Tag: depression

My Post-Medication Rehabilitation Journey

My Post-Medication Rehabilitation Journey

When I quit my antidepressant medication, I was mostly hopeful but a little afraid. Would this be the time my boyfriend gives up on me being a dark-thought disaster queen? Would I spend my days in the black pool of despair that is my depressed mind? Would my anxiety keep me from leaving home or making a phone call?

So much uncertainty.

I’ve had to take a lot of steps to deal with this medication-free. I’ve had to develop vigilance and advocate for myself. I have to make decisions daily that will be better or worse for my mental health and well-being.

Quality Time – I’m spending more quality time with my son and it has been amazing. We’ve been playing more video games together and having more really good talks.

The News – I’ve been avoiding the news entirely. I don’t click on news stories or read about the goings-on of a society that seems very much in ruin. For me, right now, it’s important to steer away from doomsday and try to make some sort of mentally productive life and a triumphant return to my creative self.

Social Media – I’ve been limiting my interactions on social media and it’s been going really well. I check Facebook daily but I don’t spend all day refreshing it like I used to. Occasionally I catch myself being a little too invested and when I do, I close the tab.

Entertainment – I try not to waste as much time on YouTube watching things that don’t challenge me. I unfollowed a lot of accounts that created mostly garbage content that pandered to the lowest common denominator and I’ve been quite happy with that decision.

Reading – I spend a lot more time reading these days. At this rate, I should double my reading goal. I’ve made a return to my lost love of learning by reading more non-fiction. I’m also stimulating my brain by reading more imaginative fiction.

Writing – I’ve been pouring a lot of my strength and time into writing. When my son goes to bed at night, I try to divide my time between reading and writing. I’m still editing my novel but I’m working on setting a goal to be done my second draft by the end of April, at which point I am hoping to let a few people read it so I can get some valuable feedback.

Relationship – I’m learning to ask for what I need, and when the answer is no, to reassess its importance and work on compromise. I know I need to put myself first and to spend time with people who elevate me rather than push me down.

Toxic People – I’m getting better and knowing when to remove toxic people from my life. Difficult decisions need to be made at times, but I remind myself to be vigilant about my mental health and self-care.

There are probably thousands of other little things, but overall my mind is in a pretty good place and things are only getting easier over time as I develop healthier habits. I know now without a doubt that medication is not the right path for me in combating my mental illness, and that I’m capable of handling things myself with the right skill-set.

Dear Katelyn Davis,

Dear Katelyn Davis,

I remember being 12 years old, but I didn’t have a camera or a computer to make videos like yours. I watched some of your videos and you remind me a lot of me at that age: troubled, hurting, and the victim of the abuse of a man and a woman wearing the titles of Mother and Father without earning it. You’re a girl with too much weight to hold on your shoulders, and I can see the evidence of that behind your eyes.

I just want to take you aside and tell you that it will get better. It will get better. I want to give you a hug and explain that though you might not feel loved now, you will, because you’re a smart young lady, and you are good enough. I want to show you that it’s possible to survive abuse and depression and come out on the other side well adjusted. It’s a tough road, and I won’t lie to you about that, but it’s possible.

I want to tell you all of these things… but I can’t.

You died by suicide with your cell phone camera pointed at a tree you decorated with your final breath after you live streamed apologies to everyone for not being good enough. I watched you die, and I watched the sun set behind you. I heard your mom call your name before the video went black. And I’m so sorry, Katelyn, that things got that hard. I’m sorry you became part of the abusive undertone of society that treats people like objects to be used and abused. You deserved none of that. You deserved love, and a chance.

For what it’s worth, I want you to know that I heard you. I got your message. Your life means something to me, and to anybody else who has taken the time to listen. I will remember you always.


Love,
Wendy

 

Why I Abandoned My Antidepressants

Why I Abandoned My Antidepressants

I have gone back and forth where psychotropic medications are concerned, and though I recognize their necessity for some people, I have always had a hard time coming to terms with them within my own life. I have been on antidepressants twice in my life. In both instances, they seemed to work for a while before eventually making me feel dead inside. It sounds dramatic, but it’s pretty accurate.

