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.

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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.

 

 

 

 

Anxiety.

I was kind of an anxious child.

Let me back it up.  So along with all of these absolutely horrifying stories of school shootings, comes the irritating habit of every television personality, person with a Facebook account, or local news channels pointing the finger at everything to blame, because it’s too much work to think about a culmination of factors, both societal and personal, have made this kid do what he’s done.

And antidepressants have taken the fall far too many times for my liking.

I was sort of an anxious child.  And sort of is a the under exaggeration of the century.  Little things would completely send me into a tailspin.  I cried and flopped around like a fool every time our family dog would run away, once, only for moments until my mom found her destroying a neighbors wading pool.  I once hyperventilated so badly the fire trucks had to be called to like, make sure I wasn’t going to die right then and there.  It’s kind of why I love animals, dogs in particular.  Their presence is calming to me.  Chihuahuas because they’re anxious like I am.  They’re thin, they’re little, they shake when they get scared.  They’re also ridiculously smiley, and in general, really good natured.  I’m like that chick in ‘7 Pounds,’ with the Great Dane?  They have heart problems, she had heart problems, it all worked out.

Noelle

So when I graduated undergrad in 2008, I was struggling.  I was in the wrong relationship.  I was graduating.  I had no money.  I was kinda fat.  I was to be starting graduate school with no money and no place to live.  It was a lot for a naturally anxious kid to handle!  And I hadn’t discovered working out and taking care of myself yet.  I had this perpetual lump in my throat. It was a hot sizzling mess.

Everything came to a head for me when, after a day of fun visiting art museums and things with aforementioned boy, I came home, and just cried into his lap.  I didn’t know what it was, or why, but the tears just kept rolling.  I’m sure the poor thing was really confused, he wasn’t any sort of trained therapist, and I wasn’t either, yet.  Eventually, after a few of these crying jags, I paid a visit to a doctor, who prescribed me Celexa.  And it was about a year, between the Celexa, the loss of about 40ish pounds, Zumba, running, yoga, burning sage, and not taking everything quite so seriously, that I began to feel like the person who was hidden beneath layers and layers and layers of depression-smog.

Did I turn violent and postal after I started Celexa?  No, quite the opposite.  Do most people on antidepressants?  Nope.  The vast majority of us are so ridiculously normal, you would never suspect us for being crazy.  (I kid, I kid!  We’re not nuts!)

Like I said before, I’m a little sick of antidepressants taking the fall.  Beecause.

1. If you’ve been  incorrectly prescribed antidepressants, like if you’re actually bipolar and you’ve been misdiagnosed as being depressed, that’s when bad things happen.  Not when normal folks, with a mild case, take their meds like they’re supposed to.

2. They do a lot of good things for a lot of people. I’m awesome.  I’m happy.  I’m chipper.  And it’s not just the Celexa, but it certainly helps.

3.  Don’t be a jerk.  If you’ve never taken them, don’t talk about them.  You never know who you’re sitting next to, and you could be insulting a loooot of people.  I’m super happy for you that you were able to beat your situation by meditating and breathing, but some of us chose an alternate route, and you should respect that.

Now, I’m off to supplement my lifestyle with some yoga before this marathon!  xoxo, ❤