Zara19

Anti-depressants and Grief.

34 posts in this topic

Hello

I lost my Husband 22 weeks ago and have previously declined medication but now my Dr thinks I should try PROZAC.  I have serious concerns regarding all mind altering drugs but in particular this one.  Does anyone have any first-hand experience they would be willing to share.

Thank you in advance.

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Zara,

Unless you had clinical depression before, you don't likely have it now.  Grief mimics depression but it's not the same root cause and so the "cure" for clinical depression is not appropriate for grief.  Better to see a professional grief counselor that is trained in grief than a medical doctor who is not.  Getting a sleep aid if needed can be of help, but to take something that alters your brain...I personally would not.
Although this article was written in the case of "loss of child" I believe it's applicable in "loss of partner" as well:
http://www.griefhealingblog.com/2009/11/interview-are-we-medicating-normal.html

Prozac is a pretty strong medication...

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Zara,

I respect the medical profession, and generally agree with what doctors have to say.  Having interacted with them as frequently as I have had to over the past years, I know they are not infallible.  Further when a doctor doesn't understand a situation, some of them jump immediately to medication.  I think it is their inner need to provide assistance that drives this, they did go to college and spend a whole lot of money to be in a profession that allows them to help people, so when they can't, they think maybe a pill can do it for them.

If you don't feel comfortable with the medication, I would let your doctor know if you haven't already, and seek alternative treatments.  As Kay mentioned, counseling or a sleep aid might be much more up the alley of what you are comfortable with.  Hoping you find the solution that works for you,

Herc

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They may have gone to college but it didn't include grief courses 101!  Most of them ARE too quick to "medicate" even when other options not only would be preferable, but way more appropriate!  Strong antidepressants to one who is not clinically depressed does more harm than good!  I worked for doctors...they aren't infallible.

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3 hours ago, Zara19 said:

Hello

I lost my Husband 22 weeks ago and have previously declined medication but now my Dr thinks I should try PROZAC.  I have serious concerns regarding all mind altering drugs but in particular this one.  Does anyone have any first-hand experience they would be willing to share.

Thank you in advance.

I agree with Herc.  Some doctor agree to easily to medicate you.  I felt my doctor was to eager to give me some medication for my grief.  I'm not nor ever have been a person who took medication for my ailments.  When I declined his offer, he told me if I needed it, he'd subscribe so for me.  I believe he had my best interest in mind, but  I just figured grief was something you go through and someday it would become bearable. If you do decide to take medication, be careful, you don't want it to become addicted.  Good luck

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Thank you all for the comments and to KayC for the very helpful link.

I don't like the idea of mind-altering drugs and I too thought Prozac was quite a strong drug. I think I have complicated grief, and I don't think anti-depressants will help with that one.  This is the fourth set of medications I have declined, starting off with Valium, Sertraline and Beta Blockers before the Prozac.  

I think the Drs may too be tiring of me.  Thanks again for responses.

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I have not taken meds so I cannot say for sure.. But knowing a doc, she's against a lot of those meds out there... just some input (vague, sorry). I understand your concern I would be hesitant as well.. unless I simply could not go on

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Thanks new133.  Your viewpoint is appreciated.  

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Zara19,

My wife had many of the anti depressants, mood stabilizing, psychotropic type medications, for many years. My advice, and it's just advice, is IF you feel like you need something, mild or otherwise, to help cope or just lessen the anxiety, I would seek the guidance of a psychiatrist, someone trained to understand and recognize your needs. Medical doctors do, in my limited experience, tend to want to "blindly" medicate "emotional problems", it's not in their daily wheel house. A psychiatrist can help you determine what's appropriate, if you even need anything, and can perhaps suggest grief counseling. Anyway, just my 2 cents based on YEARS of intimate experience. 

Love and strength, 

Andy

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Thanks so much for sharing your views Andy.  I do think counselling is preferable to mind altering drugs.  I'm not in my right mind as it is since losing my Husband in October so the last thing I need really is for it to be tampered with by drugs further.  Maybe I will seek advice from a specialist as you mention.  Peace and strength to you.

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19 hours ago, Zara19 said:

I think the Drs may too be tiring of me.

Hold your ground.  Ultimately, this is YOUR body, that gives you a vested interest.  At the end of the day, you have to do what you feel deep inside you is right for you.

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Thanks KayC your response is appreciated.

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Zara19----I feel for you. I also have been diagnosed with *complicated grief*. I was also labeled as having been too *co-dependent*  on my husband. WTF!!  When you become a caregiver of your spouse, how can you NOT become co-dependent?  I was told this by a grief counselor who has never been married or has had a long term relationship where she has lost a loved one. I resented the entire conversation and I refused chemical medication. I am currently using an herbal mix of lavender, lemon balm and passion flower. It doesn't provide complete relief but does take the edge off. I know it is going to take me a very long time to get myself back to a minimum degree of stability with this new reality that totally should not be happening. Like KayC said, we all have to do what we feel deep inside is right for us.