To give a brief history of my mental illness: I was diagnosed with PTSD as a child and at the time was treated with regular visits to a psychologist. As an adult I was diagnosed with complex PTSD, major depressive disorder, and OCD (I had severe issues with being “contaminated” from which I am currently recovered).

I briefly saw a psychologist during a major relapse in my mental health in 2005, following a major nervous breakdown and significant self harm (I used to cut pretty severely). I went to my doctor, who prescribed Effexor and set me up to go see a psychologist. He also gave me 3 months stress leave from work. I started the medication immediately and lasted a few sessions with the psychologist before calling it quits. It just didn’t work out. I could tell exactly what she was doing and why, and she insisted I talk about things that didn’t need to be said at the time.

The Effexor started off with a struggle. I became agitated, suicidal, and didn’t trust myself to be alone while I adjusted to the antidepressants so I surrounded myself with friends who I knew would look out for me if I faltered. It seemed to level off after a month and a half, and started to “work” in the sense that the cloud of depression lifted enough that I could see just how bad I had gotten. I remained on Effexor for about a year before a different kind of depression took over; I felt trapped, useless, and too numb to care.

As an artist/writer/creative type, I need emotion to create beautiful things. It has always seemed like I feel things more intensely and fully than some people. On the Effexor, yes, it took away the bad feelings, but it took away the good ones as well. I found myself simply existing rather than really living. I was numb, I couldn’t feel, and It was killing me.

I went back to my doctor and told him I needed off the Effexor. He prescribed me two stages of taper doses so that I could wean myself slowly down.

The withdrawal I felt coming off Effexor was one of the worst feelings I have ever felt. I was like I wasn’t in control of my body or my mind. The worst symptom of all was something I called “brain zaps”. The best way I can describe it is that I felt as if every time I moved my head, my brain moved a fraction of a second later. I would get tracers in my vision or it felt like I was vibrating even if I was still. The weaning from the drug took a long time. When I got to the lowest dose capsules, the biggest struggle began. I couldn’t seem to just go from the smallest dose to nothing at all, or the brain zaps would be unbearable. I survived by cracking open the capsules and dividing the little beads in half inside. That took too long, so I started just taking on every second day, then one every third day, and eventually I would take as needed until I was completely off without the antidepressants’ withdrawal symptoms.

I could write again. I could paint again. I could think again. I felt like I had my life back. I could feel the depression. I could feel the PTSD. They were there, but I tried using other methods to cope with them when they got ugly. I took up knitting. I started the meditation that would eventually lead me down the path of Buddhism. I dove head first back into art and writing and even though all that darkness was there, I embraced it as a part of me and channeled it into the positive output of creating.

All in all, weaning off took a full year, after which I swore I would never go on antidepressants again. And I didn’t… for 10 years.

Fast forward to about 6 months or so ago when I went to my doctor drained and apathetic. I had no motivation to do anything. I felt like I was at my wit’s end with myself. I didn’t want my doctor to prescribe me anything in the same class as Effexor, so I did some research and landed on Wellbutrin. That was what I asked my doctor for and what he prescribed for me.

At first, it didn’t seem to do much. It sort of took the edge off and I felt a little hopeful that it would be “the one” that would work well for me. For a few months, that feeling continued. I didn’t notice any huge changes, just a lot of little things that improved gradually over time.

It was about a month ago that I noticed this gradual change was drifting toward making me numb again. I stopped being able to feel anything. I looked back and realized I hadn’t done anything visually creative since I started on the Wellbutrin. I felt like I didn’t know myself, because I didn’t feel like myself. I would rather feel hopelessly morose than emotionally stunted and alien in my own skin. I would rather wake up every morning basking in the familiar melancholy I’ve known my whole life than to feel as if I have a big blank space in my brain.

So after a conversation with my doctor, we decided to end the Wellbutrin with no plan of switching to something else. He advised me against going cold turkey, but that it should be okay given I haven’t been on it a super long time. If I have any problems, of course, I’m to call him.

So far, so good. It’s been about 7 days, so I know that its effects will still in my system for a bit longer, but I’ve experienced no negative effects at this point. I’m looking forward to feeling like myself again, bruises and all. I’m going to resume my meditation practice and bleed myself into my writing, for which I find the words coming easier already.

UPDATE: I posted an update on how being med free is going here.