The short answer: Yes.
The slightly longer answer: Thanks to antidepressant treatment, after being depressed and untreated most of my life, I started taking Zoloft in June of 1993 (I was always working). Two years later I was a full-time graduate student. (In "depression time" terms, that's FAST!) In 1997, when my courses were finished (42 credits), I got an internship at a software company. It took two more years to find a suitable final real-world project, which was the last item I needed to get a master's degree in technical and professional writing. I was awarded the degree in 2000. Got hired away from that software company to another one at a $19,000 increase in yearly salary.
That I am now on no drugs is kind of amusing! But I will go back on drugs if it become necessary.
After 12 years, Zoloft evidently stopped working in the same good way it had worked before.
I had been in therapy with the same therapist I have now since about 1985. I had resisted taking any medicine because I didn't understand that it would not zombify me.
So, yes, psychiatric medicine is what gave me back my life. I definitely recommend it -- but not if after 6-8 weeks there is no improvement. One simply MUST either improve during a two-week period following a dosage change or a drug change, or alter the dosage and/or the drug. Waiting longer than 1-2 months and hoping for improvement will not work, in my opinion. Maybe I should say 6-12 weeks instead of 6-8, but in my case, a change in dosage always meant a perceptible change. Again, in my case, I started Zoloft gradually and went up to about 100 mg. At some point I began to feel a little jumpy and my doctor said I should just take 50 mg. less. Over time, I continued to occasionally decrease the dosage, and by May of this year, I was down to 50 mg, and had been there for about five years. Sometimes I forgot to take it at all so I was probably getting an effective dosage of less than 25 mg. per day for about a year. Still had "issues," but no depression.
A third of the employees at that great software company that had wooed me away from my employer of three years in 2000 were laid off four days before September 11, 2001, and since then I have started my own editorial services business.
Yeah, I'd definitely say that psychiatric help made all the difference in the world to me. And it's making a difference now, too, by it's absence! Which brings up the subject that's so dicey -- when to stop the drugs. My doc told me that he's perfectly confident that I know my body and should just go ahead and do what it appears to want. I let him know when I'm doing something new. Of course in May of this year, I called him and told him that... Good grief, I cannot remember what I told him, but it must have been that I was afraid I was dying right then. Amazing how I can't remember that.
Anyway, getting back on the road here, there may well come a time when the right thing to do is to stop the drugs. My doc did not say, "Oh, dear, why did you do that?" when I told him on July 5 that I went cold-turkey off 150 mg of Zoloft. He didn't say, "You might have to pay for that, so I suggest that you, in order to prevent feeling bad, taking 50 mg a day for the next week and then stopping in a week." He said only, "That's fine. I trust that you understand what your body is telling you." And if I had been wrong, why there's no great shakes, now is there, because starting up again is a simple matter.
So, sometimes the problem is the drug -- in any amount. Only by doing something like adjusting one's own dosage can one become confident that one's body is indeed sending signals that one is able to decipher. I have no idea what specifically ever led me to think, "I'm taking too much Zoloft." It wasn't a thought at all -- it was a systemic kind of hidden knowledge that was just..... just THERE. I obeyed what I "heard" my body saying, but it was just an idea that somehow seemed to be "The Truth."
My story may also highlight for others the fact that even if you find the optimal dosage for TODAY, that dosage is guaranteed not to be the optimal dosage for an extended period of time. Particularly for women, our hormone levels do their thing over the course of our lives and affect how we react to drugs. Another thing is that if we are smokers (and I, regrettably, still smoke), that can affect how our bodies process drugs because smoking affects our livers. That, in fact, is what my doctor said to me last week (or on July 5, when I last spoke to him). He said that was the likely reason for Zoloft no longer working the way it used to. Which is why I am a bit apprehensive of the depression coming back. But it may not; the other side of treatment is therapy, and I am getting to know myself better and letting stuff out that I didn't know was there. Some kind of reintegration is occurring, but I have no clue what it is. All I know is that I feel great.
Finding the right medicine is like buying shoes" they may fit immediately and feel like fuzzy, warm, and soft houseslippers; they may feel like prisons that restrict movement, or they may be very uncomfortable and harsh-feeling to the bones of the feet and ankle. Over time, the first kind may change into feeling like insubstantial flipflops; the second may change into comfortable structural supports for the feet; and the third may change into soft leather that's molded perfectly to your feet.
