Stop calling them antidepressants

Every morning, after I snooze my alarm and brush my teeth, I take 10mg of Prozac. Prozac is one of the many brands of antidepressants. I once heard someone call them “crazy pills.”

I used to pride myself on the fact that I had never taken prescription drugs, despite my lifelong history of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and anxiety. I’d worked hard in cognitive-behavioral therapy, and by the time I went to college, I believed I had my OCD and anxiety “under control.” (Lol. Spoiler… I didn’t.)

I thought antidepressants were the easy way out

Like many people, I thought antidepressants were the easy way out. I didn’t “need” medication. Some periods of my life were harder than others, but I just dealt with it. Because that’s what well-adjusted, self-sufficient people do. Right?

How I changed my mind about antidepressants

One of the joys of starting a serious relationship is slowly but surely revealing your own personal brand of crazy.

Tracy (my now-fiancé) began to discover mine once we entered the “sleepover” stage of our relationship.

At least a couple nights a week, I’d lie awake in bed until it was time to get up

Sometimes my restlessness would prevent Tracy from sleeping, too. Other times, he’d wake up to find me wide awake and ask how long I’d been up. “I haven’t fallen asleep yet,” I’d say, nonchalantly.

Tracy raised his concern about my utterly sleepless nights a few times. I always laughed it off. Thanks to anxiety and OCD, insomnia was the norm for me. I was shamelessly open about my anxiety (which I thought made me super evolved). So what was the big deal?

Anxiety, OCD, and depression are caused by a serotonin imbalance

These illnesses are due to flawed mood regulators in the brain. In other words, having them is not a choice. You can’t just “snap out of it.” It’s out of your control.

They’re highly genetic. My family is a prime example. They’re also ridiculously common. Like 12% of men and 26% of women common. And yes, that’s 1 in every 4 women.

Women are twice as likely as men to have anxiety, and 1 in 10 women experience depression after having a baby.

The stigma around antidepressants

I’d been prescribed antidepressants multiple times but had never taken a single pill. I’m a characteristically happy, enthusiastic, “sunny” person. There was no way I needed antiDEPRESSANTS.

And ya, I was one of those people that thought antidepressants were for people that weren’t willing to put in the work. It’s true that therapy, exercise, and other lifestyle changes can do wonders. But as with most illnesses, they may not fix everything.

Tracy encouraged me to see a doctor about my anxiety. He didn’t understand why I would make myself suffer unnecessarily.

Here’s why. I was afraid people would judge me for taking antidepressants. More importantly, I’d judge myself. It felt like a failure.

I was also terrified of antidepressants “changing” me. Would they make me a different person? Would they numb me? Would I even know it was happening?

I spent a few months ruminating over the possibilities, the pros, and cons. Because that’s what people with anxiety do.

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Stop calling them antidepressants

The truth is, I probably would have taken antidepressants a lot earlier if they weren’t called antidepressants. They’re not “happy pills.” They help prevent the brain from reabsorbing serotonin too quickly.

Instead, it took lots of encouragement and support from Tracy. He told me antidepressants wouldn’t change his perspective of me, and he’d be proud of me for trying them. I needed to hear that.

Antidepressants don’t solve all your problems

I’m still the exact same person I was before. In fact, I still have anxiety. But even a low dosage of Prozac helps take the edge off. Things don’t bother me quite as much, and those nights where my mind spins endlessly and won’t shut off are less common.

By the way, it took a while to get there. It was a few months before I even noticed a difference. It’s subtle, but over time, I actually felt MORE like myself than ever.

Essentially, I deprived myself of more balanced serotonin levels for the first 26 years of my life.

Screw the stigma

I’m seriously over people not talking about anxiety, OCD, and depression. And I’m over people feeling shameful about taking medication for an illness they can’t control. People with other types of illnesses aren’t shamed for taking their medication.

Obvi I’m by no means suggesting that all of you head out to your local pharmacy and start popping pills.

But if 80% of depression and anxiety is untreated, and I can help one person that could benefit from antidepressants give them a try, then this article was worth it.

It’s a lot more common than you think

Once I started to benefit from antidepressants, I opened up about taking them.

My candor opened the door for a lot of my friends to disclose that they took antidepressants too. Or that they were considering it, but felt scared.

And guess what, IT WAS A LOT OF PEOPLE. But until I started talking about it, I had no idea so many of my friends were in the same boat as I was.

Make antidepressants part of the conversation

Tracy assured me that it would be ok. That he would never judge me. I needed to hear that to give it a try. So I want to do that for you.

There’s no shame in trying antidepressants. There’s no shame in benefitting from them. Maybe you don’t “need” them; maybe you can tough it out and get by without them. Personally, I wish I hadn’t toughed it out for so long. I wish my pride hadn’t gotten in the way.

To those of you that don’t suffer from anxiety and depression

It’s not contagious. It’s not an excuse for being lazy. It’s not chilling on the couch because you “literally can’t even.”

It’s fear and/or sadness for unknown reasons. It’s an endless stream of irrational thoughts. It’s an inability to take a breath. It’s lying awake with your heart racing. Silencing it takes a tremendous amount of energy and hard work, and sometimes that’s not even enough.

Anxiety and depression are separate from the sufferer’s identity

I can’t tell you how many people have told me, “Wow, I never thought YOU’D have anxiety or depression.” Like it’s some massive compliment.

Well, ya, I am not my anxiety. I’m my own person, with my own personality and thoughts and feelings, and I suffer from a serotonin imbalance in my brain. A medication that’s unfortunately called “antidepressants” helps me manage it. I’m not ashamed of that.

