and your family in lessening
Psychotropics saved our family member
I wish my daughter could answer your posting, but she's in school right
now. She has been on anti-depressants for a little over a year now
(she's 15). I am not a big fan of chemical meds, but I have to say this
has saved her life! She is a happy person (though not ridiculously so),
she can function in the world, she can get herself out of hard
situations, she doesn't stay silent as long as she used to. Not EVERY
piece of clothing is black! She has come out of her shell, in a way. She
had the cards stacked against her genetically also. At the same time her
father, who had been suffering from massive depression for years (we're
not together anymore-probably because of that) decided to try them also
(he has Kaiser). I saw a difference in him also, but I think he is a
tougher nut to crack (no pun intended) and don't think he's had as a
miraculous a change. And I hear his mother is on some kind of
anti-depressants too! I think the genetics are real. When things got so
bad, my daughter's therapist recommended going to a psychiatrist for
meds. I looked around and found someone who treated adolescents. Call
your insurnace company see what they can do to help you. They can
usually give you a long list of Dr.s in your area. You also might look
at the BPN for recommendations for you and your son. You cannot and
should not perscribe these heavy-duty drugs yourself. You might have to
try for a while to get the dosages or types right. The people on the
outside will notice a change before the person themself does. A good Dr.
is the way to go.
I don't take them so I can't comment from the inside, but from the
outside, I saw such a change in my daughter. It's like she's back from a
very dark and lonely place where I coudn't reach her very often, and is
so much the stronger, smarter, and with so much more self-awareness. I
don't know how long she will be on them, but for the moment she's not
wanting to stop.
All the best and please get help for you and your son's sake, whether
it's drugs or meditation!
I have suffered from depression for years, as has my sister, mother and
maternal grandfather. In our case it behaves like a predisposition,
making my sister and I more vulnerable to normal stresses. We have both
tried medications (Prozac and Zoloft) and found them useless with
unpleasant side effects. I have been able to manage my depression to
the point of eliminating it using nutritional strategies, esp. the
program outlined by Julia Ross.
She has two books, ''The Diet Cure'' and ''The Mood Cure'', and runs a
clinic near Mt. Tamalpais. Given that you are considering medicating
your ten-year-old son, I most strongly recommend at least a consultation
with her clinic -- I think if you read her books you will hesitate to
manage your child's regimen yourself, though you might find it helpful
for your own health. After an initial period when the clinic might
recommend supplementing with amino acids, the ''treatment'' consists of
a diet that meets US-gov't recommended levels of protein consumption,
avoids sugars and refined flours, and includes sufficient fats and
_lots_ of veggies and fruits. The basic theory is that much depression
can be traced to insufficient levels of neurotransmitters, which can be
addressed by ensuring sufficient neurotransmitter building-blocks (amino
acids/protein) stabilizing blood sugar.
I found a few of the ideas in the books odd, but the framework quite
solid -- the science behind it is robust. Amino-acid supplementation is
controversial but a search on PubMed reveals that at the levels her
clinic recommends, only beneficial effects have been found. This is how
I've managed depression during my pregnancy and through breastfeeding.
here are some resources and interiews (audio recordings/podcast) with
people who transformed their personal pain into their life purpose - I
posted from my book, Listening to Depression: How Understanding Your
Pain Can Heal Your Life
Some progressive psychologists have been working with a new technology
that allows for neurotransmitters to be measured via a urine sample.
Because the ranges have been established for a ''normal population'',
comparison of test results to those can yield some useful information.
From there, rather than using pharmaceuticals, target amino acid therapy
(TAAT) provides the raw materials for the deficient neurotransmitters
(which are made from amino acids, protein building blocks) to help
normalize mood. This approach has been used for eating disorders,
autism, insomnia, depression, AD/HD, and more. The company that has
done the most in this area is Neuroscience, Inc. and their web site
offers supportive and accessible information.
Please see a psychiatrist. They will diagnose you and decide if you
would benefit from medication. I highly recommend Richard Levine at the
Berkeley Therapy Institute. He doesn't do talk therapy, but he's a
master at prescribing the right drug. There are so many antidepressants
out there and some may not be right for you. He truly saved my life.
