When I was first diagnosed with depression (and later bipolar disorder) I had a lot of preconceived notions about what it was to be treated for a mental illness. First, I didn’t consider depression to be a real illness, so I was pretty suspicious of the fact that I had it.
I was also very against the concept of medication. This isn’t surprising; since I didn’t buy into the whole idea of the disease, I definitely didn’t buy into treating it with medication. In fact, I didn’t believe antidepressants were needed in any situation — I assumed they were simply a quick fix for people who were too lazy to fix their own lives. Moreover, I felt that taking a medication every day mean that you were an addict. People on fluoxetine (Prozac) were addicts, pure and simple.
And I’m not the only one who has thought this. In fact, most people are ignorant to the real issues of mental illness, and that doesn’t change just because you’re diagnosed. You can be every bit as uninformed whether you yourself are mentally ill or not.
Fighting Resistance to Treatment
In spite of my misconceptions, I knew that something was really wrong with me, and I knew that something had to be done. So I put on my big-girl brain, screwed up my courage and trusted my psychiatrist for a while. This trust had to tide me over until I got the knowledge I needed to be able to make good decisions myself about my treatment.
As I gained experience with bipolar disorder, I learned that treatment sucks. Sure, they tell you that everything will “return to normal,” but this isn’t really the case. What’s really the case is that you’ll be stuck taking a handful of side effect-inducing pills every day for the rest of your life. And they won’t work 100 percent of the time, so you’ll spend months and even years looking for the best combination.
If anything can turn you off from getting treatment, it’s the realities of treatment itself. Ironically.
Even now, some days I really don’t want to take my pills. I see the little capsules of white and blue and pink and peach and just think to myself, “screw it, I want to feel like myself for once.” Of course the key there is that “myself” tends not to feel very good, which is why I got treatment in the first place. Remembering that seems so difficult at times.
Coming to Terms
And so I’ve accepted that while I need medication, bipolar is a real disease. I am not an addict, although there is a piece of my brain that will continually scream out against the idea of daily medication. I’ve made peace with the fact that there is a gremlin in my brain who will try to derail my treatment and tell me that it’s wrong.
And that’s OK. The way I see it, it’s good logic not to want to take pharmaceuticals on a daily basis. It just happens to be better logic not to be sick.
Have you found a helpful way to cope with a depression treatment? Share your story.
Natasha Tracy is an award-winning journalist and author of the blog, Bipolar Burble. She was recently named one of Sharecare’s Top 10 Influencers on Depression. Learn more about how Tracy — and other influential writers, therapists and even cartoonists — are speaking out on behalf of those who suffer from forms of depression.
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