I also lost a lot of weight, because when I’m having a bad day, a couple of handfuls of blueberries and Cheerios seems like a good meal. That’s not a joke, that was literally my supper on several occasions. And I found myself fidgeting like I had spent the night in a hotel overrun by bedbugs, even on the days when I hadn’t replaced my blood with heroin.
That’s just me. Others might find themselves having trouble remembering things, or gaining weight, or having trouble remembering things, or listening to blues music and smoking cigarettes in the rain, or having trouble remembering things. And of course, these all add up to create new problems — for example, it’s hard to get motivated to take care of all your mundane day-to-day tasks when you’re sad, tired, and lacking nutrients from two-thirds of the food groups.
And then there’s the reduced sex drive. I don’t get laid, so I didn’t really notice any difference, but sexual side effects do affect many depressed people. If you’re in a relationship and can’t make Mr. Smith visit the hat shop (is … is that a sex metaphor? I’m really bad at sex, you guys), your partner might be unsatisfied or worried that you find them unattractive. And then you’ll worry that you’re making your partner unhappy, and then you’ll be unhappy, and then you’ll be even less in the mood to bring your horse to water.
Even your libido melting away like a Popsicle in the sun isn’t a guaranteed side effect. One study found that some depressed women have more sex because they’re using the fun of orgasms to fight depression other symptoms, which raises the obvious question of how I go about joining their support group.
#3. Antidepressants Don’t Work
This is another one of the many myths about depression. Everyone’s heard that antidepressants are a scam. And not just from Sunshine Flower, the hippie who runs the local food co-op, but from the mainstream media. Often it’s accompanied by a scary statistic that says more people in America are on antidepressants than water or a commentary about how in the good old day’s people didn’t need Big Pharma shoving pills down their throats. You even see it in pop culture. Garden State is a movie about a man whose life improves after he stops taking his prescribed medications, and we all know that Hollywood would never lie to us.
First of all, depression rates are rising because we’re getting better at diagnosing it. It’s the same reason a lot more people were identified as mentally handicapped after people stopped assuming a donkey kicked them in the head as a child.
It’s true that in some cases antidepressants are not effective. That’s because the human brain is immensely complicated, and we don’t know much more about it than the monkeys knew about the monolith in 2001. You’re trying to fix a biological computer, not a tangled Slinky — of course the same treatment isn’t going to work for everyone. But for some people antidepressants absolutely do help, and it’s irresponsible to claim otherwise. It’s like saying that because cancer screening doesn’t have a 100 percent effective rate there’s no point in getting checked.
The science behind antidepressants is complicated, heavily debated, and poorly understood. I’m not going to get into it, in part because any medicine beyond a splint is basically wizardry to me. But the real issue is that people misunderstand what antidepressants are supposed to accomplish. They’re not magical feel-good drugs that wipe away all your problems just in time for you to win the big game; they’re one part of a multifaceted treatment process.
A long and tedious part — it can take months of experimentation to determine what drug or drugs in what dosages are appropriate for each person because again, brains are hard.
People who are anti-antidepressants say things like half of all people who try them quit after four months because they’re not getting results. Well, maybe that’s because it can take six weeks just to figure out if they’re working, never mind the time spent fiddling with the prescription to get it just right. If you’re expecting to cure a major mental illness in less time than it takes to play an NFL season, you may be a different kind of crazy.
The point of antidepressants isn’t to solve all of your problems; it’s to keep you from feeling overwhelmed so you can solve them yourself.