End the Drug War?

Disclaimer:  I am not a doctor.  If you feel you are struggling with depression or anxiety or any decisions as it relates to pharmacological treatments of these conditions, please seek professional medical help. 

My pregnancy has lowered my tolerance for peoples’ bullshit entirely.  Which is good I think.

On Saturday morning, someone in a group I’m a part of on Facebook, dedicated entirely to Trail and Ultra Running, posted this meme.


The post generated such a huge response that eventually, an admin took notice and removed the meme from the group, but not before a discussion carried on, lasting for hours and hours.  The original poster popped in here and there and admitted he didn’t know much about antidepressants, but that he hadn’t meant offense.  But it appeared the damage had been done – especially once a few folks mentioned that their particular conditions – PTSD and clinical depression – were managed well with both.

I love running.  I have been doing some form of exercise seriously for the last (almost) 6 years or so, and I have been running for a good bit of that time, logging 3 full marathons, 8 or 9 half marathons, a few 5ks, and countless numbers of trails miles thanks to North Carolina’s really sweet trail system. Not really sure what else North Carolina has going for it as of last week, but we sure do have some nice trails. I’ll leave it at that.

I also have taken Celexa that entire time, until when I recently found out that I was pregnant.  I ran, did yoga, Zumba-ed, lifted weights, swam, biked, and climbed, at least 5 days a week.  It still wasn’t enough to completely lift the fog that sometimes literally clouded my vision and made it hard for me to put one foot in front of the other.

And many, many other folks share in my experience.

Here’s why.  Trauma changes the very structure of your brain.  Trauma can mean all sorts of things.  It can mean something like military service.  It can mean sexual molestation.  It can mean abuse.  It can mean childbirth.  Sometimes, your brain structure is altered due to genetics as well.

So when one experiences trauma, your brain adapts.  It switches from functioning like a typical brain to what I call a “war zone” brain.  And you, being the incredibly resilient human being you are, cope in the best way you know how.  Sometimes it manifests as profound anxiety, which can mean so many things.  Sometimes it can manifest as a phobia, a seemingly irrational fear.  Sometimes it manifests as depression or a depressive disorder.  And while physical activity can and will help, for those of us suffering with an imbalance of neurotransmitters, there is virtually no amount of dead lifting that can help you to “outrun” a diagnoses disorder.

So when people post things like the meme above, I have a huge, huge problem.  Here’s why.

  1. It’s dismissive.  People who are suffering with very real illnesses don’t need to be told that running on a trail will heal their illnesses.  It’s just as ridiculous as telling someone suffering with any physical ailment – diabetes, a heart attack, hypertension – to treat it with trail running.  Now running, or some form of physical activity is necessary to health and wellness, and can help to treat these, but is not a cure.  In addition, telling someone their medication is “shit” is, in fact, shitty.  As someone who is most certainly not this person’s doctor, it’s really not your business to tell someone being treated that their medication is shit.
  2. What exactly do you know about depression/antidepressants? I happen to know a lot about the nuances of a lot of drugs.  I am a social worker by education who happened to have suffered with depression myself.  I have some insight.  Many people do not.  So if your only knowledge of pharmacological treatments is some article you read about school shootings back in 2001, it’s best you keep your ill-informed opinions to yourself.
  3.   Everyone is “running their own trail” so to speak.  Perhaps you went through a divorce and experienced a bout of sadness (not the same as a clinical diagnosis, by the way).  You ran, and now you feel better.  Great!  I sincerely congratulate you.  But recognize that not everyone walks the same path.  And your brief dance with sadness does not compare to someone struggling with any of the symptoms of a depressive disorder.

So before you share something like that meme, please think about the fact that there are some people who balance therapy, medications, and physical activity to strike as perfect of a balance as possible to put one foot in front of the other.





5 thoughts on “End the Drug War?

  1. Thank you for sharing this. As someone who has been on anti-depressants for about 15 years (and who has in that period added anti-anxiety and even other meds to help boost the current anti-depressant), it really pisses me off when people say things like that. Yes, exercise helps, but as someone who will be on meds for the rest of her life… well, when I’m off my meds, I couldn’t hope to find the energy to even think about going for a run, much less get off the couch and DO it.

    1. The people who say things like this lack an understanding of what anxiety/depression is. They may have experienced “sadness,” but it’s not the same. It drives me crazy.

  2. If someone deals with depression and anxiety, being around nature will immediately stimulate the mind naturally, but it all depends on how serious the issue is and in this day and age, people can’t just chill in nature all day when they have work or school. but regardless of taking medications, which shouldn’t be shamed at all, I believe people should still spend less time isolated on social media and more outdoors. I see both sides of this and, from personal experience, see that both nature and medication can be healing.

    1. Also – being in nature doesn’t fully address someone with structural changes that affect how much dopamine and serotonin is released. It helps, won’t cure.

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