The price of happiness

Published January 7, 2010 by Syllable

Happiness – like most emotions it is almost impossible to describe it in simple terms. Words fail, reasoning about the feeling fail and my happiness is different from your happiness. Probably. Mine is chemically enhanced. Then again, yours might be too.

A couple of decades ago depression was not considered a serious medical condition, and much like AIDS is now, the disease was stigmatised and people didn’t want to admit they had it. As a result people were less likely to ask for help. Maybe we have Hollywood to thank for ‘glamorising’ depression, but at the same time celebrity hype has often caused people to not be taken seriously. In a technological age where everything happens faster and more intensely, stress is a very real factor and great contributor to depression.

Similar to happiness coming in different forms, so too does depression. The value of therapy for anyone feeling like they may be depressed cannot be stressed enough. Not only does it help determine whether you’re actually depressed or just feeling a little down, it can also help you discover what kind of depression, the cause of the depression and how to approach the problem. Often people think you simply state your problem and the therapist gives you the answers, but life is not that simple.

With the guidance of a (good) therapist you will learn how to cope with the issues at the root of your depression, and how to apply the coping skills when a similar situation arises. Of course, considering the role genetics play, talking about what makes you feel blue is often not enough. In some cases it may be necessary to use antidepressants in conjunction with therapy.

Generally medical aids will not pay for extended periods of therapy or antidepressants. On certain plans antidepressants can be registered as chronic medication, but that usually only applies to the more expensive plans. If you consider that money – directly or otherwise – is frequently a large contributing factor to depression, paying a sizeable amount of money for medical aid, more for therapy and more still for medication, it is clear that the financial cost alone is enough to drive you to a downward spiral.

With the help of therapy I’ve come I long way over the last decade. Emotionally I’ve never been better than I am now, and I’m paying for it daily. The side effects I have to deal with as a result of my medication, include: nausea, drowsiness, dry mouth, dizziness, insomnia, fatigue, runny nose, sweating, decreased libido, tremors, frequent urination, blurred vision, agitation, hot flashes, yawning, abdominal pain, gas, chills, heartburn, muscle spasm, abnormal dreams, restlessness, hypoglycaemia and itching. This can be very uncomfortable and at times quite embarrassing, but it is the price of being able to get out of bed and face the day, despite feeling tired from interrupted sleep; for keeping my head high and my emotions (and tears) at bay when facing a difficult situation; for having hope for the future.

Like many medicated people living with depression I’ve often wondered if it is worth it; I’ve wondered if I’d be able to cope without it. Maybe one day. When I’ve managed to change my focus (with the help of therapy) and my circumstances (through action). Many people are opposed to antidepressants, because it does create a dependency. If that is the case, I’m opposed to heart transplants – recipients become dependent on the donor heart. It’s simple – modern medicine can help people with various problems live a fuller life. Or rather, live life at all. And for that I’ll happily hand over my money and a night of peaceful sleep.

I’m coping, and although my life is far from what I would consider ideal, I am happy. It may just be the drugs talking, but that’s good enough for me right now.

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5 comments on “The price of happiness

  • “Many people are opposed to antidepressants, because it does create a dependency. If that is the case, I’m opposed to heart transplants – recipients become dependent on the donor heart.” – I love this analogy. It is so true.
    Well done for speaking out. I too will fork over money for medical aid, therapy and happy pills no matter what the cost, I like who I am now and the people around me dont want to have me commited! All in all very worth the expense!

  • I’ve been on medication for depression since 1993 and repeated attempts to stop taken it have all resulted in failure. So I’m starting to accept that I may never be able to be free from medication – but what grates me is the number of people who presume to tell me that I shouldn’t be taking pills, that my expectations are too high, or I should find happiness within myself blah blah. Somehow, depression is like obesity in that others assume that one has some kind of control over one’s condition, that depression is evidence of weakness (and that they have a right to offer an opinion on the matter). And I’d rather have the side effects of the pills than trudge through the awful bleakness of depression any day.

    • I know about *those* people. No two people experience any situation in the same way. Until you have walked a mile in my shoes with my emotions in my circumstances, keep your mouth off me and what YOU think I should do.

      Often they also suggest all these things you should try – money is a big concern of mine – so I’m told to save. I mean, gee, why didn’t I think of that! So yes, I totally feel you.

      • Ugh I couldn’t agree more. If I could just SNAP OUT OF IT then I *WOULD*. argh!

        And don’t get me started on obesity. I can’t stand how judgemental people can be about it, or the complete lack of sensitivity on the matter. It is a medical condition, categorized by insensitivity to high amounts of circulating leptin in the bloodstream, a reduced level of dopamine receptors in the dorsal striata of the brain, and imbalances of dopamine in the nucleus accumbens.

        fMRIs show the same physical alterations in bloodflow in the brains of overeaters and obese people when they contemplate food as crack/tik addicts do when contemplating getting high. There is more physiological evidence of a physical condition identifiable as obesity than there is of chronic fatigue, and yet it is hardly ever recognized as so.

        gosh that is my pet peeve! #rant

  • I think the only people opposed to treating depression chemically as opposed to talk therapy are those who’ve never had the misfortune of experiencing depression firsthand.

    It’s not a copout or the “easy” way out whatoever to take medication for depression, in fact it is the more courageous approach because it means that through your current situation you are still able to admit there is a problem and do the “unpopular” thing to rectify that problem.

    Besides, not taking advantage of what modern medice has to offer to treat your condition is plain illogical. Why is depression any less worthy of chemical treatment than for e.g. an infection, high cholesterol or cancer? Because it’s considered a “mental” condition? So is Schizophrenia, Bipolar disorder, etc, all of which have credible and established medical therapies.

    Nah, I’ve taken antidepressants before, if I need to I will take them again, Tom Cruise be damned.

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