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KMB - Sorry you feeling so further distressed.  I told my Dr I thought I had "complicated" grief yesterday.  I'm sure of this and I just feel I don't know how to help myself at all.  I have never known despair like this.  I can understand why you are annoyed about the co-dependency comment.  

 

 

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13 hours ago, KMB said:

I was also labeled as having been too *co-dependent*  on my husband. WTF!!  When you become a caregiver of your spouse, how can you NOT become co-dependent?  I was told this by a grief counselor who has never been married or has had a long term relationship where she has lost a loved one. I resented the entire conversation and I refused chemical medication.

KMB,

I am so proud of you for knowing what is right and what is not and being strong enough to stand up to someone who should know better and in my opinion, abuses their authoritative power through their own ignorance of the subject.  I'm sorry, this "counselor" needs to go back to school!  I suppose anyone who has never been in a close loving relationship would view the rest of us as "codependent".  Whatever!  No wonder you resented the entire conversation, in my opinion you're due a refund for the session!  And I'm glad you refused medication, good grief!  (no pun intended)

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It may not mean much as I've always been very critical of doctors but to take mind altering drugs should be the last resort, when everything else fails. It's not something you just try to see if it works.
There are too many doctors who are way too careless with prescribing strong drugs without having equally strong evidence that it's the appropriate drug for that patient.

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Thank you for your input, KayC. It is this and a few other things that have me getting so angry lately. I didn't ask to be placed in this position of losing my husband and my husband struggled so hard to stay with me. People can be so unkind and ignorant. I have never treated anyone the way I am being treated by some now. It goes against what I have always believed in. Personally, if a grief counselor/.therapist hasn't gone through personal loss, they are in the wrong profession.

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Zara, 

It looks like I will be the minority opinion here, being a person who takes antidepressants and a chemist. 

Honestly, I was much like you when I began. I had never had to take antidepressants before and I waited until about 6 months in before I finally went to a doctor to talk about the possibility of taking anti-depressants. I didn't want to take them if it wasn't necessary. 
What I can tell you is that is has made a world of difference to me. KayC is right, you probably never needed medication before this traumatic event. However, it's important to take into account that your brain is not the same as it was before you lost your husband. For those who argue against anti-depressants because they are "mind-altering" drugs, I would encourage them to actually dig into the science behind depression and how antidepressants work. 

I wrote an essay on depression and antidepressants for my psychology class, which I have attached below if you care to read an introduction to the topic. 

Simply put, the loss of your husband and the subsequent grief of that loss has altered your brain chemistry already. Your brain is moving less of the neurotransmitters that induce happiness, motivation, concentration, etc. because it is keeping them within your neurons instead of sending them to other areas of the brain. 
Antidepressants allow your neurons to release more of the neurotransmitters when signaled, which helps to stabilize your mood. It does not take away the pain, sadness, or the actual depression. However, antidepressants do allow you to not dive too deeply into your depression. Essentially, it allows you to feel what you have to feel, but with less risk of falling into a clinical depression. 

What is important to keep in mind is that anyone experiencing depressive symptoms (as defined by the DSM-5) for more than 2 weeks has experienced a major depressive episode. Nearly everyone will experience one in their lifetime. Some episodes last for weeks, others for months, and other for years depending on a multitude of circumstances. In cases of major depression like ours, the depression will fade given time. It may take a lot of time, and that time will vary from person to person, but it does go away. 
There is no shame in giving your brain a bit of a boost so you can deal with your depression while still being able to somewhat deal with life as well. As I stated before, antidepressants do not take away your depression and they don't radically alter your mind. They simply balance out your neurotransmitter levels to give you some chemical balance again. 
You can certainly try other "herbal" remedies and the like, but it's all the same thing in the end. Herbal remedies only work because there are chemicals in the foods you are drinking/eating that interact with your brain chemistry in a similar manner. 

Any psychiatrist (and yes, you should see a psychiatrist for stuff like this, not your regular medical doctor) that is worth their salt will tell you that antidepressants should be done in combination with therapy/counseling.
Prozac is a stronger medication. If you aren't comfortable with that, talk to your doctor about other options (such as other selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or norepinephrine/dopamine reuptake inhibitors). Antidepressants are not a one size fits all, so finding the correct medication for you could some trial and error as well. 

