med school antidepressants

i’ve had depression/anxiety troubles (with varying levels of intensity) for most of the last 15 years. i have taken antidepressants before, and i remember that they really helped with the anxiety, and they lifted the depression somewhat, but it didn’t really go away. i stopped taking them when i wanted to get pregnant, unfortunately that took us about 7 years, but fortunately i substituted counseling for the antidepressants and that has really helped a lot. i felt great while i was pregnant. after the baby’s birth i went through a rougher period again, but more with anxiety than depression which might have just been the effects of having a new baby. although i don’t feel too bad right now, my husband has mentioned that he sees a lot of the negativity and anxiety becoming more dominant again, and my counselor has suggested antidepressants again (she thinks that a lot of my signs are physiological – for example i have a crazy startle reflex right now, jump out of my skin at small noises and i’m having some trouble sleeping, etc. )
i’m starting med school this fall, and i’m trying to decide whether to go back on the antidepr or not. the thing is, i don’t feel terrible right now, compared to how i’ve been sometimes. it’s manageable. i’m a little afraid that the anti-depressants will somehow blunt my thinking and blunt my drive and i need to be really “on” this year. i say that because i’m an older married student with a young baby, i will be commuting 2 hours a day to school so the time i can study is already limited by circumstances. i was also told by a professor last semester "fear is a powerful motivator for med students, it adds a lot of oohmphh to their studying"
any thoughts? does anyone have any experiences with starting antidepressants before or during med school, or while taking a heavy load of undergrad classes?
thanks guys

Oh, heck, I’ll bite. I’m not in med school, but I’m working full time and taking 1-2 classes per semester. I’m taking o-chem right now. I’m on antidepressants right now, and have been for years. I’m sharper on them, my memory and vocabulary are better, and I would never have contemplated this path without them. I have the cognitive skills to cope with depression and can function without them if I have to, but not at the same level–EVERYTHING takes so much more effort when I am spending precious energy on coping with the physical and emotional symptoms of depression.
The happy pills take a few shades off the gray glasses through which I view the world, and my vision is clearer without my having to squint all the time.
I’d say, if you ARE going to go back on them, start now so you can find the right med and right dosage with the side effects that bother you the least. Some meds make some people fuzzier. You don’t want to be dealing with Dosage Adjustment Blues when you’re starting med school.

I second Denise’s suggestion to start now if you feel like you might need them. I would also like to suggest that you really think about how you might deal with the pressure of school and being a mom and wife. If you are having trouble now and feel like you need extra support, NOW is the time to find a med and dosage that work for you. You are too important to yourself and to your family to short change your mental health.
I’ve been on antidepressants for over 3 years and I KNOW I am a happier person. I feel normal instead of like I’m standing on the edge of an emotional precipice. For me, anxiety wasn’t my problem as much as just being so damn sad all of the time…this led to me acting out at the people I love the most, my son and my husband.
Since I’ve been on the meds (first Remeron, now Zoloft since I got pregnant and had my daughter- Zoloft is the antidepressant LEAST excreted in breastmilk- and I’m on the lowest dose which works great for me), I have discovered who I am and what I want to do. It’s like I’ve been here all along but I could never see past all of the sadness and misery through to the wonderful person underneath.
Studies have shown that children of depressed but treated moms score higher on developmental and intelligence tests than do children of depressed, untreated moms.
Please feel free to contact me to talk more!
As an aside, if you are worried about someone (adcoms, fellow classmates, profs) discovering you are on meds for depression and judging you… People who haven’t been depressed just do not understand the depth of depression. There isn’t a magical switch in our brains that we can trigger to be happy again. Choosing to treat depression with meds is not a cop-out or a sign of a weak person; in fact, it is quite the opposite. It takes a strong person to recognize the need for help and to ACT on that need.
Let me share my experience at my interview for KCOM. My interviewer asked me what was the most difficult decision I have ever had to make. After I thought for a few seconds, I KNEW what I wanted to say but wondered if I should be so honest; then he said that I didn’t need to be TOO honest if it made me uncomfortable. Well, I took a deep mental breath and told him that it was 3 years ago when I was sitting in the parking lot of the grocery store, waiting for my husband and son to run in and get a few things. I was in the car by myself, and I got the sudden but resolute urge to get out of the car and LEAVE, just start walking away from my family. After all, they would be better off without me. All I did was bring them down and make then suffer. THAT was when I knew that I needed help. I knew I needed to move beyond myself to ask for major help in getting a handle on my depression. The interviewer wasn’t taken aback; he didn’t look like I must be the world’s worst mother… The interview went on and concluded with a final question: What would you change about your life if you could change one thing? I thought for a second and told him that I wouldn’t change a thing. Every bad and good thing that has ever happened to me has made me the person I am today. Yes, I’ve suffered, but I have had great joy as well, and I don’t regret having traveled my path.

I wish you all the best and hope that you find your answer.

Hi there,
Why not go in for a tune-up with your practictioner and take their advice as to whether or not you should be on anti-depressants. Starting medical school is extremely stressful and you need to have every resource maximized.

Oh, one more thing. Fear is a powerful motivator to young students. Grownups with long commutes and family responsibilities need something a little more sustainable to maintain course. Don’t worry that your antidepressants will make you so fearless you’ll quit studying.

People who are just a little bit too stressed can have heightened startle reflexes, as I’m sure you are aware.
It might be time to just stop (I know this is hard) and unwind a little bit… find some time to try to tone it down.
Let me add though that regardless of what your husband or your doc or anybody else thinks (including me), you don’t have to take any medication if you don’t want to… don’t let anybody pressure you into doing something that you’re not comfortable with.
Try to take care of yourself and take a break… I think you’d be surprised how that might give you some perspective.

Good point. You do have to make your own decision about medication, always. They’re not for everyone, and you know yourself best.