The Right Rx for Sadness
Drugs may be an easy choice but not a good one
Getting through. Some experts also believe that medicating normal sadness could delay the healing process. "I'd always worn the busy mask, denying sadness, pretending I was happy," says Mark Linden O'Meara, who tried antidepressants without success to get over the deaths of his parents and severe financial troubles. "The drugs gave me headaches and made me feel so numb." The 49-year-old writer from Burnaby, British Columbia, says it took a long crying jag after a romantic breakup to help him finally start acknowledging the pain of his losses from years earlier. "As I released the emotion, I was eventually able to start laughing and enjoying life more."
Designed to repair malfunctions of biochemical pathways in the brain, antidepressants aren't supposed to address the psychological source of sadness. "When antidepressants are given to those in mourning, their symptoms may go away, but they don't feel good," says Pollack. In some cases, though, medications can be vital: when grief intensifies to the point that someone, say, hallucinates or loses touch with reality. Or when a sad person gets stuck and moves into depression.
In most cases of sadness, feelings of anguish dissipate with enough time to process them. McGrath recommends a "feel, deal, heal" approach. She advises clients to acknowledge the depth of their despair and identify what triggered the feelings, then share the feelings with a close friend, family member, or therapist. As the sadness starts to lift, they integrate the episode into their life and appreciate how it has made them stronger. "So much of our society still feels [sadness] is a problem to be gotten rid of rather than understood and supported," Pollack says. Being open to the full complexity of human emotions, he adds, yields not just sadness but genuine happiness, too.