I want to talk about medication.
The big taboo, the elephant in the room.
And it’s a shame that it’s treated as so. We happily share the different medications we’re on if we physically injure ourselves so why not with our mental health?
“I’d rather take something and have a chance of being happy than be miserable for the rest of my life” is what I said to my mum when my doctor recommended I start a course of Citalopram when I was 19, though part of me was scared. I didn’t actually know anyone else on anti-depressants (spoiler alert: far more people than you think are). I thought it was something to be feared, something you kept a secret because “what everyone else would think”. So for a good while I hid it.
As I ventured through college, more and more people would announce either directly or discreetly like it was nbd that they were on medication for their depression/anxiety/OCD/bipolar/BPD etc. I started to feel a bit more comfortable sharing with others my experiences on them, just like I had shared my experiences with therapy and how that convinced some of my friends to go.
But one common misconception is that medication cures you. It doesn’t. If it did, the anti-depressant industry would be bankrupt.
Medication isn’t a fix. Just like painkillers don’t fix the headache, they merely soften it so you can get on with other things. That’s what anti-depressants did for me, they dulled the sensation down a bit so I could work on the things that I knew would kill the depression etc once and for all (or even just for a while) like exercising, getting outside, spending time with family and so on. It’s like an ingredient in a cake recipe – it merely helps achieve a good outcome but you could probably still bake a pretty good cake without it. It’s part of the process.
Some medications work well doing this – I’ve been on Prozac for years and it’s given me some space to breath. It’s almost as if it swept away the small worries, the compulsions, the obsessions and gave me a cleanish slate to start again, to build a better me. I’m very happy with it and don’t see that changing.
But some medications don’t help at all. And I want to talk about my experience of a tablet that helped for about 6 weeks and then made everything worse.
I started taking Mirtazapine during a very poor spell in my life (grief, emotional abuse, difficult job, loneliness). All of my mental health problems reared their heads at once and made life completely unbearable. So I was put on a concoction of Mirtazapine and Lyrica (Lyrica being v g for pain apparently but also for the old mental health) and told to see how I got on. I quit the Lyrica quite quickly after that (on doctor advise ofc) – it was a non-runner for me – but the Mirtazapine seemed to work. I wasn’t getting heightened panic attacks or periods of total incapability. I was able to “function” without any feeling, sense of urgency, motivation or desire. Essentially, I was completely dulled.
It turned out to be the worst thing imaginable.
I craved sugar constantly – I was drinking Diet Coke and Pepsi like there was absolutely no tomorrow. I was not out of the biscuit press in the office. I gained weight. I felt crap about myself, my self esteem plummet even further. But the worst side affect was that I was constantly sleeping. I was sleeping through alarm after alarm, I was late for work constantly, I took naps at my desk, I was falling asleep whilst typing up documents, I was napping constantly, I had no energy, no motivation, no interest in myself or any idea of self worth. I was bailing on friends, on myself, letting everyone down. I was going through a shit time in tangent to me taking these pills and it all just culminated into a series of semi-serious breakdowns and wailing sessions over the course of two months. It took me a while to link that with the horrendous effect Mirtazapine had on my system but when I did, I knew it had to go.
So I went to my doctor and told him I wasn’t going to take it anymore. He agreed the moment I said it. He said my eyes were glazed over, that I didn’t seem entirely grounded or “with it”, like I was somewhere else entirely. The Mirtap had worked for the six weeks I had needed it, it had served its purpose, but now it had just become an unwelcome guest – you know that Simpson’s Christmas episode where Gil moves in and stays all year? That right there is Mirtap, my friends, with less of the cringe (or more, idk).
I stopped taking it immediately (I was on low enough a dose to do this safely with the advice of my doctor btw) and the difference was unbelievable.
I felt like I had awoken from a very very long sleep. My senses crept back in like my ears had just been unblocked, like I could see again for the first time in a long time. I particularly noticed it when driving, how far more alert I was. I had a desire to do better and give myself a better chance at the things I knew I deserved. This was done with the partial help of therapy but I realised how nothing really worked until I dumped that pill packet.
Now, I know some people who are on Mirtap and it works wonders. And for that I’m really happy for them. Just like Prozac may not work for other people but does wonders for me. Or how people react well to Xanax or Benzos and others just don’t. But it was amazing to see how something that worked so excellently in other people could almost reverse all my good work of the past 7 years in a few short months.
Medication is a lot of trial and effort. And sometimes something works and then it doesn’t anymore. Sometimes medication doesn’t work full stop (or some people don’t want to take it) and all that is ok. But we shouldn’t be afraid to talk about it.