What to Do During the Last Two Weeks You’re Waiting for Your Antidepressant to Kick In

Image: Villa Falconieri by John Singer Sargent
Villa Falconieri by John Singer Sargent

If it can be said that there is anything good about depression, this is when you’ll see it. Assuming that you are feeling much better than you did a month ago (and if you’re not, please read A Note about Antidepressant Treatment), you may feel almost as if you’ve been reborn. After having been deprived of the ability to enjoy everything your life has to offer, you’ll notice that colors are brighter, sounds are sweeter, smells and tastes have more depth. Having had a lack of interest in things you normally enjoyed before being depressed, you may find, as I did, that you are all of a sudden interested in everything, even things you never thought about before.

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What to Do During the First Two Weeks You’re Waiting for Your Antidepressants to Kick In

Image: My Room at Beau Rivage by Henri Matisse
My Room at Beau Rivage by Henri Matisse

The key words here are indulge yourself. Listen, you’re having enough trouble getting out of bed every day and going to work or school. You don’t need to push yourself. Think of yourself as an invalid recuperating from a very debilitating illness. You have to pamper yourself, body and spirit. This page is therefore all about “cocooning”, that is, wrapping yourself up in layers of comfort to protect yourself.

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Let’s All Trash Antidepressants (Not!)

I recently read an excerpt of the book A Brief History of Anxiety by Patricia Pearson, in which she more or less trashes every aspect of psychiatric drugs. She notes that people posting to websites comment on feeling emotionally flat or numb when they’re taking them, and says that they “yearn for their sorrow back.”

I am so sick and tired of hearing this over and over. For one thing, in the same way that companies generally only hear from dissatisfied customers and not the satisfied ones, you’re going to hear more from people who are unhappy with their antidepressant response than from people who are happy with it. Happy people are not still looking for a solution. They’ve moved on. People who are dissatisfied with their medication are either venting out of frustration or hoping someone has an answer.

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What do you do if your antidepressant “kind of” works?

Image: Open Window, Collioure by Henri Matisse
Open Window, Collioure by Henri Matisse

Does your antidepressant “kind of” work? If you feel better, but not good or normal, after starting a new antidepressant, you’re probably experiencing what’s known as a “partial response.” This can be very frustrating, and unfortunately many people assume that a partial response is the best they’re going to get, especially if their doctor hasn’t fully explained the possible outcomes of trying a new antidepressant. Also, a doctor that’s rushed or less than thorough may not query the patient in enough detail to realize that the response is only partial.

Fortunately, there are a few options to consider when you get a partial response to an antidepressant. All of these, except perhaps the exercise option, should be undertaken under your doctor’s care.

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Antidepressants Primer

Image: Circe Invidiosa by John William Waterhouse
Circe Invidiosa by John William Waterhouse

If you or someone you know is beginning treatment for depression, you probably have done some research. Of course, you’re being treated by a doctor who will advise you and do the prescribing, but like any smart patient, you want to be informed.

Chances are that one thing stands out: the choice of drugs for mood disorders like depression can be bewildering. Even for someone like me, who has been taking them for twenty years and writing about mental health almost as long, the landscape is confusing. Things have changed since I first started treatment for depression in 1990. There are several reasons for this.

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What to Do During the Middle Two Weeks You’re Waiting for Your Antidepressants to Kick In

Image: Harmony in Red (The Dessert) by Henri Matisse
Harmony in Red (The Dessert) by Henri Matisse

Chances are you’re not having quite so many devastatingly low days now. You’re functioning a little better overall, but you’re still not ready to run any marathons yet or run for public office. Don’t worry about it – this recovery takes time, and it happens so subtly you may not notice it till someone else points it out. You’re probably still not eager to spend too much time outside your home, but the cyberworld provides many diversions (you can wander around it in your pajamas, and no one will know). I’ve found that things of beauty are both soothing and refreshing at this point, so that’s where we’ll start first.

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