Goodbye antidepressants

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…

Samuel Adams Boston Lager, in case you were wondering...

Samuel Adams Boston Lager, in case you were wondering…

39 Comments on “Goodbye antidepressants”

  1. Bye antidepressants, hello Paracetamol for alcohol-induced headaches! Much more fun! Great news Paul!

  2. Mhairi says:

    Congratulations, that’s wonderful news!

  3. Brilliant, sir, but remember alcohol is a VERY POTENT depressant, so if you’ve done without it for this long, just let it be part of your past and do something more constructive with your time and money!

    Have you tried present awareness/mindfulness?

    • paulbrook76 says:

      Thanks Les. Yeah, I’m treating it with great caution. I’m not a big drinker anyway – just nice to have the option of a good beer once in a while. Funny you should say that about mindfulness. I’ve just bought and started reading a book on it. It’s been recommended a lot as a way of just ‘being’ instead of worrying about ‘doing’ and that sounds good to me.

  4. Ruth Kirk says:

    Fantastic news, Paul. You sound justly proud and relieved. You have done SO well. Take care, and if you ever feel the need to talk, or if you have a wobble, I’ll be glad to listen and to encourage you. With love and best wishes from Ruth xxxxxxxx

  5. bravo Paul, stay strong and remember there is no harm in needing them again if things do not go as planned, as I learned the hard way. Please know I am always a message away if you need someone to talk to! Keep up the good work..

  6. simsams says:

    Great news pal, keep going and good luck! 🙂

  7. simsams says:

    Congrats pal, keep going and good luck 🙂

  8. Viv says:

    Wonderful news Paul! Congratulations and thank you for the gift you are.

  9. Many congratulations, Paul. Countless others are striving to achieve what you have managed. To see what you’ll be missing, check out the AntiDepAware website.

  10. Mel Chillag says:

    I’ve been off citalopram for 3 weeks now and feeling slightly nervous that I’ve made the wrong decision, I’m so glad you’re feeling so positive thogugh!

    • paulbrook76 says:

      Well done for getting to that stage, Mel. It’s still early days for me but I’m optimistic. I hope things work out without the Citalopram, but if you need to go back on them, it’s not a disaster – just not the right time.

  11. Well done you, I’m so happy for you and yours. I’m also reaching for the light, takiing time to listen to the birds,feel the rain and learn to love life again. 🙂

  12. Congratulations getting off the Citalopram. Took me the best part of two years to withdraw from Seroxat. Long may your journey continue free from SSRi type medication, hope you didn’t endure any of the horrific side effects reported with these class of medicines [ps – Depression, anxiety are two of the side effects]

    Enjoy your beer sir.

    • paulbrook76 says:

      Thanks Bob. I haven’t had any of the worst side effects. Went a bit funny when I first started on them, then had some bad reactions when I was reducing the dose at times – getting very angry and like having a concentrated dose of depression.

  13. Jane Hustwit says:

    Paul, that’s such good news, I am so glad that depression is no longer occupying your life (great phrase, btw) What an optimistic, cheery photo – I am really impressed, having some v slight understanding of how hard your journey has been.

  14. Sunseeker says:

    Congratulations. I finished with ADs after 3 years, not because my depression had resolved itself but more because the SNRIs seemed to be having little effect. It took six months to taper down the dose with some very weird side effects along the way but I did it and have been off them for over a year. Whilst I still have the depression I would not consider going back onto the SNRIs or SSRIs again primarily because of the way they blunted my emotions. Now at least I know that what I am feeling is me – it’s not great but it’s me and I work on that.

  15. Marianne says:

    Fantastic news Paul, well done you.
    Your description of how you felt at your worst are scarrily accurate, it helps me see how far I have come in the last couple years. It’s so hard to see positive changes as they happen as it all seems so slow.
    I haven’t got to point of even reducing the dose of meds yet, but I hope the day will come at somepoint in the not to distant future.

  16. Congratulations Paul ! Hope you enjoyed that well deserved beer. I had three years off alcohol for similar reasons and I have to say I really appreciate the occasional (quality!) beer much more now than I ever used to. Onwards and upwards !

  17. Julie Dyson Knapp says:

    The best news I have had for ages!!! Well done Paul

  18. […] in the present, it’s more than a month since I took my last antidepressant and there’s a part of 8 Mile that now seems particularly […]

  19. […] Through further medication and counselling, many gruelling months of fighting my demons, and many blog posts later, I finally reached a point three-and-a-half years ago where I could say goodbye to my medication. […]

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