Why Anti-Depressants & Medication Is Not Always The Answer!

Do you ever feel like an extra on The Walking Dead? Or the pills you’re popping is just numbing your brain to silence the pain? Doctors are often too quick to subscribe medication and it isn’t always the answer. Besides adverse side effects and adaptation, you patiently wait to see what benefits it actually has.

I’ve been prescribed medication on three occasions. The first time was when I was 18 years old and I had began to start putting on weight. I took them for four days before I decided it was a pointless exercise, as I didn’t feel any different and at that age you’re pretty impatient. The second time was before I started a new job and I was concerned about my trouble with sleeping however, I didn’t want to risk feeling ‘out of it’ during my probation stage so I just dumped them. Finally, the last time I was prescribed medication was when I was 21 years old and my anxiety was at it’s peak.

I was taking the medication on a regular basis and I informed my employer. The side effects of the medication were most common ones such as hallucinations, nightmares, tiredness, loss of appetite and even suicidal thoughts. Between November 2015 and January 2016, I slowly drifted into a zombie-like-state and instead of feeling upset, I wasn’t feeling anything. This became the problem because rather than feeling happy or upset, I barely felt any emotion and instead I just existed in a state of what I would describe to be an awakened coma. I was awake but not alert. My presence was in a deep sleep.

After I attempted to commit suicide, I was advised by my doctor to stop taking the pills. I wasn’t weaned off like most and instead went straight off them. I became a bit rattled at this stage, with phases of excitement and other times exhaustion. If I had been on them as long as most then I think I would of reacted far worse.

I haven’t touched medication since and I firmly believe that psychology was a far more effective treatment. Instead of subduing the feelings, I was able to open them up and explore them, with expert guidance and practical advice. Instead of fighting my anxiety, I was understanding it and we all know knowledge is key.

In some cases, not taking medication isn’t always the solution and I would always advise doing what is comfortable for you. Severe depression (which I did not consider myself to have), schizophrenia, psychosis, personality disorders and other complex illnesses can become dangerous if they aren’t controlled. I’m referring to the average patient who suffers with depression or anxiety.

The problem with medication is that it doesn’t always help you progress or recover. You can often become dependant on medication and it becomes very hard to ever get out of that cycle. Popping pills, numbing the emotions and carrying on. It can often lead to a miserable shell-like existence.

Most of us who feel depressed or anxious, seek an answer or solution. We can’t cure it but we want to be in control of it but you can’t control something you have no understanding of.

So why do doctors prescribe medication so quick? Often, once adapted to, medication can help balance the chemicals in the brain and this is the purpose of them. They don’t, in my opinion, have the time or resources to explore alternatives and this is why people can be referred to a specialist. However an article in the Huffington Post warned GPs were too quick to prescribe medication and other options, such as recommending exercise should be explored more.

Medication may help you balance the brain and feel more stable but do you really want to depend on it long term, if there are other possible solutions? All you are doing is subduing the emotion but you are not always dealing with the issue.

I would recommend that anybody who goes to speak to their doctor about how they are feeling, make an effort to encourage their doctor to explore other alternatives and options, as opposed to just going on medication. For some cases, medication is necessary but if you’re one of the fortunate ones who may not need it, then consider your options.

I found learning, educating myself, reflecting and understanding the events and factors that led to my mind set was the best way to take steps towards a more positive change.

As always, I am not a doctor and this is not medical advice. This is just my opinion and if you are currently taking medication then I hope it is helping you in the best way possible. If anyone has a story, advice or opinions to share then feel free to contact me directly or comment below.

Thank you for reading!

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The 3 Main Stress Factors & Ways To Manage Them

There are countless studies, scientific tests and medical theories on stress and you only need to search Google to find them. Often we can find ourselves reading into these and stressing out over the root causes and how to fix them.

This article should not at all be taken as medical advice or scientifically proven evidence, but if you’ve ever wanted to identify the main stress factors and consider ways to manage those levels then this may be something to try out.

This of course is my own theory on stress levels and it is something that I try and live by. So let’s get to it:

1. Normal Stress

Normal Stress is exactly what it says on the label. It’s normal and it’s something everyone experiences almost on a daily basis. It’s a fact of life we cannot avoid but I find it comforting when I tell myself this as it helps me stop from overthinking it or looking too deep into it. Normal Stress is something we experience when we’re running behind on our schedule, we need to be in two places at once or perhaps we have more paper work on our desk then we would desire on a Monday.

The fact of this is it is unavoidable and we need to take this as it comes at us. Often it is caused when we are caught off guard or we are dealing with something unfamiliar. Our brains don’t like it because it disrupts the status quo. This stress will probably be much more difficult for people with learning difficulties and conditions like autism, as they often like to maintain a particular routine. But it is okay and we need to remember that.

