Depression as a Medical Illness

Image: The Beguiling of Merlin by Edward Burne-Jones

The Beguiling of Merlin by Edward Burne-Jones

The following story describes, for anyone who’s never experienced it, what it’s like, and for anyone currently suffering a similar experience, the story offers hope, because this story has a happy ending. At least, it’s been happy for several years now.

The greatest fear I have ever felt, a fear on a par with the vastness of eternity, was when I feared there would be an after life.This was for me the deepest darkest fear imaginable. I was afraid of living forever because I did not like life. I had a good family, I had a few friends, I was a very good student in school, everything seemed to be going my way, but there was something wrong with my life — I was not happy. I wasn’t particularly unhappy on any given day, but there was a general mild unhappiness which I bore day after day. One day of this mild unhappiness was no problem, even a week was easy to bear. But the constant month after month, year after year of bearing it day after day began to take its toll. Continue reading

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A Note About Antidepressant Treatment

Image: Destiny by John William Waterhouse

Destiny by John William Waterhouse

Finding the effective antidepressant for the depressive is at this point far from an exact science, although the outlook is improving as we discover more about depression. Doctors for the most part take their best guess based on their experience and the prevailing wisdom. They consider the type of depression the patient suffers from, other medications he or she is taking, the patient’s age, how well he or she will deal with the side effects, and other factors. Some patients have to try three, four or more medications before one “clicks” with their chemistry. Some, like me, are successful with the first medication they try. Remember that the chances are very good that your doctor will be able to find an effective medicine for you. As hard as it is, be patient and hopeful and keep trying different medications.

I hear again and again of doctors who start a patient out at a low dosage, and keep the patient at that dosage even when the medication is not working. Before switching you to another medication, your doctor should try raising the dosage. I had to have the level of both the antidepressants I was on raised not once, but several times. Buy a medication “bible” like The Pill Book, and find out what the normal range of dosage is for your medication.

Your best bet, as with other aspects of this illness, is to educate yourself about the medications available. You are then, in essence, your own “second opinion.” I have known of doctors who forget to tell patients of possible side effects of medication, or what other medication or foods should be avoided while taking their antidepressants. Make sure you know what questions to ask the doctor to attain the maximum effect from your medication.

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What to Do (On and Off the Web) While You’re Waiting for Your Antidepressants to Kick In

Image: Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh

Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh

I’ve been there; I’ve done that. I’ve suffered from depression nearly my whole life, and wasn’t diagnosed till I was 27. I know all the stages you go through when you’re waiting those six interminable weeks for your antidepressant meds to start working. So, as my gift to you, since I know your mind might be kind of cloudy if you’re depressed right now, I’ve compiled this list of suggestions. I hope they give you some moments of relief. Just so I’m not accused of discriminating against non-depressives, you all who don’t suffer from depression can feel free to check out my suggestions too. Someone pointed out to me that it takes some people more than six weeks to feel much better. That’s definitely true. Everyone’s different, and some people could even take fewer than six weeks to feel normal again. And the newer antidepressants can take considerably less time than six weeks to be effective. This guide is divided the way it is as just a general guideline. Continue reading

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Darren’s Letter

The Lament for Icarus by Herbert James Draper

Most of us who have accepted our mental illness have had those moments of profound irritation or anger when we hear the subject of mental illness and its treatment used as a source of comic relief. Prozac has been relentlessly marketed, and has become a household name, and therefore is tossed around in conversation by people who know nothing about depression or antidepressants. Most of us have heard someone say, “Oh, take a Prozac and lighten up,” or something to that effect. Darren Ross read an article by a writer who referred to Prozac twice in a completely ignorant manner, and decided to take the time to try to set the record straight by writing a letter to the editor. I’m sure he educated a good number of people, and since he addressed many myths and misconceptions about depression and mental illness so well, I asked him if I could include his letter on my web page. I would suggest that if you are trying to educate someone about mental illness, depression and its treatment, you print off this section and give it to them. Continue reading

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My Experience with Depression

“I Am Half-Sick of Shadows,” said the Lady of Shalott by John William Waterhouse

Let me tell you right away that I am uncomfortable recounting my experience with depression. Not because it’s painful to talk about (though it is), but because I created this web page about depression to help other people, not to go on and on about myself. However, I can’t forget how illuminating William Styron’s account of his depression in Darkness Visible was to me before I was diagnosed and treated for depression. It really was the book that made me recognize my illness and therefore led me to seek professional help. Since Styron is so much more eloquent than I could ever be, I urge you to read his book. If nothing else, it will help you explain your illness to other people, if you have it, or help you to understand a loved one’s pain if you are close to someone who suffers from the “black dog”, as Churchill called it. If you are interested in my story, read on. You may recognize yourself or someone else in it. Continue reading

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