On not being depressed

Some good news here, in that I’ve stopped taking antidepressants.

antidepressantsI’ve felt ready since Christmas (which was over three months ago) but you don’t rush these things – that’s one of the biggest warnings you’ll hear when on antidepressants: DON’T JUST STOP!

You have to gradually cut the dose, which is what I’ve been doing for over three months, to the point where I’ve been taking just one 10mg citalopram tablet once or twice a week, which is effectively nothing. The remaining citalopram has gone into the bathroom cabinet, out of sight and out of mind.

Of course, we’ve been here before, giving up the antidepressants, only to go back on them when things got a bit much, but this time feels less like going into battle or getting ready for a fight; this time it feels more like returning from a holiday, refreshed, positive and ready to go.

Just to recap, I first started taking antidepressants six years ago, about a year after my brother, Trev, died. It took so long because I didn’t realise anger could be a symptom of depression, that it wasn’t just sadness. I had become prone to furious bouts of pointless rage; in my head, I was shouting at people all of the time for silly things (walking too slowly in front of me – that was a big one).

I’d turned into an absolute walking nightmare, especially for my family, but upon (eventually) realising, I decided to get help – which, for me, meant a Facebook post asking for any personal experiences with antidepressants. Expecting one or two timid replies, I received dozens, some in public, some in private messages, but an astonishing number, and all of them telling me antidepressants could help – so long as I didn’t expect miracles.

My doctor agreed and put me on 10mg of citalopram, a very low dose that, he said, if it had any effect at all, probably wouldn’t become apparent for weeks.

Two days later I felt like a new man. It was magical. the hideous anger was gone, I was smiling again, looking up away from the ground towards the sky. There was still grief over Trev, but it was a sadness I could accept and, by then, deal with.

There was also some counselling, courtesy of Mind, which helped, but it was the antidepressants which had the biggest impact.

After eighteen months of feeling better, I came off antidepressants, aware that it might be difficult and that I felt better because of the drugs I was on, not because I was “cured”.

Things went OK for a while, but I eventually went back on antidepressants due to work. And then, a couple of years later, seemingly trapped in a dismal job for a company I had come to despise, I began to suffer from panic attacks. My GP signed me off work for two weeks and raised my antidepressant dose to 20mg.

Not too long afterward, I quit the dismal job, the panic attacks stopped and I eventually returned to just 10mg.

Which pretty much brings us up to date: not rocking the boat, staying on the drugs just in case, planning to come off them again at some point…but not yet.

So, what’s changed? Why do I feel ready now?

I think it’s to do with work and being freelance, which has given me confidence in my own worth and ability as a copywriter.

The world’s #1? Maybe not quite, but knowing you’re pretty damn good at what you do is a pretty powerful confidence boost.

Wish me luck – I’m going AD-free!

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