I was doing everything right. And on paper everything was right. Peachy fucking keen even. I’d started a business with my BFF, had negotiated some sweet contracts to start us off. We had funding. The healthy eating, exercise, life balance thing. You fucking bet I was checking off all those boxes left right and centre. But I was straight up struggling. And not in, oh I was having a bad day or a rough week. I wasn’t so much floundering as I was drowning. I felt hollowed out and overwhelmed and there was no rhyme nor reason for it. It was while I was out for a run when it hit me. All of it. I didn’t want to do it any more. I wasn’t entirely convinced I could do it any more. I was emotionally spent and dying, well dying seemed like a viable option. Attractive even. I sat on a bench, defeated and called my best friend and howled. The kind of crying that leaves your body aching and without any sense of catharsis. It was time to give anti-depressants a go.
I never thought I would be on them for as long as I would. Or what a profound effect they would have on me. How much they would actually help me. How distinct the change would be to everyone around me. Or the fact that 3 years of a moderate to high dose I would be off them (and any other medication to manage my mental health) completely.
Going on anti-depressants was absolutely 100% the best thing for me. And to say they saved my life may sound hyperbolic – but without them I wouldn’t have made it in to therapy. I wouldn’t have been able to put in any of the work that it takes to “get better” (at least, what this meant for me) or function. Full stop. I went from someone that swayed between lying there, near catatonic to hysterical, erratic, violent and generally all sorts of not good to stable. While there certainly felt like there was still a fat man sitting on my chest most days, he’s moved around a little and I could breathe. Enough to gasp for air.
And 3 years later, I’m off them. Completely and utterly off them. While coming off any long term medication can be daunting, giving up the green and yellows after a full life 180 might seem like the worst idea. Ever. On paper. But really, on paper counts for jack shit. I had some unpleasant life admin to deal with and I can’t exactly say the last few months have been sing from the rooftops delightful, but I didn’t want to fling myself from them. That counted from something. In fact it was walking in to work one day when I realised I was ready to come off anti-depressants. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d thought about hurting myself – which after a particularly rough Summer the year before was something. I hadn’t sat staring at the walls working through the logistics of how exactly I was going to die. My plans to slip off this mortal coil by my own volition had been put permanently on hold. It hadn’t happened overnight and not without a lot of work and a lot of help, but I was there and I was ready.
I made an appointment with my doctor and we discussed coming off them. Luckily, fluoexine has a fairly generous half life so coming off would be nowhere near as tough as going on. It started by halfing my dose. Then taking one every other day. Then a couple a week. And then I was done. I was given some beta-blockers to manage any anxiety in the coming weeks, but there they sat,still wrapped up in their paper bag unopened. It’s nice to know they’re there as an option and a security blanket, but I can’t lie, it feels really fucking good to not need them any more.
Talking about depression, suicidal ideation and self-harm I know reaks of TMI, however I still do believe talking about mental health is important. It’s difficult because, well, who wants to be seen as unstable? Or attention seeking? If anything it feels like a reaffirmation of everything I’ve ever felt on my worst days. However, those who’ve reached out to me over the years have helped me more than they could know. And it wouldn’t have happened without these conversations. About how hard it can be. And to contrast it, how wonderful it can be too.
If you’re struggling with mental health remember you’re not alone, please find below a few different places for help.