I was talking with a friend of mine over dinner earlier this week, and she mentioned not wanting to take meds for depression. Another male friend of mine said the same thing a few months ago. Both said that the medicine makes them foggy and feel numb, so preferred not taking the psychiatric prescriptions. And during my final visit with my dietitian yesterday, depression and stress related food issues came up.
So I thought this would be a good time to share some facts I’ve learned about depression and anorexia as related to (symptoms of) my PTSD. You see, the complex posttraumatic stress disorder sometimes includes symptoms and side effects that can also be standalone diagnoses. Depression, anxiety, OCD, eating disorders, self-harm, phobias, Dissociative Identity Disorder, and dissociation to name a few.
I struggle with depression often. It comes and goes in waves depending on a schedule of personal holidays and anniversaries embedded in my mind and body. For a long time, psychiatrists and psychiatric nurses tried to give me all kinds of pills. Sometimes they gave me the same ones my mother was on; this made sense to them as our supposed symptoms of anxiety and depression were similar.
Then they started giving me other pills to help with the psychotic symptoms: hearing voices; hallucinations, sleep issues, and so on. The pills were supposed to make the symptoms go away – i.e. I wouldn’t hear voices or hallucinate anymore. The nightmares would disappear. And I’d sleep through the night.
Well I did start sleeping a lot. And for a few months at a time, my mind would be quiet. But, I felt numb and spent most of my time living in a fog. Nothing penetrated the fog. And my coordination problems got worse. Concentration became difficult. I started to get sick often.
So I stopped taking medicine and tried to find other coping strategies. But I kept wondering what was wrong with me that the medicine couldn’t fix a biological/chemical problem like depression the way it did for others. If I had depression, then it was a chemical imbalance. Medicine fixed chemical imbalances. Right?
Not exactly…my last psychiatrist explained to me that people who have experienced severe trauma do have problems with depression. But their depression is not biological or chemical based. It comes from having been traumatized; only therapy modalities that focus on healing from trauma can help with that kind of depression.
He said that about anxiety too; the symptoms of anxiety can be masked by medicine, but the cause of the anxiety cannot. So when the medicine wears off, I will experience all of the symptoms of anxiety and/or depression that were masked. Sometimes, the symptoms will be worse because they were repressed (backlash). It’s a risk I would take every time I took one of the pills.
These days, the only time I take one of those pills is if I haven’t slept for more than 24 hours and need to knock myself out. Hence the nickname “knockout pills”.
Find a mental health provider who understands trauma (trauma-informed or trauma trained). Not all of them understand trauma or how it affects mental health. Then discuss symptoms and past experiences with medication with this person and see if medication is the right path. If it’s not, ask for other suggestions and options. If medicine does seem like a good path, keep a journal of the different symptoms and side effects that occur or not occur when on and off the pills.
I am not opposed to taking medicine or pills. I am opposed to having my mental clarity and independence compromised. So if ever there comes out an FDA approved pill that can help with my symptoms without making me foggy or so tired I sleep 20 hours a day for weeks or sick to my stomach, I will try it. Until then, I am better off without the pills.
Thanks for reading