Hope (not) in a Bottle

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Anti-depressants, as a group of medications, are creepy things.

But so are migraine medications.

And the reason is that no one really knows how or why they work.

Of course they have a guess about the SSRIs (block the resorption of the brain’s happy-messengers– so they’re still floating around bringing good cheer), and it’s a reasonable one as far as I can tell, but practitioner after book after consumer has confessed that the specific cause and affect stuff is a bit nebulous.

So, not-knowing how they work is one element of creepy.

Another thing is the statistics that the SSRIs are only effective (upon first prescription) in about 40% of patients.  Then this weekend I learned that that 40% success rate could even be referring only to that group of people whose nutritional profile is strong enough to make sure the medication is used effectively by their bodies. Author/Doctor Mike Hyman quoted some statistics showing even lower effectiveness in people with compromised health and nutrition.

This matters to me, because the book quoting these stats– The UltraMind Solution (borrowed from the library because I dislike spending money on something with the word *ultra* in the title)– reiterated the disturbing statistic that individuals on anti-depressants are *more* likely to commit suicide than those without medication.

The book’s author was urging vitamins and lifestyle-changes as a treatment “without suicide as a side affect,” and it gave me pause.

Suicide is not a “side affect,” for one thing.

As a culture we are told that doctors can do magic; that pills are their spells.

These spells, rightly performed, can fix anything– Look how much better and longer we’re living! Look at life brought out of death!

But these Great-Ones don’t always pan out.

And when our hope, that thing with feathers, stops perching in our soul, especially in a depressed state, we are left with nothing. The faith-filled individual has reached out to the all-powerful wizard of healing and found something beyond the master’s skill in healing.

How many times, when that hope proves empty, does suicide come as the next natural step?

There is a certain sort of logic in, “There’s nothing left to try. I can’t live with this!”

My heart aches for these people, because, like me, they live in a world that alternately coddles them, tells them to take care of themselves, that they’re “worth it” (whatever that means); and then scolds them, holds them up to comparison with the great martyrs and artists of the past, along with contemporaries who appear to be managing life’s challenges better.

For God’s sake, sort yourself out!

I don’t believe most people who end their own lives really want to die. I think they just want the pain to stop.

I think the most effective way of breaking the link between anti-depressants and suicide could be to retrain our minds from this idea of medication as a last resort. For one thing, even if it is the last thing you try, there seem to be more options than most people realize, and (in a rather sick twist) most medications don’t work for most people, but there is an increased rate of success in systematic teamwork between a dedicated practitioner and and persistent (and, I’ll add, hopeful) patient.

What some people deride as “placebo effect” I’ll counter is a useful way to engage the body’s ability to heal itself– if you’re better after the fact, the pill did it’s job.

I mean, we’re already accepting we don’t know how it works anyway (magic), why deny people their means to “healing”?

And, yes, there are pill-less ways to manage.  Many people do. The research on nutrition’s effectiveness is amazing and inspiring. But there are those who derive great benefit from medication as well. Truth-telling is a huge part of facing life as it is. Therese Borchard in her book Beyond Blue has a great section toward the end where she talks about the obvious-but-hard stuff that makes managing life easier– things like eating healthy and sleeping enough. And she takes medication, too.

Ultimately, I think the reasons anti-depressants fail, when they do, is because of misplaced hope.  They are a tool, and not strong enough to carry all the hope we need to get through this life. Knowing God– trusting his character to be consistent when nothing else makes sense– is our constant.

This is our fairy tale: the promise that no matter what we have to wade through before the end, there is a happy ending.

“Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows,” is a promise, if not a welcome one. But it is only one bit. The rest says, “But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

Actually, that’s not the whole of it either. There’s still the first part of the verse.

I love a good spoiler. I will read the last page of a story if I’m getting nervous about an author’s skill-level. And at the beginning of this verse Jesus let’s us know he’s giving us the ultimate spoiler: here’s what’s going to happen, here’s the ending, and here’s why:

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me.

2 thoughts on “Hope (not) in a Bottle

  1. I identified with much of this. I’ve been chemically & chronically depressed for about 15 years now, give or take. It started around 18…abated during pregnancies, worsened after childbirth, and came to a very ugly head about 5 years ago. I have been on meds, off meds, and have done the natural route. Pretty much “been there, done that” in every sense of the matter.

    I’m now on all natural supplements. After reading a similar book to the one you described (mine was the Mood Cure) I was determined to fight my depression more naturally with diet, exercise, and natural remedies. Why? Because I am going to BATTLE THIS THING FOR LIFE. For me, and my chemical brain makeup, bad genetics or whatever, it will not go away. It just goes in cycles. I’ve learned that much.

    I’m taking a very good multivitamin, high doses of b12 and vitamin D, and I’m also using 5-HTP and DLPA supplements. It has really helped. One bad thing is it doesn’t work *as well* as the medications did (zoloft, prozac, and ativan especially) – but it works. I just don’t get the quick fix. But then again, I don’t have the side effects either. I still have my emotions and I’m not 100% numb.

    I’ve also been suicidal in the past. Takes guts to type that out for the world to see. I’m no longer that way – but I know what it felt like. I wanted to die not to be dead and gone – but for the pain to stop and to finally have a slice of peace. I honestly thought deep down that my being gone would somehow help everyone else. Being chronically depressed for 15 years not only wears YOU down, but also your family and close friends. Some friends gave up on me. They get tired of hearing the same crap over and over, so they ultimately walk away. Family members feel like they’re walking on eggshells, and sometimes say unkind things. Pastors say things like “you’re too blessed to be depressed! You should just pray more.” …. ALL of those things make you battle-weary and in my case, led me to the brink of crashing my car on the side of the road all alone. (I didn’t, thank God)

    I’m very vocal about my depression. Makes my mother nervous, other family members embarrassed, but it is what it is. If I can help ONE OTHER PERSON…it is worth it.

    Sharing your post with friends :)

  2. Thanks so much for your thoughts, Lindsey!

    I’m so thankful there are people like you willing to be vocal and do the work.

    It encourages me.

    The older I get, the more I realize I’ve never expected life to be the level of work that it is– and so much of my frustration comes from a type of resentment that living doesn’t come easy. But where did I ever get the promise of an easy ride?

    I still love the line from Princess Bride: “Life is Pain, Highness. Anyone who says otherwise is selling something.”

    And while I know life is so much MORE than pain, the pain is there. I’ve learned that calling it out from GO makes dealing with it that much easier.

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