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?