On getting over yourself

I’ve just read your piece “On a beautiful mess” for the fourth, maybe fifth time since you posted it. It was the first time, however, that it brought me to tears. That girls’ words have resonated with me before, but never so strongly. I’m too tired to wait for an answer to arise inside me though. My therapist suggested I go on antidepressants a few months ago but I just can’t do it. If I start taking them, I won’t be ‘me’ anymore; my personality, my true identity will be covered and shaped by those pills. It feels like I’ve got no way out since I can’t live a normal life without them either. I don’t believe that a human life has any inherent value really, not more than any animal’s life, or that we’re here for a reason or that there’s anything ‘on the other side’ so why not end this? I’d rather kill myself than be a fraud, a ‘happy robot’… I guess my question is — is a life worth living if you know you’re not really yourself?


I’m very sorry that you’re suffering from depression, but do yourself a favor and quit being such an asshole. Taking antidepressants doesn’t make you a fraud. They don’t turn you into a “happy robot,” and you’re a fucking idiot for saying shit like that.

It’s perfectly fine if you want to be an existential nihilist, but it’s not okay to be a whiny little bitch about it. Sure, life is meaningless and death is likely to be an eternity of nothingness, but so fucking what? That doesn’t mean life is without inherent value. Life is incredibly valuable. Life is precious. Life is all we’ve fucking got, and the reason you’re such a gaping asshole is because you’ve been given an opportunity to vastly improve the quality of yours, and all you can do is whine about it. Fuck you.

Speaking of which, there is no such thing as “you.” There is no “true identity” that exists as some static, concrete artifact to be covered and shaped by antidepressants. That’s not how it works. That’s not how any of this works. Your fear of antidepressants is childish and ignorant, and the whole dumbfuck myth that you won’t be “you” anymore is insulting to the millions of people whose lives have literally been saved by selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.

Take the fucking pills. That’s not a suggestion. That’s an order. While you’re at it, quit “waiting” for the answer to arise inside of you. That’s such a lazy way to think, and with that kind of shitty attitude, you’re not gonna stumble onto any profound revelation.

Like I’ve said before, the answer does exist. It’s already inside you, and it really has been there all along, but you’re never going to find it as long as you keep clinging to this depressed, whiny version of yourself that you insist is your “true identity.” It’s not.

Seriously, get over yourself. Tell your therapist that you’re ready to try antidepressants, and take the fucking pills.


91 thoughts on “On getting over yourself

  1. ken says:

    Take the pills. You are in a place that keeps you from seeing the whole picture. Trust me, your friends want you to take the pills too. Especially if you are talking to them in the same vein as you are writing to Coke.

  2. H says:

    I didn’t realize how much I wasn’t myself until I started taking anti depressants. You’re not yourself when you’re depressed – this is just you getting comfortable with a long term but ultimately temporary state of being. Coke is right – it’s a hard lesson to learn, but ou ultimately have to get over yourself if you want to get better. Don’t let depression consume you just because it’s easier. And believe me, I’ve been where you are, and it’s nothing but self absorption. For the sake of yourself but also everyone around you, listen to your therapist.

    • Cate says:

      Well put! Antidepressants really helped me come back to myself, because I could engage with the world around me again. And not as a “happy robot,” either – I’m the same as I always was, just more functional now.

    • Maria says:

      Seconded! The pills didn’t turn me into a happy robot–before the pills I was a mopey-always-too-slow-and-in-need-of-rebooting robot. Now I’m myself.

      LW: As CQ implies, I guess your refusal to take pills is insulting. But I also get it: your depression has lied to you about who you are for so long that now you believe it. You think antidepressants are Huxley’s soma, but soma doesn’t exist. The pills won’t hide the answer from you; they’ll give you a shot at finding it.

  3. Nature Culls says:

    Dang, wish I’d read this one when I was four years younger. I was such a pretentious, narcissistic shit – no offense intended to the question asker, depression makes everyone shittier.
    I wittled away months of my life just waiting for an answer to come or for something to change and suddenly I’d be saved and everything would work out.

    I’m on 15 mg lexapro now and I’ve never felt more alive.

    Depression does not rob you of happiness – for happiness is not the stuff of life – but of vitality and verve.

  4. JC says:

    Ouch, harsh.

    To the OP, have you decided that the “real you” is misery and wanting to die? Mental illness does not define you. It is part of you, something you have to deal with in your life, but it is not everything about you. If nothing else, let the pills take that weight off you for a little while so that you can see what else is there. You can always stop taking them if you don’t like how they make you feel. It’s not irreversible.

    What I know from my own life is that when you are depressed, and you have a choice between climbing up or sinking down, the choice can be to sink. It’s willful and destructive. Choose to come up a little. Give yourself some space to breathe. So what if there is medication involved? If you were a diabetic, would you refuse insulin because that would betray your true self? You would not.

    Depression is a real thing in which your neurotransmitters are out of balance. At least try the pills, and then ask yourself “is this better than nothing?” Because nothing is what you have when you are dead.

  5. J.Nolast says:

    For me personally, this was my favorite advice I’ve seen from you in years. There is /nothing/ more fucking annoying than meeting people who believe I’m weaker or less of “myself” for wanting to take corrective medication. If being my “true self” involves collapsing from anxiety during basic tasks like shopping for groceries and talking to strangers then fuck that version of the “self.” If being a fraud means being able to hang out with friends, family, and advancing my personal & professional life, then I’ll take it any day. This whole question read like a nasally 13 year old who can’t stop watching Eat, Pray, Love. Get over yourself. There’s no “true” anything inside you. You waking up happy because meds told you to is no less real than you waking up sad because your fucked up brain chemistry told you to. If you get cut, you put a bandaid on. If you break your arm, you go get a cast. If you fuck up your brain chemistry, you take medication. There’s nothing phony about healing. Letting a wound fester openly & without treatment isn’t a sign of truth or dignity or any other other Zodiac sign bullshit you have pocketed in your fucked up outlook; it’s a sign of ignorance and fear. Take your meds. Period.

