It’s thought that antidepressants work by increasing levels of a group of chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters. Certain neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and noradrenaline, can improve mood and emotion, although this process isn’t fully understood.
It is crazy to me that even with the medical advances of today we still don’t fully understand what anti-depressants do to our brain and yet so many people take them.
I remember a friend of mine once said “I just don’t get depression and why people are down”. It really angered me. If you don’t understand something then educate yourself about it – don’t remain ignorant because it doesn’t directly affect you. You never know maybe one day it could. After all 1 in every 4 people is affected by depression and in 2016, there were 64.7 million antidepressant items dispensed in the UK alone.
I hope by sharing my experiences with medication for mental health issues it will change someone’s opinion for the better about people who take medication for mental health.
I am not ashamed to tell you that I have used anti-depressants. When you have an infection you take antibiotics. If you break your leg and you needed surgery you wouldn’t say “no I’m not having surgery I need to be a man and just get on with things”. So why is it any different for the most important part of your body – your brain! If you need medication to reset the chemicals in your brain then let it have medication. If you chose not to take medication then it is your body and you know it best. If you chose to take medication then do not expect results straight away it takes time.
Medication has helped me to deal with my mental health issues. I have never used medication alone to solve my mental health issues. I have always used it in conjunction with other methods such as counselling.
My first experience with medication was during my A-levels. My anxiety was pretty bad as I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to perform. I was put on Diazepam in order to help me sleep. I was only on it for three days but it worked and it reset my sleeping pattern. However, I found that a series of counselling sessions helped me to overcome the main causes of my anxiety and sleepless nights.
My next experience with medication was during university. After my grandparents sadly passed away I went through grief. Something I wish upon nobody. When I went to my university doctors I did not feel listened to and was made to feel like I was a box to tick off their list. The reply was simply “take these tablets”. I didn’t take the medication as I wanted to feel the grief I was going through and deal with it. Again I opted for counselling which didn’t work as I didn’t trust the counsellor and end up burring my problems which later resurfaced.
After a very toxic relationship of mine ended all the hard times I had been through before resurfaced with a vengeance. This time I couldn’t even get out of bed to get myself to counselling. My body and brain were acting in a way I didn’t understand. It felt like I was a ghost watching down on myself going through life – weird I tell you. I wasn’t sleeping, eating or looking after my body. I left my job, moved home and lost a lot of weight. I was harming my body and I let the monster inside me take over. Depression had control of my body and I couldn’t fight back.
This time, luckily I had the most amazing doctor who listened and made me feel like an individual not a statistic. We had weekly appointments which, looking back were to just get me out of the house and talking to someone. That doctor 100% saved me. I was also very lucky to have a very supportive mum and best friends who never gave up on me and always listened.
The doctor suggested I started taking Sertraline to try control what was going on and to give me a break. I was worried about starting medication but the doctor reassured me it was my decision and gave me all the information I needed. I NEVER felt pressured into taking medication. I also never felt ashamed for taking medication. At the end of the day I was taking medication to heel yourself.
For two weeks I tried this drug at 50mg and saw no change. For a further four weeks I tried the same drug at 75mg and depression and anxiety was still beating my ass. Finally, a daily dose of 100mg began to slow things down and I began to be able to function. From here I was able to start counselling, join a gym, eat and sleep better. Slowly, with time, I gained more control over myself and learned how to harness my mental health. The side effects could have been worse…My dreams were mental! Props to my imagination because they were wild. The other side effect I remember the most was sweating a lot in the night and it smelling of weed! Fun times. Nothing in life comes without side effects but the side effects for re-balancing chemicals in my brain were small.
From start to finish I was on Sertraline for 18-months. Writing this now shocks me that I was on it for so long. I set no time frame for when I wanted to be off medication I just got to a point where I thought I don’t need to be taking this drug anymore – I can handle life. Despite all of the medical advice out there I went cold turkey. I had no major side-affects coming off the drug other than feeling a bit dizzy for the first few weeks. During this time I was sure to I work hard to release happy hormones through exercise, eating well and sleeping.
I have been off medication for about six months now; I still have my down days but I feel pretty balanced and I am starting to get my mojo back. I have worked hard to come off medication and it is not easy. But if you work hard it is possible. That being said some people have to stay on medication because that is what works for them. It is not one size fits all! After all we don’t know everything about how anti-depressants work and everybody is different.
If I needed to take medication again I wouldn’t be worried about using it again as I know it has helped me to re-balance the chemicals in my brain and I have managed to come off it. You are only scared of something when you have no knowledge about it. So Google it, ask people and listen to your body.
Overall, medication doesn’t solve the root of your anxiety or depression but it can help you to get back on your feet.