Taking antidepressants is not taboo

Illustration by Rachel Dugo
Illustration by Rachel Dugo

The taboo surrounding antidepressants stole years from my life.

I have struggled with depression since the age of 13. As a child I was pretty outgoing, but when I turned 13 years old, I became introverted. School became excruciating because I didn’t want to be around people and my grades got worse with my mood. I started self-harming when I didn’t feel like I could handle it in any other way.

I worried constantly that my friends hated me and didn’t actually want to be around me. I started speaking less because I didn’t want to annoy the people I was with. Class participation came to a halt because I didn’t want anyone to notice me, let alone a whole class.

I tried different ways of coping with it, but there was no way I was going to take antidepressants. People had told me for years that I would become a zombie — not the brain-eating monster kind but the emotionless, spaced out kind.

I was young and I believed them. My mom had me eat a lot of green vegetables. I tried exercise and other methods to fight depression. These methods would work for a while, but over the course of six years I would continually fall back into self-harming.

Even as I contemplated suicide, there were the voices in my head about how I would be numb if I took antidepressants. Depression felt like it had taken half of me already and I didn’t want to give up the other half.

There was also this fear that people would judge me or think I was crazy if I was taking antidepressants.

Luckily around this time my cousins, my sister and I became close and it turned out I wasn’t the only one dealing with depression and anxiety. I didn’t feel as isolated anymore.

When I found out my older cousin, someone I looked up to my whole life, was on antidepressants, I realized that there was no shame in it. She had taken charge of her life.

I finally went and saw a doctor and with some hesitation I started taking antidepressants. They worked. It was as though I was that outgoing kid again. I was able to attend nearly all my classes. This summer I attended several events where I had to socialize, and gained the confidence to apply for The Orion.

While I am not saying that antidepressants are always the solution, no one should feel ashamed because of their depression or medicating it.

There is no shame in needing help. No one would judge someone for seeing a doctor for a genetic disease. It is the exact same thing.

I know it is hard to ask for help. It took me 10 years, but it was worth it.

Alyssa Dunning can be reached at [email protected] or @alyssadunning3 on Twitter.