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.

A note about antidepressants:

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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