The Cure for Depression: Swallow That Pill

Now onto my favorite (*cough* *cough*) advice for treating Depression: medication.

Whoa –what?! YOU don’t like being dependent on pills? We should hang out. Oh, wait. We kind-of are.

For nearly my entire anxious life I’ve worried about THE Day: that point at which the doctors would finally tie me up in a straight jacket, cart me away, and dose me full of anti-depressants. I knew it would come. As relative after relative succumbed to depressive tendencies, I’d mentally count down to when my turn would be.

I watched a friend balloon in weight on anti-psychotics; saw the not-so-fun of adjusting medications in another. I read and heard and watched people being negatively affected by their cocktail of drugs. Would that happen to me, too?

There is a lot to be depressed about in terms of depression medication.

But this sort of thinking is clearly that of someone in a depressive mindset (aka ME). I love to take the easy route of negative self-talk; of assuming the worst.

The truth -no, The Truth is that medications are extremely helpful. They are often vital.

A close friend of mine was married for a couple decades to a guy with serious schizophrenic issues. Super nice guy, by the way. He became concerned that apocalyptic situations were nearing, and concluded that medication dependency was a bad thing. So, of course, he went off of his pills.

This is not one of those “happily ever after” stories, but it is one in which life had to keep going and did (and, still does). After severe manic/depressive episodes, a necessary divorce, and removal of his ability to get credit cards; he’s back on a higher dose and back to the person I knew before.

No, not every story is that extreme. Yes, some are more so.


In my vast experience of talking to a lot of people about mental illness (’cause I’m nosy), most use medication for its intended purpose: a leg up. Prescription drugs are meant to give our poor minds and neural pathways a little help.

They are meant to be taken WITH therapy, because we need to teach ourselves to form automatic pathways to brighter fields of mental flowers.

I found some really great sources of information online (Mayo Clinic, WebMd, MedicineNet) that go into more details about common medications, their types, and side effects. They’re especially good if you want to get worked up about how you have a 5% chance of a limb detaching once on a course of Prozac.

So, this is the part where a psychomedicaldoctordude comes in handy. He or she will help you not panic after reading about falling off limbs, and come up with a working plan to fit your symptoms. After talking through what you and s/he think is going on, s/he may prescribe you something to try.

The most common medications to treat Depression are:
-Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) like Prozac, Celexa, Zoloft, Paxil.
-Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) like Cymbalta and Effexor.
-Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) like Nopramin and Nardil.
-Other classifications, like Wellbutrin (aminoketone class), Trazodone (serotonin modulator), or Remeron (tetracyclic).

You may have a mix of mental illness, in which case anti-anxiety or anti-psychotic medications are prescribed. Ones like:
-Antipsychotics: Seroquel, and Zyprexa with Prozac.
-Lithium carbonate.
-Some stimulants like Ritalin.
-Anti-anxiety, like Buspar.

For those like me who deal with related issues like thyroid deficiencies, the prescription may simply be:
-Supplements to raise natural levels in the body
-Hormone therapy
-Specific thyroid medications

Whew! That’s quite a list. I swiped it from WebMd, mostly, leaving out the fun side effects notes.


These all affect serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine in some way. An article by Harvard Health also referenced Glutamate and GABA. Once assisted, those internal hormones and neurotransmitters and such will give us our mental leg-up.

In reading over these sites, I get the idea that Depression is a tricky bugger. The medications tend to improve symptoms in about 70% of sufferers, but doctors are not entirely certain why. Yes, they affect these hormones or connectors -however, simply affecting said things in isolation does not always work. That, and some people are still not helped by the good old anti-depressant classics. Again: talk to a doctor continually in order to address the issues you have, and involve therapy along with the medication(s).

Besides boring you all with technical details about prescription drugs, I wanted to repeatedly hit my main point home for you: Pills aren’t all that bad.

During my brief stint on hormones, I experienced something wonderful. The sensation was very much like the gift of sight despite not wearing contacts or eyeglasses. I looked around at the world and saw light, felt hope, and assumed better outcomes instead of the worst possible ones.

Prescription drugs can be the big-brother boost to get into that impossibly high tree. Instead of constantly staring up at all the other people who got to the top branches, you can get help. With The Pill, you will be able to see knotholes or branch stubs or bark indentations. With psychotherapy, you’ll gain the strength to use them.

A low-angle shot of a tree with an impressive trunk

The journey to a brighter place may necessitate medication. Don’t be hatin’. Try what your paid medical friend suggests, pay attention to side effects, try again. Train your mind, young padawan, so that you may someday need fewer legs up -or, perhaps, none at all.

These pictures were swiped from JES’ database, which uses Unsplash.