Without him, my anxiety would completely control my life. I'm a much
better mom now that I don't see life through anxiety-colored glasses.
Good luck to you! I hope you get the help you need anon
Boy, did your message hit home with me. I've been in and out of therapy
for depression (minor, low-level with anxiety) for the last 10 years. I
resisted medication for most of those years, until last year, when I
started Celexa, or citalopram, which is a selective serotonin reuptake
The change was immediate! I felt almost euphoric at first, then my brain
gradually calmed down and settled into a calm state.
The constant, grueling self-criticism and gnarling knots of anxiety in
my stomach were gone. In its place was the ability to see my life
clearly and realistically. The best analogy I can think of is that it's
your still in your own skin, but the ''infections'' of anxiety and
depression are gone. It's made me a less anxious, more confident mom,
I'm a Kaiser member so that's how I got help. I went to counseling and
got meds that way. I don't tell people about the medication - there's a
stigma, and I'm kind of embarrassed about it, to be frank. But oh, get
help if you can. There are millions of moms (and dads) on medication and
you'll wonder why you waited so long.
All the best to you
Depressed No More
What medication does is alter the amount of various chemical messengers,
called neurotransmitters, that are available in the brain. Typically,
people with depression suffer from a lack of serotonin, dopamine, and
norepinephrine in the synapses
(spaces) between the nerve cells in your brain. What this lack does is
cause the ''vegetative'' symptoms of depression, like difficulty
sleeping, lack of pleasure in food and sex, low energy, and low
motivation. Medication alone does not work as well as medication along
with psychotherapy, as studies have shown.
A psychiatrist, general medical doctor, or nurse practitioner can
prescribe antidepressants. Psychological testing can help determine
whether you have depression or not. I recommend that you be evaluated by
a professional psychotherapist and psychiatrist. Many health plans cover
such treatment, although on a limited basis. For ongoing treatment many
people have to go outside their health plans' coverage. I am a licensed
psychologist and would be happy to speak with you about this, or you can
find a psychotherapist through your health insurance panel (they usually
have a number on the back of the card for mental health/substance
abuse). I have substantial experience treating depression and am happy
to be part of a treatment team with the person prescribing the
medication. As with any treatment (including medication), there are
risks and benefits to psychotherapy which any responsible clinician will
talk to you about before you commence treatment. I hope that you take
steps to treat this, since as you noted it can make a positive
difference for you and your family.
Please don't hesitate to contact me at 510-258-4431 --Lisa Larsen, PsyD
I had post partum depression, and had no idea how to get it treated. I
started with my internal medicine doctor who was great. I told her about
all my anxiety, my unhappiness, my lack of enthusiasm for anything fun,
and she recommended that we try something just for 6 months. I had done
some research, and talked to other friends on anti-depressants, and I
chose Wellbutrin. It's the only one I tried, but it does lessen BOTH
anxiety and depression, has no sexual side effects, and doesn't cause
weight gain. There were othe side effects possible (headaches, stomach
upset, etc, etc) but none of them happened to me. I also found a
counselor through a friend so the meds did accompany counseling, but I
really think the meds were the most helpful thing I did. The key advice
I received was not to feel bad about taking meds for depression - your
body has a chemical imbalance, and the meds are correcting the
neurotransmitters/chemicals that aren't being produced enough.
It's not like being on a trendy ''Prozac'' gig, like some people joke
about. It is really necessary. I noticed I make better decisions now, I
don't over-react when times get tough, and I feel more confident about
how I feel. I strongly recommend you talk to your family doctor about it
You ask important questions, but ones with no easy answer.
Each person's experience with depression, and with treatments, is
For me, medication is an essential part of managing my depression--along
with a healthy diet, reasonable amounts of exercise, regular sleep,
social support, and therapy (particularly cognitive behavioral therapy
with mindfulness components).
I would be a much worse parent--and may well not even be alive--without
the meds. For me, the benefits of the medications far outweigh the down
sides & side effects--but you may come to a different conclusion.
For me, treating my depression has meant being willing to try a variety
of medications and medication combinations to find the best results.
