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Overmedicated and screaming without a voice

By Ariella Stepleman

Note: If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts or temptations, the national suicide lifeline is 1-800-273-8255

March 16th was the day that I finally gave up. I had spiraled down a black hole of
medication changes, violent mood swings, and major depressive episodes. After fighting for over
thirteen years, I finally decided that the pain was too great. No amount of medication could
prevent the throbbing pain that spiraled inside me, making me feel so minuscule and worthless.
On March 16th, 2021, I tried ending my life. It didn’t work. April 1st, I tried a second time, and I
was, once again, unsuccessful.

For thirteen years, I have struggled with severe depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder.
I wasn’t on medication, however, until the tender age of 14. By then, I had struggled in silence for
8 years. Medications helped quite a bit, it didn’t make me feel happy, but they helped numb the pain
that constantly stabbed me. Think of it as a shot of novocaine, it didn’t stop the pain from
happening, it just numbed it so I didn’t feel it anymore. No matter gender, wealth, or age, the
demons of mental health do not discriminate against their victims. Often these people are given
one similar solution on repeat: take an antidepressant. There were very few things that truly aided
me in my time of need, and I realized, quickly, that taking a pill a day would help, but what else
would help? Therapy and talking about my disorders.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), from the years of
2016 to 2019, in the United States, 2.7 (4.4%) million children between the ages of 3 – 17 were
diagnosed with depression (1). In the same years, at the same ages, 5.5 (8.9%) million children
were diagnosed with behavioral problems. (1) Yet, this brings forth the question: what about the
children who go undiagnosed? Hypothetically the number of children with behavioral issues and
depression is bound to be higher if we were able to count those that do not go diagnosed. Nearly eight out of ten
children (78.1%) with diagnosed depression were prescribed a medication to take for their
diagnosis (1). This, in the eyes of many, is quite a positive thing. However, the side effects of
many of these medications, according to the Mayo Clinic, can range from nausea, headaches,
insomnia, anxiety, dizziness, appetite changes, and even sexual desire decrease (2).

So, what are the positives and negatives of antidepressants? Well, there are the listed
possible, side effects above from the Mayo clinic. There can also be a case of Serotonin
Syndrome, a disorder where the body is receiving too much serotonin, causing even more side
effects such as fever, tremors, confusion, and changes in blood pressure (2). Not to mention that taking antidepressants can interfere with other medications and can cause dangerous reactions that can
be more detrimental than positive (2). Yet, with every medication, there tend to be side effects.
The positives of using antidepressants can be the balance of neurotransmitters, or in short, the
balancing of chemicals within your brain (2). This balancing of these neurotransmitters causes
lower levels of depression in most cases, and if the person prescribed is on the right
antidepressant (2). One of the best redeeming qualities of antidepressants, in my eyes, is that they
are not addictive, people can typically wean off antidepressants without any long-lasting effects
(2). Ultimately, the person themself needs to make the decision and take the leap to go on
antidepressants as they see fit.

One thing, however, that people can go forward and attempt to do is use therapy. I know
for me, personally, that therapy was a major contributor to my fight back towards
fulfillment in this world. One organization working with those inflicted with depression is the
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). They note that working with therapy and medication
can be beneficial for someone overcoming their difficulties with depression (3).

For those who suspect your loved ones are fighting a treacherous battle with a mental
illness of any sort, the NIMH suggests a few things that you can do to help make their lives just a
bit easier: be someone that is reliable and open space, help them not isolate themselves, and
discuss important decisions thoroughly to ensure that they do not rush into them (3).

What can someone do to help someone else who is struggling? Education. When
someone is struggling with depression, educating yourself is crucial on how to combat the illness.
It is crucial to remember that this disorder can affect everyone differently, and just being there and
having a safe space for people to be themselves without judgment is crucial. Taking that one step
and looking deeper into how depression works can truly be that one factor to help one another.

We are not labels, we are human beings who have chemical imbalances in our bodies. We
are overmedicated and not heard for who we are. If you know someone who is struggling, be their
shoulder to cry on. I know one year ago, I needed someone’s shoulder to cry on, and I would be
her shoulder to cry on in a heartbeat because I know how much pain she was in.

Resources:

1.) Brody, Debra, and Quiping Gu. “Products – Data Briefs – Number 377 – September
2020.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention, 4 Sept. 2020, http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db377.htm.
2.) Hall-Flavin, D. (2019, September 17). The most commonly prescribed type of
antidepressant. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved March 13, 2022, from
https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/in-depth/ssris/art-20044825
3.) National Institute of Mental Health. (2018, February). Depression. National Institute of
Mental Health. Retrieved March 13, 2022, from
https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression#part_2257

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