Depression Stories 2: Medication

So many people have told me about the side effects of taking antidepressants, that I’ll become dependent etc etc etc, so today’s post will be full of the side effects I’ve experienced from both Sertraline and Citalopram, and my personal attitude to taking medication for my mental health.

Last summer I started taking Sertraline for my depression and anxiety. Initially, I found it to be so helpful at generally lifting my mood – my best friend noticed that even the speed that I was walking at had greatly increased because my energy levels were just better. I started on a half dose (50mg a day), for two weeks, and just as I jetted off to America for a month I increased my dose to 100mg a day. And subsequently spent the first days of my holiday with my head in a toilet bowl. Or multiple. In public. That medication did NOT discriminate. Pretty quickly I discovered that if I didn’t eat before taking Sertraline, my stomach would violently reject it. And as I later found out, mixing my medication with any alcohol would have the same effect (cue an afternoon of projectile vomiting over a rental car while driving down a Vermont highway… Not ideal).

But I learnt, and eventually managed a routine where I was able to enjoy a drink (or five) without making a fool of myself. Yet after being on Sertraline for 8 months, I decided that they were no longer making me feel as good as I had when I first started. I thought that after the initial effect had worn off, they didn’t change my mood enough for me to want to continue taking them.

With my type of depression and anxiety, I get pretty extreme highs and lows; I will have a long period of feeling incredibly low and useless, followed by a sudden peak of energy and excitement etc. Being on Sertraline may have helped at first, but after a while, these peaks and troughs were still too extreme for my liking. A sense of control is vital for me to hold/maintain a good mood, so without this (even when I did experience positive moods) I no longer wanted to take Sertraline anymore.

My doctor, the lass that she is, quickly transferred me over to a standard dose of Citalopram (20mg/day), and with little issue I began to take them. I’ve now been on Citalopram for two months and despite being in the early days, I definitely prefer it to Sertraline. There was no nausea, even when I drink (which is a BLESSING as a student), and none of the side effects I have experienced have been particularly bad, in my opinion. The biggest issues I have is that I sleep and eat like a bloody bear – I don’t think I’ve ever slept so much in my life and even with 10/12/14 hours of sleep each night I’m in a permanently sleepy state. But personally I feel that’s preferable to crippling insomnia which keeps me exhausted and entirely sleep deprived. In addition, I now wake up with an insatiable hunger, something I never thought was possible considering my history with eating patterns etc (nothing serious I should add, just different to how I am now). My meal portions have probably doubled in size, at least, and my appetite comes back with a vengeance shortly after every meal.

In terms of mood, everything is far more muted – in an okay way – than it used to be. And while some see a ‘numb’ mood as a result of medication as a bad thing, for me it is a blessing. Waking up every day feeling generally okay, rather than unsure of what my mood was going to be that day, is so much less stressful than it used to be. I have my bad days and very manic days still, but for the most part these are pretty rare and I’d take a guess that they’re less intense than they used to be. Citalopram has allowed me to regain a sense of control in my life and feel that everything I have to do is much more doable. Which in my book is definitely a worthwhile endeavour.

IF I end up being on medication for the rest of my life (who knows? who cares, at this stage?), I am comforted by the knowledge that my medication helps me every day to function in ways that I likely would not be able to. At least for now, this is definitely the case.

Of course, everyone is entitled to their opinion, however I truly believe that if medication helps you, being dependent on it is fine – as a wise friend of mine said, “you wouldn’t tell a diabetic not to take insulin because they’d become dependent on it!”

Some people need medicine to live normal lives. Other people are fine without. But it’s a personal choice. I hope that if you’re considering medication, this post has given you a slight insight into dealing with the side effects, but I have to stress the importance of trying for yourself – everyone is different and what works for someone may not work for someone else. Stay safe kids, and don’t hesitate to get in touch if you need to talk!


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