** Disclaimer: Not a medical professional. My views based on my experiences only. Please visit your GP, mental health professional, or Mind for more expert advice! **
I’ve not been taking my medication for a month now. GP approved, for immediate clarification. I would never endorse taking yourself off your medication without talking it through with your GP first. Sorry to be ya mum, but… do as you’re told.
It’s been… ok? I think. It’s hard to self-reflect, especially when you live with different forms of anxiety. I try to differentiate between ‘me’, ‘me with anxiety’, ‘me on medication for anxiety’ and ‘me having just come off medication for anxiety’ which is a whole new territory.
I came off them for a few reasons, some of them good and some of them bad. I felt ready to try and come off them, primarily. That should always be the main reason. Do it when you’re ready. But I also came off them because some of side effects had started to make my anxiety worse: I put on three stone in a year and I had absolutely no sex drive. Zilch. Nada. Nothing. IT WAS SO SAD.
I know that those reasons are trivial compared to the fact that I could now function, but them being relentlessly thrown in my face when I couldn't fit in my clothes anymore, or when I saw a flash of my boyfriend's bum and didn't start growling, was getting tiresome. So when I felt confident and comfortable to try and come off the medication, those particular side effects made my decision much easier.
I started to cut down at first. I skipped taking them on weekends, then I only took them every other day, then I only took them every three days… then I didn’t take them at all. This was definitely the best way of doing it. The withdrawal effects weren’t strong but they were definitely there even at the start of the slow process, so I’d never recommend going cold turkey.
The withdrawal effects I’ve had so far have been:
- Mad dreams. Like… really weird. Baffling. Could-consider-for-a-Tim-Burton-movie dreams.
- Slight trouble sleeping. Courtesy of above, mostly. But I’ve been super nervous of going to sleep and haven’t slept through a lot.
- Weird appetite. One week I wasn’t hungry at all and the next I was reaching for the pregnancy test because surely I was eating for two?
- Irritableness. Sorry friends.
Aside from the simmering anxiety of being off them, I think that’s it. For now, anyway. No, the weight hasn’t just dropped off but I’m hoping that I can have a better relationship with my body now that I feel more in control of it. And yes, my sex drive back. Bangin’. Literally.
I feel good. The anxiety is definitely there but my eye's on it. I’m happy I made this decision and, to be brutally honest, I’d be absolutely gutted if I needed to go back on my medication. But I know that that’s a possibility and I shouldn’t feel guilty or ashamed at all if it came to it. But one step at a time…
Antidepressants are wonderful things. I’m definitely pro-medication, and I’m also pro-doing what’s best for you. If you don’t get on with medication, that’s fine. If you need medication for the rest of your life, that’s fine too. There are many different treatments for mental health struggles for a reason; one type won’t work for everyone. I, personally, hated counselling. But medication turned my life around, and once that was working in my system, I then learnt how to self-care properly and the combination of the two worked marvellously.
For me, medication gave me a boost in confidence and a gap between something triggering my anxieties and my anxieties acting upon them. It gave me time, and it gave me hope. It let me sleep, it let me believe in myself, it let me go out, it let me learn and adapt, and it let me improve my relationships.
It also gave me weird appetites, made me put on a lot of weight, beat up my sex drive, made me twitchy, and sometimes made me clumsy, forgetful, and ‘not with it’, but those last effects only happened when I had to up my dose earlier this year. That dose didn’t last, needless to say.
I still keep my trusty Sertraline on my bedside table. Just having it there in my sight makes me comfortable. I know it’s there if I need it, though I desperately wish I won’t. I don’t feel scared of ‘going at it alone’. I did, at the start of this year. The thought of not taking medication terrified me and made me so vulnerable. But I depended on it then. I relied on it to get me through the day. But I can get through days myself now. Weeks. Months! Look at me go. I’m far from over with my mental health struggles but, for now, I’m keeping up with them. We’re friends.