Depression Marathon Blog

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Diagnosed with depression 17 years ago, I lost the life I once knew, but in the process re-created a better me. I am alive and functional today because of my dog, my treatment team, my sobriety, and my willingness to re-create myself within the confines of this illness. I hate the illness, but I'm grateful for the person I've become and the opportunities I've seized because of it. I hope writing a depression blog will reduce stigma and improve the understanding and treatment of people with mental illness. All original content copyright to me: etta. Enjoy your visit!

Saturday, April 5, 2008

to med or not to med...

I'm feeling uneasy today. As I keep working to get my message out into the wider web, I have been honored to be added to a few blogrolls. Today, I noticed my addition to a space where the taking of meds is, it appears, frowned upon. This is not a position I agree with, hence my uneasiness.
First, let me clarify. I have no problem with any person treating any illness in any way they wish--holistic, medications, magnets, prayers--as long as that decision is made with a sound mind and in consultation with a medical professional. We all have the right to control what we put into and do with our bodies.
What makes me uncomfortable, and sometimes downright angry (Tom Cruise) is when those who have made a decision (i.e. not to take meds) purport to know that their decision is the right choice for everyone. Regardless of the issue, I dislike when anyone scribbles in a chat room, blabs on television, or writes an article condemning the opposite option as if it was the devil reincarnate! Unfortunately, the anonymity of the internet seems to heighten this arrogance.

The feelings about taking meds for mental illness are strong. The arguments against taking meds appear to run passionate and deep. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I guess I just don't get it. If there were no psychiatric meds, I would be dead. Or worse, I would be living an incredibly debilitating, miserable, isolated life without value or meaning. It would be suicide, literally, for me to disavow psychiatric meds. I may choose not to take a cold medication. I am pretty health conscious, and I know a cold will eventually run its course. But if I had a life-threatening brain tumor, I wouldn't think twice about intravenously running poison through my bloodstream, at great risk to my immediate quality of life, in order to shrink that tumor and possibly save my life! In my opinion, a non-medical stranger discouraging someone from treating his mental illness with medication, is no less ridiculous than encouraging him to allow that brain tumor to grow!
I have a LIFE-THREATENING illness! It happens to be called depression, perhaps a less scary term than tumor, but the illness should be taken no less seriously. This illness has nearly claimed my life more than once. Why wouldn't I treat it with everything at my disposal? Nutrition, exercise, sleep, sobriety, therapy, supportive relationships, volunteering, working, and MEDICATION! Without my medication, I cannot pull off the rest of my treatment plan--my illness won't allow it. I have little hope of working, running, sleeping, eating, or relating to others if my basic, biological condition is not treated with the medication that was created to treat it.

That brings up another point I don't get. We give billions of dollars and accolades to the brilliant chemists who research and formulate medications for all of those other deadly illnesses--cancer, heart disease, ED (Ha!), diabetes. Heroes are the companies who develop these meds. But, when it comes to mental illness, research dollars lag behind, and the drug companies are demonized. According to the hyperbole in some of the books, magazines, and websites available, you'd think that the drug companies were actually attempting to harm us rather than ease our distress.

Yes, drugs are big business! All drugs are business, not just drugs for mental illness. Most drugs have side effects, not just the ones for depression, schizophrenia, etc... Many drugs are very expensive, not just ours. And without the development of new, cutting edge, expensive medications, many of us have relatives, friends, or co-workers who would have died long ago from an illness for which there was previously no cure. We also must realize the cancer, diabetes, and erectile dysfunction drugs are much more profitable and better for company PR than are the poorly compensated, stigmatized, and often vilified medications for mental illness. Yet, some in the non-med camp make it sound as if the drug companies and my psychiatrist are in a worldwide conspiracy to increase my suffering by medicating me. HUH??

We have to quit playing the victim. Choosing whether or not to take psychiatric medication is a personal decision, preferably made in consultation with one's doctor. Once made, however, we need to take responsibility for OUR choice. Instead, it appears there is a need to justify the choice not to take meds by blaming the idiot doctor, condemning the money-grubbing drug companies, claiming that med use is not biblical or Godly, or the list goes on. Because meds aren't appropriate for one person, or are against an other's beliefs, does not mean we should run around encouraging everyone with mental illness to throw out their meds. I shudder to think of how many teenagers saw Tom Cruise's rant on Oprah, stopped taking meds or seeking treatment because of his beliefs, and are no longer alive to tell us about it. Mr. Cruise, if you get depression, you can choose not to take meds, just as I choose to no longer support your career.

I have a life-threatening illness. I choose to take medication as one piece of my treatment plan. My illness, when not treated with medication, vacates my soul, chokes my voice, and snuffs out my life. That's my experience. So I take my medications faithfully, not because I am weak, nor spiritual enough, nor "addicted" to their effects (I love that one!). I take them because without them, my illness would control a debilitated, worthless life rather than me controlling a cruel illness and creating a worthwhile life.
For me, it's a no-brainer.


Anonymous said...

Hi Etta,

In my experience it's a very rare person indeed that can empathize with someone facing a challenge they themselves have no personal experience with. All we can do is share our story. People will believe what they want to believe.

As far as people with opposite views linking to you, I'd think that's a good thing. Sort of a take on the "any publicity is good publicity" motto the celebrities live by. Maybe someone will come to your site, by accident, and be touched by your words.

We're living in the dark ages where neuroscience is concerned. In a hundred years we may have a lot better idea what's going on and how to treat it. People with mental illness have been negatively stereotyped for centuries. We scare people and that's dangerous. All we can hope to do is change minds one at a time.

Take care.

etta said...

This was a difficult post for me to write. I am NOT into controversy. I am NOT interested in proving anyone right or wrong.

But it scares me when people give advice to others based on their own beliefs, prejudices, or fears. I can respect someone's choice even if I choose the opposite. What I cannot stomach are blanket statements and accusations leveled at "all" psychiatrists, drug companies, patients, an effort to convince someone that they "should" be doing this or that instead of what they have chosen to do. It's arrogant. It's dangerous. Again, we're talking about people's lives, not the common cold.
We are all individuals with different experiences. I wanted to share my experience with and without meds as a counter to all of the negative publicity and misinformation so freely dumped on psychiatric medications.

As far as the link goes, I kept an open mind and continued reading the site. As a recovered borderline, I realized I could be uncomfortable with parts of the site without condeming the whole thing. And what do you know? There was a lot of useful, informative, and relevant information which was interesting and enjoyable to read!
I am grateful for the link. Recovery is a beautiful thing, isn't it?
Thanks for your comments.

Moose withthoughtslikemine said...

I actually do think that some (hopefully not all) drug companies are doing harm... I know that sounds all "conspiracy theory"... The latest DSM that includes many new sub-divisions of mood disorders received a lot of imput from drug companies. Some have gone as far as saying that new disorder categories were created to complement new forms of drugs.
But don't get me wrong. The above is just my observation. I totally agree with you. Without medication, I would not have "recovered" from my depression.