57 Replies to “The Cure for Depression: Swallow That Pill”

  1. This is soo well written! And also thank you, I have struggled with mental illness as well for many years and eventually got the the point where i needed medication too, but so many people shame you, and think you’re just taking the easy way out, I hate the comments people make and tbh I was almost afraid to read this post but i am SO glad i did! You are so brave and wonderful, thank you for sharing your own story and for helping me to feel less alone

    1. Thank you for the kind compliments. I am so glad this resonated with you! I tell my son who takes medication that we’re both doing it and that it’s just to give him a little step up.

    2. Medication for depressed people as a leg up. I have never actually thought of it like that but it is exactly how I would describe it. I am ten years in and finally to a spot in life where I begrudgingly nearly every day. I’m new to WordPress but I started a blog for the sake of venting and connecting because I have depression too things haven’t been going so well lately. I feel like I’m trying to put it together with medication to get that “big brother boost” I need. On a side note, along the lines of what you were saying regarding the leg up and meant to be taken with therapy, I never took that all that seriously but since I had to stop going to therapy because my insurance changed, the medicine is starkly different and significantly less effective.

      1. Thank you for reading and sharing your personal experience.
        My counselor said that bit about medication needing therapy to make it the most successful long-term, and I felt a few things click in my mind. I wish all of us could get the help we need!

  2. Chelsea, you are amazing! Period. I loved this post so much! You made me laugh and were so informative about a great topic. I love how you can do that and take what can be a heavy topic and make it feel not so heavy. Thanks for a great read!

  3. Wellbutrin is a Norepinephrine and dopamine reuptake inhibitors (NDRI)
    Trazadone is unrelated to any of the classifications putting it in a class of its own.
    Remeron is Tetracyclic.

      1. the more ya know, right? I actually had to look it up, I was under the impression Wellbutrin was an SNRI — whoops. LOL Had no idea trazadone was in a class of its own. So, I learned too! 🙂

      2. I think I just wrote it in a way that made them sound related. I’ve tried to remedy that with the edit.

  4. You are so right! I hate taking my “cocktail” of drugs every day, but I know I probably wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for taking them to keep me semi-sane. Thanks for the good reminders.

  5. I’m just not ready to accept that, but thank you for posting this. I cannot fathom dealing with the side effects of prescribed medication. Furthermore, I’d just rather consume cannabis when things get to be too overwhelming..

    1. I understand your perspective. Many options these days have minimal side effects, which is nice.
      I’m a fan of numbing because it’s easy and habitual, but know it’s not the best way to cope. 🙂

  6. Thank you so much for this post. I think one thing that I find is important, and I sense it is also what you are trying to express throughout your post, is that we are all invidividuals. Different things work for different people, and it is always dependent on where your depression comes from as well (to take antidepressants can be very counterproductive for someone with Bipolar Disorder), and if there are any comorbid conditions. I tend to suggest to people to first try less invasive treatment, like self-care, self-management and therapy like CBT; before relying on medication. And to make any decision based on being informed, talking to a professional, reading up and asking questions. There is nothing more frightening to me than blindly trusting a professional without at least asking questions.
    We are all different, for me medication has had terrible consequences. I still have neurological issues because of antipsychotics that I had to take, and with every medication I have taken, I had really bad side-effects. So it is important to be aware of the side-effects and to talk with a professional about their prevelance (I mean, one of the side-effects of Seroquel is sudden death. How can that even be a side-effect???).
    There is no magic pill, but i have seen people get better on medication, especially those struggling with illnesses like Bipolar Disorder and Schizophrenia. The stupid thing is just that you just can’t know how you will react to the chemical cocktail before you have given it a try. In most cases it is definitely worth a try though!

    1. Thank you!!! Yes -we are all so different, so I listed talking to a professional FIRST because who knows what you need? Not me! You and the doctor/counselor/therapist need to figure stuff out.

  7. Having bipolar disorder makes medications a necessary evil in my case. I do struggle with side effects but the pros outweigh the cons. I believe the right meds can provide enough stability to muster the strength to do the “work”. I unfortunately can’t take antidepressants because of my bipolar disorder, but I take a slew of other meds

    1. Yes; as with the case of the person with schizophrenia, there are some conditions which will always need medicinal help.
      I appreciate you sharing your experience, and that you find more pros than cons. 🙂

  8. I love this! While the thought of overmedicating any problem is not something I agree with, I also see the use of meds for various mental illnesses, especially as part of a “both and” treatment plan (ie: both therapy and antidepressants, aka: my current treatment plan). The meds help me see the need for and have the strength to get through some of the therapy stuff, and the therapy is (hopefully) helping retrain a brain that has 30+ years of distorted thinking to rewire.

