Goodbye antidepressantsPosted: October 16, 2013
When you ask most people “What are the magic words?” they’ll answer “Please” or “Abracadabra!”
Not me. I’d say “I’ve come off my antidepressants!” Those are the magic words I’ve wanted to say for three-and-a-half years. Now, at last, I can – and the more I say it, the better it feels.
This is the Promised Land I’ve been trying to reach for a long time. So what’s it like? Am I spending every waking moment skipping carefree through sunlit meadows, revelling in the trill of singing larks?
Well, no. There’s been no great revelation. Life has not changed immediately for the better. In fact, the first couple of days free of the tablets have been rather underwhelming. Life carries on being busy in its usual way.
But what I have to try to remember is what has already changed.
It’s hard now to recall exactly what depression felt like at its very worst – perhaps because I don’t want to recall it because it’s just too upsetting, and perhaps because my memory is one of the things that was most affected.
What I do remember is that three-and-a-half years ago I was feeling beaten up by life and was picking up my first packet of Citalopram to try and help me cope with it. Since then, I’ve increased and reduced my dose a few times, but never come off the medication. I’ve had a second major bout of depression and two rounds of counselling.
If I try a bit harder to remember, these things come to mind:
- a deadening feeling of wanting to do nothing – just drifting around like a zombie, feeling shrunken, grey and old, gaining no pleasure from my life
- a brain full of negative thoughts, anger and worries that destroyed my concentration and memory and kept me awake at night
- a demolition of my confidence and self-esteem
You can see why I don’t want to remember those things.
The combination of medication, counselling, the kindness and support of my family, friends and colleagues, learning about depression through books and other people, and writing about it myself, has finally come together to get me through it.
Recovery from depression is, I’ve found, grindingly slow, and full of twists and turns. Just coming off the medication can take months or even years, but you simply can’t rush it. I have found this to my cost a couple of times, where I’ve decreased the dose by slightly too much too quickly and been overcome with an urge to scream and smash things.
… I have recovered. I’ve done it. My mind is sharper again – most of the time. I feel better about myself. I enjoy and look forward to things.
My hope is that depression’s occupation of my life is over, and I’ve emerged stronger and a better, more self-aware and compassionate person.
I will probably always have to be on my guard against my old nemesis, Paul Brookes, who will occasionally peek out from a shadowy recess to see if he can get at me.
But I am arming myself against him by constantly learning ways of handling stress, frustration and worry and preventing them from becoming anything more sinister and destructive.
And, starting with this blog, I will reflect on what I’ve achieved and celebrate my triumph over an evil adversary. Starting with my first beer since the pre-Citalopram era…