Sometimes The Drugs Do Work - But Not On Their Own

There’s no such thing as a magic pill to cure depression, mores the pity.

Still, that hasn’t stopped me from trying several different types of medication over the years, all with varying degrees of success.

It soon became a pattern of diminishing returns. Every time a new medication stopped working I’d go through a major depressive episode. I would generally have time off work, and eventually go back to my GP desperate for something else to try. And she would generally throw another batch of meds at me and I would eagerly lap them up, sit back and see what happened.

Eat. Sleep. Medicate. Repeat.

As a long term solution, it just wasn’t going to cut it. After all, there are only a finite amount of medications I could try. And I was nearing the limit.

It wasn’t until my recent ‘incarceration’ in a psychiatric hospital that I began to fully explore other methods of coping with and controlling my depression.

Sure, over the years I’ve read my fair share of self help books. I’ve got bookshelves full of the bloody things. I’ve tried self hypnosis, actual hypnosis, reiki and spiritual healing. I even turned Buddhist very briefly. Nothing ever seemed to work and I got increasingly frustrated. But then I went through a decent program of full on psychotherapy.

I learned the basics of CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), which really helped with identifying and changing all my negative thinking and behaviour, and DBT (Dialectical Behaviour Therapy), which focused on learning how to accept, and have compassion for myself as I am.

I learned how to take a step back and stop myself from making negative statements like, “I should do that” or “I’ll try and do that”, instead firmly committing to things. In the immortal worlds of Yoda himself: “Do, or do not. There is no try”. Wise words, and a geek like me would never argue with a Jedi Master of his stature.

Therapy also helped me drill deep down into the actual origins of my depression. For most of my adult life I’d convinced myself that I was only depressed because of a pesky chemical imbalance in my brain. I blamed my stupid brain for not producing enough serotonin and my pasty, white Irish body for not absorbing enough Vitamin D. As a result, I hid behind the frail defence of the various serotonin reuptake inhibitors my GP was willing to give me, and a lot of expensive supplements from Holland & Barratt (but only when they had a penny sale on).

After two weeks ‘inside’ I’d been forced to confront a lot of stuff I’d kept hidden from myself over the years. I learned that pretty much everything I thought about myself, and my perception of how others thought of me are complete lies; lies I’ve force fed myself from an early age, based on a set of very distorted core beliefs.

The concept and exploration of these core beliefs was a revelation to me.

Core beliefs are the building blocks of our personality and ultimately influence everything that makes us ‘us’.

I found I was able to categorise some of my own core beliefs as follows:

I am unlovable

I’ll never be good enough

I’ll always be a failure

I’m weak

I’m ugly

I developed these negative core beliefs at a very early age and once they took up residence in my brain there was no shifting them. They went on to taint every aspect of my life and development. Living life in such a negative way only reinforced what the core beliefs were telling me.

My life basically became one massive, depressing self-fulfilling prophecy.

The good news is these negative core beliefs CAN be challenged AND replaced.

Admittedly, a lifetime of self hatred and a belief you’ll never amount to much isn’t going to be fixed overnight. But apparently our brains are quite adaptable. It’s even possible to re-program them by creating new, more favourable neural pathways (God bless neuroplasticity). Even just acknowledging that these negative core beliefs exist was enough to give me hope for the future.

I also found that mindfulness was extremely helpful in dealing with my depression. It seems to be the flavour of the month at the moment, and I know from my experience in a group setting that it’s not for everyone, but I love it. The ability to just be present in the moment and accept your thoughts for what they are with no judgement is incredibly powerful.

Ultimately, the truth of the matter, at least for me, is that antidepressants have their place in the world of mental health but they will never be the fast acting, long term fix we all want them to be.

I’ve learnt that managing my own mental health is going to involve a lot of hard work, of which only a small part is pharmaceutically based.

I need to know my own mind as intimately as possible. I need to be able to recognise and challenge all my negative thoughts and behaviours. I need to learn to love myself, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with some self compassion. I need to be aware of when my nasty little core beliefs rear their ugly heads so that I can beat them back down with as much positivity as possible.

There’s been a lot of talk in the media recently about stressed out, increasingly under pressure GP’s throwing ‘happy pills’ at patients and then sending them on their not so merry way.

I’m sure that’s not always the case, but it really does bear a ring of truth for me. I don’t blame my GP, there’s only so much they can do in a brief ten minute appointment slot. But mental health is becoming increasingly more prevalent in the world we live in today.

Now is the time we all need to start making changes!