Recently I have made the decision to come off my anti-anxiety meds (Prozac). As they have slowly filtered out my system I have been very conscious of the effects it is having on my behaviour. Trying to describe what depression/anxiety feels like on and off meds is a really difficult one. Now I’m in this transition and I’m aware of the subtle changes happening in my mind, I thought it was a good opportunity to explore these thoughts/feelings. It might even help someone who is considering doing the same.
The med myth – why use them in the first place?
I was always reluctant to try meds, I thought they would mask the real problem. I believed the only way to address it head-on was talking therapy. I’d also heard people saying ‘they numb you up’ etc, (no one knows what that means but you presume it cant be a good thing).
However, after trying talking therapy (extensively) it didn’t seem to work. It’s useful for understanding where/what your emotions have stemmed from, but what I had trouble with is feeling like I was on an emotional ledge, something out of my control and when it took hold, something I couldn’t get back from. That’s what the meds helped with.
In fact, taking meds made me feel like it wasn’t my fault. It’s hard to articulate, but you when you suffer from depression/anxiety you blame yourself for pretty much everything. It’s my fault I feel like this, I’m trying to fix it but I can’t. Meds work by changing the chemical compounds in the brain, something you cannot control yourself. So when the meds start helping, you realise that depression is a medical condition. With this came the realisation that maybe my depression isn’t all my fault.
The numb myth
They didn’t make me feel numb or happy, I felt pretty much the same. What they did was simply help me not to ‘overreact’ to situations that would usually be very anxiety-inducing. It kept my emotions from not going that one step too far. It pulled me back from the metaphorical emotional ledge. I still have bad days, I know my triggers and I know I’m going to feel anxious around those triggers. But I don’t feel like my emotions are building up so much that I have to rely on more ‘self-destructive’ methods to feel better.
So why go off them?
My doctor asks me a few times a year if I want to try ‘weening’ off them. I guess they don’t want people to be on them forever. Seen as I will be working from home for the foreseeable, I thought it was a good safe environment to give it a go.
So, what’s the verdict?
Old habits die hard. It really does take a good couple of months to rid it from your system. At the beginning I felt fine, I was smashing it. But as the weeks went by I started noticing ‘intrusive’ thoughts working their way back into my everyday life. Simple things like looking in the mirror for one minute longer, maybe making a small criticism. Or mulling over what you said or did for longer than you should.
Fast forward another couple of weeks, now I am looking in the mirror for 5 minutes longer, finding more flaws to criticise myself with. Getting irritated easily….
Fast forward a month, I’m starting to feel like I did pre-meds. Work is getting stressful, instead of brushing it off I am feeling emotional. I am also very giggly, make me laugh I won’t be able to stop. Make me cry I won’t be able to stop. Annoy me and I will tell you. All filters are off. Now, when I look in the mirror (sounds crazy) but I honestly don’t know if I can trust what I am looking at is a real representation of me or not. Don’t get me wrong, I am still ‘highly functional’ but these things keep creeping in more every day.
On the positive side, I am ‘coping’, and I can cope with it. But, more importantly, I feel smarter. Bit of a strange thing to say but I have always had a very curious and creative mind (and I have often wondered if the meds dull this slightly).
Since I’ve been off I have felt far more creative, I’m full of good and productive ideas and I feel like I’m winning back my academic curiosity of the world! Not going to lie, this does feel good!
So what to do now?
I don’t like where it’s headed, although I am enjoying having a bit of ‘me’ back in regards to the creativity side. Sometimes depression is more interesting than being simply content. An odd thing to say but I’m sure many who have experienced depression would agree. That thought process is also a worry, but as long as you can recognise it, that’s half the battle. I don’t want to be on them forever. I will probably see how I get on over the next few weeks and if it continues to move south, I will probably have to surrender. It’s not what I want to do, but it’s the sensible thing to do.