About 14 months ago I decided to stop taking anti depressants, just like that. And I did. This stint of about eight to nine years on this particular anti depressant (10mg-max 40mg year to year), had been preceded by a period of about five years off any medication and previous to that, about four years on a mood stabilizer with anti depressants.
So last February the anti depressant just wasn’t working anymore in that my self esteem was plummeting low; I was drinking too much alcohol; I was still rocking from happy to fucking miserable and I was pretty skint and thought I was a slave to the pharmaceutical system; plus a few other filial reasons, and with those things in mind, I just decided that I’d give life a go without it.
I’d been experiencing ‘brain zaps’ and shivers on the blasted things and skin/ lip tingles and low mood but once I stopped (not with the advice of my doctor who I’d not visited regarding ‘depression’ for months if not years), I literally thought I’d had a stroke or something (clearly unversed in what strokes are), because of the violence of the electric-shock-like sensations in my head.
I didn’t research what I was doing at all, and in retrospect, can see that I was pretty stupid to come off the medication without tapering down and not preparing myself for the horror of what felt like freefalling or being a puppet with no strings (and it wasn’t fun like in Pinocchio’s song). Slowly, and sometimes quite quickly, a brittle and deadening coldness emanated through me and I found myself frequently crying while bicycling to nowhere; or experiencing what felt like waves of cortisol fuelled blood rushing to my nose and pulsating in my brain and I’d just suddenly be sitting on benches on sunny mornings, surrounded by rushing people and daffodils and wondering how my life had come to such ruinous ruin.
However I’d experienced this often whilst taking medication and really wanted to try and banish depression ‘on the ground’ and armour free. Little did I know.
A few months after this experiment, I hit a wall of lowness that was fairly new; slowly and then rapidly, my thoughts, accelerating gently and insidiously in my subconscious, became multiplicitous screams, and with that came a total loss of appetite and fear of eating and utter exhaustion and what I suppose would be described as depression- Meanwhile, I was thinking that it was of the utmost importance to appear well and level and coping at all costs: Not a good combination of activities, and which led to frequent outbursts of private anguish and personal horror and the occasional tearful outburst to the headmistress at my children’s school who I felt thought she was running a prison (and told her so, oops), and who reminded me strongly of the psychopathic Smiler in the emoji movie.
I went back on another drug. If anything, to avoid strangling insanely smiling, cold blooded staff at the school gate; clanking the gate shut if you were a minute late; or to avoid melt downs generally and anywhere, plus to shut off the interminable VOICES ….
I was told belatedly, and as I was melting down in a new lava-lake of vociferous, volcanic misery, that I was mildly anaemic and my Vitamin D levels were low but these were not seen as contributing to my condition. My gut concerns (of which there were many), were side-lined to health anxiety.
Now, about two months later, I’ve stopped taking the antidepressant. Am I stupid? I don’t know yet. Admittedly, I only took the lowest dose at 5mg (10mg being a therapeutic dose), because I was not 100 percent convinced I needed them and not something else…. (like what I don’t know). However, while taking them, my thinking was happily limited, (in that it did seem to shut up the loudest of my inner critical voices), and my appetite returned: to a more-normal :wanting to eat avocados and tinned spicy mackerels or homemade veggie chilli’s, or even sausages and mash, from time to time.
In the lead up to this most foul recent experience of ‘depression’, I’d been desperately listening to positive podcasts and looking frantically at cognitive behavioural therapy techniques and trying to concentrate on Eckhart Tolle and Louise Hay books like a drowning person trying desperately to swim though never having taken a lesson; and I think I failed rather miserably, as the loud, cruel and nasty screeching in my mind just grew louder and louder no matter how present I tried to be, until frankly I just let the cool, sometimes boiling water, lap over my head, and what felt like the she-devil within me, pull me under.
Am I scared or do I just learn how to fly?
So during this reprieve granted by taking a very low dose of medication I’ve continued to read, read, read. I’ve read books on overcoming depression naturally ‘The Depression Cure’ by David Ilardi and have subsequently started taking a cocktail of vitamins ( C, D)and very high strength fish oils. I am reading a book called ‘Becoming your real self’ by Dr Eddie Murphy (cognitive therapy toolkit) and am enlisted on a waiting list (for a good year) and imminently hoping to start (please NHS) for an eight week course of cognitive behavioural therapy employing Paul Gilberts ‘compassionate theory’ . I happened upon his book (Gilberts), ‘Overcoming depression’ which I’m just starting and also have another Eckhart Tolle book on the go ‘A New Earth’ because I’ve simply never been able to concentrate on ‘The Power of Now’ (says it all really). I’ve read a bit of ‘Mindfulness: Finding peace in a frantic world’ and watched loads of Ruby Wax and others on Ted. I have taken steps to improve my employment. Super Health by Patrick Holfold makes good reading too; it’s like going on a safari and watching from a closed windowed car, the potentially healthy life I could be leading if I’d just do what he says; however, at this point the supplements are all I can manage (Chromium to balance blood sugar; a high strength multi vitamin and a few others thrown in), along with a bit of healthy eating.
I’m also listening to Johann Hari read his book ‘Lost Connections’ (on Audible) – (his theories/research/ personal experience of depression), and ‘How to be Miserable’ by Randy J. Paterson- A nice American, funny miserable person’s guide to being happy; nicely pretending to teach you how to maximise misery and of course advertently showing you the opposite.
I also forked out for the Headspace app (anti depressants are actually cheaper than all this) because he (Andy Puddicombe- GREAT NAME- could Charles Dickens have made that one up… yes, I think so) , just has the kindest voice, and with his sleep session can send me to sleep nearly in a jiffy, and the app is very improved since I last had it years ago…. you can do so many varied meditations on it and it feels vital and connected, particularly to lovely Andy – who can talk you straight into calm…..
Tara Brach is my new favourite person because she gets to the heart of the matter. She really does know how to rein in the bullshit (with RAIN) in the most simple and direct way. She teaches you Proper Self Love like you’ve always needed, but never known just how simple it can be.
Other than that it’s free fall.
I will see if , yet again, I can brave the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune …
Basically, I have a fairly short fuse and while insanely patient at times, there is a lot of shit simmering …That mixed with loads of other stuff and more stuff added to that, plus more shit and then the voices … I can only wait and see if I can turn the Fear to my advantage; or make friends with it…..
About 10 months ago; when I was trying to turn my life about a little; get a job; improve things generally…communicate with people and step out of my comfort zone, I managed to get some counselling for me and my son (then just 19), because we ‘had issues’. We’re still receiving counselling although it’s soon to end. I have really had feet on the ground; whilst occasionally being dragged up by a wild hot air balloon at times, and I go now again Into The Breach- to see if I can actually befriend the Shadow and tame the beast that lurks ready at every corner to possess me …………
Maybe it’s like clutching at straws and coming away with a bouquet of wild flowers clasped in your hands.
Can life be about the journey of finding your own voice and being comfortable in your own skin?