Yesterday I had to admit defeat and go on new antidepressants. It’s not something I wanted and I feel deeply disappointed that I couldn’t manage without them. So today I have begun another cycle of side effects and dose increases and wondering whether any of it is working.
I stopped taking Mirtazipine at the start of January. Apart from knocking me out for a heavy sleep every night, I couldn’t see the benefits of being on it. And I hated the side effects; drowsiness, hot sweats, vivid dreams, loss of sex drive, carb cravings and massive weight gain.
For a while, I felt better for it. At least I thought I did. Maybe I was just enjoying the sense of achievement I felt when people asked how I was and I could say I’d stopped my antidepressants. It felt like progress. And when recovering from a major breakdown you don’t get to notice progress much; it’s all too tiny and incremental.
I suppose it took a couple of months before things started to really slide. It’s been gradual but obvious. My self-harm has increased and got more severe. I’ve started using alcohol to avoid my feelings, after managing to stay sober for a long while. Therapy has become a thrice-weekly repeat of just sitting in silent, anxious stuckness. The suicidal thoughts have returned and are with me at some point in every day. I’m not eating enough and I’ve lost a lot of weight.
Despite all of this, I was trying to stay the course. But last week I hit an extremely low point. My wife had to call in sick to work on Friday because I was in such a bad state she was scared to leave me alone with myself. I dissociated so badly I lost time.
I didn’t want to give in to all the people pressuring me to try a new antidepressant. I know their pushing comes from a place of care and concern, but it isn’t what I want for myself. I want to know myself and what’s going on for me. I don’t want my thoughts and emotions to be blunted and numbed by drugs.
But it isn’t fair or sustainable for my wife to have to take leave from work because I can’t keep myself safe.
When I walked into the pharmacy yesterday to collect my new Brintellix prescription, I felt like such a failure. I dragged this heavy sense of defeat with me. Waiting in line, I just wanted to cry. I felt like I needed someone with me in that moment, like it would’ve been easier to have someone to speak for me. And I really wanted a hug.
The problem now is that I want to know that if I start to feel better, it’s because I am actually getting better – it’s real and not just synthesised by pharmaceuticals. How will I ever be able to tell when it’s right to stop taking the meds in the future? If they do work and I eventually reduce them, how do I know this isn’t all going to happen again?
I can’t help thinking I’m going to be trapped in this cycle for the rest of my life.
Photo: Chad Cooper, Creative Commons.