I’ve struggled with depression off and on since I was a teenager. If I’m being honest, the only reason the struggle has been “on” more than it’s been “off” is because of my own pride. For some reason I’ve caved to the stigma of depression. I’ve been caught up in articles that tell me I just need to exercise more or cut out caffeine or try some magical oil instead of treating my depression for what it is — an illness that requires medication.
Over the years, there have been many times that I’ve decided my depression is something I can battle through naturally. So I’ve gone off of prescribed meds, in order to try holistic remedies that people in my life have insisted were “just as effective as medication.” Weeks later, I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that whatever I had tried was not as effective as medication. Then, I’ve headed back to my psychiatrist with a new explanation for why I decided to go off of meds. Again.
I’ve now been on medication for years because I’ve finally decided to ignore everything I hear about alternative treatments. I also keep my struggle with depression to myself when around friends and family. Because here’s the thing: they want to tell me what natural remedy worked for them or their niece or their great step-nephew — and they want to pressure me to try it.
I understand people’s urge to offer advice when they hear that someone they know has a problem, but it’s not always helpful. It’s especially not helpful when it comes to a sensitive issue like depression. It takes a lot of courage for someone to admit to having depression and telling them that they should treat it differently can not only increase their sensitivity to the subject but it can actually be dangerous.
Whenever I see these natural depression remedies so vocally supported I always worry that people might go off of much needed medication and try them hoping for unrealistic results. It can be very dangerous to go off of psychiatric medications abruptly or without the help of a physician, especially if someone is switching to an option that may not be remotely as helpful.
Looking back there are definitely times I went off of medication without the assistance of a doctor because I thought I could manage my depression on my own and sent myself into a worse state. In those cases, I couldn’t even see how badly I was doing because my depression was so out of control. I spent many months needlessly unhappy because my pride (and my illness) had gotten in the way and I thought I was better off without medication.
It may have taken me far too many years but I’m finally in a place where I know I need medication to manage my depression. I’m a better wife, mother, daughter, and friend when my depression is under control and there is no reason to cheat myself or anyone else out of happiness because of the stigma behind mental illness.
The next time you come across the latest greatest thing to treat depression, remember the struggle people around you may be having to take the help they have already been offered and think about keeping that lotion/oil/supplement to yourself. It may be the most helpful thing you can do for someone who is already fighting this battle.