After my Freedom posting, I received several emails asking for more information. It seems people are wondering how to begin seeking help for depression.
I’m no psychologist, but here is my opinion. :) I think the best way to go about this process is to see a therapist (either a MFT, LCSW, or psychologist) first. They can ‘diagnose’ you with depression, and talk to you about whether medication would be right for you. Then, if it seems medication is right for you, either they refer you to a psychiatrist who does a brief interview and gives you the prescription or you can just go to your primary doctor.
I chose the second route because I have been with my doctor since I was 17 and she knows me really well. I hadn’t even mentioned to her that I had seen a therapist. She took one look at me and knew I needed help. But you may not know your doctor that well, or they may not be ‘in tune’, and in that case it would be good to have the outside opinion of a therapist.
Another benefit to seeing a therapist is that maybe you don’t need medication after all. Maybe, particularly if your depression is purely situational, therapy is enough on its own to get you through. You don’t want to go into antidepressants lightly. They literally change your brain chemistry. You want to make sure they are appropriate for you. If therapy is enough, let it be enough.
If you do need extra help though, even with the therapist’s recommendation, there can still be roadblocks. I have a friend who went to a new doctor about her postpartum depression. Even though she told him that her therapist recommended she take something for a while, he told her she just needed to exercise. That is actually really good advice, if she was able to get out of bed. Luckily, she didn’t give up. She got a second opinion. She took an antidepressant (with continued therapy) for about six months, weaned off, and has been fine ever since. So, if you know in your heart what’s right for you, don’t give up!
Now, you could skip the therapist altogether. Some doctors have no problem writing prescriptions for anything, just because you asked. But I recommend seeing someone first. This is your health, and I think a slow, methodical approach (with a few different opinions) is better.
About the word “depression” being on your medical file… yeah, it stinks. Join the crowd. Many, MANY people have been treated for depression. I would venture to say most long-term infertiles have dealt with it in some way. I have been assured by case workers and therapists that it does not hinder adoption proceedings. Regardless, if you are seriously dealing with depression, what choice do you have? Are you going to live your life half-way so that you don’t have to see a “therapist” or have the word “depression” next to your name in some doctor’s file? That’s NO life.
Along these same lines… it is possible that some people will have to take an antidepressant, or see a therapist, their whole life. Many do not, but some do. Maybe their chemistry is such that they are susceptible to full-on, long-term depression. It’s not ideal, but again I say, what is your other option? Personally, I would rather have a full life with valued relationships and special moments, even if it means I have to take a tiny pill each day, or talk with someone each week. I was able to wean off the medication, so I don’t know how it feels to be in that situation. Even so, I know how I felt when I was in the midst of the depression, and that wasn’t living.
Of course, I need to acknowledge that antidepressants (and even therapy sometimes) are not for everyone. Some people have awful reactions to antidepressants, and they can make things worse for some. What I am trying to express is the importance of knowing yourself and doing what is right for you to make your life better. Maybe it’s therapy, maybe medicine, maybe both, maybe neither. Maybe it is exercise, meditation, volunteering, or art. Whatever it is, it is so SO important that you find it, and never give up trying. Because, if you are where I was, it can only get better!
I hope this helps someone!