This I have done mostly with psychiatrists at first, and then with my
primary care doctor once I have been stabilized. I have always seen a
psychologist, as well, to work on the aspects of my mood that are more
in my control.
When I am depressed I am robbed of my ability to take joy in my work, my
friends, my family, and my dear child. To me, life is too short and too
sweet to allow a disease --and I believe it is a disease--to take that
time away from me.
Good luck to you
Hi - Some people suffer from depression / mood swings due to hormonal
imbalance (which affects men, women and children).
Have you looked into this? You might want to check out this web page -
Please note that I'm not at all affiliated with Dr. John Lee, but there
are some really good info in his website that might prove to be
'eyeopeners.' If you wish, I'd be happy to share with you some more info
on natural solutions that have helped many.
And one more very important thing...getting spiritual counsel is another
great and sure way to cure depression. It's free and it's highly
effective. I highly suggest that you explore this option, too. Of
course, drugs could also work, but only temporarily (and in most cases,
there are side effects to contend with). So anytime you can find natural
and even spiritual solutions, explore them. You've got nothing to lose
and everything to gain. These have worked so well for me and many people
I know, and they could work for you too. Feel free to contact me -
and will gladly point you to some helpful
resources. Again, here's wishing you the best!
I was on Zoloft for 2 years, off now for the last 2 years or so, am 54
years old and have been depressed for 40 years, though less so since my
periods have stopped. Perhaps this isn't the case for you, but I know
it's true for me and I suspect a ''couple'' of others folks - that we
treat our bodies just as we treat the earth, like garbage dumps,
(hormonal) imbalances and expect to feel good physically and
emotionally. And we want to take a pill rather than doing the hard work
needed to care for ourselves. Our entire ecosystem, of which our
bodies/minds are part, is out of whack. For starters, please go to
for fantastic articles regarding reclaiming your physical,
emotional, and mental help.
i didn't see the original posting, but for depression/anxiety, have you
tried acupressure therapy? i just saw anasuya batliner in berkeley (on
6th street, www.mybodywisdom.net is her web site) and i wish i'd found
out about this decades ago, the frantic sadness and anxiety went away
and now that i know it can go away, i have a lot more hope about things
in general. it might not work for everyone but i strongly suggest
giving her healing abilities a try. drugs are just so different on
different people. but it depends what your depression is like too, as i
said i missed the original posting.
I have a lot of genetic loading for depression & bipolar disorder, &
suffered through 20 years of depression from low-grade to clinical with
briefer spells of high energy which ended in depression.
I had a life, friends, work, but was always hiding what was going on
inside of me & grasping to emotionally hold on. I did years of therapy
which kept me alive & gave me lots of insight. I did spiritual work,
nutritional work, bodywork, & various alternative healing work, many of
which gave me some slight relief.
But nothing altered my basic underlying depressive instability & I
always had an intuitive sense that something was organically askew.
Finally I went to Langley-Porter Affective Disorders Clinic at UCSF for
an evaluation. By then they had identified bi-polar II disorder (a BP
with heavy depression & hypomania rather than full-blown mania), &
that's what I've got.
It took years of working with top-knotch psychiatrists to work out a
medication regime that really works for me, partly because the mood
stabilizer that is my primary med wasn't on the market when I began, &
partly because my own particular version of the disorder proved to be
I now take a combo of meds which affect different neurotransmitter
functions, I stay within a quite reasonable range of mood stability & I
enjoy life. Taking care of myself in terms of diet, exercise, & sleep
greatly affect my resiliancy, & those things are an ongoing challenge
Most people find the correct med(s) much, much faster than I did, but
I'm telling my story to encourage you to hang in there for as long as it
takes, to work with the best doctor you can find, to get a thorough
work-up & diagnosis to begin with, & to make yourself believe that there
is a person inside you who can enjoy life.
I've never had a lot of money & my depression affected my ability to
make a lot, but I went outside my insurance & paid out of pocket
(instead of going to the movies, or dry-cleaners, or buying new instead
of used clothes, or eating out, etc) when I needed to to get good help,
both therapy & psychiatry.
