I have decided to blog every day this week in support of Mental Health Awareness Week!
I have blogged about many different topics and I was really unsure what to write about today. However, I thought “why not start with something that people tend to ignore?” and for me, that was medication.
It is hard enough for individuals to seek help when they are struggling with their mental health. There are so many posts and advertisements promoting counselling, talking therapies and verbalising mental health. However, there is very little about the prescribed medication that many people take to help them on their journey.
I have had a negative comments about taking medication:
- “You’re too young to take those”
- “You’re supposed to be drinking and partying at your age and now you can’t drink, whats the point?”
- “Happy pills”
- “Nasty pills”
- “Crazy pills”
- “They don’t even work”
- “You’ll get addicted“
- “You’re not facing your problems“
OKAY I GET IT.
Here are your answers:
- No one is too young to suffer with their mental health. If you have ever suffered and felt that unbearable desperation to feel better, when someone offers you a pill that can make you feel better, you want to take it.
- Society tells me I should be getting drunk. However, science tells me that alcohol is a depressant so should a depressed person get smashed on depressants? Or take medication to make her feel better?
- They are happy pills. Not nasty and not crazy. If they were I wouldn’t take them.
- They don’t work for everyone but they work for me. You never know until you try and if you are that desperate to gain back control of your life, you will try.
- As for addiction, I have been addicted to a lot of things and my medication is not one. So, I have to disagree.
I started feeling low moods from the age of 12 and it wasn’t until I was 19, that I reached out for medical help.
I had previously had counselling and whilst it did help me, it wasn’t enough.
I walked into the doctors surgery and told them I was ready to give up and I needed help. I was clearly exhausted and they prescribed my first anti-depressant…
This was my first experience with anti-depressants and it was hard. When you first take anti-depressants, you are told several things…
- It is important to not miss any tablets
- To not drink or take recreational drugs
- You may experience suicidal feelings
- You may experience a range of side effects
Safe to say, choosing to take anti-depressants was the best thing I ever did but the first few months were exhausting.
I walked around like a zombie for several weeks. Self harmed more than ever. Had really dark suicidal thoughts. Went to visit my friend in Oxford and paid for a £250 taxi home after a drunken emotional breakdown… Should of listened when I was told not to drink. Oops.
But it is so important to remember, you are taking drugs that are altering your brain chemistry. You are going to feel irrational whilst your brain balances itself back out to a stable level.
After a few months, I felt better but not good enough. I went back to the doctors and they changed my prescription.
I began to feel better. My dark thoughts were still looming but they were a little more bearable. However, I had physical side effects. I was very shakey and I would wake up several times a night, absolutely drenched in sweat and shivering.
After trying my best to stick it out for a couple of months. I went back to the doctors. They prescribed my last and current medication.
Finally, something started to work. I felt the same as I did on Sertraline but with less physical symptoms. I started to feel good.
NOTE: Whilst I was taking anti-depressants, I began cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT).
I have been taking fluoxetine for 4 years and despite the comments and sly digs about my happy pills, I am content and I am not coming off them.
A bit of neuroscience…
The only type of antidepressants I have taken are known as Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (also know as SSRI’s). Serotonin is a monoamine neurotransmitter that works in the brain to help maintain and balance moods and helps contribute to the well being and happiness of individuals. SSRI’s block or delay the re-absorption of serotonin and this increases the levels of serotonin within the brain.
Basically, an individual may not have enough serotonin and by taking this medication, it brings the individual to a ‘normal’ and stable level. By feeling stable and content, rational thinking will become much easier and it can reduce feelings of depression and anxiety. It can reduce impulsivity and irrational thoughts. It gives you time to breathe.
People regularly ask if I am going to come off my medication. The answer is No. Not yet. Not right now. None of your business.
Life is full of ups and downs and when I start to think things are going great, things can go wrong. I remember who I was 4 years ago and it scares me. Until I am in a good place and have a valid reason to come off my medication, I’m not going to.
Taking medication for your mental health is NOTHING to be ashamed about. If you have a sprained wrist and you need to let it heal on its own, you might take some painkillers. Anti-depressants can help stablise your mind before you begin to tackle the challenges in your life.
I am a massive supporter of talking therapies and counselling but there is room for medication and therapies to work together.
It shouldn’t matter how you get to who you want to be, it should matter that you get there.
Drugs. Therapy. Nothing. The most important thing is that you beat your demons, not how you fight them.
Most importantly, it may take some time to find the right medication for you. You may feel a lot of side effects or none at all. You may be on them for a year and you may be on them forever. However, whatever happens, don’t forget you are in control of your choices. If you choose to take them, to change them, to up the dose, to stop taking them, to never try them then that is your choice. They aren’t a cure and they also aren’t compulsory. However, they are an option and options are good!
So if, like this adorable sloth, you want to know more about anti-depressants and medication, I have pasted a few links below with information about the different types and what they do.