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After our trip to France, I thought it was time to open up about my current situation.
You see I have been living in the USA since 2011, but grew up in France. So I have friends and family from two very different cultures. We don’t have the same values, we don’t eat the same way, we have a different lifestyle… Both cultures have their ups and downs.
But now that I have been in Seattle for several years, I am turning into an overly positive American. I can’t tell you how many times a day I say the word “amazing” and "awesome".
I have a problem
One thing that my husband and I noticed during our last trip to France is how people are close minded about mental illnesses.
To be honest, it took me years to admit that I had a problem for the exact same reason.
I grew up thinking that it was normal to feel down. After all, nobody is happy all the time. We aren't living in a fairy tale.
I thought that having a mental illness, such as depression, would be like stamping the word “failure” on my forehead.
I guess societal pressure made it difficult to heal myself.
The first stage of recovery is to admit that you have a problem, but in France, nobody talks about their deep feelings, it’s like we are hiding behind unnecessary complaints about very small things.
So yes, it took me years to realize that I was not happy with my life and I had to do something to change it.
For real, it took the publication of a study explaining that descendants from European countries are more susceptible to depression because of their genes.
Finding out that it wasn’t all in my head, but also chemical, helped me. It gave me an excuse to seek help. It wasn’t my fault that I was feeling down, it was biological.
Obviously, there is more than just the chemistry in your brain, but it has a big effect on your state of mind.
So I made an appointment to see the doctor. After responding to a few questions, to find out if I was depressed or not, she diagnosed me with moderate major depression and anxiety. Which, to be honest, I think I was aware of for years.
The first thing she said was that I needed to exercise. You see, exercise helps your body to create happy chemicals, or neurotransmitters (Serotonin and Dopamine), endorphins, and endocannabinoids.
But at the time I was depressed and during the previous two years I had been telling myself that I needed to workout, with no success. I would start a new fitness program and give up within a couple of weeks.
Plus it wasn’t the first time a doctor told me that I needed to workout more. But this time, the doctor added: “I’m also going to put you on antidepressants.”
This one sentence scared me. For most of my life, I had heard that antidepressants were bad. I also read an article explaining that when you ask for antidepressants at the doctor, you are more likely to get it. I was scared that I was being prescribed antidepressants just because that's what doctors do.
So I tried to negotiate with my doctor. I wanted to skip on the antidepressants and focus on working out.
But she looked at me and said: “Julie, let’s be honest, you are not going to exercise without this help.”
She explained that the antidepressants would help me to get the motivation needed to go to the gym. After including regular exercises in my lifestyle, 90 minutes a week to be precise, I would be able to stop taking the serotonin.
We made a deal that I would stop them 6 months later. But it took me longer than I thought to get my life together. It takes times to create new habits and I don’t want to stress myself about it since it the reason why I’m in this situation in the first place. But it’s okay, I am feeling ready to stop them and will probably make an appointment this summer.
The thing with antidepressants is that you cannot stop them abruptly, you need to slowly reduce your dose to help your body get used to it.
Now, the way I see antidepressants is like a serotonin supplement. It’s like taking vitamins during the winter, melatonin when you need help to sleep at night, or any supplement to help you feel better.
Life on antidepressants
So yes, I am taking antidepressants and I'm (literally) happy to do so. Without the serotonin supplement, I wouldn’t have been able to change my life.
Within a few months I:
- Changed my whole schedule to avoid everyday stress
- Figured out a workout routine that I like
- Took the time to learn more about nutrition
- Started yoga
- Created Hello Peaceful Mind and met amazing people
- Became more mindful of the present
- Feel less annoyed by very small things
- Became more positive about life
- Became happier and less stressed out
- Became more focused on my goals and took action to make them happen
- Created a morning and evening routine to relax
- Decluttered my life
- Have learned so much about stress, healthy living, and depression
To summarize, taking antidepressants helped me to change my life and every day I become closer to the person I always dreamt of becoming.
But here’s the catch: as a mental health advocate, I have become very open about my situation.
I don’t want to hide to people that I'm being medicated to feel better. I explain to them that this is temporary, it’s just that my body needs a little chemical help to give me the motivation to change my life, that I’m doing so much better since I started my journey and I am happier than ever.
I don’t feel the need to binge watch tv shows anymore, to lose myself in books, to hide under the covers and to start the day with “I don’t want to get out of bed” or “5 more minutes.”
Now I wake up with my head full of dreams for the day, I enjoy my daily walk during lunch break at work, I am coming home relaxed and enjoy the evening.
So where is the catch?
Even if I talk about how the antidepressants make me feel and helped me changed my life, people are getting upset about it.
My friends and family in France are so against it. They want me to stop it, they think that it’s hurting me, that I can become addicted to it, that it’s simply wrong …
And to be honest, I understand them. I felt the same way just over a year ago.
This is why I wanted to write about my personal experience with antidepressants and, hopefully, help people to be more open-minded about it and stop giving a hard time to people who are trying to get better by taking action.
My take on antidepressants
I believe that antidepressants can be a good tool for people who want to change their life but are feeling too depressed to start taking action.
If you take antidepressants but don’t take action to change your life, you will probably never fully be happy.
I see them as a tool to help you, not a means in themselves.
Talking with your doctor about your depression will help you to decide whether or not you need medication. But remember that if you ask for it directly, you will be more likely to get a prescription.
I think that it’s important to debate with your doctor if you really need it and why. In my case, the doctor made a very good point but in your case, it might be different.
If you get a prescription, talk to your doctor about when you can get off and what you need to do to make it happen. In my case, it was to work out 90 minutes a week regularly but it might be different for you.
I am not a doctor so this article is about my personal experience with antidepressants. If you feel depressed I highly recommend talking with your doctor and making a plan together that will fit your personal needs.
Over to you
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