I didn’t watch Panorama last night. I didn’t feel like I needed to see where it was going, I had my suspicions the BBC were rooting for something to make a focus of our outrage, a scapegoat. We’re not short of real life monsters threatening our way of life, many of them even had jobs at the BBC but it felt like the scene was being set for a ‘debate’, a distraction from the constant slew of actual things that have been proven harmful, like racism and historic child sex abuse cover ups for example.
I have been on SSRIs for 7 years. I started off on Citalopram and for a very brief time I felt as if I finally had the space to breathe and not feel like I was crawling out of my skin. As the meds settled in my system I became aware of the dulling effect it was having on my reality, something that no doubt worked brilliantly at crisis point but as my mental health improved I felt like it was holding me back, I wasn’t feeling as extremely as I did but I also wasn’t able to laugh as hard as I’d like or think too deeply about anything. I tried to come off them at first but was soon reminded of the reasons I became medicated when the symptoms returned; I was shocked by how intensely bad I felt and unable to function so I saw the GP about an alternative. He referred me to a psychiatrist and after a couple of visits we figured the best thing to do was switch to Sertraline, a drug that many users responded to after Citalopram. It’s hit and miss, prescribing mental health meds. Part of the process to healing is trial and error, you have to try things before you know how you’ll respond.
I was pleased with the change in my mood only a few weeks after I started taking Sertraline. I didn’t feel as foggy or tired and I was less fixated, a benefit of this particular drug which is often prescribed for people with obsessive disorders. It worked for me, I was struck by the fact I could pun again, something in my brain had changed. I spoke to others who weren’t so fortunate with Sertraline and went on to try other drugs but our brain chemistries aren’t one size fits all, we still don’t know enough about mental health to make this an exact science.
Before I became medicated I can’t say I was in favour of antidepressants especially SSRIs. I was even an audience member on a BBC talk show about antidepressants hosted by, I think, Nick Ross and said stuff I’m sure I’d cringe at now if I could remember, it was so long ago. I remember there was a big fuss about Seroxat a while back too, it was linked with increased risk of suicide among teenagers. I really did not want to be the sort of person who took antidepressants, someone who gave in (as people were all too keen to point out to me when I first started taking them), who’d failed or any number of negative variations on this, like I’d let people down or myself or whoever. Sadly, I did not get much of a choice on the matter if I had any hope for survival.
I took the drugs despite all my misgivings and prejudices, I really didn’t want to feel or exist in the way I had for so long, and I was scared I would die if I did. I had been seeing a therapist, sometimes multiple times a week but it just wasn’t enough, I felt I would kill myself probably. I never thought about killing anyone else, I couldn’t bear to be near anyone or more to the point, outside my bedroom even, that I kept locked most of the time. I took the drugs because my nephew was on his way into the world and I felt I owed him a cool aunt. I took the drugs because I’d hit rock bottom but inside me something chose to live. I felt almost embarrassed when I disclosed to the therapist I had started them already. She wasn’t the biggest fan herself and I felt like I was letting her down, like saying your therapy isn’t all that but she immediately said “GOOD” and leant forward to touch my knee. She said she’d never advocate for meds and wouldn’t have suggested I take them but was glad I had come to this decision myself because I really could do with them, these drugs exist because people in my situation need them.
I do not regret for one minute making that decision. I never thought I’d be on them so long, and I never believed they’d do me much good but it’s been 7 years and I am so pleased with myself and how far I have gotten. I recently cut my SSRIs by a third. If there is one thing I can say for certain and you must be aware of this before you go in, withdrawal is a bitch and you must do it slowly. I am aware that I could suddenly feel like I made a rash judgement but for now I’m enjoying being a 3rd less medicated and wondering what it will be like when I reduce them again.
The BBC makes a tenuous link between the many millions of users who safely take SSRIs so they can function in this society and the tiny minority who kill but this can be said of so many things it makes you wonder why they have singled out people who take drugs for their poor mental health. Most people who take recreational drugs for example, do not pose a risk to others but some might react violently. We could say the same about men, right? Most of them tend to adhere to some semblance of law, at least on the surface but a minority kill women and children. Should we point the finger at beards?
Once again, the BBC reminds us how little we should care about it, yet they insist we pay for this propaganda too.