  6. Sarah says:

    After years of suicidal depression and weird phases of coked-out-of-my-mind happiness I started taking medication for my bipolar disorder and I promise “Happy Robot” is only a phase. It feels weird and it isn’t necessarily fun but in the end it is ONLY a phase. It’s one part of the process you have to go through to get your brain back on track.
    I could go on a long spiel about this but I’ll stick to a shorter thought for you to chew on. Would you rather have a few weeks, or months, or even a year of “Happy Robot” days or would you rather be dead? Because if you put off taking medication that is the reality you are facing.
    The worst day I have nowadays is light years better than my best day just one year ago. I would go through a hundred more “Happy Robot” days than go back to my pre-medicated brain, back when I actively visited the spot where I wanted to kill myself and spent every day fantasizing about my death.

    • Ditto, ditto, ditto. Jesus fucking christ, you are so right it almost is painful.

      LW, try the meds. Trust someone. And for the sake of all those around you, stop whining.

        • I really don’t know why this picture of Gracie adorns my profile, but she was a sweet cat. A little short on the clever, but sweet as a muffin.

          But, to go for the slang, I’m a Yogi cat, who is married to a Yoga kitty :-0

  7. Anna says:

    Being a giant gaping narcisstic asshole is a common side effect of depression. Don’t be too hard on yourself OP (that behavior doesn’t need any type of reinforcement).
    Also, am I the only person who wishes I could pop a pill and escape my sense of self to inhabit, I dunno, a jovial 17th century sailor? Or a prehistoric hunter-gatherer? Entirely impermanent, escapable identity – I love the idea.

    • Guiliana says:

      the virtual reality glasses are coming for you, Anna!

      i am also excited to be immersed in a fictional world made real enough to interact with – that would be fantastic! personally i would like to drop in on the golden years of Marie Antoinette’s Versaille. i would also like to explore the north american west when it was unorganised territory… all that beautiful land with very few permanent human structures, and the history of that period is fascinating, i would love to see a recreation… and maybe drop in on the dancing plague of 1518… i would love it too if one could design their own virtual world. i would love to roam an endless forest with all manner of strange plants and animals… and a pink lake just like lake hillier in western australia.
      i hope the technology becomes that capable in my lifetime!

      • Anna says:

        Marie-Antoinette ? Hell no, all the fun back then was in the streets, Revolution baby.
        But yeah, I cannot wait to try the oculus rift under acid.

        • WhoAmI says:

          Louis XVI’s Versailles doesn’t sound like the strongest of choices yeah. But picture this : you impersonate the Chevalier d’Eon from his first time working for the french secret services to his death. Now that’s my kind of Assassin’s Creed.

          • Guiliana says:

            oh i think the revolutionary scene might be too exciting for me. i would rather spend time with some overly perfumed women in sumptuous dresses. Versaille is so beautiful, both the architecture and the amazing gardens, and i would love to see it populated by 18th century people… Marie Antoinette’s days i like best for 18th century clothing, especially her “rural” clothing designs that scandalised everyone so much. i would even be okay with historically true urine soaked dark corners in the palace for the full experience. and being able to engage with the world as you suggest would be amazing, Whoami.
            with LSD might be interesting… just enough to make things a little bit more vibrant, not enough to be full on, that might take away from the experience for me. personally i want one alternate world at a time, not two!

  8. Concerned Friend says:

    Coquette, would you respond the same way if a person told you they didn’t want to take the pills because, culturally, it meant they were weak for not being able to beat it on their own without help? I ask because I’ve tried to help friends go to therapists and take antidepressants but within the Asian culture we’ve grown up in, getting that kind of help equates to being weak.

    • JC says:

      Just a thought: try telling your friends to go do it but not tell anyone (even you) about it. From what I understand about Asian culture, it’s the public shame that people fear. Reassure them that they have no reason to feel internal, personal shame over a medical condition. If they fear public shame, they can just keep it entirely a secret. Tell them you think the problem is with the culture, not with them, but that they shouldn’t ignore their fears.

      Realistically, this is a first step toward changing the culture. One person who did this in secret will reach out to the next person based on personal experience, and when enough people are willing to be public about it, the stigma dies out.

      Me, I have always been upfront about my mental illness(es) and very clear that I am not ashamed of it. Some people have to be brave this way, so that others know they are not alone.

    • My chosen culture (rooted solidly in the eastern traditions), almost violently rejects medication for mental disorders. I spent years, dozens of years, getting slow worse, until one day Something clicked and I realized that I had no more things to try except medication. I don’t regret that, the years of study and practice has made a huge difference in my life and probably kept me alive long enough to make a different choice.

      • Anna says:

        Far from me the idea of crying cultural appropriation for internalized stigma (“no that’s OUR misdirected shame! you can’t have it”), but what the fuck is a chosen culture ? How is it “rooted” in “the eastern traditions” ? This has seriously got my Asian eyebrows raised. The very idea of choosing your culture seems antithetical to the cultures you may be referring.

