I think the title of this blog sums up it’s message in a single sentence, and is is something I have grown to feel quite strongly about. I have been prescribed medications for anxiety/depression/PTSD, for two long term periods over the past seven years, and on both occasions, I have experienced the stigma surrounding this, be that individuals who barely know me, dishing out unsolicited and ignorant “advice”/comments to me, or simply witnessing people on various social media outlets, criticising and mocking those who choose to take meds. Even before I struggled with my own mental health, I did not see antidepressants/mood stabilising tablets to be a negative thing, but turns out many people do, and their reasoning for it is almost as absurd as the very notion in itself, of wanting to verbally attack the mentally fragile. Examples range from the age old, “It’s all in your head” or “You just need to change your mindset”, to the slightly more modern and erratic, “The media and/or government conditions people into believing they are mentally ill, in order to drug and control their minds”. Individuals with these opinions are incredibly lucky they are yet to experience the painful reality!
The first time I was prescribed meds was in June 2014, when I was in a relationship with my extremely abusive ex partner. I had not long moved out of my parent’s home, and was not very educated on issues surrounding mental health, seeing as I had never suffered with any growing up (as far as I am aware). I was very confused and stressed out, as I didn’t understand why my ex was behaving the way he was, and I somewhat believed I was to blame, which made me upset to the point I felt I was becoming self destructive in my behaviour. Examples of this were: not eating, heavily drinking & using drugs, plus I began physically self harming, which was something I had never even contemplated before then. My doctor had me complete various questionnaires, before prescribing me with the antidepressant Citalopram, and the beta blocker named Propranolol, which is used to help treat anxiety as well as blood pressure. Unfortunately (and idiotically), I did not tone down my drinking or general lifestyle, meaning that the pills never really had a chance to begin working, especially as I would often take them with alcohol, plus I rarely took them at the same times each day, with some days forgetting to take any or all tablets, due to being drunk/hungover/generally distressed. I was very silly to do this, as alcohol massively interfered with the medication, which many times resulted in me passing/blacking out, randomly falling asleep, being sick, or just getting drunk quicker and having to be helped home. Even when highly intoxicated, I did not become involved in any fights or arguments- I am not this way inclined when sober, and have learnt, thankfully, not when pissed up and medicated either! I mainly just became emotional, sick or tired. I slowly withdrew from the tablets by mid 2016, as I had moved house and been out of the violent relationship for several months, plus I was also nearing the end of recovery from alcohol addiction, therefore my doctor and I felt it was the right time, especially as I had not really felt any benefits whilst taking the medication anyhow.
The next time I was prescribed medication for my mental health, was last June 2020. I was put on 50mg a day of the antidepressant named Sertraline (also known as Zoloft) and over time I increased to 100mg, then to 150mg, which is what I am currently taking. I had been hoping to avoid needing to go back on tablets, but after another horrifically abusive prolonged living situation (which thankfully ended with the perpetrator being arrested and eventually evicted from the property) I knew my mental health had taken a huge hit, and I was suffering with night terrors, disorientation, panic attacks and also occasionally, disassociation, which was something I had never had happen to me before. I live in a beautiful part of North London, with lovely housemates, and I am financially stable for the first time in seven years, but I was somewhat haunted and traumatised by memories of when I lived in Crawley with an absolute lunatic, and most prominently, the events of the night said lunatic was arrested for holding me against my will and assaulting/injuring me, of which from then on, I was experiencing frequent hyper realistic flashbacks and nightmares. My new GP surgery have very efficient staff, and I spoke with a lovely doctor, who prescribed me the Sertraline, and explained how we would increase the dosage over time. 150mg is a high dosage, but that is the one (or 175/200mg) usually given to victims/survivours of severe trauma, which the doctor assured me after reading my medical notes, that I definitely am.
I knew almost 100% what would happen if I were to post about it on social media when I first started taking the pills, but I have always been open about my struggles with mental health, so I went ahead and did it anyway. Of course I received comments and messages warning me of how “evil” and “addictive” antidepressants are, and how I need to “just be more positive”, “get out for more exercise/fresh air each day”, and even “just smoke lots of weed”. One of my closest friends has been taking Sertraline for the past year, and has had very positive experiences with it so far. She invited me to join a Facebook group specifically for people taking it, where everyone offers advice and supports each other, without criticising other’s decisions/reasoning for taking the medication. I really like the group, as the people are genuinely helpful in offering their personal experiences, and there is always almost someone online, as it is a worldwide community.
I personally did not start to feel “better” until a few weeks after upping my dosage to 100mg, and when my doctor put me on 150mg, I started to feel a shift in my mindset after the first week. I have been taking 150mg for just over three weeks now, and I can definitely see it working, even though Sertraline is known for taking around twelve weeks to fully “level out”, with some people needing longer. I am lucky in that I have not really experienced any side effects, especially when increasing to higher dosages, as many people say that increasing, and when you initially start taking the course, can bring about unpleasant side effects such as nausea, shaking, poor sleep, feeling more depressed/anxious etc. When I first began taking the meds right back at 50mg, I found I was shaky and a bit disorientated for just over a week, but thankfully no sickness or increased anxiety. I did not get any side effects when upping to 100/150mg, so I definitely think I have found my “magic” pills, so to speak! Pre- meds, I used to wake up feeling a sense of deep sadness and lack of motivation each morning, but now I wake up feeling positive and motivated to make the most of the day. I perform workouts/yoga/dance every morning, and find my sleep pattern is improving a fair bit- I used to struggle to maintain a bedtime and morning routine, but now I take joy in winding down for the evening, and then going about my mornings. I have also set up eBay/Vinted and Depop stores, selling clothes, which is something I would have seen as being too daunting a year ago! I enjoy taking parcels to be sent off at the post office, and chatting to the staff in my local supermarkets/coffee shops.
So to wrap up this blog, I will just reinforce that whilst people are certainly permitted to discuss their own opinions and personal experiences, it is down to the individual to make decisions for themselves, without being shamed or influenced by the attitudes of others. I know it has been said many times, but mental health really is SO important, especially during these Covid times, and if you ever feel you need assistance with this, then go right out there and see what can be arranged via your GP or local mental health services. Eventually you will find the right treatment, and hopefully have as positive an experience with it as I have been!