    1. I have exactly the same thoughts! That perspective helps when I’m being impatient. Like, “Well, I can’t expect immediate results when I’ve spent 30 years in these bad habits.” 🙂

      1. I totally struggle with patience. It took me a year to get up the nerve to call a therapist. Now I’m frustrated that, 5 months in, I’m not done yet. Lol! I just gotta keep reframing and challenging those unrealistic expectations.

      1. Alright. Was just more looking for answers then trying to promote… i’ll avoid commenting on anything in the future. Thanks!

      2. Commenting is fine. You’re just the third to specifically mention a site and I thought it’d be best to ask James first. 🙂

  9. This was very enlightening, and eye opening. I’m 24 and my parents have always told me that pills just make depression worst.

    Thank you for sharing this. 🙂

    1. I’m so glad this helped you. I think any medicine can be harmful in the wrong dose, even some nutritional supplements.
      Depending ENTIRELY on you and what you experience, a prescription will give a little boost up. Definitely ask a professional, and pair it with therapy.

  10. Thank you for this. I left my drs yesterday with “increasing dosage” for my Wellbutrin. It made me very sad – you just want to be normal right? Haha. Some days are easier than others but this post really helped get me on the right track out of my funk. Thank you again.

    1. I often get in funks, certain that nothing will ever improve. Then, somehow, they often do -but not usually my attitude or perspective. I feel like medications can give our perspectives that little step up.

  11. Thanks for posting this, it’s on a very important topic! 🙂

    I’ve been on Effexor for almost a year now and I think it was a great choice. It has helped me to literally get up from the bed and start getting my mind sorted out again. I have some nasty side effects (rapid heartbeat, night sweats) but nothing compared to what I had with the first medication that I tried (Celexa) which gave me all the possible side effects you can imagine… So it’s really a matter of finding the pill that works the best for you!

    But of course, in an ideal world, I’d rather not have any medication at all. As soon as I feel like I can do it, I will quit taking Effexor.

    Once more, thanks for the post!

  12. This is amazing ! There are so many downsides to antidepressants, but one huge upside. You will live ! That’s how I feel on it. 🙂

  13. Great post! I’m not sure I’ve found just the right combination myself yet, but I hope that someday I do. The seroquel has done wonders for my sleeping at least. I am a fellow mental health blogger too, so nice to read your thoughts!

    1. Thanks, Maranda! I’m glad to hear the Seroquel is helping you sleep; I think half my stress is from too little rest some days.
      Nice to meet you, too!

  14. I agree with you about the neccesity of medication for some. In my case, I have tried only supplements, supplements and therapy, adding in exercise, and practicing meditation and minfulness. I crashed and burned with all of those things being utilized and/practiced simultaneously. I now do all of those things along with medication support. Wellbutrin and Lexapro to take the edge off of the increase of norepinephrine fron Welbutrin. I am in my sweet spot and hope the best for all of those in the process of trial and error to find their own sweet spot

    1. I think balance is key, and finding that balance takes time and professional guidance. I am so glad to hear you have hit a sweet spot; that is what we all aim for. 🙂

    1. Thank you for your honest experience. Yep, I’ve seen the gamut of reactions to medications and have been put off.
      Just proof that you need a good doctor, need to go over your symptoms and reactions and such, and need to do therapy with medications.
      I hope she is able to get a better system in place so she can behave less robotically. <3

  15. I don’t like having to take psych meds (who does?) but I am glad that they help me function and be able to sleep. I’m one of those people who takes Seroquel with Prozac and it seems to work ok, although there are still many ups and downs. My psychiatrist keeps wanting to up the Seroquel, but I am afraid to for fear of weight gain. To me, that is one of the worst things about these meds.

    1. Oh, me too! I hate weight gain. Of course, I might trade weight gain for massive mood swings like I got with birth control once…
      Makes me think of some kind of odd poker game. 🙂

      1. I had definite issues when I was on birth control too! I didn’t even realize how much until I went off it! It made me gain weight too.

  16. Interesting post. Glad you’ve found them useful.
    Are you based in the US? I notice quite a lot of people online mention psychotherapy but in the UK it’s not very common (CBT and mindfulness-based therapy are most common).
    By the way, you might enjoy some of my mental-health related posts on friendship, the arts, etc.

    1. I am based in the U.S.
      My personal experience has been CBT introduced by my therapist, but I agree with you about the psychotherapy emphasis.
      Thank you; I’ll check out your posts. 🙂

      1. Interesting. Funnily enough since writing that I found out that they do teach a degree in counselling and psychotherapy at my local university, so I guess it is sort of around, even if rarely offered here by our health service.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.