        • Sorry for the confusion. I was brought up in a variety of different regions, countries, and socio-economic classes, and when I finally grew up, I realized that since I felt completely unconnected to anything that was near me, I needed to find out what did ring true, and take that as a way of life. Thus, “chosen culture”. Not an elegant was to put it, granted. And I doubt I’ve ever said it to anyone like that. But I meant it in the sense of “chosen family”, as opposed to “family of origin”. But almost universally the people in monasteries and ashrams I have been part of in my searching, have held that medicating mental issues was, at best, a giving up. I have found that not to be true.

  9. K says:

    Slightly different situation, but I can sympathize OP! I was put in psychiatric hospitalization a few years ago and when I came out I was very anti-medication. Even now, I feel the drugs they gave me over-sedated me and it did not help that I was not taking them voluntarily. I lost a lot of faith in psychiatric medicines through this experience. I thought it was better to be myself than the zombie the medication had seemed to turn me in to. I was really resentful towards the people who diagnosed me and I’ve also spent a lot of time being a selfish insufferable nihilistic asshole. I’ve since found a psychiatrist I trust and a low dose of something that seems to help. Meds (and therapy for that mater) aren’t a cure-all but they are a pretty good tool to help you get to a better place. Take care!!

  10. dk says:

    Seriously? I only wish the pills made me a happy robot sometimes! It’s isn’t that easy. You take the pills so you can get out of bed and make what you need of your life. To get you to therapy to learn to make good choices.

    I do have to say it may not be the right medication the first time. I took Prozac early on and I was a total zombie with no emotions at all and could not have lived that way long. Sertraline (Zoloft) was a life-saver. Now that it’s generic, and I am lucky enough to have health insurance, I pay $1.50 at CVS for a 3 month supply. Been on it 20 years and would not have lived this long without it.

  11. CW says:

    YES. Take the pills. If you don’t feel like yourself after taking the pills, then you haven’t found the right ones. When you are on the right medication, you will feel more like yourself than you thought possible.

  12. definitely not batman says:

    Thank you for this. I have a friend who is depressed and thinks the same way and I was so afraid of telling them to STFU and get help because it would maybe make them feel worse/more alienated if they think I’m rejecting their feelings/thoughts. Depression is fucked up and depressed people need loved ones who support them so I’m constantly walking on eggshells thinking that I need to respect their condition when they’re actually being a narcissistic ass. I felt guilty for even thinking that because I didn’t know narcissism and depression could even go together. It seems so counter-intuitive. How does that even happen?

    • CharChar says:

      I mean…if a narcissistic person becomes depressed, the depression doesn’t just make their narcissism go away, but generally speaking, I think narcissism is the wrong term for the type of self-absorption that typically accompanies depression. It is common for very depressed people to become very self-centered, because when you feel trapped inside yourself, it’s easy to lose the ability to see beyond the tips of your own tits. Everything in the world exists through the distorted lens of your illness, making it hard enough to deal with your own needs, let alone the needs of others.

      I often find that depressed folks fall into one of two camps: either “you can’t expect me do do anything because I’m depresssssseeeeed! Why can’t you see that?” or “you’re right, you should be able to expect that of me, but I’m a piece of shit who can’t handle basic life, and I let everyone down because I suuuuuccck.” Both camps end up making everything about the depressed person.

      As someone who suffers from chronic depression personally, I encourage you not to put up with shitty behavior from your friend ~because depression.~ Depression can provide important context for shitty behavior, but it doesn’t excuse it. Being a supportive friend to a depressed person means being patient and compassionate and understanding, but it also means setting firm boundaries so that they don’t emotionally exhaust you or drag you down with them if they are unwilling to accept treatment.

  13. Anneline says:

    I agree with Coke that you don’t seem to really know how antidepressants work. That’s something you should talk over with your psychiatrist, including any other concerns you might have. What antidepressants do, with the right medication on the right dosage, is essentially just balance out brain chemicals that are out of whack. You’re worried that having a different balance of brain chemicals will make you a different person, but by that reasoning, didn’t you also become a different person when your depression set in? You may think you won’t be “you” on medication, but as someone with depression, I can tell you that you’re not “you” when you’re depressed either.

  14. Daffodil says:

    Meds didn’t make me a robot. Depression made me a robot. There is nothing authentic about living with untreated mental illness. You want to be authentically, radically you? Fix that crap. You will learn far more from dealing with it than you ever will from wallowing in it.

    • A says:

      “You will learn far more from dealing with it than you ever will from wallowing in it.”

      Best comment in this thread, honestly. Depressed You and Medicated You are both your true self, but only one path will send you on a journey–granted, maybe a shitty journey, but at least you’re going somewhere. The other is a (sometimes literal) dead end.

  15. Z says:

    The “happy robot” concern I get, though. There is an annoying amount of trial and error with medication, and the process of finding one that works for you can be an utter headfuck.

    Idk, I get why Coke answered the way she did but, I’m also now about to go back on antidepressants (for anxiety though), and I’m also apprehensive about it.

  16. Kim says:

    Oh god take the pills. They have made me more myself than any one other thing in this world, because hiding under the bed in a welter of anxiety and panic is not me. Be patient, it can take time. But you will eventually actually see yourself, and it will be fucking glorious.

  17. Jackie says:

    Thanks CQ,
    I’ve been debating whether or not to go back on meds for my anxiety and depression. I stopped because of what my family was saying and a few minor side effects. When I was younger my dad always used to make fun of my mother for going on them and then used to tell me I was going to end up on pills just like her like it was something to be ashamed of. My boyfriend and father of my daughter is completely against them and tells me he won’t be happy with me if I decide to go back on them. I have severe hypochondria, bad panic attacks, low self esteem and I’m so depressed that I don’t want to do anything. Since I have a daughter though I have to force myself out of bed anyways to make sure she’s happy and taken care of through the day. You’ve given me the courage to say fuck them and what they think and I’m going to do what I think is best for me and hopefully be happy for once.