Of course, the choice is all yours in the end. I can respect those who do not want to take medication. However, don't let that reason be because of the negative social stigma surrounding depression or your lack of knowledge in how depression and antidepressants work. 
All I can tell you is that taking antidepressants has helped me. It's allowed me to grieve without losing myself to it. It gave me back a tiny sliver of control over my own mental health. 
In the end, we are all just searching for a bit of relief. I sincerely hope that you find it. 

Final Essay.docx

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Claribassist13

Thank you so much for your insightful reply, it's so much appreciated.  I declined Sertraline and others but now at nearly 6 months I feel as though I am emotionally exhausted but Anti-depressants do frighten me. I will read your essay with interest and post a reply to you later.  Thanks.

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Claribassist13

I have just read your attachment, everything you have experienced I am struggling with even now after 6 months.  I have as good as withdrawn from everything and had desperate thoughts. I am totally disengaged and it impacts really badly on family members as well.Thanks so much for the wonderful information and Take Care.

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Zara, 

I'm glad I could give you some insight on a different perspective. 

In any case, no matter what you decide is best for you, you have support either way!

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claribassist13-----Thank you for sharing your essay. It is very well written an informative. I know I'm depressed and your essay confirms it. I live in an isolated area where there is no accessibility to grief professionals. There is a family counselor that holds sessions at a near by clinic, but only one day a week. She has no openings, but I don't feel that she would be the right person for me.Through research online, I came across e-counselors, where I can do counseling over the phone. I have to do more research and find out exactly how it works and the charges. I also have to find out if my health insurance would apply.

I know you are on your own grieving journey and I commend you for sharing. We need all the help and support we can get.

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The grief counselors I know do not recommend antidepressants to those who are grieving that did not need them before because the REASON for the depression is not chemically based.  What IS needed is learning to adjust to and cope with the changes in your life that this loss has made.  Seeing a grief counselor, reading articles and books on grief, going to a grief support group, on line grief forums, journaling, talking to people about your loved one and your loss, I even did art therapy!  There is much you can do to aid yourself through this process.  Antidepressants can mask your grief when what you need to do is work your way through it.  It can take someone experienced in grief, loss, and adjustment to help you through it, i.e., a professional grief counselor.

The following are articles on the subject from professional's points of view:
http://www.griefhealingblog.com/2009/11/interview-are-we-medicating-normal.html
http://www.opentohope.com/when-its-grief-not-depression/
http://www.griefhealingblog.com/2015/06/using-medication-to-manage-grief.html

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37 minutes ago, KayC said:

The grief counselors I know do not recommend antidepressants to those who are grieving that did not need them before because the REASON for the depression is not chemically based.  

 

KayC, that statement is entirely inaccurate. 

While the reasons for the chemical imbalance can differ from person to person (such as grief, genetics, etc.), depression is the result of a chemical imbalance within the brain. This is something that has been well-studied and is widely accepted. When faced with a traumatic event the brain will alter your neurotransmitter levels to essentially slow you down so that your brain can process the events and work on healing you. This allows your brain to deal with all of that while not having to worry about your making harmful/impactful decisions. Depression is essentially forcing you to slow down so you take the time to process things. 

The articles you have attached discuss the finer points between diagnosing different forms of depression. Yes, clinical depression is much different from major depression. Clinical depression is typically genetic or long-term. Major depression can occur as a result of a loss of loved one, negative intrapersonal views, etc.  Most people will experience major depression within their lifetime and medication is usually not required to treat it. It is something that fades on its own with time. 

I do agree with you, and the articles you posted, that those looking to take antidepressants should try counseling and other support systems first. You need to go through your grief and you need to process that. However, if your brain is not altering your chemical levels back to what was "normal" then you are left with people who are unable to face their grief or deal with it in a healthy manner due to the fact that they simply cannot get out of bed, etc. 
All antidepressants do is help your brain regain it's normal neurotransmitter levels. 

And you are absolutely right in the fact that it is common to be overmedicated. That is not helpful either for the reasons that you pointed out. However, this is why you should be seeing a psychiatrist for this. You likely won't find the right medication right away and it can time to find the proper dosage. I met with my psychiatrist every month until we found what worked well for me.
Along with that, any psychiatrist who is any good at their job will ask your several questions along the lines of what other treatment you have received, if you are going to counseling, etc. Any good psychiatrist understands and values a multi-faceted approach to treatment.

Your advice is so spot on, KayC. I really do agree with most of what you said, and I hope you don't take this post as any sort of an attack on what you said. I just hate to see misinformation on antidepressants/depression. As a chemist and as someone who has done extensive research on the subject, I just want to share what I know.
In the end, if the treatment works for you then that is what you need to do. There are many, many ways to get to the same end result.     

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