A year without antidepressants

It is one year since I last took an antidepressant, and I am going to celebrate – not because I feel wonderful and am bursting with elation, but because I want to rub depression’s face in it.

I’m going to celebrate because I do not want this milestone to pass without pausing to reflect on it. And that’s the kind of celebration it will be – a quiet, reflective one. Armed with a posh hot chocolate, I have sat myself down to write my first blog post for a couple of months, mainly out of sheer stubbornness (I put this evening aside to write, so that is what I am doing) but also because I get the feeling Paul Brookes – the name I give my depression – doesn’t want me to. And I will not let him have his way any more.

It has, at times, and for some prolonged periods, been a tough year without Citalopram, which was, after all, my constant companion for three-and-a-half years, and there have been moments when I’ve been very close to reuniting with it.

Brookes has lined up his henchmen, stress and anxiety, and sent them round to rough me up on a number of occasions, thinking that when they’ve given me a beating he can sneak back in. And he has come very close to doing just that.

The difference between now and five years ago, when he crept up on me for the first time, or three years ago, when he reappeared with brute force, is that I am wise to his ways. I can hear his stealthy footsteps. I can see his shadow on the wall. I can sense his malicious presence.

The fear is still the same. He still scares me. The innate caveman instincts of fight and flight kick in – I want to run away from my troubles, and end up fighting those henchmen day after day.

But, to a certain extent, I know what to do about it. I have learned how to look after myself. That’s all very well, but the trick I have yet to master is how to remember and do those things when I’m feeling weary, worn down, battered and lethargic, or when my stress levels are threatening to make my eyes pop out.

In those times when Brookes attacks, I need more than my natural fight and flight instincts, so I am building up a virtual box of tricks – some emergency rations for my well-being, and some weapons against the dark one’s powers. To outfox my enemy, this box will need to be crammed full of quickly accessible wisdom and self-care. I will need ways of reminding myself what is in the box, and ways of remembering to look inside it.

The first thing to go in the box will be a bit of self-praise. Well done, Paul. You did it. You made it through a year without Citalopram, hard though it may have been at times. And you wrote this blog when you really couldn’t be bothered.

The second thing will be to look back on all the good things that have happened, which can be too easy to forget. Good job I keep a book of such things (note to self – remember to look at it).

Oh yeah, and Brookes? I may not be jumping for joy, but I’m not dancing to your tune either. And if that isn’t worth celebrating, I don’t know what is.


12 Comments on “A year without antidepressants”

  1. Andy Barmer says:

    Your words are very moving and yet so very practical and down to earth. Thank you.

  2. Mrs Rosalind Collier says:

    Dear Paul Brook,

    I more than sympathise with you. I was a depressive from my teenage years until the 1980s, and I took all sorts of anti depressants and had masses of therapy. BUT then I was seeing a psychiatrist at the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead and he said that he didn’t think it was some ghastly experiences in my childhood, he said he thought it was inherited. My father, and his mother were depressives, and there is some in my mother’s family as well. So he prescribed Venlafaxine and within hours I felt as though my feet were on the ground. He said that wasn’t possible, anti depressants normally take some days at least to kick in, but in my case, not so. And from that time until now I have been calm and cheerful. Unrecognisable to myself. I looked anxiously at my children and grandchildren and there are no signs as yet. My children are in their forties, and my grandchildren 15 and 11 and so far so good there too.

    I do wish you the very best of luck, and a miracle cure like mine.

    With very best wishes

    Rosalind Collier

  3. You are doing amazingly by the sounds of things.
    Have you got an action plan written down that you can grab and remind yourself of all your coping skills and things if you need it? That might help?

  4. Jonathan says:

    Many thanks for the post – some definite parallels with my experience. I like the idea of naming your depression. More personal than Churchill’s black dog anyway. Citalopram has its place but I struggled with the sense of being disconnected from the world. And being able to function without it is a real cause for celebration.

    • paulbrook76 says:

      Thanks Jonathan. I know what you mean about Citalopram. There have been a few times when I have wanted to have that buffer from the worst of my stress and anxiety but have just managed to keep going.
      All the best

  5. Well done Paul! Keep taking the fresh air 😉 and healthy walks… All the best for next 12 months, Mick

  6. Kate says:

    Happy anniversary! That is an amazing achievement and you are right to feel proud.

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