From the moment I decided to share my journey of coming off anti-depressants, it was a massive leap of faith for me. Putting something very personal out there, wondering if anyone would think any less of me for knowing I needed a drug to get me through my days. But my ultimate goal was to be honest, real and true about the entire journey and the ultimate outcome. Hoping that it might help someone, even just one person, relate to or think about their own journey and take strength from mine.
But I think this post might just be harder than the first.
I thought it was a good time to at least try and come off the Sertraline. I mentioned in my last post I hadn’t been a mum or parented without them, how did my kids know the real me? Being off them while pregnant doesn’t really count, as we all well know pregnancy hormones create their own little party in your brain for 9 months, so trying to determine if you’re good without anti-depressants during that time is like trying to hold a tray of pina coladas steady on a bouncy castle.
“How did my kids know the real me?”
So after a year of being in Spain, learning a bit more of the lingo and finding some wonderful new friends, I thought now was as good a time as any. After all, challenges in life very rarely stay away for long. You can bet your kiwifruit that something will come up and hit you when you least expect it……and it did. More on that in a moment.
But deciding whether or not to go back on an anti-depressant brings to the front all sorts of feelings, emotions, questions, the first being, “why can’t I cope”, “did I fail?”. Easy to say because we all self deprecate in the beginning, but ultimately of course I didn’t fail, it was the best decision for me and my family.
“…of course I didn’t fail, it was the best decision for me and my family”
We have to give ourselves a break and more credit. The very moment anyone accepts and admits that they might need some additional help to get them through PTSD, anxiety, depression, grief, hormonal issues, or any other trauma, is half the battle and strength you show as an individual RIGHT THERE!!!
Let’s rewind to day 21.
If you’ve been following my journey coming off the Sertraline you’ll know it’s not been plain sailing. Slap a menstrual cycle in the middle of that too, and you’d be forgiven for thinking a volcanic eruption had occurred. I was so on edge I didn’t recognise myself. I’m pretty sure my kids thought someone had kidnapped their mum.
Jokes aside, these last two weeks led me to have a check in with my doctor on about day 28. She offered me a natural alternative of passion flower to try before thinking about going straight back on the Sertraline. I was relieved to think a) my doctor was so forward thinking and holistic minded and b) I didn’t have to think about trying to go back on the Sertraline straight away. It seemed like a good place to start. I’ve gone down the naturopath road many times before, had great results, but it was a good friend who reminded me, why not try the natural remedy path first? You tend to forget about these things when you’re lost in a helpless fog.
I had a terrible experience at a hospital MRI scan, where English – Spanish translation became an issue, and I found myself having a panic attack during the MRI. This was so unlike me, and thoughts and heart were racing, I had no choice but to tell myself to pull it together because I had to drive 40 minutes home alone and pick up the kids.
I tried switching my diet around. I did a lot of research on food for moods, something another good friend had suggested. I switched to decaf coffee and tea, reduced my sugar intake including wine (which is really difficult for me), and ate more good oil rich food and fruit and vegetables. I fully support diet has a lot to do with good mental health and will be trying more of this.
It was five days before I was able to get my hands on the passion flower, and those days were so turbulent, because guess what, that challenge I was talking about before, showed up. On day 22 we were served notice to move from our house because the landlord wanted it back. We were faced with hunting for another home, and the prospect of moving filled me with anxiety and dread. And the test of dealing with more change after just coming off anti-depressants hit me with full force.
It didn’t stop me from going into my usual project mode, spreading the word amongst friends, signing up to real estate sites and visiting agents. But my normal consistent coping mechanisms were far from there. I was emotional, irritable and fatigued and really had to push myself to keep going some days. One moment I was up, the next hiding from the world and bursting into tears. Unfortunately it all fell on a week where memories of my mum were all too fresh as the 5th anniversary of her death loomed, reliving the week before she passed. Also Lara had her first week in her new all Spanish school, and I was clearly struggling more than her on the language front. Trying to comprehend in Spanish what it was she needed, forms completed, finishing times which I clearly missed in translation and didn’t pick her up on time one afternoon. I felt like I was failing on more than one level.
I had thought about it more times a day than I care to admit, “do I need a pill to keep me level headed?”, “why can’t I cope?” or “will I ever be free of these things?”, but I had to think rationally and do what was best for me and my health.
So five weeks on from stopping, I’ve taken the leap and am back on Sertraline, I lasted a grand total of 36 days anti-depressant free. I found out what it was like to parent without them, and mostly it was a hellish experience.
More questions arise, “should I have weaned myself off for longer?”, “could I have discovered more natural remedies to try”.
“I lasted a grand total of 36 days anti-depressant free”
I forgot about the nausea you experience in the first 2-3 days when you first start taking it, but it will pass, it will be the plaster I need to be normal and predictable for my family, stop me buying shares in Kleenex and breath again.
My tea in the morning is back with a side of Sertraline, but that’s ok. In the next two months I’m facing a house move and extensive foot surgery with a three month recovery time, which is going to make parenting VERY interesting.
This simply wasn’t my time, and it doesn’t mean I will have to take them for the rest of my life, but I always use the analogy that if you needed blood pressure medicine, you wouldn’t question it, or insulin for diabetes, anti-depressants are like a set of spark plugs for your brain.
Let’s help remove the stigma surrounding anti-depressants and mental health as a whole.