21 comments
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  • TracySeptember 15, 2017 - 1:42 pm

    So proud of you bb! You took action and haven’t looked back! Love you! ReplyCancel

  • anxious brainSeptember 15, 2017 - 1:57 pm

    ALL I HAVE TO SAY IS THANK YOUReplyCancel

  • SusieSeptember 17, 2017 - 10:55 am

    This post opened my eyes in so many ways. You’re so brave. Thank youReplyCancel

  • RebeccahSeptember 18, 2017 - 2:12 pm

    It felt like this article was written directly to me – and exactly what I need to hearReplyCancel

  • IzzyOctober 17, 2017 - 11:30 am

    Thanks, Anna! For those women and girls who only suffer from anxiety in the 5-15 days leading up to their period (thus suffer from a severe case of PMS, called PMDD), I would like tell you my experience: 

    I have been prescribed numerous things to treat my bouts of anxiety and depression, until I found out those were directly related to my menstrual cycle. Even then, the GP had me on SSRI’s: I tried them for a year. They made me sleepy and helped with the panicky feelings, but did not treat the moments that my dark thoughs and racing ming caused me to lapse into a temporary (monthly recurring) depression and OCD. 
    Only one pill helps: Cerazette, a birth control pill that only contains progesteron (no estrogen). The short version is: the loss of progesteron in the days after ovulation highly affects serotonin levels, resulting in depression, anxiety, panicky feelings, uncontrolled thoughts in those women who are already are sensitive to these affections. The thoughts are real (they’re from inside your head, after all), and so is the anxiety. This is why most doctors think you need anti-depressants and therapy, whilst it is better to look at hormonal levels (and naturally, sometimes therapy helps with controlling thoughts/making you aware/etc). If this post helps even one person suffering from recurring anxiety, I am happy, because this has been a 10-year journey for me!ReplyCancel

    • AnnaOctober 17, 2017 - 11:39 am

      Izzy – thank you so much for sharing your story! This is personal stuff, and I really appreciate you opening up. Period-related depression and anxiety is super common and often goes unknown & untreated, so I know other women will find this helpful. <3ReplyCancel

  • JenniferNovember 3, 2017 - 8:34 pm

    Such a powerful and necessary message, Anna. Thank you so much for sharing your story.ReplyCancel

    • AnnaNovember 6, 2017 - 1:26 pm

      Thanks so much Jennifer! I’m so glad it resonated.ReplyCancel

  • AlieDecember 16, 2017 - 7:41 pm

    Just stumbled upon this. I’ve been considering making a trip to a psychiatrist, but have always been TERRIFIED. I read so many articles on the yes and no’s, but after reading so many of your articles and seeing your success (which is exactly where I want to be in my late 20s- currently in early 20s) I truly trust in your opinion and am now more than ever going to actually look into it! Thank you for this you don’t understand how nice it is to know that you aren’t alone and that this isn’t going to stop you from living a fulfilling/ successful life. 
    xxxReplyCancel

    • AnnaDecember 17, 2017 - 1:06 pm

      Alie – that’s amazing – thank you for sharing! Moments like this are exactly why I wrote this article. You’re not alone, and seeking help will only broaden your options. Good luck! – AnnaReplyCancel

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  • brewcitymusic.comJanuary 11, 2018 - 7:01 am

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  • LizMarch 26, 2018 - 8:19 pm

    I felt the same way! It really freaked me out to be prescribed an antidepressant. I’m not depressed at all. I’ve always been described as bubbly and energetic. I’m still learning to manage my anxiety but the antidepressants help take the edge off and make it more manageable! I hope more people read this blog as it’s really important and I hope my future husband, where ever he is, is as accepting and supportive as Tracy is! ReplyCancel

    • AnnaMarch 27, 2018 - 10:17 am

      Thanks so much for sharing this Liz – I know your story will help others who read this as well! I think it’s super common to think a medication could change who you are, but having experienced it we know that’s not the case. I know you will find someone who loves and supports every part of you!! – AnnaReplyCancel

  • Savannah M.May 1, 2018 - 2:56 pm

    Thank you for this <3 – another brainy blonde with multiple mental health disorders all requiring meds that make me self-conscious! Glad you reposted this on your instagram today.ReplyCancel

  • RachelMay 1, 2018 - 3:03 pm

    I really admire your honesty here! I spent years hiding anxiety and depression. After marrying a (wonderful) American man and moving here from Ireland, I made an appointment with a gynecologist here for my annual smear. After I involuntarily burst into tears with her and she kindly recommended a therapist, I burst into tears with my husband when I got home, embarrassed that it seemed so “extreme”. Thankfully, he couldn’t have been more supportive and thought it was actually really smart that I would speak to a professional that could help me work through my feelings. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done, as is accepting my anxiety medication and rolling with it – and my openness about my feelings with my husband have brought a closeness I didn’t even know was possible! Love that Tracy is the same way for you, and thanks for writing about this! ReplyCancel

  • […] on my iPhone notes app (duh), in planners, on a notepad on my desk, in a notebook on my nightstand (insomniac alert), in emails to myself, post-its, and on the back of envelopes, receipts, napkins, you name it. […]ReplyCancel

  • KelsyJune 1, 2018 - 10:59 am

    This is exactly what I needed to read right now! I swear you say everything I need to hear in the exact moment. Thank you so much Anna for your constant and tenacious drive to break down barriers and stigma associated with this. ReplyCancel

    • AnnaJune 1, 2018 - 2:18 pm

      Aw girl I’m so glad to hear it! Talk to you on our coaching call at 3!! xoReplyCancel

  • KimAugust 7, 2018 - 1:45 am

    Thank you for sharing this, it mirrors my life exactly with the sunny disposition comments and pretty much all the rest. I have so many nights of ruminating all night and not having had sleep and I’m starting to wonder if I really ought to seek some help. I have always prided myself on not taking pills too. Everything you have said resonated strongly with me. Thanks for the post. ReplyCancel

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