I started taking antidepressants in 2004 though I have suffered from depression most of my life. I have been on many types of medications that worked sometimes for long periods of times, while others only worked briefly or not at all.
I never shared my depression with most of my family, friends, or co-workers. It terrified me that people would find out my secret. I was ashamed of myself, and I felt like a failure. The stigma of mental illness has always been a huge barrier for me to overcome, and I admit that what others think is very important to me.
When we would have our numerous arguments, my ex-husband would pound on the wall with his fist and scream at me, “Time to take your la-la pills.” I believed that if he thought this way of me, imagine what others would think if they found out!
In the summer of 2018, I knew something was terribly wrong with the antidepressants I was on. I was constantly exhausted and would go to bed at 6 p.m., sleeping 13 to 15 hours at a time. I also gained approximately 80 pounds in about a two-year period. I had a ravenous appetite and overeating became the norm.
I thought that since my doctor had prescribed them to me, they should be OK. At work, I pretended to be normal and laughed and kidded with all my co-workers and yes, also got my work done. I decided to ask my doctor to refer me to a psychiatrist, as they would know what was going on.
I needed an answer, as I was losing my life to antidepressants!
I saw my first psychiatrist last summer, and during that time, he took me off most of the medications I was on to such an extreme level it sent my body into a tailspin. I kept telling him how bad things were, which he completely ignored. Instead, he referred me back to my family doctor, as our sessions were done.
He was not the right fit for me, so I requested another referral. It took a little while for the referral to go through, and by this time, I was in meltdown mode. Prior to seeing my new psychiatrist, I did some research and found out she was highly recommended—so I was hopeful she would be helpful. At the first visit, she told me she could not believe I was able to function, let alone walk into her office, due to the current high dose of one of the medications I was on (I was on three different antidepressants at the time). The one I was on was way over the maximum daily dosage with the following side effects: extreme fatigue, excessive weight gain, and increased to ravenous appetite.
My new psychiatrist helped me realize that having a volatile upbringing and not having trustworthy family dynamics were huge reasons I suffer from depression and anxiety. Additionally, family history of mental illness on my mom’s side of my family played an integral role in my illness also. I don’t know my dad’s side so that part of the puzzle is unknown and could be a contributing factor in this puzzle I have been unraveling. My psychiatrist’s long work history and experience in this field was just what I was looking for and we fit together perfectly. Not only did she listen to what I was telling her, I felt that I was being heard. It reinforced many aspects about myself, my insecurities and how I never loved myself for the kind, caring person she saw sitting across from her. She suggested and encouraged me to try new things and stop the destructive patterns I have instilled in myself. Having a giving personality and not able to say no as I always gave more than I ever got back were huge barriers to overcome. I would encourage anyone who has uncertainties about the current psychiatrist you are seeing to request a second opinion. There is someone out there who could be the fit for you.
Don’t be afraid to ask or think the current doctor is going to be mad at you, as they only want the best for you.
I have worked very hard to wean myself off that medication. The huge medication changes have been hard; the ups and downs have been both physically and mentally exhausting, not to mention hard on my partner. Unfortunately, my family doctor kept upping my medication to such a degree that although I was functioning, I was not living. Currently the medications I am now on are at levels that I don’t feel excessively exhausted. It made me realize that I was right to question what I was going through and it wasn’t just the depression and anxiety that was making me feel that way, it was the wrong medication that included over-prescribed amounts. Don’t get me wrong: depression, anxiety, and the medication can be taxing to most. But feeling such as I did truly was not what was helping me, reaching out for alternatives was.
My psychiatrist suggested many life style changes that I am trying to incorporate into my daily living. As they say, Rome wasn’t built in one day, so slow but sure I am trying new things. My self-esteem has increased immensely, I don’t beat myself up very often now which truly is a feat. Every day I have started to be thankful for what I have in my life, and this has slowly changed the negative thoughts or at least some of them. I have taken up walking and nature photography, both of which give me much pleasure. I get excited and happy now when I’ve taken some photos to the point that I can’t wait to get home to see what I have captured. Being outdoors in nature calms my soul, it makes me feel lucky to be part of such a beautiful world.
My appetite has gone down immensely where I don’t eat excessively anymore and my night eating has gone down dramatically. Food has always been a comfort for me, but now that I am eating better in smaller amounts with more of a variety of types of food, I feel like I am in control of my emotions. Little things can make a huge difference in your overall wellbeing, energy levels and sense of accomplishments. I am trying to work on improving my sleeping pattern by adding 15 minutes each day more that I stay up. The pattern of sleeping too long is an escape from what? I often ask myself. The pain of life itself can get you at times where sleep is an easy escape but eventually sleep becomes your worst enemy and your world shatters to pieces. I have an inner strength and pick up those pieces and start each day new with a resolve that life is worth living and I want to be part of it.
Am I there yet? Not quite. But at the very least, that I am out of the madness of over-prescribed antidepressants