    • Daffodil says:

      Wow, fuck them. I cannot imagine telling a family member that I’d rather they have panic attacks than take the appropriate medication to treat the panic attacks. If you can, finding a therapist might be useful as well. You need someone who is on team “let’s deal with this crap and help Jackie be healthy and comfortable.” Because right now, your family are not on that team.

    • The Coquette says:

      It’s no coincidence that your boyfriend is pulling the same dick move that your dad used to pull on your mom. History repeats. I’m sure your dad and your boyfriend have many positive qualities, but pay close attention any time they’re the same type of asshole. That shit is significant. It’s evidence of an unhealthy pattern that’s fucking with your life, one that you haven’t yet noticed and still need to deal with.

      Also, yes. Fuck them and what they think. Your mental health comes first, not just for your sake, but for your daughter’s sake, because she’s next, and it’s up to you to stop the unhealthy patterns from perpetuating.

  18. Sure, why not. says:

    I’ve had great success with SSRIs and SSNRIs throughout my adult life. I remember about a month into my first experience I had a hot chocolate and found that it tasted different, but exactly as I remembered it tasting as a child. It was then I realized I hadn’t been myself for a very long time, right down to my ability to experience my senses.

    I find the best way to describe the effect is that it gives me the option to feel differently. Yes, if I really wanted to I could drum up my depressed and suicidal self, but when presented with a thought or memory loop that would usually spiral into an episode, I am presented with another option – this is not the truth, it might feel better to hop on this other train of thought instead. That might sound oddly simple to someone who hasn’t experienced depression, or relief from it.

  19. Nat says:

    Life is a beautiful mess, but it’s not beautiful -because- it’s a mess. Don’t romanticise your mental illness. Being mentally ill is nothing to be ashamed 0f, but it’s not something to celebrate, it’s something to just get the fuck on with. Like any other illness – you try and treat it and you live with it.

    Yeah, getting through the day, week, month, etc can be tiring, it can feel fucking impossible, but it isn’t.

    Being depressed can fuck up your reasoning. It can make you believe you’ll never be happy again. It’s not true. Don’t believe that for a fucking second. If you’re depressed, I hope you have someone in your life that you love and trust to tell you when your thoughts are not your usual thoughts – to tell you when you’re not being yourself and when you should let a thought go because it’s the depression speaking. Try to be that person for yourself as much as you can – and get yourself a therapist/counciller to be that person for you as well.

    Depression goes away – remember that and use whatever you can to survive until then with the least fallout possible. If you have to romanticise something, let it be the fight rather than the illness.

    If you don’t want to take meds right now, I’d say: that’s okay… but your options are live with meds or live without them until you get better. If you think dying is a better option, that’s the depression talking (ask anyone you love and trust and they will agree). If and when you’re sick and tired of living without them, give meds a go. Maybe you won’t like them – there will be other meds to try – and once you’ve exhausted your options you can know that meds aren’t for you. If you take them, give them a fair fucking chance. Take them religiously at the same time every day- if you do nothing else, do that. The ride can be bumpy to finding a dosage that is helpful and minimises side effects, but it’s worth it.

    Depression seems interesting and dramatic because of the high stakes. That makes it seem more interesting than actually living your life would be from your current warped perspective. There’s honestly nothing more boring than staying in the house all day working up the courage to shower and you will be grateful for the full life you will live once this shit is behind you.

  20. Grace says:

    This might not be the most appropriate venue, but I generally trust the people who read through Coke’s stuff and comment. I’m trying to start antidepressants, but so far I’ve only gotten through two weeks of Lexapro before I quit. It made me sleepy and hungry, and fatigue and disordered eating are already problems I have! It was nice to get a break from my anxiety and depression, but I started finding it difficult to relate to or care about the people around me, to a greater degree than when I’m depressed. So, if people could give me some of their experiences with specific antidepressants, that would be great!
    (I want to try Wellbutrin next, and maybe a Wellbutrin/Lexapro combo if it spikes my anxiety.)
    I’d also like to point out that I have the luxury of moderate depression and anxiety. It makes my life difficult and I’m prone to passive suicidal ideation, but I’m not likely to off myself in the near future.

    • Lin says:

      A few years ago my psychiatrist and doctor thought it was possible that I had ADD, so I started on Wellbutrin (which is supposed to help both depression and ADD) and it only made me more unstable. Paralyzing depression turned into irritability, mood swings, and full on rages. It was not the drug for me. I was put on sertraline (Zoloft) afterwards and it took effect nearly overnight. I had zero appetite (not great for my own eating disorder but it returned after two weeks), will to go out, and energy to burn.

      Point being: psychiatric medication is still a pretty crude field. Getting on the right drug often amounts to throwing a dart at a wall and trying something. An SSRI and atypical antipsychotic worked for me, but finding that out took trial and error because, so far, there’s simply no better medical technology.

      Two weeks is not that long to accommodate your body to new medication. I can’t tell you how to live your life but most antidepressants recommend four to six weeks. The initial adjustment phase is a bitch to live through. It’s very backwards that this is how the medicine works: making life harder for a while, but again, crude science here. Continuing to take your meds anyways and report problems or improvements to your doctor is really all that can be done. It sucks. It’s unfair. But that’s all that can be done.

