Mental Health: My Relationship With Meds
I was 26 when I first took anti-depressants. It was fluoxetine. I’d sat in the GPs office with my mum sobbing and answering yes to every question on the list they ask you to assess how depressed you are. It wasn’t the first time I’d suffered from depression but it was the first time I’d said it out loud.
I remember being scared to take the pills. I remember reading the information sheet inside and deciding not to take them. The side effects looked worse than the depression and I had images of me becoming a drug addict running through my mind. I remember being ashamed and telling my flatmate it was my contraceptive pill. I remember being nothing short of terrified thinking that if I took the pills, my life would be forever changed and I would never be the same again.
It took me almost two weeks to start taking the pills. My mum would patiently call me every day to gently ask whether I’d started to take the pills. I’d tell her, ‘Not today,’ and she’d sigh, almost imperceptibly, and tell me she loved me. I’d cry and hang up and she’d be left worried, waiting and wanting with all heart to step in a help me.
It was a panic attack that was the final straw. I sat in the corner of my bedroom truly believing I was going to die. I was on my own in the house. I physically couldn’t pick up the phone to ask for help and as I sat there believing that was my last breath, I remember thinking that I’d wished I’d taken the pills. “If I’d taken the pills, this wouldn’t be happening.” When it passed, when I was able to breathe and my vision had cleared, I got up and took the first pill.
Here’s the thing: despite my anxieties and worries regarding the meds, I felt nothing but overwhelming relief when I swallowed that first tablet. In doing so, I felt like i had taken control of a brain that, for so long, had been controlling me. I felt like I was fighting back and that even if fluoxetine wasn’t the med for me, it was a start. I had gone up and over the trenches and I had survived.
Since then, I’ve been off and on anti-depressants. I stayed on Fluoxetine for over a year but I never went back on it. After that I was prescribed Cytalopram and after than Sertraline. Sertraline has been my saviour - it’s a rough couple of weeks at first but I find it works for me when I need it, in a way that the others didn’t. I also find coming off Sertraline easier than Cytalopram but that could just be me.
And that’s important - this isn’t a message telling you to take the pill. This is a message that’s trying to break the stigma surrounding meds. If standing up and talking about my relationship with anti-depressants makes it a little easier for someone else to ask for the help they need, then give me a soap box and I’ll shout about it all day long. There is no shame for me - no matter how hard some people have tried to make me feel shame. Instead there is strength and security because I know that I’m in control.
I know people that have found anti-depressants or anti-anxiety meds that work for them and they’ve never come off them. Not because they’re addicted but because their brain works better with them. My brain can work normally, and then, out of the blue, for no apparent reason it can do a 180 degree turn and start falling apart. I am off and on meds. It doesn’t matter how you use the meds you need, if you need them, then there is and never should be any shame.