I am on anti-depressants and have been for more than 13 years. Best thing I ever did for myself. Yet our society makes depression almost as bad as being fat in terms of things I’m supposed to be ashamed of. Moreover, I’ve been told that being on antidepressants to control and treat my depression is something I should be ashamed of. Fuck that.
We forget that depression has many causes, some of which are hereditary, biological, and completely out of the person’s control. Like weight, depression is not a moral failing. However it IS something that, for many people, is completely controllable, and choosing to control it with medications should not be considered some kind of failure.
Depression to me always felt like a bottomless pit that would drop out of my life, often suddenly, in the middle of an otherwise normal time. There wasn’t a trigger; it wasn’t a reaction to something. In fact I realized I needed help when I went into a deep bout of depression at a time when everything in my life was going well. I had a great job, wonderful friends, a beautiful house, a rocking car, yet I couldn’t drag myself out of bed and entertained thoughts of how they would all be better if I just weren’t there anymore.
Anti-depressants, for me, feel like putting one of those in-ground trampolines part way down the pit. I still get down about things, but there is something in there to stop my (otherwise endless) descent and help me get back up again. To me, that is invaluable. I can move through my life, feeling things at the level of a so-called “normal” person and know that my safety net will prevent me from falling so deep that I can’t get out.
I admit I’m lucky; it took a few months to hit on the right combination of medications (Lexapro and Wellbutrin XL) and a few more months to identify the minimum maintenance dose necessary to keep me stable but not artificially cheerful. Some people never find even the right combination, let alone a stable long-term dosage.
But as I read all the chatter about Robin Williams, I feel like I have to say something:
Depression is TREATABLE. It is MANAGEABLE.
It is not shameful. It is not a lack of willpower, a moral failing, or emotional laziness. If you find yourself depressed, SEE SOMEONE. Start with counseling, move on to medications if necessary. But keep in mind that you can live a happy, successful life with depression, just as you could with diabetes or any other disease/disorder. Don’t be afraid to ask for the help you need; it’s out there, and it works.