A few years ago I started on antidepressants. I dithered for many years about taking meds—for a variety of reasons. I was suspicious of Big Pharma. I was convinced the drugs wouldn’t do much for my mental and emotional health—after all, nothing ever had before. And somewhere, in the back of my mind, going on antidepressants seemed like a copout. Shouldn’t I be able to power through to optimal mental health by dint of my preternaturally stiff Upper Midwestern lip?

Fortunately, thanks to the gentle wheedling of a compassionate (non-Midwestern) therapist, I eventually relented, and she referred me to a psychiatrist who could hook me up. I cried during my first psychiatric appointment when the doctor said she’d seen plenty of people whose lives had been completely transformed by meds. Up until that point, nothing had been able to clear the black—or, at the very least, gray—cloud that had followed me around for as long as I could remember. My official diagnosis was dysthymia—aka persistent depressive disorder. It’s a dry technical term that, for me, translated into a perduring, unshakable feeling that life simply wasn’t worth living.

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