Recovery from Depression: Part 1
So you've recovered from depression - mazel tov! I remember what an amazing rebirth it was for me when the first antidepressant medication I tried lifted the depression that had been with me for twenty years.
Not to be a wet blanket, but there are a couple of things that you should keep in mind. One is that you can't get complacent about your depression treatment. The other is that you should focus some attention on preventing the depression from recurring.
Don't get complacent about your treatment
Unfortunately, there is rarely, if ever, such a thing as a "cure" for depression. More often than not, it will come back if treatment is discontinued. At my doctor's direction, I discontinued my antidepressant treatment six months after my symptoms first subsided. However, symptoms came back in full force, if not worse than before. We tried discontinuing the medication six months after that, with the same result. My doctor concluded that I'd probably be on antidepressants for the rest of my life. Granted, I had had depression for a very long time. First time depression that is quickly diagnosed and treated is probably less likely to come back.
I didn't have any problem with staying on the medication indefinitely. I was so happy that I had found something that worked. Taking antidepressants seemed like a small price to pay for getting my life back. However, many people who have found relief on antidepressants are eager to discontinue them as soon as they start to feel better. This can be a mistake. In On the Edge of Darkness: America's Most Celebrated Actors, Journalists and Politicians Chronicle Their Most Arduous Journey, journalist Mike Wallace recounts what happened when he went off his antidepressant medication against his doctor's recommendation. While playing tennis, he fell and broke his wrist.
Within twenty-four hours, I was deeper in depression than I had been the first time. All of a sudden. Why? Mortality, old age, the fact that I had gone off the drug? I had all of the manifestations, all over again...And this episode lasted longer and there was no proximate reason beyond this.
If you are eager to be off antidepressants, ask yourself why. If your doctor advises you to remain on them and you do not have severe side effects, what's the rush?
Consider Starting Therapy
Numerous studies have shown that the most effective treatment for depression is a combination of medication and psychotherapy. If you are not in talk therapy now, it's a good idea to look into it. Depression can be caused by emotional issues you haven't confronted and/or experiences that may have shaped your perception of yourself (i.e., being bullied or abused as a child). Also, years of living with depression can create negative thought patterns that may have become habitual. Cognitive behavioral therapy is particularly helpful in this regard.
Boost Your Antidepressant's Effectiveness
As I discussed a few months ago, there is some evidence to suggest that folic acid supplements can boost the effectiveness of your antidepressant treatment. My own experience with taking folic acid has been positive. Check with your doctor first to ensure that it's safe for you to take folic acid and that it won't contraindicate with any prescription or over the counter medication or supplements you are taking.
In the next SharePost, I'll look at ways in which you can boost your immunity against depression. In the same way that flu vaccines don't always keep you from getting the flu, these aren't guarantees; just ways in which you can stack the deck in your favor.