Antidepressants and me: the final chapter?

Coming off antidepressants has been like taking the stabilisers off a bike.

There have been wobbles – big at first, but smaller as I’ve got used to it – and numerous doubts and crises of confidence, but, through persistence and the passing of time, I’ve done it.

Three months ago, I took my last dose of Citalopram – my constant companion since early 2010.

Then off came the stabilisers and it was time for my brain to ride solo. At first, I noticed no real difference. It was something of an anti-climax. I’d been waiting a long time for this magical moment, when I would be free of the medication, but when it came, I felt pretty much the same. The world didn’t change colour. I didn’t suddenly discover the meaning of life.

The fact that I felt no difference was a good sign, really. But in the weeks that followed, I did start to feel a difference, and it wasn’t always good. I’d finished my antidepressants just in time for a busy spell at work, a nerve-racking performance as Elvis in a local cabaret event, and the build-up to my annual pantomime appearance. At times, the stress and my rapidly filling mind kept me awake at night, and it felt ominously reminiscent of the dark days of depression.

I made up my mind on four different occasions that I would go back on the tablets. Things just felt too hard, and I didn’t want to risk my recovery by stubbornly persisting without the pills when I so clearly needed them. But, unlike before, those moods lifted fairly quickly, and I never did go back to Citalopram.

I’ve learned a few things about life without antidepressants:

  • Don’t think while tired – most of my most negative thinking and worst worrying has happened first thing in the morning, often in the car on the way to work. Now if that sort of thinking starts to mess with me in the mornings, I turn on some music and drown it out. I also have to be careful not to get too tired, and to make sure I look after myself. When my memory starts to go again, I hear an alarm bell ringing and try to take things easier for a day or two.
  • I notice I’m more prone to anxiety and over-thinking than I was when I had the shield of Citalopram to blunt those feelings. I’m slowly learning to manage this, but it will take time.
  • My confidence has taken a hit in the last few years, and it is taking some time to build back up – but it’s gradually happening. Patience doesn’t come naturally to me, so I’ve got to work on that too. I’m keeping a diary of positive things that happen to me (compliments, achievements, good times etc) to keep reminding myself that I’m actually doing pretty well.

One of the reasons I’ve written this post is to take a while to reflect on where I’ve got to. Three months free of antidepressants feels like a nice milestone – and not one I even dared imagine for a long time.

These other posts tell the full story of my adventure with antidepressants – a story with a happy ending, all being well.

Antidepressants: friend or foe?

What happened when I reduced my antidepressants

Goodbye antidepressants

Play depression at its own game



12 Comments on “Antidepressants and me: the final chapter?”

  1. Congratulations on successfully coming off the tabs, and thank you for this thoughtful post about the experience. I like the lessons you’ve learnt about life without antidepressants: I suspect they could apply to us all, especially me, I’m thinking! (I know I’ll be on antidepressants for a long time, maybe even the rest of my life, but I’m OK with that – I’d rather be taking the meds and be alive, than be dead.)
    Best wishes for your continued recovery.

    • paulbrook76 says:

      Thank you very much. I think you’ve got it absolutely right about the antidepressants. I felt well enough to try coming off them, but if the time isn’t right it really isn’t worth it – much better to stay well.

      • Yes. I’ve been living with endogenous depression (as opposed to situational depression) most of my life, and because I’ve had a few very bad episodes in 2008, 2010 and 2013, apparently the likelihood of me experiencing another is greatly heightened – beyond even the odds which most chronic sufferers live with. So I’m stuck with them (unless I go down the ECT path, which does not appeal!) Now I must learn to also live with the side effects – the mix which works for me is a great risk factor for weight gain, etc.
        Still – I come back to my old mantra: I’d rather be fat than dead! 🙂 Even though I’m prone to depression, I still have a lot to offer the world.

  2. rmwk100 says:

    What great progress! Learning to look after yourself in the ways you mention will help a lot to protect you against slipping into depression again. It’s a pleasure to get to know you, however you are XXXXX

  3. Sounds like good news. All the best with managing those moments. It really does seem that you are doing pretty well. You have the confidence to share, and that is a huge step.

  4. Rob Enticknap says:

    Pleased to read you are feeling so much better having followed your story since, I think, early 2011. The one thing I personally need to take from this piece is remembering to give ourselves time, time to heal and time to change. And the time to rest if it’s “going to be one of those days”
    I’m still taking Trazodone and Venlafaxine, and also since September tablets to control anxiety diarrhea. My progress is slow but reading your blog reminds me it can be achieved. Well done Paul.

  5. I’m taking the same medication, but can’t imagine ever coming off.

  6. […] see an excellent doctor, and – with some hesitation – decided to team up again with my old pal Citalopram, an antidepressant that I’ve just about managed without since autumn 2013. I always thought I wouldn’t want to go […]

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