3 In Anxiety/ Depression/ Mental Health

Understanding Antidepressants – What You Need to Know

Understanding Antidepressants - What You Need to Know

Antidepressants are a controversial and misunderstood topic.

To help show this I thought I’d share with you something I went through recently in the hope that it may help someone, or at least help educate people about antidepressants.

In case you don’t know, I’ve been on antidepressants for many years, initially for depression, these days for anxiety management and to keep the depression at bay.

A few months ago I consulted a specialist for an unrelated issue to only be told to come off my antidepressants for a week to have a test, after which I could resume taking them. In response, I told him I could not simply stop taking them, where he replied that I should. Full stop. As I spat back my response explaining that I couldn’t as it would make be unbelievably sick for the entire week and make my life unlovable for that week, he again said that I should do it.

Now I’m not going to go into details on the specialist in question. All I am going to say is that he should have known better as I guarantee you he would have seen other patients on antidepressants. It took me to the point of crying to get my point across, where he told me to go back to my GP to talk to them…

Understanding Antidepressants - What You Need to Know

Side effects associated with antidepressants aren’t openly talked about.

Side effects associated with antidepressants vary depending on the type and person. From weight gain and sleepiness through to heart palpitations and brain fog, they can also vary in severity, some times causing the medication taker to question whether it is worth staying on them or not.

Throughout the years I’ve been told a number of things.

That antidepressants don’t have side effects, that they do, that they aren’t the cause of [enter said side effect] and a mixture of in between. The ‘instructions’ that come with most meds state that one could experience a variety of side effects, but still, they aren’t widely talked about or admitted.

I remember one time when I complained about side effects. I was experiencing something I nicknamed a ‘brain jolt’ (not a technical term) whilst being on Zoloft. It would strike at odd times and felt like my head was gripped in a vice, my brain being shook violently. Either that or that my brain was experiencing an electric shock. This was met with a blank stare and a ‘hmmmm’ as if it was all in my head. Okay, yes it was all in my head… which was the problem. So I weaned myself off the meds, believing I would do better without them and that I was really okay.

One other little talked about fact is the weaning process associated with coming off antidepressants.

Coming off antidepressants isn’t simple and should NEVER be thought of, talked about or treated as such.

Coming off of antidepressants is a slow and gradual process involving weaning, slowly decreasing your dosage over a period of months in consultation with your doctor. It should never be attempted alone (although many of us have – I’ll put my hand up to that as I did just that when I came off my first meds due to the brain jolt side effects).

Now, over to my preachy advice.

If anyone ever suggests that you or a loved one come off meds ‘just like that’ (or any medication really) question them especially if you’ve been on them long-term. An don’t hold back. You have nothing to be ashamed of in your questioning. You need to take responsibility for your body, for your health. And if it isn’t you whose health is in question, at least help your loved one with theirs.

No one should have to fight with their doctor and especially with a specialist.

I am glad I have my wits about me and an awareness of how things affect my body. It’s important to know this. To be aware!

Let me tell you something.

If I miss taking my daily pills, even by a few hours, I start to go dizzy and feel sick. Any longer and my thoughts get a bit muddled. A day…well, I don’t feel well at all. Any longer and I’m really sick. It’s like someone has gripped my head and is shaking it continuously. I’m nauseous. I can’t think straight or talk right. And I’m moody.

Why would someone take something that makes them feel like this?

It’s better than the darkness.

It’s better than not wanting to live.

It’s better than the alternative.

A pill a day keeps the doctors away and helps me get through life. Antidepressants helps me survive. They help me live a good life.

I  felt like slapping the specialist across the face as I sat across from him trying to justify how sick I would be after a day or so and that a week would be terrible – it would wipe me out completely. I also told him that my Doctor and I have talked about this a lot and that it would take me at least a year to wean off of my tablets – something I needed to consider if I was to ever have a child of my own… AT LEAST A YEAR.

I can’t stress the seriousness of questioning any health professional, of getting a second, third or fourth opinion, of fighting for your rights, your mind, and your body, of educating yourself and your family (in case they ever have to fight for you). Don’t ever hold back and feel intimidated by a specialist. You know your body and mind better than anyone.

And in regards to antidepressants, take them seriously.

  • Take them at the same time every day.
  • Always make sure you have a supply in your draw.
  • Have a contingency plan!
  • Educate your family and friends about them. About any side effects. About why they help you.
  • NEVER just ‘stop’ taking them. It is critical you take a slow and steady approach to weaning, that you have your support network in place, and that you have a plan.

I am not ashamed that I may be on these meds for the rest of my life. Knowing my history (at least 3 relapses), this is the sensible choice for me combined with the changes I have made in my life.

I love you. Never be ashamed of who you are, and always keep fighting.

“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any.”


For more on my experiences with anxiety depression you can read these articles:

Bullying and Depressions – my experience

What I learned after my 3rd car accident

In the grip of Anxiety

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  • Meg
    May 28, 2016 at 6:10 am

    I had so many bad side effects from the head meds that I chose to live without them. In my case the side effects were worse than the illness. I came off them under my doctor’s supervision over the course of a year. It took one year to get down to no meds and then another six months for the nausea to stop. That’s 18 months of being physically sick. Anyone who thinks you can just stop taking them is ill-informed.

  • Marie
    June 7, 2016 at 8:13 pm

    Standing up for myself is a lesson I keep re-learning. Thanks for the reminder Janine 🙂

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