Let's sit down and have a cuppa and a chat my loves.
When I was first properly diagnosed with depression, anxiety, and PTSD back in 2016, antidepressants were something I never thought I would ever even consider. I'd heard far too many terrible things about them, and so many people had told me how they'd ruined their lives, and made their illnesses ten times worse. I had seen four separate doctors about possibly being prescribed them. When I explained my fears of going on them to the first, she said 'Well, you're just going to have to suck it up and deal with it'. The second told me, in smirking, eye-rolling, sarcastic tones, 'Oh, so you're a cutter, I thought you would be', when he asked if my depression had ever led to self harm in the past. It took me an entire year to gather up the courage to return to the GP to ask for help again, I had spent as long as I could teaching myself about my illness, changing my diet, doing yoga, meditating, taking time off work and university, going to therapy, amidst a bunch of other things. The third was wonderfully understanding, compassionate, and proactive in working with me to find a solution, but still... the amount of worry I had about going on antidepressants was too much at the time.
Some of the reasons I stayed away from anti-depressants like they were the plague:
1. 'I don't want to turn into a zombie'.
2. 'I should probably work through my emotions rather than masking them, right?'.
3. 'They'll make me suicidal'.
4. 'Apparently the initial side effects are unbearable'.
5. 'So many people have told me not to go on them'.
6. 'They feel like a fake cure'.
7. 'They'll make me sick' - An absolute deal breaker for an Emetophobic.
8. 'Everyone will think I'm bloody nuts'.
I finally took the plunge in 2017. A fab mental health nurse put all my fears to bed and prescribed me Citalopram 10mg (Which eventually we took up to 20mg, then 30mg). She had complete faith in me, which was really, I realised, all I needed. She was the first health professional I had seen who didn't look at me like I was a complete nutcase. The first couple of weeks were rough, but believe me when I say, they are COMPLETELY doable. Take it from someone who was mentally exhausted and emotionally disconnected from the world, suffering multiple panic attacks a day, sleepless nights, eating problems, and never feeling quite as alive as a 20-something should. If I can do it, you can too. Everyone's side effects are different, but some of the ones I experienced were:
- Constant yawning.
- Nap time was all the time (Not necessarily a bad thing).
- Loss of appetite.
- Locking jaw (Weird I know... and more annoying than it sounds).
- A small increase in anxiety.
I should add a lil disclaimer though that I had given myself two weeks off to get through it at home, and I'd 100% recommend doing the same - it's a time to be gentle with yourself. I remember looking at the first tiny pill sitting in the palm of my hand and thinking, 'you're so small and not-scary-looking at all, why have I been afraid of you all this time?'. Things started to slowly get better within the first few months of being on it. The fact that it doesn't start to work for what can feel like forever, put me off at first too, but you have to look at it like a health investment.. I know people who have:
- Overcome mental illness without AD's completely.
- Decided to go without them, but are only 'surviving' life rather than 'thriving'.
- Gone on them and came off them.
- Gone on them, came off them, and had to go back on them again.
- Been on them for a very long time, and don't plan on coming off them anytime soon.
No matter which category these people fall into, none of these journeys are linear, none of them are wrong, none of them make their experience any less valid. Antidepressants aren't for everyone, and that's ok, but sometimes, they're very much needed, and that's ok too.
My reasoning in writing this post isn't really to tell you all about my experience, although I'm pretty open when it comes to it, it's more because of the fact that when I was afraid, alone, and unsure, I couldn't find one place online to give me hope that they wouldn't be as bad as the hoards of people around me said they were. I know it's bad to google things like this... but y'know. It eventually dawned on me, that nobody who'd had a positive experience on antidepressants would be online talking about how great they are, they'd be out there living. Which is why I'm here. To take an hour out of my day to tell you, it's going to be ok. Antidepressants are demonised by the media and society, when in fact they're nothing but a tool. You wouldn't tell someone with a headache not to take paracetamol, so why would it be any different for mental illness and AD's?
Here are some of the thing's I've learnt from being on anti-depressants:
1. I can finally cope with the world around me to a point where I feel like me again.
2. They aren't a miracle cure, and take a little while to work.
3. The initial side effects aren't the end of the world.
4. Nobody can even tell I'm on them, and when I tell them, they're react with nothing but admiration, support, and occasionally, open up about themselves and ask for advice.
5. If anything, I feel more energetic on them, because my depression doesn't slow me down.
6. They give me enough of a clear head to get better in all the ways I tried and failed at before.
7. Absolutely nobody thinks I'm nuts.
8. Being on them has completely changed the way I look at myself and my illness.
I hope this post can shed a little light on the things you might be afraid of, and the things you might be ashamed of. But this is your journey, nobody can take that away from you. I'm currently sat in a coffee shop, drinking a (decaf) latte, listening to some tunes, and watching the world go by. Something my brain would never have let me do a number of months ago. Things are going to get better, I promise.
If you're struggling with mental illness, please contact your GP or you can always phone the brilliant people at the Samaritans on 116 123.