Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Life Less Medicated

I am thinking about ending an important relationship in my life.

It's a relationship that has lasted for nearly a decade - but I think it might be time to move on.

I tried once to break it off, but ending a relationship is kind of complicated when your partner is an antidepressant.

Paxil and I first became introduced the summer of my junior year of high school. Putting it simply: I felt bad, Paxil made me feel better.

The healthy way to end a relationship with a drug like Paxil is pretty much the opposite of the healthy way to end a relationship with another person: You have to do it very slowly, or it will be painful. For people, the reverse is usually true.

Now, you might be wondering why I would want to write about something so "personal" in a public blog; it's not my personality to be so free with information about certain aspects of my life. At one time, I may have been hesitant to mention that I am on an antidepressant - there was a stigma attached. But times have changed.

ABC recently (August) reported that the number of people taking antidepressants has doubled from 1996 to 2005.

In 2005, about 27 million people (10 percent of all Americans) were taking antidepressants.

So you see, I am in good company.

I was told a long time ago the reason I was depressed was because not enough of a certain chemical was being produced in my brain; this could be true. Since then it has never been confirmed, nor denied. How could it? As far as I know there is still no way to hack into people's brains and measure chemical production.

The Mayo clinic calls clinical depression a "chronic illness" like diabetes. If this is the case, I will need to be on medication for life.

But because there is no simple answer, no one single "cause" of depression, our friends in the medical community have to address it on a case by case basis.

My case: I started on Paxil during my teenage years. Some people might consider this a difficult time in life. I did.

I am a really different person from the person I was back then (as most people are) and my perspective has changed. Part of that change is attributable to the experiences of life. I would like to see if the person I am now, in a dramatically different environment, can live sans-medication. If I can't, count me as a statistic supporting the theory that depression is more biochemical and genetic.

I can live with that.

But first I want to know if I can live a life that is less medicated.
*To those nice people in my life who are inclined to worrying: I am doing this with medical oversight.