So I have decided to start a new series of posts called 'Let's Talk About', quite generally a place for me to rant or talk about certain subjects matters. This could be anything from current affairs, food, health, films etc.
Today's post is going to be all about Antidepressants, to be more specific, SSRIs. Antidepressants, overall, are one of the most understood medications out there. Now I am no expert on this subject and I never will claim to but it's a matter that I've always wanted to speak up about. You may disagree with something I've said or completely thing something stated is wrong and this is totally fine. I want to use these posts to start a discussion from where we could all understand certain subjects more.
When it comes to this particular subject, I want to show people that there is nothing taboo about it. It's a daily part of many people's lives and no one should shy away from it.
My history with antidepressants is something I've normally kept to myself. As much as I am all about smashing the stigma surrounding them, I've always felt wary when it comes to sharing my own story. You could say that I'm being contraindicative and in a way I would agree. I agree that no one should feel fear about talking about these matters, sadly there is still a stigma and it can really put myself and other off from truly speaking out.
I've now come to the conclusion that to truly fight this stigma, myself and others should, if they want, come out and share their stories as well as some facts about it.
As mentioned at the top of this post, I am not an expert by any means of this subject. I don't totally understand the ins and outs of antidepressants. All I can do is share my experiences and what I do know about them.
So What Are Antidepressants?
Most people know of these drugs when they are used to treat depression and yes that does tend to be its main use but they have been shown to be helpful for several different reasons.
The list of different types of Antidepressants is long but SSRIs (Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) are the ones most commonly initially prescribed for clinical depression, anxiety disorder, panic disorder, OCD, bulimia, PTSD and serious phobias.
Since most of my experience with Antidepressants centres on SSRIs, I will most likely be discussing them more than any other type.
What do Antidepressants do?
It's believed that antidepressants work by increasing levels of a group of chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and noradrenaline, can improve mood and emotion, though this process has yet to be fully understood.
I always describe antidepressants as a like a plaster. It helps cover the wound but won’t completely solve what's going on. Personally I think in some cases they are best used when also seeking out other help which could be in the form of therapy, CBTs, mindful meditation or even just talking to someone about how you are feeling.
Some people seem to be under the impression that antidepressants are "happy pills". That once you take them, you instantly feel better but that is so far from the truth.
What are the side effects?
As I mentioned, antidepressants are by no means a quick fix. People experience different feelings and side effects whilst on them. Not everyone will work for you and sometimes it can be about trial and error. For example the first antidepressant I was on was Citalopram, which you may know from its brand names; Celexa and Cipramil. Citalopram was a difficult one for me.
Some of the most common side effects of SSRIs are:
feeling agitated, shaky or anxious
feeling and being sick
indigestion and stomach aches
diarrhoea or constipation
loss of appetite
not sleeping well (insomnia), or feeling very sleepy
low sex drive
difficulties achieving orgasm during sex or masturbation
in men, difficulties obtaining or maintaining an erection (erectile dysfunction)
Now it can take a while for you to start feeling the effects of antidepressants properly, so for the first month at least, you may suffer from several side effects. Citalopram started off well for me, I felt a lot steadier and I was having a lot less panic attacks. I felt calmer in public places but a part of me still felt down. As time went on that feeling grew stronger and even though it helped with my panic attacks, my emotions were at a low point.
Eventually I got to a point where I couldn't properly wake up in the morning. I was sleeping through alarms and sometimes point blank refusing to get out of bed. I stupidly made the mistake of deciding to stop my medication all together. Never ever do this!
When coming off medication like antidepressants you need to do it in stages, if I thought the side effects I had on them were bad, nothing could have prepared me for what came next. Withdrawal was rough. I had a temper all the time, I became withdrawn from everything I loved. Eventually I felt better but it took a while.
Fast forward to months later. I had never truly felt better after coming off the tablets, I was just back at how I was beforehand but I threw myself into work and pushed back how I felt. However by October last year, things started to fall apart for me again. Illness, surgery and redundancy all struck me at once and I again was back at a stage where I needed to accept help.
It took me a good few weeks to finally get the courage to go back to the doctors but, with how I am feeling now, I am so glad I did. I explained my reasoning for coming off my first set of medication and that I needed to try something else. This is completely normal, as I mentioned before, not everything will work for you. If you find a type of medication is not agreeing with you, you must always let your doctor know. Don't feel like you are the problem.
I am now taking fluoxetine, which is commonly known as its brand name; Prozac. It's such a misunderstood drug due to its exposure in pop culture. I am only into a few months of this medication but so far, I am finding it a lot better for me than Citalopram. Like Citalopram though, I've went through a series of side effects. Insomnia came for me, and it came for me hard. The first month I spent great deals of time attempting to get to sleep or just wandering around my flat. The urge give up on my medication started again but I luckily managed to fight through it this time and eventually sleep started to happen again.
This all leads back to why I think it's important to talk about this subject. I spent so much time on Google looking for certain feelings or side effects I was having, just to make sure I was, well, normal. I imagine so many people out there, especially young adults, will be on this type of medication and maybe feel scared or ashamed to talk to anyone about it.
If you are not well, you more than likely will happily take medication. We all go for the pain killers as soon as a cold comes along but yet when it comes to this type, we shy away from the subject.
Taking antidepressants doesn't make you weak, weird or crazy. It just means you are someone taking action against an illness. No one should ever feel ashamed of that. Saying that though, I do think that over the last few years, the awareness around mental health care in increasing but it's still not enough. The lack of understanding about this subject is still strong and that will continue to make it hard for people to speak out.
Last year I run, or I should say walked whilst sobbing, the Kilomathon and managed to raise a great amount of money for SAMH (Scottish Association of Mental Health), which you can read about here if you fancy: Running the Kilomathon for SAMH
I would love to do something like this again of a mental health charity, maybe not a run though. That was beyond traumatic and painful for my little legs. If you feel like me and want to see a change being made in people's perceptions of mental health, let me know and let's work on a plan!
So this post may have ended up rantier than anything else but I do hope that at least someone can take something from it.
Let me know your thoughts!
For more information and support about mental health, check out these websites here:
Till the next time