They never stay the same as the day you bought them. Never. So, if you find the optimal medicine today, just keep in mind that while it may last a good number of years (like the 12 in my case), you may have to go through this "fun experience" again, maybe more than twice or three times.
We can shorten the length of time involved, though, by developing our sense of what our bodies are asking us for. There's a certain amount of self-monitoring involved, though, which is healthy.
Speaking of self-monitoring, I don't totally agree with what's been said here about the undesirability of self-monitoring. I don't agree that it should be actively repressed as if it were a horrible thing to do. It isn't, in my opinion. Self-monitoring is done all the time by every living being. When we feel "normal" we are doing it -- how the @$^@^$%$ else do we know we ARE feeling normal.
In my case, taking my "temperature" did not and does not cause anxiety. We are simply "taking our temperature" and look and see, hmm, "How do I feel?" If it's "normal, " we get pleasure from it. We rejoice and go on to do something else. If it is not "normal," we say, "Uh-oh. There it is. Ick. What am I going to do?"
Now, what I am saying these last number of days I've been writing (maybe 5-6 days) is that saying, "Do nothing but what you are doing." is a lousy response to, "Uh-oh. There it is. Ick. What am I going to do?"
No. We must indeed decide what we are going to do to get rid of the feeling:
- Starting medicine under the supervision of the doctor we have
- Changing doctors
- Starting therapy
- Changing therapists
- Ask about lorazepam or the other stuff for panic attacks. You need to allow your brain to experience the good that's possible or you will forget about it entirely. I think unremitting panic is extremely dangerous and each minute we experience panic sets us back farther and farther from the finish line.
I'd say, "Do not EVER EVER EVER EVER tell yourself NOT to do anything."
Always tell yourself to DO something (something specific).
Each day, write down three things you want to accomplish and then do them. Check them off after you do them. Of course, I mean anything, not necessarily related to getting rid of your symptoms.
We simply cannot use negatives when programming our minds. Exactly what we don't want to happen is GUARANTEED TO HAPPEN. That's why people are saying they're going around in circles even though they are trying to stop doing that. Every time you think about or refer to the activity you want out of your life -- every single second you think about a behavior that you want to get rid of or a feeling you want to get rid of -- every single second you think about these things, you are adding ONE YEAR at least to your recovery time. HAHA. I said ONE YEAR to scare the living shite out of you. Of course I have no idea how long a time it sets us back, but I promise you that for evey millisecond you think about what you do not want to do or to have, you are guaranteeing yourself that you will get it in superabundance and you will need much more time to recover.
Now, don't think and say to yourself, "I am not going to tell myself not to think about checking how I feel."
Just..... well... just STOP TEARING PAPER. Just decide to do it -- or, if you refuse, don't blame anyone but yourself. (I know, "harsh" and "nasty" Soj strikes again!)
Say it once, and then from that point forward, talk to yourself in terms of what you are committing yourself TO do. Phrase it something like, "I am going to clean out the attic from 10 to noon and then eat lunch." "I am going to look for a new job on Hotjobs.com today from 2:30 to 3:00." "I am going to send resumes to at least five companies whose addresses I am going to look up in the telephone book."
A "TO DO" list. No "To DON"T" lists allowed. No thinking about what you are NOT going to do. You can only think of one thing at a time; therefore, you will get nowhere by trying to change your behavior by telling yourself NOT to do something -- and not only that, you will never actually DO anything if you are always caught in that vicious circle.
You just cannot BOTH tread water and arrive anywhere. But say, "I will not think about how I feel" just one time to yourself and then never say it again.
The other half of this, of course, is that you don't want to completely STOP checking how you feel -- after all, we ALL DO THAT ALL OF THE TIME. Don't let anybody tell you any differently. It's perfectly normal to do that. If we didn't do that, we'd all be schizoid. We don't CHOOSE that way of living -- we are WIRED BY OUR CREATOR to do it. So, when you do it, do it JUST AS YOU USED TO BEFORE YOU HAD PANIC/DP/ANXIETY. You did it without thinking. You were focused on doing something ELSE.
Ahh. The only thing keeping us from getting back home is US.