I can't tell you how many times I've kept my mouth shut as I've even listened to my own friends rail against antidepressants.
The stigma of antidepressants was so deeply ingrained in my brain that I refused to take them, and instead, I chose to suffer from an unshakeable sadness that destroyed half of my 20s.
Finally, after a breakdown, I saw an amazing doctor who explained to me that depression is a real illness.
"You wouldn't shame a person with a physical illness for taking medication, so why do we shame people with mental illness for taking a medication that could potentially save their lives?" the doctor gently asked me, as she wrote me a prescription for Lexapro.
(Lexapro is an antidepressant known as a SSRI, which is said to increase the levels of a serotonin in your brain and, in turn , elevate your mood).
I begrudgingly took the medication, and after about two weeks, I began to see a tiny beam of light gleaming at the end of the tunnel.
After three months, I couldn't believe I had let myself live in such darkness for so long.
I'm in no way trying to push a pro-medication agenda onto any of you.
Popping pills alone is definitely not going to heal the gaping wounds of trauma or piece together a broken heart.
And heck, if you can work your way through the darkness with meditation and talk therapy, kudos to you. Seriously.
However, if you're out there and you're reading this and you've done all the yoga and all the therapy in the world, and you still feel like you're living beneath a dark veil of gloom and doom every day of your life, you're not alone.
I see you, and I am you.
I'm not a doctor. I'm not a shrink or even a counselor, but I am a real girl whose life drastically improved when she started taking antidepressants.
So, shut out the noise and screw the stigma. The only person who knows what's right for you is you and your doctor, babes.
When I was wildly depressed, I felt so isolated in my illness that I was desperate to hear real people speak honestly about what worked for them.
Medication worked for me. And here are some signs — learned through my own personal experience — that taking meds might be something to consider.
1. You've been in therapy for a long time and you don't feel an ounce better.
Therapy is by far the best investment I've made in my entire life.
But do you want to hear something crazy?
Therapy didn't work for me at all for several years. I would force myself to go, week after week.
While the advice my lovely therapist gave me made sense intellectually, I was completely unable to absorb it on a visceral level.
I was unresponsive to therapy until I started taking Lexapro. My depression was physiological; it was in the body.
No amount of talk therapy was able to balance out my great chemical imbalance.
Once I started taking Lexapro, I couldn't believe the dramatic shift I felt inside of myself. I felt physically lighter on my feet. My head stopped hurting all the time.
And the best part?
With the right amount of serotonin swishing through my brain, I was able to digest what the therapist was saying in a deep, visceral way.
I was finally able to actively utilize all the awesome tools she had been trying to teach me for years.
So if you've been in therapy a long time and you don't feel a trace better, maybe it's time to think about medication...
...with this caveat: Once you start taking the meds and you start feeling human again, don't ditch your therapist.
If you're taking medication, it's super important to be consistently seeing a therapist to ensure you're not just sticking a Band-Aid over your issues.
So many people stop going to therapy when they start taking antidepressants because they feel so much better, and they don't think they need it anymore.
This is when you need therapy the most.
This is when you're in a stable enough place to really dig deep and get to know yourself!
So, here is my official big sister PSA: Don't ditch your therapist when the meds kick in. OK?
2. The things that used to bring you joy don't give you an ounce of pleasure anymore.
I knew I needed chemical help when I began to hate getting dressed up in the morning.
Fashion has been my greatest outlet since I was a kid, and my depression robbed me of the joy dressing up had once given me.
When I went on antidepressants, I remembered how much I loved using fashion, jewelry and makeup as creative expression.
Rediscovering my joy of fashion reminded me of who I was.
So if you're a person who loves walking the dog at sunset, singing on stage or running late at night when it's nice and cool outside, and now all of that seems like one tiresome, joyless chore, it might be a sign the depression you're experiencing needs medical attention.
3. Yoga, meditation and exercise are not clicking.
If you've been dutifully meditating, working out and spending heaps of money per week on yoga classes, and you still don't feel remotely better, don't be ashamed, kitten.
Would you tell a diabetic they should meditate their way out of their diabetes? No.
That being said, now that I do take meds, the yoga and the meditation really work!
Meds don't magically solve all of your problems; they're just one coping mechanism in your mental health toolbox.
You need to do the whole self-care routine when you have a mental illness because everything works in conjunction with one another.
For me, I need the yoga, the exercise, the mindfulness and the medication. For me, doing just one isn't strong enough on its own.
4. You're having tortured, tormented thoughts you can't control.
A lot of people with depression and mental illness suffer from "chronic unwanted thoughts."
For years, I had the darkest thoughts and most disturbing images playing on repeat in my brain all the time.
An image of an abused animal would get stuck in my head for months.
Certain textures would trigger disturbing feelings, too. I couldn't even look at tinfoil without wanting to crawl out of my skin.
When I finally broke down to a doctor, she told me that these were symptoms of OCD and that it wasn't my fault. Antidepressants could help.
I felt so relieved that I wanted to hug her. And while it's still something I struggle with, the antidepressants have helped immensely.
So if you're experiencing something like this, I don't want you to feel ashamed that you can't control it.
It's a condition lots of people suffer from — and lots of people have found relief from — with the right medication.
5. You can't imagine going on like this.
When you get to the place where you truly can't imagine living the rest of your life in this kind of agony, where breathing feels painful, it might be time to try antidepressants.
Even if your depression is rooted in trauma, like mine partially is.
I couldn't even confront the trauma I had experienced before I started taking antidepressants.
I was too deep in the sadness, and I wasn't able to look at my life from a distance and analyze what was causing me so much pain.
When I finally went on Lexapro, I was finally able to get to work and dig up the deep-rooted issues that had been holding me back.
Again, this is just my experience. Medication saved my life.
But, that's just my story. Yours might be totally different.
We're all wired so differently that it's crazy to think that ONE thing will work for everyone.
So, let go of the stigma about mental illness, antidepressants, therapy, whatever.
You're not weak. It's not in your control. And babes, you're definitely not alone.
About 43.8 million Americans experience mental illness.
So, release yourself from the shackles of shame.
I think we should be proud of our struggles. They've made us the multifaceted, amazing individuals we are today.
They're a testament to our strength and taught us that we can survive.