Prescription for Depression

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LA Youth, Los Angeles

I was assigned a therapist when I was 12. Because I was in foster care, the system thought I needed someone to talk to.

My siblings and I would see him once a month. The sessions were boring. He’d ask me the same question over and over, “How do you feel?” I’d just say, “OK.”

I had a lot of reasons to be sad. My mom was in jail. I’d never met my father. I liked my foster parents, but it wasn’t the same as being with my real parents.

They said I was depressed and that they had something that would help me not feel so sad. I didn’t know what “depressed” meant. I went home and looked it up in the dictionary. It said “extreme sadness.” I thought, “I’m sad, but I’m not extremely sad.”

My therapist said he’d give me a day to think about taking Prozac, which is an anti-depressant medication. I wasn’t sure what to do. I thought that if I took it, my sadness would be gone. But I was concerned about whether it would change me, whether I would act different. I decided to take it.

I hadn’t been warned about the side effects. Prozac made me cranky. I got headaches, and it took me a long time to fall asleep. Life seemed dull and gray. I started thinking everything was a routine, and what was the point?

I went to school, but I wouldn’t go to all my classes. When I got home after school, I’d go to my room. I’d turn on the radio and look at the ceiling. I didn’t do my homework. I’d be somewhere else in my mind, in an imaginary world.

Therapy didn’t help, either. I didn’t like talking about myself. When my therapist would ask me questions about myself, I’d change the subject.

Everything was going downhill. My grades had slipped to Cs and Ds. I’d always been an optimist. But now I couldn’t look on the bright side of things.

I wanted to talk to someone, but at the same time I didn’t want to say I had a problem. When my social worker and therapist asked what was bothering me, I didn’t talk to them because I thought they would blame me.

I didn’t want to admit that I was unhappy. My social worker asked me, “Why do you look so sad?”

I said, “I’m not sad.” I was smiling but my eyes gave it away. She asked me again and told me not to lie to her. I said I felt like I was worthless, like I didn’t have a reason to live. She asked if I was going to do anything. I said I had thoughts of suicide. She said she had to call the cops.

The cops tried to take me to a mental hospital, but my social worker wouldn’t let them. Instead, she made me sign a contract that said I wouldn’t try to kill myself for a year and that if I did try, I would go to a mental hospital for my own good.

I went to my room and cried. I was mad. I felt they were interfering in my life. But a couple of days later I realized that if my social worker went through the trouble of calling the cops and got me out of going to a mental hospital, then she did believe in me. It made me think there was hope left and that I could get better.

Then one day, one of my friends gave me a newspaper article about a study that showed that some medications for depression could cause thoughts of suicide in children. For the first time, I realized that maybe my depression wasn’t my fault.

I was happy at the thought that maybe I hadn’t really wanted to die, that maybe it was just the medication talking. I was also mad that they had prescribed me something without knowing what it would do to me.

As soon as I got home I called my social worker and read the article to her. She said I should stop taking the medication and that I should tell my psychiatrist. I said I didn’t want to, because he’d think I was in denial. In the end, she talked to my psychiatrist for me.

She also argued with my foster agency when the agency said I needed to stay on the meds. She and my pastor were the only people listening to me. He talked to my foster parents and finally convinced them I didn’t need to be on medication.

A month later, they slowly took me off the medication. After a few weeks, I started to feel like myself again. I felt like I was coming out of a dark tunnel and seeing the sun for the first time. I know there are some teens that do get better with anti-depressants. But for me, getting off of them was the right decision.

Sometimes I still feel like that sad person is a part of me. But after I saw how much my social worker battled for me to be off the medication, I felt like she would listen to me. Now, whenever I need to talk, I call her. I’m not tied down anymore. Now there’s nothing holding me back.

© 2007 L.A. Youth,