I recommend going to Langley-Porter as a starting place. It's sliding
scale & overseen by some of the best teaching psychiatrists in the
I am in a very blue period in my life, and have been talking to
my doctor about taking antidepressants. But I'm concerned
about how long to take them, and more important, about
what happens when I stop. Will there be a rebound? Will
the gains melt away? What commonly happens when
people start and stop taking such medications?
Everyone is different, but I found antidepressants to be very
helpful as a way to cope during a very blue time, and I used
talk therapy during that time to build up some resiliency and
skills so that when I went off the pills, I had something else
to fall back on. I weaned off the pills slowly and did not
have an ugly transition. I can only encourage you to get help,
through the pills or otherwise, because depression is a serious
and debilitating condition.
not depressed now
In my experience, when I stop taking anti-depressants the
depression comes back.
I know a number of people (family and friends) who have been
depressed and have taken anti-depressants. The most important thing
is to understand that anti-depressants alone will not ''cure'' you - you
need to continue to talk with someone while you are taking it. Too many
people take pills to feel better; and while they feel better when taking
them, they do nothing or little to improve their situation. Pills aren't the
answer to everything. You need to learn to understand why you feel the
way you feel while you are taking anti-depressants. Good luck.
I have severe clinical depression and have been on meds since
1995. I needed to try 6 different types before finding the best
one for me. (So don't get discouraged if you try one type and
it doesn't work--that's actually pretty common). I tried going
off them, but fell into another deep depression--now I realize I
will be on them for the rest of my life. That being said,
research has shown (and I have found) that the best treatment
for depression is a combination of things, including therapy,
meds, exercise, good diet, meditation, etc. Some people don't
need to be on meds forever--they get through a rough spot, then
go off them. Others find that just exercise alone helps them
more than meds. Finally, others (like myself) learn that they
can't live without meds (and other treatments as listed above).
It's not an easy situation. Realize that it'll take some time
to figure out what works for you. If you need a good doctor and
can go there, I had great luck at Kaiser in Oakland. Best of
luck. Feel free to contact me with more questions.
I spent the better part of my mid twenties and early thirties
on and off anti-depressants and was helped greatly by
medications each time I took them. I had success with
many and switched around to avoid certain side effects.
When I first took them I was anxious to get off as soon as I
felt stable and basically went against my psychiatrists
recommendation and tapered off after 6 months. I wanted
to be 'cured' and felt stigmatized about being on them. To
make a long story short, I think I should have stayed on
them for a longer time even though I was no longer feeling
depressed. I relapsed relatively quickly and had to go back
on medication. That's not a big deal in the scheme of things,
but I did have to endure the initial side effects all over again
and wait for the medication to kick in etc, not to metion the
period of pain and suffering I could have avoided... As time
went by and I experienced more depressions, I got more
comfortable with the idea that I took medication, and I was
able to be more rational about choosing the right time to
stop and and when NOT to go off the meds.
So, I guess my advice is don't be in a rush to go off
medication, if they are of benefit to you.
Before you go ''on and off'' of antidepressants, it is important to
get an expert and thorough evaluation of what kind of depression
you are experiencing. It is not a good idea for anyone to go on
and off them many times, but for someone who has a genetically
based depression it can actually make things worse by setting off
what's called ''kindling''. My lay understanding of this is that
the neurotransmitters (there are many, not just serotonin, and
even the SSRI's affect them) get overstimulated and can become
more and more reactive. Also, if your depression is genetically
based and goes untreated (or improperly treated), it can get
harder to treat over time.
I don't mean to scare you, but this is important info!
Antidepressants, particularly the SSRI's (selective serotonin
reuotake inhibitors, like Prozac, Zoloft, and Paxil) are handed
out like candy these days by general practitioners and
psychiatrists without thorough evaluation and diagnosis. There
are many other types of antidepressants, lesser known to the
general public, and several types of depression- one size does
not fit all.
I have suffered from depression (which finally got diagnosed as a
subtype of manic depression) for many many years. It wasn't until
I got an evaluation at the Langley Porter Mood Disorders Clinic
that I got a proper diagnosis and began appropriate medication
therapy. I recommend that resource, and it is sliding scale.
