Monday, October 5, 2015

Antidepressants -

I have recently gone off my antidepressants.  Or I should start by saying: I was recently taking antidepressants.  

The seeds were sown when I started paying top dollar to pump my body full of hormones, over a five or six year period with no positive results.  Then the most precious being in my world, my dog Ralphie, died before his time. My inability to kick the sadness and my natural, normal emotional-ness (that's a word right?) turned different (I think you will know when it turns), and I eventually went to a doctor - a psychiatrist.

He told me it was all okay and that I should try an antidepressant for a little while. "Let's just see," he said.  I put it off for for a few more months, but eventually went for it. I started a low dose of Zoloft. And in about three weeks my brain, my heart, and my chest felt better. 
There were some very specific changes I noticed immediately:

1) I could not, and did not cry.  The usual commercials that turned on the waterworks had no effect. The thought of Ralphie licking my arm on the last day of his life, that in the past had turned my face in to ugly cry mode, did not produce tears or even a surge of pain. I knew I felt sad - or maybe I knew I had felt sad in the past with this particular memory, but I didn't feel it then.  It was bizarre. Empowering.  Fantastic! Unsettling. I liked it.
My first year of teaching school I had a situation with a student that made me cry and I told another teacher - through tears "I wish there was a pill I could take to be tougher."  
Well, there is.  

"Do you still laugh?" My doctor asked me when I told him about my dry eyes.
"Yes."
"Does it bother you that you cannot cry? Do you feel detached?"
"No."

I knew it was probably not good, but it felt so great to have a break, that I didn't care. 


2) My creative brain dried up immediately.  The brain that was always zipping around, writing emails, stories, blog posts and ideas went blank.  I would pull up a "new post" page on my blog and just sit there. There were no words in my brain.  A few ideas, but more pictures than words. This was less fantastic. But my new found ability to be rock solid all the time felt so good, this seemed worth it.  

About four months after starting antidpressants two other side effects kicked in:

1) Restless leg syndrome. Not kidding around with this one.  Not like my legs "felt tingly" like they say online.  More like "Holy shit I have to walk around my house  at 1 am and not sleep."  Miserable.  Got a prescription for this, and did not think it was related to the antidepressant.

2) Starving. Like bottomless pit.  Like eat a whole meal and pretend to be full because that's what normal people would feel.  "Oh I am stuffed," Joe would say after a meal out. And I would think "Not me - I could have kept on!" 

Eventually the empty stomach issue died down (after 10 pounds joined up on to of the 10 pounds from years of hormones) and the creativity came back the littlest, tiniest bit. 

"Can you still not cry?'  My doctor would ask.
"No, but I like it."
Inappropriate on a couple of levels

But, then for no real reason (may have read that anti-depressants make you gain weight - too late for me!) in February of this year I decided to wean myself off of the antidepressants. I think I just wanted to check myself. I cut them in half and took half for about a week or two and then cut in half again. Eventually I was sprinkling pill dust into my mouth. 


I felt medium for awhile.  Not great, but not bad.  Like when you have had a really bad headache, and it finally subsides, but you move kind of slowly to make sure it doesn't come back. 


- My creativity came back almost immediately - it felt like the lights in my brain had been               turned back on.  
- About two months of going off of the antidepressants my restless legs went away.
- About four months after my emotions were back to normal me, not overly emotional me,  and not dead inside me.  I cry at the all normal things I cried about in the past - the sad parts in books and movies, Ralphie, other stuff that sucks. 

I had side effects that weren't great, but the medication gave me the ability to take a break from my sadness, and while taking the break I had to do the work, as they say, to heal the bigger issues. 
not a permanent solution
but could be part of doing the work
During the time I was on medication I was not raw, the way I was before.  And it gave me the chance to remember happy things about Ralphie and not just his death. My new "strength" (coldness - ha!) gave me the ability to work through the idea that (because of my inability to add children to my family)  my life was going to be different than I wanted and it was going to be okay. I also went to a "talk therapist" at the same time. I took a pill, took a break, and did the work.

I am lucky because as of now the antidepressants are not something I want or need.  For me the depression was a mix of losing Ralphie and having my hormones so out of whack that my coping mechanisms were trashed. 

A few things to say about getting off of antidepressants:

I think that maybe because I wasn't on them very long, and I was on a low dose, and I took a long time to wean myself off, and because my depression was situational, then I didn't have too bad a time getting off of them. 

 There were moments in the months afterward where I told myself I could start taking them again anytime if I wanted to. If the feeling I was having at the moment didn't go away in a time period I deemed reasonable then I could start them up again no problem.

I gave myself permission to experiment with not taking the meds. I went easy on myself and took care of myself during this process. 

I looked at it a little like a science experiment - like "Let's see what happens when I cut it in half again."  

My general practicioner doctor knew I was going off the antidepressants and he prescribed me a dosage of  progesterone.  Knowing that my hormones were an issue he felt that regulating them would help the whole process.  And I think it did. 

I will continue to see my psychiatrist.  If for no other reason that I want to maintain my "active patient" status with him.  That way if something changes I will be able to see him easily. Finding a psychiatrist that you can get in to, and that you like, is another whole issue in itself.  Don't wait till someone has to peel you off the floor to reach out for help, because getting help is a major process. 

Everything I have shared here is my experience only. I urge you to seek professional medical advice for every stage of depression. 

I am neither proud nor ashamed of my experience with antidepressant medication. I know people that will need to take it the rest of their lives and some people that should take something.  I just wanted to share my experience with it.  Plus  I am going to be writing about my new chubby body and my weightloss "journey" (weightloss is NOT a journey so much as fucking tour of misery) and I am going to blame my antidepressants for making me eat three hot dogs at a time. 





1 comment:

  1. This is a great article Carrie. It's such an important issue to write about. Thanks for sharing your story.

    ReplyDelete

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