Coming Off My Meds – Part One?

I’m back!

Almost in time for Mental Health Awareness Week as well… not quite, but almost.

I believe May is Mental Health Month in the US though, so I’m still in time for that! Although, for me, as for many people, I am very aware of my mental health 365 days, 52 weeks and 12 months a year… so really, it’s always a relevant topic (that was awfully deep but I’m not sorry I’m proud of it).

ANYWAY get to the point, you idiot. I’m starting to come off my medication. I’ve been taking antidepressants for the past three years, and I think it’s time I experienced life without them.

That summary sounds like it was a really quick decision for me, but it was quite the opposite. It is too much of a scary concept for me to take lightly. So, in case anyone is interested, this is how I came to that decision.

When I first went to see my GP about my depression, I was just about to turn 18, and just beginning to come out of what was the darkest period of my life so far. A little switch had gone off in the back of my mind that said I needed to get help so I can get better and actually pass my A Levels, which were happening in a couple of months time. Medication actually wasn’t really discussed as a credible option for me, and I went along with the recommendation to try CBT.

I don’t remember having any particular feelings one way or the other about antidepressants, but I didn’t really have any particular feelings about anything at the time.

The CBT had some sort of positive effect, as I passed my A Levels and felt ready to go to University by that September. It wasn’t until midway through my second year that I decided if I was going to get the marks I knew I was capable of, I needed a bit of extra help. So, I went to my Nottingham GP, and he gave me some material to read about antidepressants to make a decision on whether or not I wanted to try them. I also chose to sign up for a course of over-the-phone CBT, which wasn’t useless but it wasn’t very useful either, but I don’t want to go off on that tangent now.

After lots of deliberation, discussions with good friends, and my mum, I decided to go for it. Like most people, I was first prescribed 50mg of Citalopram, which made me incredibly nauseous for the first few weeks, and then began to give me unbearable indigestion (seriously, it was like someone had put a hot poker all the way down my throat and into my stomach and was just twirling it around, constantly. I could barely eat).

So, I went back to my GP, and we gave Sertraline a try, and that is what I have been taking since. When I was struggling to get through the pressure of uni work, I doubled the dose to 100mg, and just a few months ago I went up to 150mg when I explained to my new/old GP back home that I was struggling more with the anxiety side.

I think, overall, the meds did their job. I made it through uni, and loved it, and I’ve managed to maintain a full time job since graduating; not loving it as much, but making the most of it and making £££. They’ve allowed me to live my life on my terms and not on my mental illness’.

However, I feel kind of flat. As much as I haven’t felt the devastating lows of my teenage years, during what should be highs, I often find myself thinking about how happy something makes me, rather than actually feeling it.

Basically, nothing is changing, for worse or for better, and I would rather be stable off the meds rather than on them; not knowing how they’re really affecting me, because I don’t remember what I was like before them; apart from being horrifically depressed, not wanting to leave my bed or do life whatsoever.

Who knows? I might be going back on them a few months or years down the line, but at least I’ll have some kind of measure of what effect they’re having on my mind and on my body.

Stay tuned to find out what happens on the next stage of my journey! Well done if you’ve lasted this long and got this far through my babble. I’m a fortnight into cutting my dose down by 50mg on alternate days for three weeks at a time (luckily I understand what I mean), so may be updating on my progress in a few weeks time.

Wish me luck!

Mental Health Awareness Week

The thing with being totally open about the problems I have with my mental health, something I really do want to be, is that there is always that voice telling me I’m attention-seeking and selfish. It’s a vicious cycle. That’s the thing about stigma; it affects the way we think about things, and that is exactly what mental illness does to you.

My mum told me, the last time we were sat drinking cappuccinos in M&S cafe in Altrincham, that my dad really doesn’t like the fact that I’m on antidepressants. I told her that I think it’s because he doesn’t understand what they do, because he’s from a generation that was told taking such medication would mess with your head and leave you with no control over your mind, which was kind of right at the time, because they’ve come on along way since the early days of ‘happy pills’. My mum is rather in the belief that anything is better than what I was like 3 years ago, and I wholeheartedly agree.

I made the mistake of taking my mum to my first CBT appointment back then. I really should’ve thought that through, because I didn’t imagine it would mean her knowing that not only had I thought about suicide, I’d thought of how I would do it in a lot of detail; and lots of other details of how deep in I was that I had till then managed to keep from her. I didn’t want to upset her, it broke my heart to see her heart break, but it worked out for the best. She realised that she couldn’t and never would understand what was going through my mind, and whilst I know she spent some time blaming herself, she realised that it didn’t matter that she didn’t understand, only that I could talk about it.

If people don’t understand what it means to be depressed, the stereotype and ignorance will continue. The Katie Hopkins’ of this world will continue to spread poisonous messages about mental illness, and more people will die because they didn’t feel they could reach out and get help.

I also think I sought help after a relatively short amount of time (retrospectively, 18 months/2 years felt like a lifetime at the time) was because I knew what was happening. I might have been in denial for a while, but having been exposed to mental health problems previously, I relatively quickly recognised that I was depressed.

So we need to SPREAD THE WORD. Spread the word and SAVE MORE LIVES.

This is a brilliant time for this week to be happening, because mental health problems do not go well with exam season. I feel like it’s definitely something schools should address more, bearing in mind that I know the majority care a lot more than my school that was literally all about the results… kids’ health is more important than any exam result or any grade.

I wouldn’t wish what I went through on anyone. Not even Michael Gove or David Cameron (gasp). So minimising the misery caused if and when mental health issues strike is so so so important. And to do that we need to end the stigma, because it’s about bloody time.