fears about medications

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Hello. I am in my mid 30′s. I have been pretty active and creative my whole life despite having mild periods of depression since I was a child. (I did not identify it then and my parents never encouraged me to discuss my own feelings). Nearly three years ago I entered a period of deep depression and sought help from a therapist. I have been going ever since. It has been helpful. But I suffer every day from a lack of motivation or appreciation for any passion. As a result, for the past year I have been unemployed.

I definitely can’t imagine finding work I enjoy. Still, sometimes I imagine pushing myself to return to a low-paying job. Though that feels awful and I haven’t yet because most days I wake up exhausted. (And I’ve had check-ups they don’t show anything unusual). It’s just like my drive for life was physically removed from me.

About a year ago I found a new therapist that I do really like. I am going twice a week now and she seems to be helping me. However, I get very impatient with myself. Both my therapist and partner have been supportive and agree it is best to just hang in there and care for myself – that things will improve. But I have trouble believing them. It feels like a desert.

Further, I have been uncertain about taking an antidepressant because I have always (lifelong) had a fear about medications and their side-effects. So I begin to berate myself for not trying hard enough to give an antidepressant a try. Anyway, can they really help with motivation? I wonder how long this is all going to take — and whether I should just sort of give up, push on with life, get a job I hate (which I always do) and accept that unhappiness is a part of life.

A: I’m sorry life feels so burdensome. Depression does that to people. I’m impressed that you are taking your therapy so seriously. Because you are in treatment, please take what I say here to your therapist. He or she knows you far better than I do. All I can do is offer a couple of suggestions – which you may well have already discussed.

First, to answer your question: Yes, medications really can help. Medical science has come a long, long way in the last 20 years. Medications now are more targeted and have fewer side effects. What I ask my own patients to consider is this: If you were diabetic, you would take medicine to improve the quality of your life. You wouldn’t feel apologetic about it. You would work with your doctors to make sure the dosage was right and that you were properly working with it to maximize its effectiveness. Same goes for antidepressants. There is no shame in using medicine to help give you the jumpstart you need to take full advantage of your therapy.

Medicine isn’t magic. You’ll still have to do your share by taking it properly and working with your doctors to make sure you have the right medicine in the right dosage for you. This may well take a few months. You will still need to be in therapy to learn the skills you need to know to manage your tendency to depression. Hopefully, you will be able to come off the medicine once you are feeling better. Or not. Some people can. Some can’t. Your physiology is to some extent the determiner of that.

Meanwhile, one of the few things I know for sure is this: The less you do, the less you’ll do – and the more depressed you will feel. Going to therapy twice a week is not enough activity. You need to work or at least do regular volunteer work just to get your body and mind going again. Some pay is better than no pay in terms of your sense of independence and your contribution to the household. Some work is better than no work in terms of getting out of the house regularly, making a contribution in the world, meeting some people, and filling a gap in your resume. If you value work only in terms of the status of the job or how much money you make, you continue depressed thinking. If you shift your thinking to seeing a job as another step in your healing, you are on your way. I encourage you to look around and find something, almost anything, to do most of every day. It’s up to you to find meaning in it.

Please talk these ideas over with your therapist. To repeat: He or she knows you and your circumstances. I don’t. I can only respond in a general way. I do hope your treatment goes well and that you start to feel better soon.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 26 Jan 2010

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2010). fears about medications. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 19, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2010/01/26/fears-about-medications/