Why Am I Resistant to Taking Medication for Depression?

Photo by pina messina on Unsplash

I was first diagnosed with depression when I was in high school. My psychiatrist was quick to recommend medication, and I happily agreed to give it a try.

The first two antidepressants that I tried didn’t do much to help. Then I switched to Zoloft, and it actually worked wonders.

Through a mix of therapy and medication, I was able to get my depression under control, and within a few years, it seemed to have disappeared completely.

It was a happy ending to the story, but unfortunately, it didn’t last.

Now, 17 years later, I’m dealing with depression again.

One of the first things I did was start seeing a therapist. Just like last time around, he recommended that I give medication a try.

This time though, I found myself strangely resistant to the idea.

Although Zoloft had been a major help to me when I was in high school, I was reluctant to get back on it, and I wasn’t even sure why.

I had a gut reaction against taking the meds that didn’t immediately make any sense to me. If they helped me, and I didn’t experience any bad side effects, why wouldn’t I just take them again?

I talked it over with the therapist. I wasn’t able to articulate a reason that I didn’t want to go on meds, but he accepted my refusal and agreed to focus on other methods of dealing with depression.

For the past year, that’s what I’ve been doing. I’ve worked on getting exercise, trying to get out of the house more, forcing myself to socialize, and more.

I’ve had ups and downs. When I quit smoking a couple of months ago, for example, my depression seemed to get worse. Overall though, it’s clearly been getting better over the past year.

Even though my depressions improving, I still think about whether I was acting irrationally by turning down meds.

By stubbornly refusing to try medication, was I just making my battle with depression unnecessarily difficult? This year has been hard, and there’s a very real chance that medication could have made it easier.

Trying to Understand My Reluctance

Lately, I’ve been trying better to understand why I’m reluctant to take medication.

I’ve struggled with addiction for much of my life, and I think that fact is what’s most likely motivating my refusal.

As I mentioned before, I’m currently two months into quitting cigarettes. I’m also a little over two years into leaving alcohol behind. Both of these addictions have been with me for over a decade, and I think they are very interconnected with my depression.

Although I only noticed my depression returning over the past year or so, I suspect that it’s been back for much longer and that I was using alcohol as a way to mask it. Even if that is not the case, it seems clear to me that my depression’s apparent return came about as a result of quitting drinking.

I think I’m afraid the depression meds would simply “mask” my depression in a similar way to how the alcohol did. I know on an intellectual level that this isn’t exactly how they work, but it’s hard to get past this gut feeling.

I also have a vague desire to see what my mind is like completely chemical-free. I say “vague,” because chemical-free is a somewhat nonsensical term to apply to minds. At the very least though, I’d like to get further into my sobriety, and further into my time without cigarettes, and see what my mind is like.

It’s been so long since I wasn’t taking some kind of mood-altering substance, that I just would like a chance to rediscover my “baseline.”

What’s Next?

I suspect that if any professional therapists have read this far, they might be sighing in frustration. My reasons for resisting medication are admittedly somewhat confused and irrational.

And yet, at a gut level, I’m still reluctant to take meds.

My depression is still here, although it does seem to be getting better. For now, I plan to continue forgoing meds, but I’m going to try to keep an open mind and reassess in the future.

One way or another, my goal is to get my depression under control. For now, I can afford to continue being stubborn, but if that no longer works for me, then I will (reluctantly) give meds a try.

I’m a lawyer and teacher from North Carolina. I write about sobriety, mental health, running, and more. Buy me a “coffee” at ko-fi.com/benyaclark.

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