      • WhoAmI says:

        What you’re describing is not a result of psychiatric medication being a “crude” field, but of psychiatric medication being medication. Medication that can solve problems in one or two doses is uncommon (hell, some drugs can durably change your brain chemistry after one take, but there’s a reason we only use them recreationally now). Because of how the body work. If you want to rewrite a dysfunctional metabolism you’re gonna have to go slow and steady to let the body the time to get its homeostases and cycles back, if it can do so.
        Don’t get me wrong, the understanding of the brain has a long way to go, but that’s not gonna change that, or the whole hit or miss thing (which happens with hormonal and cardiac medication too). It’s hard to predict how one chemical will affect that kind of complex system (which is different from one person to another) without lots and lots of data on each and every patient. Retrieving that data and developping tools to correctly process it is just not practical as of now.

        • Lin says:

          And one day it will be practical, hence the process is rudimentary now.

          I understand how medication works and how complex the organ of the brain is and I’m saying it’s an imprecise process anyways. At the end of the day finding medication amounts to guesswork. The incredibly educated guess of a doctor, but guesswork. Frustration with this process drives people to stop seeking treatment.

          All this never minding the side effects and possible paradoxical reactions. A medication for depression that can increase risk of suicide? That’s not peak medical technology.

          • WhoAmI says:

            Peak medical technology doesn’t mean shit. It’s the best we have now, and some people are doing their best to find something to better it.
            I don’t know what your personal history with meds is, but it makes you diss psychiatry for things that have nothing to do with the particular field but with the whole field of science. Please stop. You’re just scarying away people who could benefit from it.

          • Lin says:

            Um, duh? I can acknowledge the hassle of adjusting to medication and still insist that it’s the best current treatment. In fact I did that pretty plainly in my last two comments. Because it is a hassle. It really is, and I have to deal with it anyways. Admitting that it’s hard and a pain in the ass isn’t “dissing” psychiatry or telling anyone to flush their meds. Calm down.

            So no, I won’t be stopping. No need to be so fucking hostile.

        • Strangely Rational says:

          Mental health treatment is crude compared to other areas of medicine because a) it’s complicated, b) mental illnesses can’t be diagnosed as clearly and easily as many other kinds of illness, and c) there is still enough stigma that society is less willing to fund it.

          You see that quite clearly if you look at the difference between May and October. In October, everyone knows that all the pink everywhere is for breast cancer awareness. What happens in May? Um . . . ?? Nobody knows that it’s Mental Health Awareness month (since 1949!), the color is green, and you don’t see it anywhere because nobody cares, nobody thinks you’re a hero for fighting it, and nobody gets that mental illness is a much bigger problem in society and one that actually still needs awareness.

          Our understanding of what causes mental illness and even how the medications work to treat it is primitive. With enough research into brain chemistry and genetics (which requires fucking awareness and funding!), we will see major improvements in diagnosis and individualized treatment. For example, we can use genetics to determine how well an individual metabolizes certain substances, which will give us a better idea of which medications and dosages might be effective.

          The big issue isn’t that it takes so long for an individual medication to work. The issue is that when you can’t predict how well that medication will address the issue, you have to wait for several weeks and adjust dosage to see if it works, and then if it doesn’t you’ll have to start the process all over with another medication, then another. And you’ll have to play around with combinations of medications. It can be years before you hit on the right dosage and combination, and even that may not be the optimal one.

          I’m 43 and have had depression throughout my life. I was diagnosed with bipolar in early 2007. Nearly a decade later, my medications are STILL being changed and adjusted. Definitely getting closer, but in terms of what we should be capable of at this level of civilization, it’s unacceptable.

          Just imagine if the US had taken every penny we’ve spent on unnecessary wars and poured it into medical research.

          The psychiatric community isn’t to blame. Society is.

    • Anna says:

      I have no expertise in psychiatric medication but I have basic knowledge of pharmacokinetics. Unless you are totally crippled by the side effects, give your current treatment at least 6 weeks. Some of the side effects might become milder or spontaneously resolve.

    • julezyme says:

      This is totally what I went through. Wellbutrin has been a life-saver for me. But it was a bit of trial and error, and me really listening to my body (which I wasn’t able to do until the meds took the edge off my anxiety/depression).

    • mem says:

      I’m not a doctor or anything but I can give you advice based off my own experiences with SSRIs. I started off with Lexapro which definitely helped, but made me gain a bunch of weight and started working less the longer I was on it. I recommend switching to Zoloft and if that isn’t as effective as you’d like, try a Wellbutrin/Zoloft combo

    • Cuttlefish says:

      I’ve been on zoloft for a few years and it has absolutely change my life. The only negative side effect that I’ve experienced is that it killed my sex drive completely for the first several months I was on it. It came back, but to be honest, it’s still lower than it was when I was unmedicated. But I’d rather be less sexual and comfortable in the world than horny and miserable, so it’s a trade off I’m willing to live with.

    • Strangely Rational says:

      Don’t listen to individual recommendations for medication. You can’t. That’s because while you can look at different side effect profiles all day, you cannot predict how it will work with your individual brain chemistry vs. someone else’s. A medication that’s a lifesaver for one person will be totally ineffective in another, and will cause yet another to become suicidal. And that can change, too. Zoloft was a lifesaver for me for many months before it suddenly became completely ineffective regardless of increases in dose.

      First, you need to get the best diagnosis you can. Anyone out there who is seeing a family/general practitioner for antidepressants needs to immediately get a referral to a specialist. If you wouldn’t let your GP treat your cancer, you shouldn’t be letting him/her treat your mental illness. This requires a therapist/psychologist to diagnose (in nothing less than an hour-long appointment after a thorough psychiatric intake with detailed information about your and your family’s medical and psychiatric history), and a psychiatrist to use that diagnosis to determine a course of treatment with medication.

