The day when my doctor convinced me that depression really is a disease and not merely my own inability to cope, was an important event for me. I have a strong suspision that it is not only me who have often wondered if my depression was not merely a fault in my personality, a lack of selfdiscipline, unthankfulness or the lack of faith of a pathetic Christian. The diagnosis of depression as a real illness sets you free from (most of!) these stupid assumptions and gives you the right to be ill and to take medicine in order to become better. Which was a very necessary step for me.
But in this solution a great danger was lurking. When you are sick, you suffer from that disease. It is with the word suffer that I have the problem. When you suffer from a disease, there is a dimension of passiveness and helplessness involved. You are ill, you can take some medicine – and then you can (hopefully!) be cured. All that you must do, is swallow the pills and hope for the best.
You tend to think this is the whole story – you don’t realize there are a lot of things you can actually DO as well. (VERY IMPORTANT: I am NOT telling you that people with depression must not take medicine!!) For me medication alone was not enough. By putting my faith in the medicine alone, I handed the control over to medical science and I did not realize I could also do quite a lot.
For years I popped the pills (and hated it) and hoped for the best. (I also kept my problem strictly secret – but that’s another story.) Although I always kept functioning on the surface, things never got better permanently. My life only started to improve when I took controll and started looking for (and finding) things that I could do to help myself survive. (The many kilometers I have walked over the years was one of the things which helped me.) For years I unconsiously took a little control by just trying to cope as well as I could. Every time that I went back to the doctors, it was a small step in taking responsibility and not waiting for somebody else to make things better for me. But I saw it as a negative, because every time it meant that I have lost against the disease and had to take the medication again.
Things only started to change for me when I consciously made the paradigm shift from being a SUFFERER from depression to being a FIGHTER against depression. (The term depression fighter comes from the book Towards the light, by Jeanne Els, a South African journalist.) That was where the turning point came for me.
To summarize: For me medication was absolutely essentail. But medication alone was not enough. Only when I actively started fighting against this thing in myself, things started changing for the better. Permanently.
Next week: More about my experience with antidepressants.