During the course of discussing a person’s anxiety or depression, the conversation turns to the possibility of using antidepressants. Inevitably, I am asked, will I have to take them forever? Clearly, the questioner does not want to and sees the possibility of taking medication for the rest of their life to be unacceptable. So much so that many resist starting or even going to see a psychiatrist in order to consider whether they might take a medication. Rarely do they ever ask if the medications will help.
Consider for a minute why a person might ask this question. Here’s some of the reasons I think I’m asked this question:
1. Everybody is on them and they never get off (from the viewpoint that too many people take them for every little hangnail and then allow themselves to stay on the crutch forever, never solving their problem)
2. Medicines are for weak people, I’m not weak. (Not sure if the person would have the same response if their medical doctor said their thyroid wasn’t working and so they would need synthroid for the rest of their life)
3. It is only a spiritual problem. Taking the medication will solve the problem but not the spiritual problem. I’ll be avoiding the real issues.
4. I hate medicines of all kind. I hate remembering to take them and I hate their side effects.
5. I don’t think they will really work.
Can you think of other reasons? Now, antidepressants do work from a research vantage point. They are not the silver bullet. They will not make a bitter, angry, depressed person, less bitter. They may help them sleep better, improve their mood, and thus more clearly come to terms with their bitterness. Medications never block the heart from spiritual matters. Only the person who does not want to deal with spiritual matters will use them to avoid looking more deeply inside. God can be found in both suffering and comfort. Whether we will look for him is a bigger question.
So, what if you need them for the rest of your life? What if they really do make it possible to function well? Is our distaste for medicines due to their side effects or due to the fact that we have to accept that we are weak and broken people?
6 responses to “Physiology Phriday: Will I be on meds for the rest of my life?”
I think part of the reason people avoid taking the medication is that there is a perceived stigma associated with it. How many of us respond very positively when we hear someone is on anti-depressants?
Now that’s probably because our natural reaction is to assume that person isn’t “strong enough” to overcome their problems. That they should somehow be able to “man up” and “get over it.”
But for many people that isn’t possible. And it’s certainly the case if there is an issue with brain chemistry. No amount of “manning up” will overcome imbalanced brain chemistry.
I would add, for many people the side effects of some drugs are absolutely brutal. So I think that’s a valid reason for not wanting to stay on them.
There are SO many Christians, reasonable, intelligent Christians, who do not “believe” in mental illness. They believe it is all emotional and spiritual. So, to them, why take meds if you can just pray and grow out of it?
Same thing’s said & done by people on heart meds. They absolutely do not want to take them. So it isn’t just antidepressants, it can be other things too.
For me, accepting that I needed to take medication for my major depression meant accepting that “label” — major depression.
The fact that I grew up with a mother who was seriously mentally ill made this really hard to accept. It felt like I was admitting that I’m “crazy.” (I’m not saying people who take meds are “crazy,” just trying to describe how I thought about it in terms of myself.)
But I cannot tell you how much better I feel, and the fact that I’m able to fully function and engage in therapy makes it totally worth it.
And whether or not it’s “forever” or not, I don’t know. Now that my mood is stable on the medication, I’m much more open to just taking things one step at a time and leaving the future in God’s hands.
You don’t want to know me when I’m off my meds. I just cry a lot and get very anxious. It’s pretty darn pathetic.
However, over-medication and using meds that are no longer needed is a bad idea.
I definitely felt the stigma for years, and didn’t want to admit I was on meds even when I was at Biblical. But now I want to tell people the truth because I don’t have to be ashamed.
I resisted initiating antidepressants. Then I struggled with many aspects of what it meant to take them, including the “it’s a spiritual problem.”
This is even though my Christian parents (and others) said things like, “If you had diabetes you would….”
I called an Aunt that I knew had taken antidepressants. I told her my struggle with the “it’s a spiritual problem” concept. Her response was, “Of course our spiritual life is involved. Every aspect of our lives has a spiritual component”
Yet still, I struggled, resisted (rebelled?)
What really locked it in for me was Hebrews 12:1
1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
Yes, there was/is sin. But the sin wasn’t taking medication. For me it is sin to not take medication. It is a tool God has provided me. With the medication I am able to escape the ropes tangled about my ankles. I am strengthened and the path is smoother, making it easier to live the Christian life. (see v.12 and 12, same chapter)