      With the only exception being obvious postpartum depression, if you’re not seeing a specialist, you’re wasting your time and potentially endangering yourself. There are mental illnesses for which an antidepressant can be dangerous and damaging. (For example, if you have anxiety and depression, it could be misdiagnosed bipolar, and it is not recommended to take an antidepressant alone to treat bipolar, as this can actually induce/increase manic episodes.) I’m posting this information not to question the quality of your mental health treatment but as general information I think is critically important for anyone who is considering medication to be aware of.

      As said previously, you need to give any new psych medication a few weeks to work. A month bare minimum unless there are serious side effects. Merely unpleasant side effects can go away if you give your body enough time to adjust to them.

      Since you mention Wellbutrin, I can say this – in general, the side effects can include appetite changes, increased energy, insomnia, anxiety, and changes in libido, among others. Again, you may experience completely different side effects. So this is not a recommendation to try Wellbutrin. It is worth discussing with a psychiatrist, as its side effects profile can for many people be better than an SSRI, such as generally not causing as much weight gain or loss of libido as other medications – in fact, it can often decrease appetite/weight and increase libido, which is happily the case with me.

  21. julezyme says:

    Yeah, what Coke said. This is the Jerkbrain talking … and why should what the Jerkbrain has to say be more legitimate than the Happy, Chilled Our, Not Depressed Brain? My Jerkbrain tells me that if I don’t listen to it and starve myself, I will be ugly and miserable. Except, guess what? It’s *making* me miserable, and I’m not a film star so nobody gives a shit about 5 or 10 lbs except for me and the Jerkbrain. But man, she has had me convinced for years that she is only trying to help. She really believes it, too; just like physicians used to really believe that ingesting mercury would cure syphilis. Your Jerkbrain is scared that those pills will stop it from “helping” you, scared they will be fatal, which is why it’s putting up such a fight.
    But Jerkbrain does not have to be in charge … and it’s VERY hard to kill. So give the pills a few months and see how your brain committee feels. Try a few different ones. It’s like wearing glasses. Your “true” eyes might be near sighted, but wearing specs to drive isn’t cheating, it’s sensible.

  22. julezyme says:

    BTW, SSRIs did *not* work for me. I tried several but the side effects were very unpleasant, and while they helped me to function a little better, they also made me so sleepy. I am now taking Wellbutrin, which acts on different neurotransmitters, and varying my dose depending on the number of daylight hours (SAD). So the first thing might not work for you, even if it works for other people. Brains are not well understood!

  23. Persephone says:

    I get what you’re scared of. I was scared of that too — in my culture there is a lot of stigma around medication, it’s mostly portrayed as something that numbs your “real” feelings and makes you artificially (robotically) happy. This is a misconception. Your depression is a chemical unbalance in your brain (which actually takes you away from “who you really are”, which I have arbitrarily chosen to interpret as the person you may vaguely remember being before the depression — don’t you miss that person?). The medication is meant to correct that chemical unbalance and bring you closer to who you are outside the disorder. Don’t worry, this medication should not make you numb, or unable to feel emotions (not even the “bad” emotions!), or robotic. In fact, it’s the opposite of that.

    By all means, talk to your doctor and tell them your concerns, but don’t let this fear or the stigma attached to it make you live with depression any longer. Nobody should live like that (not you, and not the people who love you). It does get better, so trust your doctor and give this a try.

  24. mem says:

    I love this answer, CQ. It gets me tight as fuck when I hear people say anti-depressants make you robotic. I’ve been on SSRIs for the past four years and they’ve been by far the best four years of my life. Fuck anyone who thinks the meds that literally saved my life are a fraud

  25. unicornsrpeople2 says:

    I get it. There’s something about depression that wraps itself around your heart, and even though you’re suffering, even considering ending your life in your case, there’s something painfully romantic about it. There’s something safe and cozy about keeping the hell you know. But your life is in danger. Even if you don’t value your own life, there are people who love you, people who will be absolutely devastated if you were gone. If you can’t care for yourself for your own sake, think of the people around you and try for them. Good luck <3

  26. Wwaxwork says:

    Take the meds. Would you consider taking insulin if you had diabetes not being yourself? Your body isn’t making enough of something you need to survive so take the meds that will help it do that.

  27. Elsie says:

    Paxil doesn’t change *me*, it changes how I perceive the world.

    Yes, so much in our culture pressures us to be happy robots. I can do more to push back against that meme when I’m on Paxil. When I’m off Paxil I just lie there and suffer.

    I accept that I’m handicapped. I’m not missing an arm or leg; part of my brain wants to be sad all the damned time. Paxil is not a cure, it’s a crutch. But, look at me, limping around! It beats crawling.

    Take your meds. Use the energy you have to find a better solution.

  28. Fro says:

    Hey LW, I’m sorry that you’re feeling this way. I’ve been there and I know what you’re going through.

    I understand why you may equate taking medication with weakness and loss of control, but the reality is that you are always in control. Start by educating yourself – speak to others who have taken medication (if you don’t know of anyone in person, see what resources there are online). Learn from their perspectives, fears, hopes, etc.

    Educate yourself on potential medications, since every drug has risks and benefits. Most of all, learn about how the drugs work so you have realistic expectations about their effects.

    If you do decide to take medication, remember that you are still in control of what goes into your body. If you don’t like the way you feel, stop taking the pills (with your doctor’s supervision since some medications shouldn’t be stopped cold turkey).

