It’s Saturday morning, and I have a headache. Not from alcohol, as you might expect of a girl who recently finished her degree and is enjoying the feeling of freedom. No. It’s because I ran out of Prozac, and am going into withdrawal.
Three years ago, when I began my degree, I realised that I was feeling abnormally…bad. I thought, with the shrugging off of the anorexia, I would be fixed, whole, perfect. No such luck. Turns out, the eating disorder was just a mask for what was actually wrong in my life – a massive black cloud of depression which has continued to gloomily hang over me for the last three years.
Having just been through three previous years of intensive therapy (CBT, for those interested), I was recommended medication as the next step. Well, wasn’t that just a massive red flag. Happy pills. The xans. Whatever you call them, it was a big decision. I would be making a statement, that’s for sure.
“They change you!”
“You won’t feel ANYTHING any more!”
“You won’t be you anymore!”
— And other happy thoughts were given to me, unasked for, by many people who knew about the choice I was facing.
Honey, I’m depressed. I don’t CARE what you think.
Luckily for me, I am very stubborn, and wanted a way out. Here it was, being offered to me in a 40mg capsule per day.
Okay, so. Deep breath. I was already taking prescribed sleeping pills which turned me into a complete zombie, but even that was better than two hours sleep a night. I could stop those if the new tablets helped. (We’ll talk about my night-time panic in another, super fun post.)
I decided to give them a try. My secret. My shame. Antidepressants, at 18? Really? But Cam, you seem so… happy? Don’t you think it’s a bit drastic?
“Have you tried just like, not being sad all the time?”
To be honest, I was so depressed I was clutching at any and all straws. Trapped in eternal night, it was like someone threw me a ray of hope. Maybe this will work. At least I could do something, something tangible, which might lift the heavy weight from my shoulders. (I’ll come back to this period in a later chronicle, I think. Look forward to it!)
Back to the present day, though, and I am reminded why I take these devil pills, which control me. Without them, I am lost. I am surrounded by thick fog and even breathing is hard. Taking an antidepressant has helped me clear the skies, allowing me to see the problem and try to solve it. To be removed enough from my situation that I can try to solve it. I can read books about it and talk about it and try to understand it.*
*We’ll go into their actual effects in a different post.
However whilst on holiday, I stupidly forgot to order a repeat prescription. Thus I ended up in the predicament of NO PILLS and an unhelpful pharmacist, who, ignoring my tears and lisp (I wear a retainer which makes s’s hard. Did I mention that I have just been dumped? lol), said I’d
for a few days.
Let’s talk about withdrawal
Day One was foggy. I felt pretty normal, with a side of headache. I was travelling so everything was a bit confusing anyway. Airports are weird.
Day Two was dense clouds in my head, making me squint in the light, making it hard to think past the next second. Tired, not-lucid. I bumbled thorough the day in a toffee haze. My head HURT.
Day Three is manic! Woo-hoo! I am BUZZING, today. My hands are shaking and I am full of energy. I could conquer the world! I am not sure this is necessarily a good thing. Hahaha. Manic laughter ensues. I am going for a long run. And to eat cake. And to write this blog post. Use this energy.
Prozac (fluoxetine), is a type of Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitor, which, like other drugs in this family, increases the level of serotonin the brain. Low serotonin levels have been liked to depression: so increasing the amount of it in the brain has become the standard method of treatment for the illness.
(It works! At least, it’s worked for me. I had to try a few different medications, but Prozac has become my friend for over a year and a half now. Lovely Prozac.)
So when you don’t take the pills, there’s no top-up of serotonin in your brain!
Aaaand you come crashing down. Prozac is one type of antidepressant that does hang around in your system for a long-ish time, but even that doesn’t prevent the dizziness, headaches, fogginess, tiredness, nausea, and other withdrawal symptoms that occur if you don’t take it for over, say, two days.
I freaked out when I realised I had run out. This fear was based on the one time I decided I would stop taking Escitalopram (another type of antidepressant), and I ended up in such a state that I thought I could communicate with ghosts. THAT WAS NOT A GOOD TIME FOR ME. So maybe you can see why I cried at the pharmacist. I am an idiot, yes.
Thankfully, my dad was able to collect my prescription for me – salvation is on the horizon and my beloved pills are back in my possession. (Also my inhalers. Why am I so sick??)
Moral of the story: I feel a bit crazy today. Maybe these drugs do f**k up your brain. Maybe you rely on them. But maybe they also allow you to save yourself a little bit at a time, allow you to feel free. To me, that’s worth it. I can see the sun again, even if that does depend on a little green and yellow pill, once a day.
Just remember to order your prescriptions, kids.