Found you through kiva.org, saw your blog and had to respond.
Clinical depression is our family’s genetic heritage so I have experience with it from several vantage points. I’m always amazed at how some people identify so closely with their condition as to think medication will make them not themselves. My father was less himself on his medications in the 1970’s and 80’s because, I think, they resembled nothing so much as Valium, but the drugs are far better today.
For me, diagnosed and treated in the ’90s, I returned to myself with Prozac, back from the exhausted young mother, unable to problem solve. My sons at various points have needed medication. It help one son be himself, the young pillar of his church, competitive player of both bridge and Magic–the Gathering, and bass singer, not the much more common type of young man: social isolate, video game addict, junk food junkie, one who couldn’t pass his math courses, couldn’t even go to math class (Despite the 780 on SAT Math). The other son on medication is fond of sports, does well in school, has lots of friends, and takes initiative to get the oil changed in his mom’s car. Without it, he was more like a stereotype; angry, drug-abusing, lonely, and self-destructive.
As for safety, antidepressants are associated with suicide because 1) they are prescribed for suicidal people (Insulin is associated with diabetic coma for the same reason) and 2) at the very bottom of the pit a depressed person can’t make a plan and carry it out. On the way up or down, they can so those are the most dangerous moments. And, remember, eventually depressives will come up on their own without medication or supervision.
For all four of us, even my dad, depression robbed us of our unique “non normal” qualities long before medication was even considered. Beyond the efforts to hold onto our particular personalities, however, medication allows us to hold onto our lives. Most people will eventually recover from depression “flare,” I think two years is the normal period in the pit without medication or treatment. Problem is that 20% of people never get out because they die there of suicide or poor judgment. Did you know that depression impairs your judgment? Just as grief impairs a widow’s so she’s told not to sell the family home or business for at least a year.
It has long term negative effects on your ability to form new memories, too, because lack of serotonin makes the hippocampus shrink. Without medication, you could forget what your own “normal” is like. I almost had.