    And if any of your concerns stem from worrying what other people think, just remember that you don’t have to share your private health information with anyone.

    This all helped me a lot. Good luck, let us know how it works out.

  29. HNDM says:

    Long time reader here typing on my phone during a meeting so bear with me…
    My approach to anxiety is now to jump in to the deep end and deal with it. As many times as not my anxiety was resolved with understanding I can be too sensitive and just get over it.

    My reluctance to accept anxiety meds (for myself – It’s a personal decision and I’m not judging the needs of others here) has to do with the agenda of big pharma (discussed near the end of Psychopath Test), and being old enough to remember when Ritalin and adderall were aggressively pushed upon young kids who were often misdiagnosed as needing pharmaceutical-grade meth. Why wouldn’t it be the same for depression meds?

    Can someone explain the difference to a skeptic who wants to understand?

    • Melissa Low says:

      HNDM – When you have an actual anxiety condition, you can’t just “get over it”. I’m not sure what you mean by anxiety, but in the vein of this discussion – anxiety can encompass difficulty breathing and the sensation of dying.

      “Too sensitive”? According to whose standards?

      What do the ethics of pharma companies with regard to small children have to do with your adult need for medication? You want to do a moral boycott at the expense of your wellbeing?

      • Rainbowpony says:

        Probably no one reading at this point, but…

        Just a tiny note that yeah, you can make a lot of progress with intense anxiety even without medication. Turned out I was allergic to seveal ssris, and that other things stoned me out. So I went entirely the behavioral route and still managed to make progress.

        Big pharma is a conspiracy tho. Don’t think like that.

        • Strangely Rational says:

          Absolutely true that not everyone needs medication. But you do need something, not just a decision to “get over it,” if you have a true anxiety condition.

          My anxiety is too serious (when it enters suicidal territory, that’s an emergency and fuck conservative, long-term solutions at that point) to rely strictly on behavioral therapy. The meds have taken me down from emergency level to a point that I can function at basic level on a daily basis and tolerate going to weekly group therapy. DBT has been the best thing that’s ever happened to me, and I can see that eventually I should be able to work my way off at least some of the meds. I cannot recommend DBT enough.

          But yeah, I need the meds to get me there on a regular basis. If someone isn’t in crisis and can do it without the meds, absolutely do that. It’s best to start conservatively and work your way up, particularly as some anxiety meds have addiction potential.

          If someone can do it by just deciding to think differently, I would seriously question whether that anxiety bears any resemblance to the anxiety a person gets with an actual disorder. Probably more like how mentally healthy people say they’re “depressed” and don’t get that clinical depression is a whole different and far more serious thing.

    • Sure, why not. says:

      You’re the kind of person who would tell a woman with hyperemesis gravidarum that saltine crackers helped you with your morning sickness.

    • Strangely Rational says:

      This isn’t about what “Big Pharma” wants you to buy. It’s about what your trusted mental health professional thinks is warranted. (If you don’t trust them, that’s where the problem lies.)

      Let’s say you have a small, superficial cut on your arm. If you called your doctor and he told you to go to the ER to get that treated instead of just putting some antibiotic cream and a Band-Aid on it, you’d think that there’s a problem with that doctor. You wouldn’t drive past the ER and say, “Those people have an agenda and are trying to make people pay for unnecessary treatments!” Right?

      No, anyone can choose to walk in to the ER. Maybe it’s justified. Maybe it isn’t. Maybe instead of a superficial wound, I have a deep, 6-inch gash, and I very much need that level of treatment. Thank goodness it’s there for people like me!

      I do not take my bipolar, anxiety, and ADHD medications because Big Pharma sold me on it. I take them because I trust my mental health team and because the medications are actually effective in a way that nothing else is. I am taking them so that I can function well enough to get myself in a better place and get more out of therapy (I’m in DBT – dialectical behavior therapy, which helps with mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation, and interpersonal skills). My goal is to reduce the medication as much as I can, but if there are some things I need to take for the rest of my life, so be it.

      All for-profit companies exist to sell people their products and services. All for-profit companies are motivated to do so whether you need them or not. It is your job as a consumer – and in the case of medical treatment, your doctor’s job in addition to yours – to determine whether it is something that will benefit you or your dependents. Can’t blame the company itself unless they are making fraudulent claims. Can’t even blame the medical community if you accept an extreme level of treatment without seeking another medical opinion or trying more conservative approaches first.

  30. easygoingmister says:

    Take the pills, and move, around I mean, for a sustained period of time (half hour or more) at least every other day (every is best). Also, be active and assertive at telling thoughts about no value to stop – out loud if that makes the exercise more effective.

  31. Damien Otis says:

    I’ve been on an anti-depressant before. not for depression but ADHD. I took it for a while and while it mellowed out my emotions (while drying out my GI tract) it felt… strange. I didn’t feel it while on the pills but after I got off them I realized where my emotions had been.
    I was v depressed after that, more so over life circumstances than some arbitrary chemical imbalance. I actually used apathy to avoid suicide. death is inevitable; why waste energy on hastening its arrival? might as well keep sludgin’ through.

  32. Marg says:

    I’m going to go against the grain here: I don’t think you have to take the meds. For me the question is this: What are you currently and realistically capable of doing without them? Can you regularly:
    – Exercise
    – Spend time with friends
    – Engage in therapy and do any therapy homework assigned
    – Use meditation/relaxation exercises/grounding/yoga or stretching
    – Continue to get out of the bed in the morning and go to work or school

    If you can do those things, even if it feels forced and awful, you might be best placed to push on medication-free and see how you’re feeling in 1-2 months. If, however, these things just aren’t happening at the moment then medication should be able to help you be in a position to begin the habits above, and these are the habits which will sustain you if or when you decide to go without medication in the future.

