Let's Talk Antidepressants
If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know about how I have been feeling this week due to stopping an antidepressant I have been taking. I have really felt the withdrawal symptoms including fatigue, headaches, nausea and dizziness, and I just wanted to elaborate more on the topic of medication and share my thoughts on them. I can only talk from my personal experience taking antidepressants, and I know everyone’s experience is different, so I hope you can read this with an open mind and gain a new perspective.
Firstly, I want to say that there is absolutely no shame in taking medication for any mental illness you may have, and I’m not coming off them because I’m ashamed or feel weak for taking them. When I was at most my worst, I needed them, and I can see now that I was put on them for the purpose to calm me and to be able to manage what I was going through. It's a personal decision to go on medication, but please know that there is no right or wrong decision. You are in control of your health and no one has any right to judge you no matter what you decide. I have been slowly tapering off multiple antidepressants since January. I decided to do this because I started to believe they were keeping me in the depersonalisation/derealisation (dp/dr) state, so I wanted to get off them and see how it would make me feel. When I made that decision, I had processed everything that had happened and was strong enough to move forward. Antidepressants are used for multiple purposes and everyone’s experience with them is different. Some people are on them short term to get through a difficult time, while others take them long term to manage their symptoms to make life a little easier. I have no idea how I will feel when I am completly off them, but I guess I’m just curious to see how I feel without them. Who knows, my anxiety might flare up again and I may decide to stay on one, and that's completely fine! I’m going to share my experience on medication and what they did for me, so I’ll start right from the beginning.
When I was diagnosed with depression, my doctor asked me if I wanted to try antidepressants. I said yes. I didn’t give it a second thought, as my mind wasn’t functioning that well at that time, and the dp/dr was so intense, I wanted to try anything that could possibly help. I didn’t care at all about what people would think of me taking medication (still don’t), but I also didn’t really know anything about antidepressants. When you think about medication for physical illnesses you have a belief that they will make you feel better right? What about medication for mental illnesses? I thought they would make me less anxious, hopefully get rid of the spacey feelings, and generally just get me back to feeling my normal self. I had high expectations of them and as the weeks went by, I got more and more disappointed. There is a lot of talk about trial and error, trying to find the right medication that works for you. I saw a psychiatrist and tried one after the other, changing and increasing the dose of different types of antidepressants. As hard as it is dealing with anxiety and depression, you just want to find an easy fix, especially when you feel completely overwhelmed. I really hoped the medication would help me the way I wanted them to, but they didn’t.
Reflecting on it now, I do see how they helped me, but I definitely think there are misconceptions about what antidepressants do. So, you may be asking, what do antidepressants do then? What I have read and learnt about them, is that they increase the amount of certain neurotransmitters (brain chemicals), which are thought to reduce the symptoms of depression. One of the neurotransmitters serotonin, along with others such as noradrenaline and dopamine, are thought to have an important effect on our mood. There are opposing beliefs that depression is caused by low serotonin levels. I don’t have a lot of knowledge about the brain and I don’t have any evidence proving that there is, or is not an imbalance in brain chemicals that cause depression. But, there is science behind all of this and honestly, I don’t think you have to believe one or the other to take medication. If it’s working for you, then great! When I was still figuring out why I was feeling the way I was, and learning about depression, it was comforting having the belief that there was a chemical imbalance in my brain, and having started taking antidepressants, I thought they would fix it up for me. Weeks and months passed, taking many different types on antidepressants, where I couldn’t tell which ones were helping me, or if any of them were. I guess I had high hopes that these drugs were going to help me out of this hole. I learnt that antidepressants don’t cure depression and they are not the sole solution. They may help people to function daily and help them manage their mental illnesss, but depending on the severity of an individual’s mental state, there is so much more underneath the surface that needs to be dealt with for long term benefits. For me, I had a full on breakdown, and I needed the medication to get through the worst of it. While they helped me during that time, I also needed to investigate why I got into such a bad state and deal with insecurities, self-doubt and the negative view I have had on myself for my whole life. I needed to change the way I treated myself and learn that all the negative self-talk was destroying my self-esteem.
I don’t think antidepressants are happy pills! You don’t take them and after a few weeks, you feel ok. Well, that didn’t happen for me, and I’m sure that doesn’t happen for a lot of people who try them. For me, they reduced my anxiety and almost numbed me. I didn’t feel the extremes of my emotions, meaning, I didn’t feel completely overwhelmed and distraught with my situation, and I didn’t feel the highs of the happy and joyful emotions. Honestly, those first few months were a mess, and because I was experiencing dp/dr and depression, my mind just felt like mush. It was extremely overwhelming at first and I believe what the antidepressants did for me, just calmed me down and numbed me a little until I could see a bit clearer and get me over the hill. Of course at the time when I was taking quite high doses of medication, I didn’t feel well at all, physically and mentally, but I can see now how they got me to a place where I could process everything that had happened, and begin to deal with my mental state, doing work with a psychologist and learning helpful strategies to deal with my anxiety, while also developing a positive mindset.
I think having an open mind about medication to treat mental illnesses is best, as you never know, you might be in a situation in the future where antidepressants are an option for you. Rather than feeling uncomfortable with the fact that you might try antidepressants, know that they are there to help you and there is no right or wrong way to go about looking after your mental health. There also shouldn’t be such a negative stigma around taking medication for your mental health. You are not weak for taking them, and you should never feel ashamed! Your health is the most important thing, and if taking medication helps you live a happy life and makes life a bit easier for you, then good on you for prioritising your happiness! Life’s too short to give a shit about what others think of you, and you shouldn’t feel disappointed with yourself that you need to take medication to function the way you want to. It’s a personal decision to treat your mental illness the way you want! Be proud of yourself that you are taking control of your health and that you are strong for dealing with a mental illness.
There is probably a lot more I could talk about on this topic, and I’ve probably missed some important things I should have mentioned, but I’m gonna leave it there. Have a lovely weekend!
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