Normal Stress can be caused by many events and especially in the adult world when it comes to falling out with friends or even ensuring we have enough in our accounts to pay for a bill. It can be challenging to maintain ourselves but it is important to combat this stress and some of my favourite methods include:

  • Prioritising what is causing me the most stress and dealing with it as soon as possible. The quicker it’s done the better the relief.
  • Financially – try and resist the urge to invest in something that may temporarily be great but will make your month or even year harder. I still make this mistake today and that’s because we’re human and we like to occupy ourselves but if you are about to spend £60.00 on a night out, when you could save it for something more important then why worsen your situation when you could make it better? Spend your money when it’s worthwhile (I am still practicing this and its even harder when living abroad on a rep wage).
  • Admit mistakes and ask for help – if you’ve cocked up at work and it’s out of your hands then this situation will only escalate. If you have too much to do in one day and your manager is asking you if you can finish it by 5pm then be realistic with your limitations. You won’t be fired for saying no and you will likely benefit from learning where you went wrong.
  • The most important one – remind yourself that this is normal and accept it as it is. A mind can focus when it’s thinking more clearly and realistically.

2. Positive Stress

This one is my favourite and for good reason. No one would ever have expected ‘positive’ and ‘stress’ to be in the same sentence.

Positive Stress is something I think we experience when we are working towards something positive. When we are being productive. The end goal is going to benefit YOU. Whether this is emotionally, physically, financially or in terms of career.

Perhaps you are setting up your own business, building that six pack, setting your eyes on that promotion or even saving towards a new home. Whatever it is, what we desire or want to achieve will often leave us in situations that require us to work hard, under pressure, to deadlines or to the max of our limits. At the end of the day, you will be left with a productive and rewarding feeling that motivates us more and more.

However, Positive Stress is like drinking. Sure, one or two pints of the finest ale or lager can be quite refreshing but sometimes we want more and then boom – next thing you know, you’re face first on the floor and you’re left with a banging hangover that wipes you out for days. You get the picture folks.

So how do we ensure our Positive Stress isn’t overwhelming us? Here are my own personal tips:

  • Again, be realistic and manage your expectations and limitations. Do as much as you can with what you can but don’t fill up the glass to the brim as you might just spill it.
  • Take breaks to refresh yourself. This is a good opportunity to reflect on what you’ve achieved so far and you’ll find distance makes the heart grow fonder. Treat it like the person you want to date. If you’re overly keen then it will go tits up. Your motivation will soon force you back into it.
  • Take your time and do everything in your own pace. If you want to stay out till 4.00am then starting jagermeisters at 4.00pm is not going to be a good idea and you will soon trip up (okay, enough with the drink references). To avoid mistakes or a clash in your progress, take your time and aim to get it right.
  • Make sure your wants don’t prioritise your needs. Hard work is needed but ensuring you’re sleeping, eating and keeping in line with other commitments will help you avoid unnecessary stress. This will also develop you and benefit you in your pursuits of ambition too.

3. Negative Stress

The ultimate weapon of self destruction and the stress factor you want to avoid like the plague. Negative Stress is caused when any of the above factors, whether combined or alone, overwhelm you to a point in which you stop focusing on the objective and start focusing on yourself.. and not in a good way. It’s the factor that causes you to doubt, overly-criticise and sometimes hate yourself because you feel like a failure. This is the kind of factor that leads down darker routes of depression, anxiety and even suicide. It quickly turns from stress to distress.

You may be focusing so hard on a business start up that you’ve plunged yourself into uncontrollable debt. You may be telling yourself that three days at the gym in a week isn’t good enough and start despising yourself. I’m not saying don’t work hard because hard work is everything but so is balance and that is more important sometimes.

And if someone is able to manage more than you at one time then don’t allow that to defeat you. It doesn’t matter how fast you run a marathon as long as you can finish the race.

You ideally wish to avoid Negative Stress but that’s not always possible. My only tip for this is what I’ve tried and done – you need to take a step back, look at your circumstances and realise what is making you unhappy. This requires true honesty and time.

Once you have identified the problem. Ask yourself; “Can I fix it?”

99% of the time, the answer is yes. I quit an £18,000 job for a very low paying one. That’s not possible for everyone but I firmly believe there is always something you can change in your life to help your situation.

If your answer is no, then you need to accept that it is not within your control and move forward to bring in additional changes that will make life that little bit more simple.

Whatever factor above you experience – never allow it to consume you and accept that we will all encounter stress, even the happiest or wealthiest of people.

If you have any tips or your own personal stories then please submit them to me or comment on this post. Alternatively, I hope this post helps and I would love to hear from you.

– Tommy Dunn