Friday, June 08, 2007

Happy pills

Today's quote: Come back and make up a goodbye at least, let's pretend we had one...

I had a conversation with my sister yesterday that left me feeling mildly disturbed.

[10:40] Sis: i would never date ppl with antidepressant or any mood pills
[10:40] Sis: if you can't handle everyday life, get the fuck away from me
[10:40] Me: it's not just everyday life that causes some people to take these things
[10:40] Sis: it's gonna get harder
[10:40] Me: they suffer trauma from deaths and stuff too
[10:41] Sis: i understand that extreme cases for short period of time
[10:41] Sis: yes, but habitually depressed ppl
[10:41] Sis: i'm referring to
[10:41] Me: well
[10:41] Me: if they're habitually depressed they should also be seeing a counselor
[10:42] Sis: yes, that's where they get their "happy" pills
[10:42] Me: it's said that the pills + counseling is the best method to help make a permanent change
[10:42] Me: you don't need counseling to get the happy pills
[10:42] Me: you can just ask for them
[10:42] Sis: i just don't want to do anything with ppl who have to take Pills to be happy

It sort of hit me then that a lot of people think the same as my sister does. In general, it seems that many people believe that depression is a sort of "all in your head" type of thing that doesn't really warrant going to the doctor. I understand that it can be difficult to prove that someone does or does not suffer from a mental or emotional problem. Perhaps that's why so many people write depression off as a "fake" or a not "real" medical condition.

However, people go to the doctor for other physical ailments and get prescribed medicine--why not for depression? The funny thing is, depression is all in the head: chronic depression is often caused by certain chemical imbalances in the brain. A person might tend towards a particular type of mood because of something like this.

In fact, many women deal with pms every month, which is caused by the hormonal changes a woman goes through because of menstruation. It's well known that a woman with pms can be prone to mood swings, crying, and outbursts. When that point in the cycle is over, hormone levels go back to normal and the woman stops pmsing. Other than that, how is pms all that different from something like depression? Yet, society treats a woman suffering from pms as a joke, or something to be tolerated (somewhat uneasily), whereas someone with depression becomes a liability.

Obviously, having a relationship with someone who needs to take medication to remain emotionally stable may not be the best situation one could hope for. No one really wants to take on more problems than what they already have. That's why a lot of people would prefer staying away from "drama queens" and such. There is a difference between a drama queen and someone who suffers from an emotional/mental problem, however. Arguably, a drama queen chooses to create their problems, by blowing things out of proportion from whatever misguided self-perceptions they live under. On the other hand, much of what a person with a mental illness thinks or feels comes from their physical chemical/genetic makeup, which they have no control over.

I realized that many people who should seek help may not do so, for fear of how that would look to their peers. It's a shame that societal pressure would keep someone from making a significantly positive life change. For me, I think that if a person can seek help that would help them function better and carry on their lives and relationships more normally, then why not? If anything, shouldn't we applaud those that are actively trying to help themselves to live a "normal" life?

At the same time, I'm not saying that I advocate popping pills everytime a problem comes up. Medication often solves only a symptom, and not the overall problem. In this case, I believe that medication + therapy/counseling is vital to make a permanent change in thought patterns and behavior. In general, I think this sort of response is better than turning to drinking or drugs, or whatever other destructive coping mechanisms people turn to.

I suppose my point in this rambling passage is that I don't think depression really deserves the social stigma that it currently bears. It's not like the number of people affected by depression is low; some studies even say that at least 1 in 4 women will experience depression at some point in their lifetime. That's hardly a small percentage. As for men, who knows what the real percentage is, since most men can't even admit that they ever cry. I also know that certain settings tend to have a higher proportion of people on antidepressants--take law students, for example.

I guess I know one thing for sure: if I ever end up on happy pills for depression or something, my own sister will probably think I'm too weak and/or mentally unstable to deal with "everyday life."