    Just my 2 cents. My guess is that the habits above are not happening, otherwise your therapist wouldn’t have suggested the medication, but you never know what an individual therapist’s biases for or against meds might be, so.

    I wish you all the best. Depression is a fucking bitch.

    • Melissa Low says:

      Depression is a fickle bitch.

      My GP described depression as being stuck in a deep well, the pills as a rope ladder being lowered, and therapy and your own strength fuels the process of climbing up the ladder.

      It’s not a magic pill. You do not suddenly reenter the Matrix as a mindless robot and everything is not totally awesome like in Legoland. You still have to pulls all the stops Marg suggested – which takes hard work not for days or weeks but months.

      Some reassurance about meds – There are at least 3 common drugs for each psychiatric condition, and if one does not work (which is commonly the case), what normally happens is the doctor switches you to another one.

      The adjustment period can be a nuisance, but think of it this way – you’re sort of in a situation where you can’t lose really. You’re already suffering from this stuff and you might as well try out the meds and see where that gets you. The worst that happens is it doesn’t work and you stop taking them. It’s not going to permanently damage you like ECT or a lobotomy.

      I believe I speak for most when I say I sincerely hope you take the meds. I’ve been on them for a year and I’m the same as I ever was – but calmer, more productive, and with a sick perspective on life.

    • Strangely Rational says:

      When a person is considering suicide, that requires an immediate, strong response. You can’t risk taking a conservative, long-term approach at that point.

      Take the meds AND try to do those things. You can always get off the meds at some point. None of that will happen if you’re dead.

  33. WhoCares says:

    The difference between you as you are now and you on antidepressants is the difference between you and your illness. Depression is a disease, and treating it as such is the first step in separating yourself from it.

  34. Joe S says:

    Classic coke talk with the nuance of 2016 CQ.

    Think of it like this: if you get a headache before some important event, do you take an ibuprofen? If you’re not the type of person who avoids all pills, then you probably do take one because you know that its effects will make you available for the task at hand.

    SSRIs are meant to make you available during times when you would otherwise be obsessing over your anxieties and worries. You can begin to practice letting go, and with dedication you will find yourself able to practice without the pills.

    And I think that’s a huge point people who are either avoiding pills or are stuck on them for a long time miss. You should be practicing cognitive behavioral therapy (or similar) exercises.

    To quote the old monkey at the end of Bojack Horseman season 2:

    It gets easier
    Every day it gets a little easier
    But you gotta do it every day
    That’s the hard part
    But it does get easier

  35. Regina says:

    I swear by the time I was done reading that response I was ready to take those fucking pills myself (and I’m not even depressed).

  36. mothbat says:

    Keep in mind that the brain is an unfathomably complex organ. Neuroscience remains a frontier…in fact, I’d probably say that the three biggest frontiers in science right now are neuroscience, the ocean, and the universe itself. Until very, very recently, the main approach to not only mental illness research but the majority of all brain research was to focus on whole areas of the brain, whether they be regions or neurotransmitter pathways. Like asking people to perform certain tasks and seeing which areas of their brains are receiving the most blood flow, or in the case of mental illness research specifically, throwing various drugs at various brain issues and seeing which ones work kind of well in comparison to a placebo. So basically, the brain (again, until very recently) has basically been a mostly mysterious black box where we see inputs and outputs but not what’s going on in between. Researchers are starting to realize that what’s really important are the connections between individual neurons, but my god, there are 100 fucking billion of them, and the number of possible connections BETWEEN those 100 fucking billion neurons……a representation of the entire human brain small enough to visualize every neuron would require an amount of data equal to all the written material in all the libraries of the world. And that would only give us a physical representation; it wouldn’t even tell us how those neurons were communicating with each other!!! We really need to be able to see neurons in action to really even begin to understand. AND that wouldn’t even account for individual differences. I mean, all those billions of neurons and connections, and we all know everyone’s different. Take chaos theory into account and you basically have 6 billion whole different universes running around.

    I mean, neuroscience is one of the it fields right now, and we still hardly know anything. We’re making great strides, but we still fundamentally don’t understand how the brain works. And I’m not just talking about mental illness here. I’m talking about pretty much everything brain-related.

    Also, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that there’s not a lack of funding for mental health research due to stigma (I mean, in light of what I’ve said here, more funding for mental health research is ESPECIALLY important). I’m just trying to place this in context. You can’t fault psychiatry for not be able to do things that are fundamentally impossible at this stage in our development as a species. Psychiatry is still very useful, and so many people’s lives have been improved by it. Honestly, considering all this, it’s amazing that it so often works as well as it does. When you’re dealing with an opponent as insidious and destructive as mental illness, fucking use all the tools you have available to you!

  37. Xxx says:

    I’m pretty much with you on this one, Coke, but I don’t think the speaker’s fears are unfounded, however messily-worded and however much they clearly need more help than they’re getting. It might not be anything to do with personality per se, but my dad, for example, while needing anti-depressants, has really struggled with the side-effects. It’s taken him upwards of 5 years to be able to write again (he’s an author) since starting them because of how his creativity and stamina were effected. He sleeps most of the day. Also, it can take a while, it did for me, but straight-up theraphy alone can bring someone back from the utter brink and is the objectively more favourable option if medication can be at all avoided.

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