Tuesday, April 15, 2008

TO WRITE: Who are You on Meds?
This morning's New York Times features an essay asking: If you've grown up on antidepressants, or even been on them a long time as an adult, do you still have a sense of who you are?

I know my mood is dramatically better, my thoughts less self-critical and morbid and out-of-touch, on my medication. But after more than 20 years on the stuff, who am I? There are things I notice: It 's very hard for me to feel really excited happiness (perhaps due to my mood stabilizer?) and I physically am unable to cry except in the most extreme situations (Have all those antidepressants pumped me up that much?). But I wonder if there's more.

According to the article, by Richard A. Friedman, M.D., we know very little about the long-term effects of these medicines. The studies generally focus on people's reactions for only 4-12 weeks. The longest maintenance study so far has been on Effexor, and lasted two years. (It was better than a placebo at preventing relapses.)

Play with this. . .
Writing continuously for 20 minutes, compare what you notice about yourself on and off medicines. Consider your moods, your thoughts, your feelings, your bodily symptoms, and how long you've taken these drugs. Do your meds affect you ability to work or study, or your relationships? And do they affect your "sense of who you are"?

Hopefully, you'll conclude that you're heading in the direction that is healthiest for you. If not, talk with your mental health care provider.


Mariah said...

Wow, I wish I'd known all this last year... I wrote through my depression, but I'm not sure what it did... Thank you for bringing this to the public.

Lisa Guidarini said...

Dear Elizabeth, I'm reading your 'Writing Through the Darkness' for review right now. I stopped by to tell you how amazing and wonderful it truly is. That you've applied writing to genres besides nonfiction/journaling is so ambitious but you've really done so nicely. It's also helping me a whole lot, and I thank you for that.

Re: meds, last weekend I had the opportunity to see how life was when I forgot to take mine. I was plunged into a dark suicidal depression and had to retreat to bed to sleep until the meds (once I did take them) took effect. I haven't been on them so long, it will be a year sometime in June, but they've helped me focus and get through tough times. Have thy changed who I am? I don't think so. I think, rather, they've freed me to be myself, someone I haven't been for a long, long time.