I’ll always remember the day I started my antidepressants.
It was Monday 5th January 2015.
That was the day I hit rock bottom.
The previous weeks and months I knew I was plunging. Each day was harder than the day before. Painting on a smile was becoming more of an arduous task. I could no longer pretend everything was OK, the intrusive thoughts were gaining ferociousness. I was perpetually exhausted.
The thoughts exhausted me.
The pretending exhausted me.
The worry exhausted me.
The anxiety exhausted me.
Everything exhausted me.
The only respite from the recurring thoughts was sleep. In my naivety, I’d dare to hope that one day I’d wake up and those thoughts, the way I was feeling, would no longer burden me. My old self would re-emerge. This nightmare was just that, a nightmare in which I could wake up from.
Alas, that was never the case. I just continued to spiral out of control.
Christmas was hard in 2014. The post natal depression I’d suffered from since the birth of my son the previous year had become exacerbated by a return to work. A brand new job, a job I didn’t really feel confident doing. My thoughts were too muddled for me to get a grasp on what I needed to do. I never felt good enough. I constantly berated myself for this. It was a viscous circle I couldn’t break.
My son’s first birthday 3 weeks before Christmas brought emotional challenges. Reminders of his difficult birth, the overwhelming anxiety I’d felt in the first few weeks, coupled with the fact I felt I was constantly plate spinning and the only place I could see the plates heading was in broken pieces on the floor.
My family were at their wits end. They didn’t know what to do. I’d spent the first few days of 2015 in bed, unable to muster up the energy or the want to remove myself from my “safety blanket”.
I no longer cared. My Mum crying at the foot of my bed, desolate and desperate didn’t muster up any emotion. I just led there, staring into space.
I didn’t want to live like this. I was existing not living. Basically imprisoned because of my thoughts and my feelings. And I knew I couldn’t carry on like this.
I was frightened of taking medication. I’ll admit that.
I’d had 2 bad experiences with antidepressants. Once in 2003 and the other in 2013 a couple of weeks after giving birth. The side effects terrified me. More than the intrusive thoughts and anxiety itself. So, I stopped taking them after a couple of days. And resolved to sort the problem out myself, be it with self-help books or seeking help from a professional.
In early 2014 I started CBT sessions. But each and every session was spent with me needing reassurance that I hadn’t done something wrong. That I wasn’t a bad person. The intrusive thoughts told me I was, they told me I had done something wrong. I needed to seek assurance that this wasn’t the case. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder with intrusive thoughts is a complicated condition.
I wasn’t in the right frame of mind for something so all-consuming as CBT. I wasn’t ready for the exposure techniques that are often key in breaking down anxieties and compulsive behaviour.
The rest of 2014 was spent with me pretending all was fine in my world. Until I could pretend no longer.
I won’t lie. Taking that anti-depressant on Monday 5th January terrified me. But I was sitting at rock bottom. No more tears to cry. I HAD to do this. I had nothing to lose. I need to take a chance.
The AD I took was different from the AD’s I tried in 2003 and 2014. For the first few days I didn’t feel great. Headaches were commonplace, dizziness struck regularly but I was determined to see this through.
Seeing a wonderful GP and explaining everything to her was a real turning point. No General Practitioner had really understood me before. But she did. She knew exactly what to do and could recognise exactly what was wrong with me.
Over the next few weeks the black cloud shifted. The recurring thoughts lost traction. I was beginning to feel more content and less anxious. I was ready to give CBT another try and learn the tools that would help me combat anxiety in the long term.
Mixing a combination of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy alongside counselling aided my recovery. It was hard revisiting certain periods in my life that had brought me a deal of trauma. But I did it and I got through it. And it left me feeling if I could get through that I could get through anything. And, 2 and a half years on I still believe that. I’ve had some real difficult, sticky periods since early 2015 but I’m still here, I’m still living and laughing. I’m still doing my thing.
Last night there was a documentary on BBC1. It was called A Prescription For Murder. A dangerous and irresponsible title one could argue.
It focused on a 24 year old in America who had shot and killed 12 people and injuring many more. The documentary explored whether the medication he had been prescribed had caused him to undertake this heinous act.
What worried me whilst watching this programme was the panic it could undoubtedly instil people with who themselves are on SSRI antidepressants. I pondered whether it could hinder people who were suffering from depression and anxiety from seeking help from their Doctor. Now; more than ever, we need to encourage people to speak out regarding their mental health. There should be no stigma around mental illness. I’ve said before, it’s just as important as physical health.
Watching the documentary last night inspired me to write this piece today. I wanted to show a positive side to SSRI’s. I am that positive case. As are many, many others the world over.
They changed my life for the better and for that I am always thankful. I had and still have a condition that required medication and I feel absolutely no shame in admitting that. There should be no shame with mental illness.