CW: this post is all about antidepressants. There is SH mention, suicide mention, and slight ED mention. Also, please see footnote for a commentary on this post.
It’s world mental health week so I just wanted to sit and thank you for everything you have done for me. We’ve been on quite the journey together, and before that I was on quite the rollercoaster with your predecessors, and today I am thankful that I always have you with me.
When I was prescribed an antidepressant for the first time, everything in my life became very real. I knew I was unhappy, I knew I was anxious, I knew I was stressed, I knew I wasn’t the person I used to be (even at just 18 years old), but Prozac was something that I knew to be the butt of the joke on American sitcoms, something that highly strung, rich, middle-aged women took to calm themselves. It just didn’t seem like something an 18 year old girl overwhelmed with Uni coursework and park time work living in Glasgow should be taking.
Turned out, it wasn’t.
Prozac helped a little (after a month of hell when first starting it), but mostly it just made me tired, thirsty, and gave me hot flashes. I thought because that’s what I had been prescribed, that is what I had to take. I didn’t know there were any other options out there. And it sucked. It sucked to the point that I just came off them completely on my own (NOT advised) after a while because I hated it so much.
A few years later I was on a different SSRI I don’t remember the name of. Again I didn’t feel great on it, and that one I came off of MUCH quicker.
And then came you, like a shining angel into my life. I was hesitant, I didn’t feel like anything else had worked so I didn’t see how this would. The first couple of weeks went by (the hardest in starting antidepressants), and I honestly felt okay. Okay as in, not different. Depressed, anxious, but no other symptoms.
And then I kept feeling okay. And then I realised before I knew it that since you, the emptiness, the hurt, the intrusive thoughts, had lessened without me even having noticed. You made life feel bearable again, like I could be a good mother, a good wife, a good friend.
I took up hobbies, I hung out with people more, I started doing more of the things I enjoyed. And for once in my life, at 23 years old, I felt normal.
And then I -once again- did exactly what you should not do. I came off you.
I had come off antidepressants twice on my own before because I didn’t enjoy them, but now I was coming off something I did enjoy because I became arrogant. I thought my depression was over. That medication had kick-started my journey to wellness and then I had done the rest of the work myself, so now I was just going to be happy forever and ever.
Things were not so bad for a little while, but, the more time that passed, the more I felt the darkness creep back up on me. The intrusive thoughts were back, the panic attacks were back, the nightmares were back. Oh god, the nightmares.
And that’s when I decided I needed to once again go back and admit defeat. But this time, the doctor didn’t just pop me on pills. I was sent to a psychiatrist.
My first appointment, I felt sick to my stomach. You see, my mental illness tends to make me feel like I don’t belong anywhere. Even in mental health communities or places I can go to seek the help I need. It always tells me I’m not good enough, or I’m not ill enough, I’m not crazy enough, I’m not suicidal enough, I’m an attention seeker, other people have it worse, nobody believes you, you’re just a bit sad suck it up. So when I went to see the psychiatrist for the first time, I was sure he wasn’t going to say all these things to me too.
I remember him being very cool and charismatic. He was wearing black skinny jeans and had long hair pulled back in a pony tail. He was very nice, and within a few minutes I felt very at ease. I told him about everything I felt, and all the behaviours I exhibited as part of that.
That day was the first day I was given an actual diagnosis.
Everyone else had just prescribed me pills without really saying much, telling me to, “see how [I] go”. But he was different. He took a piece of paper, and started drawing graphs on it. He showed me the difference between depressive episodes (which unfortunately affect 1 in 4 people in the UK), and persistent major depressive disorder. That was the first time I knew there was a name for it, and the first time I discovered that my depression might not ever go away.
We also talked about my anxiety and how that went hand in hand with it, and he also diagnosed me with generalised anxiety disorder. My anxiety and sleep were affecting me the most at that point, and he prescribed me Trazodone. I loved it; it helped with so many things and it ran its course and then I felt like I didn’t need it.
And then two years ago, I was back in a pit. It took me months to go and see my doctor, and in that time my intrusive thoughts had become unbearable, I was suicidal every single day, and self-harming regularly. By the time I could finally admit I needed you again, it felt like it was almost too late.
That was the day I realised that I couldn’t go on like this. That was the day that I vowed that I never wanted to feel like that again. I was given psychiatric appointments, I started taking you again, and was assigned a therapist (despite the waiting list being so long). In the meantime, in the long wait, I had you.
Therapy helped me more than I can express. I had a wonderful therapist who I clicked with and appreciated so much, and whom I still miss sometimes! But at the end of the day, there’s one thing that keeps me ticking over and that’s you: medication.
Citalopram, you make me able to get up in the morning.
You make me be productive instead of lazy.
You make me able to socialise. Yes, I’m still super anxious every time I do, but without you I couldn’t do it at all.
You make me able to put up with some of the drama in my life.
You let me know that it’s okay to eat without my intrusive thoughts berating me.
You stop my intrusive thoughts telling me to hurl myself in front of a car when I wait at pedestrian crossings.
You made me throw out my razor blades.
You make me be a better wife, a better girlfriend, a better mother.
You stop me being snappy.
You stop my crying fits every single night.
You stop me from thinking that I need to drink a bottle of wine a day just to feel numb like I did before you.
You stop manic mood swings that cause me to hate everyone in the world before ultimately realising it’s myself that I truly hate.
You’ve allowed me to explore self love.
You’ve allowed me to feel like I am worthy of life.
You make me feel, for the first time, like I can be something close to normal.
Antidepressants aren’t for everyone. And there are so many people that get discouraged by them when they can’t find the right one (I’ve been there). And citalopram doesn’t work for everybody. And it’s not a cure-all tool.
I still have anxiety, I still have depression. I still suffer.
But you take the edge off. You work for me.
I’ve been on you continuously for 2.5 years now, and I have finally accepted that there may never be a time when I’m not on you. And that’s perfectly fine for me.
Thank you, citalopram. For giving me my life.
Hey guys, I just wanted to take the time out to note a few things at the bottom here to follow up on this post:
– antidepressants aren’t for everyone. Every single person is on their own mental health journey and discovering things that work for them and it isn’t always medication. I understand that.
– much as it may seem like it from this post, I don’t work for any pharmaceutical companies lol. I’m not actively promoting citalopram, I am just talking about the effect that particular medication has had on my life.
– there is no shame in taking medication for mental illness, particularly long-term. It’s an illness. It’s the equivalent of taking an antibiotic.
– medications aren’t cure-all. The improvements in my mental health in the last 2.5 years have involved a lot of hard work, a lot of therapy, a lot of introspection. IN MY OPINION this is eased and works well alongside my medication. And even then, I still have really, really bad days.
Happy mental health week guys. I hope that we can use this week for listening, understanding, and not slapping a sticker on people and then pretending to be there for them. It happens too often.
Ps. Be grateful to our NHS and support the funding of mental health initiatives.