Since the beginning of being open and honest about my fight with Depression and more recently, anxiety, I was always determined to stay away from antidepressants or tried to believe that I didn’t need them and I could manage in other ways. I suppose partly I was hoping that I could believe I wasn’t as bad as I am but mostly it was actually just a genuine fear of them. When I was younger they didn’t get a good hype and you were thought of as crazy if you took them, although I campaign constantly to try and erase stigma, it can still have an effect even 20 or so years later.
Now, that’s not to say I didn’t try some. It was one of the reasons my fear grew and my stubbornness kicked back in. Citalopram sent me, well manic is the only way I can describe it. I couldn’t sleep at all, even less than I do now, I felt constantly buzzed and could sit still even less than usual. Sertraline gave me the worst kidney pain imaginable and ruined my family holiday last year. I was in so much pain I was debating going to the hospital in Turkey! So although there are loads of SSRI’s, I believed that they just weren’t for me. Until last month.
This year has been hard so far, to the point I was starting to worry about my state of mind again. I have cried so many tears, screamed, shouted, pushed people away and just generally been a mardy arse! Nothing was working, my motivation was drying up, my exercise has taken a step back as I just haven’t had the energy. The days have been dark most of the time where if I am honest, a lot of time I just wanted to give up. To just exist quietly. I have been “faking it” an awful lot but never seeming to quite “make it”. I had to admit defeat. I needed help. My coping techniques were just not working properly any more. So another trip back to the doctor, signed off sick long term as work was unfortunately a large stressor, I doubt I will ever be back in that office if I am to be completely honest. It’s just too dangerous for me. Another conversation with the doctor about antidepressants and this time, I gave in and accepted another chance at a different drug.
Hand on heart, the first 3 weeks were brutal. I didn’t get happier, in fact I think I actually dipped even lower. Dark thoughts and motives returned but thankfully more ideations than actual concrete plans this time. I was so prepared to just sack the drugs off. They clearly don’t work. I’m broken. Nothing will “fix me”.
But then, I woke up one day last week and I didn’t feel so down. I felt a flicker of hope. I smiled before 9am and even more sensational, before coffee!! I didn’t feel the tug of despair deep in my gut anymore, it was more just a gentle ache. The thing is, it literally changed that quick. Over night. My friend said it would and to be honest I thought she was mad to begin with, but it did! Like a finger snap. I’m not fixed, not by a long shot, but I feel a little less broken than I did. So, as painful as it is to admit, I was wrong. Drugs DO work!
A conversation I had on Friday has had me thinking about this more over the weekend. My friend had admitted they were trying to wean themselves off their tablets. I asked why. (By the way, before I go any further DO NOT TRY TO COME OFF ANTIDEPRESSANTS WITHOUT CONSULTING YOUR DOCTOR! It is incredibly dangerous, even missing doses can have a huge impact!) If we were on medication for say, diabetes, we wouldn’t think about trying to skip doses and come off something that was helping us. Why do we feel like we can do that with antidepressants? Because we don’t feel they are “real” medication? Because we think once we feel better again we are better? Why do we struggle to admit that if they are working they must be a good thing? Stigma, judgement and opinions have a lot to answer for! I wonder how many people have put themselves back in their recovery or have suffered when they didn’t have to because of what they think others thought? Hands up please. I know both mine are in the air.
Having a look at statistics today, the amount of prescriptions for antidepressants and other mental health drugs has increased from 31 million in 2006 to over 65 million in 2016. They cost the NHS £780,000 a day in the UK. Perhaps more shockingly but interestingly, there has been a 54% increase in the number of children prescribed them. What do we think of that? Personally, although I hate to think of anyone suffering as it is truly horrible, it shows that more people are becoming aware of these issues. More people are willing to admit they are struggling and ask for help. I wouldn’t say medication is an “easy option” and it certainly isn’t for everyone. I believe other forms of help should be sourced before or alongside the medication route, like talking therapies, but they do hold their place in society and for a lot of people, they are a necessary part of day to day life. No one should feel ashamed for doing what will ultimately help them. They should be congratulated on taking themselves seriously and being a priority.
Life is stressful enough. Bad stuff happens and even the strongest of people can have days, weeks or even months where they struggle. If help is out there, whether in pill form or whatever, use it! We are lucky to have free health care, we are lucky to have so many options and having choices in our health and well being. A healthier lifestyle is ultimately a happier life and who doesn’t want to be happy?
So, my name is CC and I am on fluoxetine and for the first time in my life, I am OK with it, because it helps me be a better me!