By Katie Butler
I recently stumbled upon an article “Why Antidepressants Don’t Work for Treating Depression.” Intrigued, I decided to read further. The article was written by Mark Hyman, MD, meaning this man has a medical degree and should be able to spew some sort of well-researched, intelligent evidence for his claim. As a 10-time No. 1 New York Times bestselling author, practicing family physician, founder and medical director of The UltraWellness Center, chairman of the board of the Institute for Functional Medicine, a medical editor of The Huffington Post and regular medical contributor on many television shows including “CBS This Morning,” “The Today Show,” “Good Morning America,” “The View,” “Katie” and “The Dr. Oz Show,” most would think he should have the cure to cancer by now, or at least know what he was talking about regarding antidepressants.
Dr. Hyman explained that depression is “simply a label we give to people that have a depressed mood most of the time,” and that while antidepressants don’t work, there are holistic ways to fight depression, such as taking vitamin D and eating omega-3 fats. Most hippie-guru health nuts probably think this is a good way to combat a medical imbalance in the brain other than feeding money to drug companies; so does Dr. Hyman.
I finished the article with a smirk. Maybe when I was thinking of killing myself, I should have just taken some vitamin D!
I’ll be the first to say that antidepressants don’t work for everyone; everyone’s case is different and treatment involves a variety of steps and trials. But telling someone who is depressed (which isn’t just a label for people who feel sad sometimes), to go eat some oily fish and exercise more is like telling a cancer patient to eat more vegetables: ignorant.
Depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain, yet it is much more complex than that. For me, it involved frequent panic attacks, not wanting to get out of bed, extreme weight loss, and the disappearance of love for life, friends and things that once brought me joy. Depression sucks any source of hope straight out of you, convincing you nothing will get better and that life is not worth living. So, Dr. Hyman, maybe I should have just gone on a run.
I never tried to, but I thought about how I would kill myself. Maybe pills? I wasn’t brave enough to hurt myself. Some mornings I would dig my nails into my palms so hard that blood would poke through the skin, but that’s as far as it ever got. For me, it was a breakup and an emotionally abusive friend who caused my depression, along with undiagnosed anxiety. For millions of other people, it is something else. You mean to tell me that eating an anti-inflammatory diet could have cured all of us? Wow, that’s two years of my life I could have gotten back if I had just laid off the fries!
I was depressed from late 2013 until the spring of 2015. I lived every day just waiting to fall asleep again because it was all too much. I attended therapy for a year, unmedicated, with no progress. The only reason I’m here today is because my doctor was smart enough to put me on an antidepressant.
Though many effective antidepressants exist that work differently for everyone, Prozac is the one that worked for me. Prozac is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, medically named fluoxetine. It helps the nerve cells in my nervous system restore a chemical balance in my brain. I wonder if more vitamin B12 could do that too.
Without Prozac, I wouldn’t be on this earth. I would have been long gone. I’m graduating college because of an antidepressant. I am at a healthy weight now because of an antidepressant. I wake up in the morning looking forward to the future because of an antidepressant. I have panic attacks three times a year instead of three times a day because of an antidepressant. I laugh because of an antidepressant. I am successful because of an antidepressant. I take an antidepressant to have a shot at life; before, I had none.
So Dr. Hyman—you can keep your anti-inflammatory diets and your omegas and your vitamins and your exercise routines. Because if I had done it your way, I wouldn’t be here to tell you that you’re wrong.