To medicate or to not medicate, that is the question.
Today I want to discuss the topic of medication for anxiety/depression/OCD to hopefully help those of you struggling with this hard decision.
*I am not a doctor. I am just someone who God brought through debilitating OCD with the blessing of counseling and medication. I am sharing my experience for those of you who are either afraid of medication or have fallen victim to the stigma of it.
First, let’s talk about why the decision to take antidepressants is such a hard one to make. One big reason is the stigma given by the ignorant. People have a really hard time identifying with things they haven’t experienced and often times dangerously discredit them. Another reason is that OCD is so darn deceiving making us who suffer from it think we don’t need medication. I refused to take medicine for far too long because I figured “I thought myself into this. I can think myself out.” I believed this because my disorder did not make itself known until I experienced hormonal changes and then trauma in my life. Unaware that hormones played a role (or that I even had OCD for that matter) I believed it was the trauma that caused the intrusive thoughts and feelings so I could definitely just get counseling, talk it through, and eventually they would go away. When they didn’t, it was really helpful to learn that the disorder is genetic. The OCD was there my whole life and the traumas and hormonal changes only caused “flare-ups”. These genetic predispositions are the same ones that keep the alcoholic coming back to the bottle when someone else can have one drink, or why the person who eats right and exercises every day dies at forty of cancer while the smoker lives to ninety.
I am a Christian and I have OCD. I want you to know that you can be a Christian, love the Lord your God, and still suffer from mental illness. This doesn’t mean that your heart is in the wrong place, but it does mean that it is time to draw more near to the Lord than ever.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16
This is a fallen world. God has so graciously saved us from death by sending His son in our place. But here, we are being sanctified. Christ has not only saved us from the grave but also refines us to be more like Him! Refinement is not a pleasant experience, guys.
And I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call upon my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘They are my people’; and they will say, ‘The LORD is my God.’” Zechariah 13:9
And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.
1 Peter 5:10
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4
Most of us consider diseases, birth defects, and disabilities trials but for some reason have a hard time even crediting mental illness as an actual problem though suicide is the leading cause of death in the U.S. And in case you read the previous sentence and think this it is just a western issue, it’s not. We are just the most open about it. Look it up.
When we have a loved one who has cancer, we thank God for chemotherapy and we pray that He heals them through it. When a loved one has a heart condition, we thank the Lord for doctors and surgery and stints. Sure, God can certainly heal miraculously and sometimes does but usually, He draws it out for a purpose.
No discipline seems enjoyable at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it yields a peaceful harvest of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12:11
If you read this blog, you know I can attest to this. No, I did not enjoy going through the torture of mental illness but I can without a doubt say that if I hadn’t suffered for the duration that I did, I would not be as thankful for Christ as I am, I would not feel as loved by God as I do, and I would not have nearly as much knowledge about OCD to help others who are suffering. The LORD is my God.
Bottom line, if you are being torturously attacked by your mind, I am here to tell you that medication, my friends, is a blessing from the Lord and do not let anyone tell you otherwise.
Now onto what medication will and won’t do for you.
Medication WILL…Dramatically Reduce The Fear
You can read in this post and this post about the nature of OCD. In short, all people, OCD or not, have weird thoughts that sporadically pop into our brains. The difference for the OCD sufferer is that there is an intense fear response that arises afterward “warning” us that we need to pay attention to them when we really don’t. For me, medication dramatically lessened these feelings of fear so that I could finally take my thoughts captive and examine them.
Medication WILL NOT…Heal You
If you have OCD and only take medication without receiving any therapy, you will likely not get better. For me and many others, it is the mix of medication and therapy that led to success. My counselor says you can’t run a race without your shoes. Medication is your shoes. It brings you to a point where you can actually do the work toward lasting success.
Medication WILL… Help Other Things Too
It wasn’t until my chemical imbalance was balanced that I realized how many things were affected by OCD.
Medication WILL NOT…Make the Thoughts Go Away
Not a bad thing! And please don’t stop reading. The next one will be even better news. I know this sounds really terrible for those of you who are currently being tortured by your thoughts but I promise it’s not. Remember, it’s your response to the thoughts that is the issue here. Everyone has strange thoughts but not everyone has loud warnings in their minds begging them to pay attention. If the thoughts weren’t scary, they wouldn’t be scary, would they? But read on!
Medication WILL…Quiet the Noise
Medication will drastically quiet the noise. The incessant intrusive thoughts that beat their way through your brain day in and day out will be much less intense. Thank God for antidepressants.
Medication WILL…Likely Have Side Effects
Just as with most medications, antidepressants are no different. For me, the good FAR outweighed the bad. It is just important to keep in mind that it takes these drugs a few good weeks for the therapeutic benefits to kick in so try your best to be patient.
I hope you are well but if you aren’t please do not be afraid to take the help that is available to us. If you are currently suffering, please know that peace is so very possible. Do not let a stigma keep you from it.
Any brave souls want to share their medication before and after stories? 🙂