My mood disorder is genetically based- there is a substantial
history of it on both sides of my family- and I am someone who
will take medication for the rest of my life. At first this
scared me and I resented it. Now, I am grateful that treatment
exists, and taking medication is a routine part of my day. I have
educated myself about the effects on my body of the medication,
am able to tell when it needs adjusting, and am reassured that
the drugs are not a health risk.
If you are someone whose depression is not genetic but an effect
of present life circumstances, you still need to take medication
for long enough to give yourself the mental, emotional, and
physical strength to change those circumstances- otherwise the
depression will likely return. Many people are scared of taking
meds and go off too soon. Never go off antidepressants without a
knowledgeable doctor's supervision! Going off without a slow
tapering can cause a rebound, but appropriate decrease will not.
If your depression returns after discontinuing, it means that the
cause of the depression still exists, and that requires further
I have done much therapy over the years- it gave me insight,
allowed me to grow, and kept me alive through very rough spells.
But I wasn't able to fully make use of those gains until my
genetic disorder was treated.
Best of luck!
Your post caught my attention. I was one of those people who
resisted taking antidepressants for years, despite having had
one therapist who strongly recommended I try them (I actually
left her office upset and never went back, I am sorry to say!).
After majoring in Psychology though, and learning about the
real help that antidepressants can offer us when we are
depressed, I decided to try them--and I am not disappointed. It
took me a year to find the right ones--I was allergic to
Zoloft, and Paxil was just plain BAD for me (new, unpublished
research on Paxil documents unhealthful weight gain in the
first year of use, along with a documented complex of lethargy
and mental fogginess-- beware!!). I now take Lexapro and
Wellbutrin every day, with no apparent side effects at all.
Lexapro is the only SSRI out there that has no documented
effects on body weight or metabolism, and the Wellbutrin is
good to counteract any sexual side effects (such as delayed
orgasm). This is a good combo for me--yours might be different.
Keep trying--get a good Psychiatrist who knows the medications,
and who is willing to work with you to find a treatment
suitable for you.
All my coursework in Psych. taught me how bloody stigmatized
the use of antidepressants is in our world. My take now is that
if you need them, you need them, and there is no reason to be
ashamed, or feel like a weak or unworthy individual. People
with all sorts of other diseases use medications for treatment
without shame, and so should you if you feel the need.
Depression is a serious disorder that KILLS people, either by
suicide, alcohol/drug use, or immunosuppression resulting in
the acquisition of other opportunistic diseases. Don't let
others' antiquated views of depression as being a disorder
of ''character'' coerce you out of getting the help you need.
As with all diseases, treatments work best when you combine them--
talk therapy and antidepressant medications together are shown
to be THE MOST effective treatment for depression. However,
some people still need to be on the meds for life. If you are
one of them, don't beat yourself up about it. In that case, it
is a chemical imbalance that you can't control.
One more word about complementary treatments...Diet is a key
factor in how we feel, but there is no money for this sort of
research because corporations can't profit from it. In
addition to medications, I have been on a modified version of
the Zone diet to control blood sugar swings, and these have
DRASTICALLY improved the way I feel--no joke. I eat more
calories than the recommended daily amount (1700 is just too
low!), but I try to eat the carbs-protein-fat ratio that's
recommended. I don't get cranky or exhausted on a daily basis
like I used to. Friends (and even my ex!) have commented on how
much happier I seem. As a bonus, I have lost 12 pounds since
the beginning of May with this minimal effort. I am not trying
to promote dieting for dieting's sake, but thought you might
want to try a blood-sugar balancing diet to see if it helps
you. It sure has helped me. If you want to talk more about
this, please write and ask the moderator for my email address.
I would be happy to be an email pal/resource for you. Good
luck, and be well.
anonymous, please, for privacy
this page was last updated: Oct 25, 2012
BPN is now a 501(c)(3) non-profit and we are transitioning to a new website: BerkeleyParentsNetwork.org
The opinions and statements expressed on this website
are those of parents who subscribe to the
Berkeley Parents Network.
Disclaimer & Usage for
information about using content on this website.
Copyright © 1996-2015 Berkeley Parents Network