It’s interesting that even starting to write this piece seems to make me feel slightly uncomfortable. I will always feel ashamed that I’m on antidepressants, yet I feel that talking about it is the ONLY way I can lose that embarrassment.
Perhaps if we all spoke openly about antidepressants in general, then nobody would feel like going onto them was something to hide. Why do I feel embarrassed? Well, because I know I’m an outgoing person. I worry people will think it’s put on or that you aren’t allowed low days if you’re that happy.
Thing is, it doesn’t matter what they think because I know outgoing people can be extroverted AND have Depression and/or Anxiety. When we think about celebrities with well known mental health disorders, some of them you’d never, EVER believe due to the fact they’re so ‘happy’ all the time. It just goes to show, doesn’t it? You never know what’s happening behind closed doors.
A few years ago, Mum forced me to go to the doctor, after I’d had to leave work after yet another panic attack, after a weekend I’d spent in bed, feeling like I was unable to leave from the depths of my duvet. I still remember feeling the dread of admitting I just felt hopeless. Or is the word helpless? Or is it perhaps both? They seem to compliment each other well in this situation.
Endless panic attacks and this unbelievable low felt so heavy on my shoulders that I could barely raise my head off the pillow. I think most people think Depression is just feeling “sad” thanks to the overuse of the word, “depressed” but really for me, it was a moment of feeling frozen, unable to bear getting out of bed, because I genuinely couldn’t move, I felt so low- what was the point? This was more than feeling “depressed” or “sad” but genuinely not feeling happy, because how can you feel happy when you feel like an empty shell? Everything FELT grey. Nothing.
So after hiding my face behind my hands, I told my doctor everything and he put me on antidepressants, which were also to help my panic attacks. Looking back, I couldn’t understand how they would help me. It took a while, and the dose was upped. I think what’s important to remember is that antidepressants aren’t a cure, just like how paracetamol isn’t a cure for a stomach ache.
They just ease the pain, and anyone who’s suffered from Depression can tell you the emotional pain is one of the heaviest feelings. It wasn’t a sudden ‘oh I feel fantastic again!’, but suddenly everything felt just a bit lighter. My panic attacks just stopped and I could sleep again. The times I felt low I could get out of bed, rather than remaining stuck there unable to move. I wouldn’t say I was cured, but the heaviness wasn’t so utterly soul-destroying and I felt able to get on with my day.
You’re always told of the side effects before going on any medication and of course, they differ between each individual. To me, I didn’t care what they were as long as I felt like I could function somewhat normally. The biggest side effect I’ve noticed is weight gain, which isn’t the best seeing as I’ve also struggled with an eating disorder in the past.
No matter what healthy food I implement, which exercises I try, the extra pounds don’t shift, which has been a challenge for me. I tell myself constantly that my body has changed in a wonderful way – who doesn’t want curves? – and that I would rather gain weight than ever revisit that horrendous, lonely place I was at before. There was a point where I didn’t feel like I’d ever be okay again and I can safely say that going on antidepressants saved me. I don’t want to think about where I would be without them.
Will you be on them forever?
This? I don’t know. I know friends who have gradually come off their medication because they don’t want to rely on antidepressants to feel better. I know those who are fine speaking only to a therapist. For me, I do not need to come off them. We’ll just see what happens in the future.
If you’re feeling confused about whether going on medication would be right for you, I strongly suggest speaking to your GP. Everyone’s journey is different, but for me, they were the only thing that helped. Don’t be ashamed or embarrassed – we have one life, and we should enjoy it whilst we’re here. If you need additional help to do that, then that’s not a reflection on you.