A Math Teacher commented that my post against depression had prompted him to seek treatment. I wrote a response on his blog, and as my post grew longer and longer, I realized the strength of my views on the topic. I'm pro-therapy, pro-medication, pro-anything-that-effectively-fights-the-disease-of-depression.
Thank you for letting me know that my post about the physical dangers of depression may have be one of the reasons that you are seeking treatment.
Go for it.
I'm a clinical psychologist and committed to helping people fight depression. I think that "depression" is a simple word for a complex, multifacited condition that has many causes, symptoms, meanings, repercussions and cures. I don't think an antidepressant drug, or psychotherapy, or acupuncture, or good nutrition, or exercise, or ECT, or any other single elixir is the answer in all cases. However, I think that all of these current treatments, and many others, may help in some cases, some of the time. Many studies indicate that antidepressants in conjunction with good therapy give people the best chance of full recovery. Exercise, nutrition and social support are also shown to be helpful. My experience is that all forms of self-care and support from others are important.
The basic message is that the disease is worth fighting whatever it takes.
Trying to live a 'normal' life while suffering from depression is like trying to play soccer on an uphill field. You need to be talented, and constantly kick the ball, just to keep it from rolling backwards. It's really hard to score when you're kicking up a mountain slope.
Whatever the cause of your depression, the consequence is that you're not playing the game of life on a level playing field.
Frankly, I'm awed by how many people accomplish challenging tasks while suffering from crippling symptoms of depression -- there are so many courageous people struggling against this disease.
In my experience, antidepressants (like the classics - prozac, paxil and zoloft - or the newer, fashionable flavors, such as lexipro) level the playing field for some people. The drugs seem to tweak some people's biochemistries so that they have an equal shot at happiness, contentment, success and satisfaction. But drugs (including St. Johnswort, SAM-E or other "natural" chemicals) are certainly not a magic panacea. For some people they just don't work. For some, they have problematic side effects. For some, the psychic cost of feeling dependent on an outside substance is too high a price to pay for fewer symptoms.
Although I'm a psychologist rather than a psychiatrist, and thus never prescribe drugs, I do feel frustrated sometimes when people rigidly rule out medication even though other measures, including therapy, have not relieved their suffering. To those people who fear "dependence" on anti-depressants I say: "Do you think that diabetics who take insulin are weak-willed?"
There is no single way to fight depression. And for some people, unfortunately, the fight is never won. However, if you've been chronically depressed, and then are able to overcome the disease, your life is suddenly yours to enjoy rather than bemoan.
Go for it. Seek to be one of those people who win the fight against this disease. Try as many methods as needed. Don't give up the quest to free yourself of the misery of depression. When you succeed it will be well worth the battle.
I wish you well in your quest to level your personal playing field.