After a recent visit to the doctor to discuss my medication, I got to thinking about my views on medicating depression and anxiety, and whether my opinion has changed since taking them myself.
Initially, I was reluctant to take any form of medication for my moods. I’ve been properly suffering from depression for about three years, yet as I said have only started taking tablets in the past six months. Like many, I was scared. Scared not only of the side effects, but the stigma that came attached to them. I should be able to sort this myself, shouldn’t I? Why wasn’t counselling working as well as it should? Would I have to be on them forever?
Eventually, after crippling anxiety attacks earlier this year, a visit to the GP finally persuaded me that I needed something to help me along the road to recovery. I was put on a low dose of a common antidepressant, and one that is usually prescribed to sufferers with anxiety too. The doctor warned me straight away that I would have ‘an awful headache’ during the first week or so of taking the tablets, but apart from that ‘very few people get side effects’. After hearing from countless friends about their own awful side effects (which is partly what made me avoid antidepressants in the first place) I knew to take this piece of ‘advice’ with a pinch of salt.
The first week was by far the worst. Yes, the headaches came, but so did everything else. I had no energy, was completely knocked out, couldn’t eat without feeling sick, and was constantly dizzy. In short, I felt shit. ‘It will get better’, was all I kept telling myself to push through the first few weeks. After just a couple of weeks of being on them, I went to Australia for the second half of my year abroad – probably not the best timing, I must admit. The side effects let up a little, but instead the low moods and the anxiety returned. Instead, I found myself wishing for the days when I was zonked out and didn’t have to deal with it. Eventually, I got my dose doubled, and after a week or so with a constant headache, the silver lining seemed to come.
By no means did antidepressants cure me alone – it takes hard work, persistence and a whole lot of patience to get through the bleak days of a mental illness like depression. Thankfully, I can now say I’m in a much better place than I was back then. In fact, so much so that I actually went to the doctors recently to ask about cutting my dose down. OK…so I hadn’t told her this but I’d actually been cutting it down for about a week now due to not having enough tablets to last me until my appointment…my bad!
Despite me informing her of how much better I felt, she suggested that I stay on the higher dose, as it was ‘safer’ and meant that I could fully make sure I was recovering. I didn’t argue, I mean she knows best right?
So, for the past week or so I’ve been back on the higher dose, and honestly, I’m thinking of cutting down again. Going back to taking double has made into a lifeless shell of myself – I’m getting migraines, have no energy, and I feel completely numb. Not happy, not sad, just numb. And I’m convinced it’s because I’ve upped the dose again. ‘Numbing’ my feelings may have worked in the earlier days when I was really anxious and down, but right now it’s just masking all the happy thoughts I’ve had recently!
Anyway, it got me thinking about this strange relationship I’ve had with antidepressants, and how it’s overall viewed in society. I’ve gone from hating them, to loving them, to accepting them, to kind of disliking them again. Why are they something that is viewed with such caution today? Surely, if we are unwell, we should take something to sort it and it should be OK, not only with other people but with ourselves? And, if we tell a doctor we feel better, we should be able to make our own decision about whether or not we still need it, right? I don’t have any answers to be honest, as like I said my own views on medicating mental illness is so contradictory; antidepressants helped me back then, but now I’m worried that continued reliance will hold me back…
Nevertheless, I’d love to hear your own journeys with medication, opinionated or not! Leave a comment below 🙂