Why I Kicked My Antidepressants to the Curb for Good
Disclosure: I am not a doctor. This is my account of my personal choices and should not, in any way, be taken for medical advice. Every individual is different and every situation is unique.
I have been anxious & depressed on and off since I was a preteen. More on than off, really.
As a teenager, I was in psychotherapy for a handful of sessions until my family couldn’t afford it anymore. Most things were like that for us – ballet, yoga, therapy, go for a few times and then it was deemed too expensive.
Anyway, that was my first experience with antidepressants. The therapist put me on a few kinds of meds and I eventually had to stop taking them when my prescriptions ran out. It was fine. Nothing to write home about.
Fast forward 15 years, to back half of 2012. I was a ball of nerves with a high-stress career after a relocation for work and my ten year old niece coming to live with us. My anxiety levels went through the roof. I was having panic attacks nearly every week. Something had to be done, so I made an appointment to see my doctor.
During my appointment, the Doc walked into the room and asked how I was. I burst into tears without even getting a word out first. Not pretty tears either. I went full-blown into the ugly cry.
Thus began my last stint on meds. My doctor cycled me through several different ones in the never-ending quest to find a happy medium between curbing the anxiety and stoning me out.
About two years later, the swings in my moods and hormones caused by the medications led me to just stop taking the one I was on at the time. Cold turkey. Um, ya, don’t do that. It felt like my head was going to explode. The brain zingers were crippling for weeks until I finally broke down and called my doctor. I now know that you can’t just stop taking psychoactive medication; you have to wean off it.
Towards early 2015, I was on the maximum dose of one antidepressant/anti-anxiety medication with a chaser dose of a second. I would constantly contemplate whether my thoughts, moods and feelings were actually my own or just a byproduct of the pharmaceuticals pumping through my system. I sometimes thought I was legit losing it. I was also gaining weight at an alarming rate as a side effect of the main medication.
Even worse than the confusing mental state and weight gain, though, were the intense hot flashes. At least eight times a day, I would randomly break out into a serious hot flash. We’re talking dripping sweat for at least fifteen minutes at a time. It was hell, not to mention incredibly embarrassing.
It was literally painful to get out of bed and my general disposition was “fuck it”.
I decided that I had enough of medication and that I needed to deal with my anxiety in a different way.
My first step was learning transcendental meditation. Although there are many different types of meditation out there, I felt this was the best one for me based on my personality, strengths and shortcomings. I love it and do it twice daily for twenty minutes a session. The practice has allowed me to dip into a place of calm that I never knew existed.
Secondly, I had to commit to treating myself well again. It was [and still is] so easy to be my own worst enemy. Depression and serious weight gain does not generally lead to good things like exercising and eating well, but the main medication I was on had me packing on the pounds rapidly. All of these factors have left my body fifty pounds heavier than I’ve ever been before. I had to remember that my weight gain does not make me a failure and I still deserve good things.
In September of 2015 I went to see my doctor and kicked my antidepressants to the curb for good. She set a schedule for weaning off that took about a month.
It’s now been a little over four months since I’ve been medication free and I can say that I’ve learned many things. That’s a post for another day, but the main thing is this- I’d rather be clear-headed and have to confront my anxiety head on than be numb.
The weight gain stopped when I got off the meds. The hot flashes stopped about six weeks later. Although I’m still working on getting my outside back to where I like it, at least my inside is my own again. I’m clear, rational and I no longer have to wonder if my thoughts & feelings are due to the medication. I still have anxiety, but so do most people. I work hard to acknowledge it and keep it in check on a daily basis. The trade-off is worth it.