Many of you reading this already know about the portion of my journey in relation to my difficult and complicated relationship I’ve had with antidepressants, but many more may not so feel free to skim through the parts you may have heard before!
It’s been around five years now since I began the grueling and painstaking task of weaning off the last of my antidepressants and other medications that had been regularly prescribed to me to help treat my symptoms of Depression and Anxiety (I have daubled in them from time to time since; always with the same frustrating results as before though).
Prior to five years ago I had spent three very tiresome years trying one magical concoction after another (sometimes taking up to 3 or 4 different meds at the same time) in the hopes that something, anything for that matter would finally give me some relief. Instead though I found myself with even further complications from the over twenty different combinations of drugs I’d tried and at some point during that three year period as I so desperately clung to hope of finding the perfect combination for me I was further diagnosed with having “treatment resistant depression”. I remember how defeated I felt, yet I still kept trying.
Antidepressants can’t cure someone who is battling a mental illness (which is a big misconception for many and thinking that they will can be very impeding on your loved one’s road to recovery) but for millions of people out there they are a proven and very valuable way to help improve the balance of chemicals (neurotransmitters) in one’s brain and therefore reduce their symptoms in order to live a happier and more sustainable life. *It’s also important to note here that just because one drug works for someone doesn’t mean it will work for everyone.*
But even though many people do respond quite well to antidepressant drugs (I envy them!) it’s more than likely it took some time getting there because antidepressants are also by no means a quick fix. Most Psychiatrists will start a patient off on a very low dose and gradually increase it over many weeks in order to get to a therapeutic level (this can take anywhere from 2 to 6 weeks or sometimes longer) which can help to minimize side effects as well as monitor symptoms, but statistically, more than half of people taking antidepressants will also not respond at all to the first drug they are prescribed; but the good news is, there are plenty more types and categories to explore; trust me, I know! I even agreed to try a drug once that had I accidentally ingested certain foods I could immediately have a stroke and die (I carried a copy of the banned foods and condiments with me everywhere I went) **insert big sigh here**
The exact science behind how or why antidepressants work on some people and not on others is still kinda a mystery especially for someone like myself who was left feeling even more hopeless as I battled through one nasty side effect after another for three years straight, leaving me with a near one hundred pound weight gain, worsening symptoms of Depression, Anxiety and Suicidal ideations, concerning levels of inflammation throughout my entire body that had to be monitored by weekly bloodwork, low blood pressure and a severely weakened immune system which had my Doctor completely perplexed as she sent me running from one specialist to another due to so many mysterious complications that were suddenly happening within my body with each new drug I was prescribed. These specialists included Cardiologists, Rheumatologists, Neurologists, Dermatologists and Gastroentologists just to name a few! (P.S. I did a genetic spit test several years ago as well while at an inpatient facility to try and help solve part of the mystery for me and my team of doctors as to which drugs may work best for me…surprise, surprise, it was inconclusive).
And so it was time; my body, nor my mind could take much more abuse and so it was time to surrender to the fact that antidepressants were just no longer a viable or safe option for me.
It was a very scary and emotional time for both Rich and I which was also met with so much uncertainty as to where do we (and my doctors) go from here (ECT had already failed me as well by this point) when the one thing I’d believed for so long was going to fix me was no longer available to me. It was my new reality though and probably one of the hardest pills I’ve ever had to swallow (oh the irony!). But it wasn’t the end of my story.
My intention for writing this article today or any of my blogs for that matter is to share my own personal journey with you so that others who may also be suffering will feel less alone and to help more individuals understand that a mental illness is not a choice. This is my story, not anyone else’s but I really felt I needed to continue sharing this part of my journey again and maybe again and again especially of late because I have noticed my DMs have been flooded lately with people wanting to share their own personal trials and tribulations with antidepressants.
Since the Pandemic began, mental health concerns have been on a steady and very dangerous rise around the world and I feel as though antidepressants are beginning to be handed out like we would that of Halloween candy. By sharing my story I would never want to sway someone’s decision to try a certain treatment or in this case to take or to not take antidepressants as I know that they can be a lifesaving device for so many people, it just wasn’t the answer for me and my own personal journey but when it helps someone else then I’m all in; and I will happily cheer you on!
But I fear just from the conversations I’ve had recently that there are so many people out there who are not being monitored properly these days by an expert in the field of antidepressants aka: a Psychiatrist. I know how difficult and trying it can be to find a Psychiatrist to work with because the wait times are so dangerously long and there is such a shortage of them as well but if possible as I suggest to everyone who reaches out to me that you ask your family doctor for a referral right away and if you need to please don’t ever hesitate to go to your local emergency room and advocate for yourself to be referred to an outpatient Psychiatrist because I know from my own experiences that the wait times can be far less by doing it this way and depending on the circumstances much more immediate.
The other reason many people have opened up to me about their struggles with their antidepressants of late is that they have been feeling more depressed or anxious than ever before and that their medications they’d been taking had always helped them get through any rough patches and now they don’t seem to be anymore. Sometimes people who have been taking an antidepressant for a long time, even years may find themselves suddenly feeling more depressed or anxious and it’s quite possible that they have built up a tolerance to their medication or it’s also possible that their recent depressive episode is different than the ones they had experienced in the past and that the antidepressants they are taking may not be able to support this new episode.
I can only speak from my own personal journey and experience which has been met with one obstacle after another but I have continued to advocate for myself, with regular therapy the whole way through and not let outside noise deter me from finding other avenues to explore when I hit a roadblock with traditional medicine because as I stated above, antidepressants may not be able to fix everyone. And as much as I love my family doctor and trust her implicitly and she has been there for me and helps my Psychiatrists monitor my progress with their guidance but she will admit first hand that she is not trained in psychiatry medicine and would never try to do their job just like she probably wouldn’t want to perform open heart surgery on any of her patients either.
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