Depression Marathon Blog

My photo
Diagnosed with depression 19 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, September 19, 2009

An inspirational story, but...

Like so many inspirational stories before this one, the piece I just read includes a description of the author weaning herself from all anti-depressant medication. I loved the story. It was very inspirational. I generally love stories about people conquering any mental illness. The author of this piece described how running keeps her mood elevated and prevents the return of depression's darkness. I get it.

As the author notes, and as I've written about previously, exercise has been shown to improve mood in those with depression. But why does every inspirational story seem to include an either-or medication dilemma? Why don't we highlight stories which include the use of medication as part of a successful treatment plan?

The author of this story never suggested that people shouldn't use meds. She noted her negative side effects. She pointed out that anti-depressants often lose effectiveness over time, and for her they just didn't do the trick. Unfortunately, I fear people reading her story will conclude that meds aren't effective and/or aren't necessary. It's nicer to believe that depression can be cured by thinking happy thoughts and exercising. But meds are effective, and for many of us they are absolutely necessary.

Like the author, I use running to cope with my depression. However, running is not my sole therapy. I believe I take fewer meds because I run, but without meds my depression takes over. My depression requires medication, sobriety, and talk therapy to stay in check. Running is just one piece of a successful treatment plan. I'd like to read an inspirational story which includes medication, if only to dispel the myth that anti-depressants aren't needed if one lives right.

And that's the problem, the myth that anti-depressants aren't necessary if you just ________. Fill in the blank with any of the following: pray, laugh, smile, think happy thoughts, exercise... But anti-depressants, just like anti-cancer drugs, do work for many of us. Taking meds does not indicate a moral failure or lack of effort on the part of the sufferer. Unfortunately, every time I read a great story about someone conquering depression, and part of the story describes "weaning" off medication, I fear the myths about combating this illness are reinforced.

What do you think?


Anonymous said...

Yours is an inspirational story that includes the effectiveness of medication!
I agree with you. Medication has helped me a lot. Like any other disease, depression has a biochemical basis that can only be addressed with medications.

Polar Bear said...

I totally agree with you. Even though depression isn't my main diagnosis, and I don't take anti-depressants, I do have a mental illness (bpd) and I do take meds to control my symptoms. Like you, running is a coping strategy for me and I know that it helps make me feel better. But running is only part of it. I need my meds, and I am in talk therapy as well.

Jym said...

I suffer from depression. I've been on medication and seeing a therapist since September of 2010. Recently, in talking to my therapist, I've found that the vivid, horrible mental images that happen to me are called intrusive thoughts. I was googling the term, found your blog, and have since been reading a number of the entries. When I read this one, it reminded me of something that just occurred to me this week: As far as meds go, Depression is similar to diabetes, which is also a body chemistry problem.

While there is no cure for diabetes, it can be managed. Some are able to manage it by diet alone. Others must also take pills. Yet others must inject insulin in addition to the diet. Nonetheless, all suffer the same disease. I have to ask my therapist about this, but I'm beginning to think that Depression is as incurable as diabetes. And like diabetes, some of us can manage it without medicine, through "happy thoughts" or exercise, but some of us also need the medicine.

I also have sleep apnea, and in my case it is not caused by being overweight, and it isn't curable. I have learned to adapt to needing a machine in order to get any real rest when I sleep, even though I'd rather not have to use it. If it
turns out that I need the meds permanently to manage the Depression, so be it. I will learn to adapt. After all, it's either that or live in a world of black anguish and grey numbness, and more than likely die in that world by my own hand.

Of what I've read so far (and I look forward to getting to the current entries), your blog has been a great inspiration for me, and I thank you so much for being brave enough to be public about your depression!