(Disclaimer - This is not a sponsored post, everything stated is my own opinion or stemming from my own experiences)

(In all honesty, I am really struggling to press "post". Please keep all comments positive, I can't express enough how damaging some comments can be on this matter - regardless it is so important to discuss it and destroy the taboo surrounding mental illnesses)

It took me nearly 3 years to admit to myself that I was depressed. When it all began I was 16 and didn't know what was happening to me, I thought I was broken, I would look at people being so effortlessly happy and wonder what I was doing wrong - no one talked about mental illness, so I didn't talk to anyone about it either. I saw countless therapists who tiptoed around words like "anxiety" and "overwhelmed", without really telling me what was wrong. I lost friends and pushed people away, until I finally did something about it. I went to the doctors on campus, saw the most spectacular doctor who spoke the words that had been lingering in my head for years; "you are depressed". Not "hormonal", not "suffering from a phase", not "being dramatic/a drama queen". Depressed. And in all honesty they were the greatest words that I had heard in a long time while suffering from the illness. She empathised, she told me that I had done well to have coped for this long on my own, she told me that I was brave to ask for help and, most importantly, she told me that I had the strength to beat it.

Some of you may be wondering why I was so glad to be told that I was depressed, it is a rather odd reaction to have thinking about it. But once you are diagnosed, you can be helped. And to me, that was the first step to overcoming it.

So, to the point of the blog post - what is the deal with antidepressants?

Immediately she put me on Propranolol, which is a tablet used for many illnesses from high blood pressure to an irregular heart rate. It is used to calm your body down, and in regards to anxiety it counteracts your bodies reaction to panicking. This worked really well and took my anxiety levels down a lot, preventing me from experiencing symptoms like hyperventilating and panic attacks.

However, I had always used my anxiety as a way to mask the depression, and now that it had been lifted a little it became glaringly obvious how much I was really suffering. Cue the 'terrible week of tears and loneliness'.  So I went back to the same doctor and told her what was happening, and she then persuaded me to start taking antidepressants as well as anti-anxiety.

You may be thinking, "but Megan, why didn't you just go on antidepressants in the first place?", and to that I say because I was scared. A lot of my family had suffered from mental illness, the whole process of taking tablets and struggling with bad days wasn't new to me, but to start taking tablets myself felt like admitting defeat (stupid and completely irrational of me I know). It scared me to have to rely on tablets, and it made me feel like I couldn't cope on my own, but again my doctor was incredibly helpful and told me that it wasn't a bad thing to ask for help. She told me to think of it this way:

If someone had broken their leg, they would go to the doctors and to have it wrapped up until it healed. No one would say "you will be fine just walk it off!!" or "I think you're just being dramatic, surely you can heal on your own?". And certainly no one would expect them to run a mile on it. It is the same with mental illness. It is okay to ask for help, you are not expected to overcome it on your own, and if you are having a bad day it is important to let yourself rest and stop pushing yourself further.

So I agreed to the anti-depressants, and she put me on Sertraline. The doctor assured me that she wouldn't let me become addicted, which was another worry. I went back to my accommodation, and took my first tablet. Now, she did warn me of a few side effects that would take effect immediately, and without being too graphic I did have to visit the toilet a few times after I took it, but that didn't last too long and it strangely seemed to lighten the mood with the toilet humour jokes I endured for the next few days! Another side effect was vivid dreams, which weren't too bad and didn't stop me from sleeping.

The people around me were spectacular, supportive and comforting even though I wasn't the nicest person to be around. There were a lot of tears and irrational worries, but there was also a lot of chocolate consumed and hugs given which made things easier. My friends and family were saints, and I can never thank them enough for taking it seriously.

Two weeks later, and I couldn't believe how good I was feeling. It was like I was a new person, the person that I wanted to be, happy, funny, confident - I loved her, for the first time in a long time I started to like myself. The tablets had worked, and as I am writing this I am in the process of coming off them. Not to tempt fate, but right now I may even be (nearly) depression free. There are still bad days, and the Propranolol is there if I ever feel anxious for any reason, but I don't mind any more. I have beat depression, and I have never been prouder of myself.

I know that everyone is different, and some may need to be on the tablets for longer than I was, but the important thing here is that it is possible to overcome mental illness with the right help. I urge you to ask for help if you feel like you need it, no matter what other people tell you. And it is never admitting defeat to start taking medication, it is simply you actively overcoming the illness.

You deserve happiness, and you don't have to be alone.

Good luck to you all,

Megan x

Published by Megan Lupton