“I Have To Work Hard To Keep Well…”

I have been completely off Citalopram 40mg (antidepressant) for 10 weeks now. I’ve written about my experience with them and my journey of recovery before here –

My experience of Citalopram

So, I thought it might be helpful if I detailed how I found this part of the process.

I can’t pretend I wasn’t nervous – I was. I didn’t make the choice lightly or quickly – I thought about it long and hard. I also talked about it A LOT – to my GP and with my husband. It was on my GP’s advice that I decided to “give it a go”. I say it like that because we both said “what’s the worst that can happen”?! The answer?  Well, I could have found I still needed them, more than I realised, so had to start to take them again. I could live with that. (But a few months before I couldn’t have – the fear of the unknown was too much, so at that point I clearly wasn’t ready).

** I firmly believe in, advocate for and recommend talking to your GP or Health Care Provider before making a choice to change your medication routine. **

I came off them slowly. I moved from 40mg to 20mg, then to 10mg, then to 5 mg (I cut the tablet in half)  every other/every third day and then finally stopped. I didn’t find it straight forward. Every change in dose brought some side effects to my body and physically it was noticeable that I was ‘coming off’ them. To be honest, when I got to be completely free I noticed very little change or major issues –  I think because I had tapered off them and my body was used to the little dose.

Some of the side effects I experienced in withdrawing from them

  • Twitching returned and the night-time jerks – these were worse if I was physically under the weather or feeling anxious.
  • Felt anxious in general, would have said I was “on edge” but not about anything in particular.
  • Weird dreams returned – very intense and distressing but they passed quickly. They seem to also return if I am going through a bad week.
  • My jaw was tight and clenched all the time and I had terrible migraines.
  • Blurred vision and feeling dizzy, all of a sudden.
  • Loud noises “hurt” my ears again.
  • My PMS is awful again – it was never this bad before having a baby – it was awful during the worst of PND. The medication seemed to really help that (a good side effect I am only realising now).

(You can read more about how my health was HERE before getting help from PND.)

But all of this is normal. I had chatted with my GP, read some of the reputable sites (e.g mind.org.uk) about what it could be like and then decided to run with it.

I’m really glad that I’ve tried to come off them and that I’ve made it this far. It’s another point in my journey of recovery.

There have also been some benefits –

  • I’m not as tired and “zombie” like as I was.  I used to need to nap in the day time, because I felt unnaturally tired – the sleep would not really help but it had to lie down, before I feel down.
  • My emotions are returning. That’s a good thing. The medication made me feel “on one level” all the time – i.e. I didn’t feel any highs or lows. I needed that for a time. It helped me to settle. But I realised that I was rarely feeling pleased, excited, happy, proud etc. But I also need to keep an eye  – a few times they have hit the ground again and I was in danger of falling into a hole.

To be clear – I didn’t come off them because I was ashamed or embarrassed to be taking them or that I needed them. I totally understand that there’s stigma and shame around medication, especially in some areas of society. I don’t believe there should (not for one moment) but I know that’s how feels/it. I have tried to be as open and transparent about my journey with AD’s as I can, in order to play my part in challenging the stigma. I don’t believe it’s weak to take medication; I don’t believe it’s a sign of failure or laziness or that you haven’t “helped yourself to get well”; I don’t believe that it’s a “sin”. I fully recognise, for many people, (like me!) medication is a lifeline and a key part of recovering health and wellbeing – so they should be, that’s what they are for. Some people may be on medication for the rest of their lives, others for a short period, some may find there are different seasons where they need it more than others. All of that is ok, no one way of recovery or keeping well is better than another.

I wanted to come off my medication, to see if this was the right thing for me, at this part of my journey. For now, it has been.

Will I ever take medication again?

I’m not sure. Maybe. Maybe not. I talked about this, in my review with the GP, a couple of weeks ago. He feels I have coped really well and is pleased with the progress I am making. But we are keeping it under review still.

“I have to work hard to keep well”… that’s how I described to him, life without medication. I know the medication was helping me, right up until I finished with it. Without it, I have to work harder at my health & wellbeing. Does that sound strange? How can I explain it?…

Before I had PND I never gave my health much thought. The odd cold, maybe a tummy bug, migraine etc but nothing out of the ordinary. My health was just in the background of life. Now it’s in the forefront. I have to think about it a lot. I have to manage it more. I have to be careful with myself – especially emotionally and mentally, in a way I never imagined or bothered with. It just ticked along nicely before, now I have to drive it.

I am doing that – I am taking responsibility for my part in my health and healing but I do find it hard and frustrating at times. Planning ahead, setting aside specific “me time”, getting out and about (even when I just want to sit on the sofa), talking openly and honestly about how I feel (even when I’d just like to ignore it), getting enough sleep, eating well and pursing life. All of these take time. All of these take energy. I guess I used to do them, naturally, before PND. Or maybe it’s just that missing out on them wasn’t a big deal – now it is, or it would be, if I didn’t make them a priority. That, honestly, frustrates me. I have joked a few times that it would be easier to be on the medication – they did more of the “managing” of daily health for me. But, for now, I am pursing this for myself.

I might need to re-think and, if I do, that’s okay.

So whatever point you are at – thinking about taking medication, in the middle of a season with it, coming off, or worrying about your health my advice is this – talk to a GP. Find one you can relate to and trust and take their advice. I was terrified of taking antidepressants and then so nervous about coming off them – neither was as bad as I had played out in my head. Yes, it was hard but worth it to see my health and wellbeing restored and recover.

If you are feeling low, down, hopeless, helpless – you are not alone. Reach out, there is support available.