We all have a vision of how we expect our life to pan out. I was supposed to be a world champion tennis player during the day, a professional wrestler in the evening and a pop star at night. God I miss being an optimistic child completely oblivious of time, money and responsibility.
Antidepressants were never part of my life plan. In fact, mental illness wasn’t part of my life plan.
But life isn’t like the movies. If it was, there are definitely a few scenes I’d have re-written or cut completely! Being mentally unwell most definitely would have ended up on the cutting room floor.
Some people like to criticise people who take medication - often those who've never struggled with a mental illness or have taken medication themselves, funnily enough. I am not one of those people. I know I wouldn’t be here today if I hadn't started taking anti-depressants. They quite literally saved my life. There were points where I couldn’t be trusted to protect myself when my mind was trying to kill me. That’s a line I hope you can’t relate to but for those who can, you’ll know what I mean by that.
My antidepressants helped significantly lighten the psychological load that I simply couldn’t carry any more. They helped me to do things that didn't feel or seem possible when I was at my worst. They helped illuminate a slither of hope in the ceaseless misery that had eclipsed my previously joyful state of mind. Read more about my experience of taking medication on this Instagram post.
I never thought I’d get to the day where I’d say this sentence and mean it, but I think I’m the best I've ever been - psychologically, that is. I still have moments of intense anxiety because I’m a human being and life happens. The difference now is I feel more empowered and equipped to deal with it. And it’s been like that for a while now. 12 months in fact.
So if I feel as great as I say I do, and have done for a while now, why haven’t I started reducing my antidepressants?
The truth is, reducing medication isn’t a smooth or easy ride. People who love to scare monger people into avoiding medication would take that as a cue to gather with their pitch forks and start preaching about how that is evidence you shouldn’t take them. I strongly disagree. They’re supposed to have an affect. They’d be pretty useless if they didn’t. So removing that affect is bound to have an impact.
I also think it's important that before reducing my medication, I take some time to research how best to cope when reducing my medication. There is a lot of support out there regarding the logistics of reducing antidepressants, but there isn't so much information about the emotional side. It's pretty poor really when antidepressants are designed to have such a big impact on your mental health, including your emotions.
I’m extremely lucky to be with a GP who really understands mental health. I say I’m extremely lucky because too many GPs do not understand mental health. There are also a few who lack the sympathy to try. I’ve experienced that first hand on more than one occasion.
What is so incredibly valuable about my GP is that reducing my medication has been a discussion, not a direct order. No one knows how my anxiety and depression feels other than me. No one else has been in my mind or in my skin, so how are they in a position to tell me when is and when isn’t the right time to reduce my medication? My GP understands and respects this. They understand, just like I do, that the timing is important. There was no point in agreeing to reduce my tablets last spring when I know that’s a particularly sensitive time for me. I’ve never put pressure on myself to reduce them as soon as possible. Why rock the boat if you don’t have to?
When I come off medication, I ideally want to be heading in one direction and one direction only. I don't want to rush myself, have a terrible experience that results in me having to increase them again and then end up completely terrified to try again. The anxiety I have tried so hard to keep under control would make a noticeable comeback in that scenario.
I plan to start reducing my tablets later this year, if all goes to plan. This isn't because I feel pressure to do so, but because I want to try. I've always wanted the medication I put into my body to cope with my mental health to be on my terms. I am very grateful I have a health care professional who respects that.
Good days are much more frequent for me than bad days nowadays. I plan to keep it that way. That’s why reducing my tablets at a time that is right for me is vital.
For more information about reducing anti-depressants, visit this helpful page on Mind's website.
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