5. What’s The T?

Before I go into detail about my experiences with tablets, opening up about the way I’ve been feeling has allowed me to talk to others who have been incredibly kind and shared their experiences with me. Whilst medication didn’t work for me, I know it has for others. What I’m trying to say is, this blog post is to open up a discussion or provoke some thought – not to copy my experience or see it as “one size fits all”. (everyone hates one size fits all – who does it actually fit?!)

Antidepressants. I started taking them over a year ago and it lasted 6 months. Losing my brother was hard 7 years ago, but trying to keep my shit together whilst I was on them was no walk in the park either.

I finally accepted that I was suffering from depression after getting extremely drunk and breaking down during a gig. I’d been bottling up a lot of horrible thoughts and feelings and coping with them by keeping myself extremely busy with a house renovation and crippling work commitments.

I went to see my doctor who prescribed my first set of antidepressants after I poured out how I was feeling, and how I was desperate to try and start feeling better.

A 10-minute appointment and a prescription for something that I didn’t really know what it would do, resulted in a box full of tablets that I thought would give me a boost. Trying to block out thoughts of embarrassment and admitting what felt like defeat, I was torn because I wasn’t keen on taking medication for fear of becoming dependent.

At this point, I had three jobs and was in the middle of renovating what can only be described as a building site and living in it. I was run down, battling with self-loathing and completely drained both mentally and physically. WHAT WAS I DOING! 

Looking back, counselling should’ve been the first option I tried. It’s clear though that the NHS is under so much pressure. I waited a year to see a counsellor through the NHS and ended up going privately to try and help myself after the tablets didn’t work.  I’m not complaining about it. It is what it is. I just wish I’d known or read up a little more about antidepressants before I started taking them. Everything would’ve made so much more sense if I had!  

At that time I was managing two teams in different sites with a group of people who hated me, teaching students straight after work and doing drag where every gig I hauled myself on stage under pressure to be funny and perform in front of an expecting audience. I mean it was drag in The Golden Cross, not the Adele in the O2, but the pressure I put myself under was real! 

This was a problem and I knew it. I felt like I couldn’t change it though because I was too far down the road. I needed to keep working to get the house finished. On top of that, I buried my head in the sand about what was actually making me unhappy – dealing with my brother’s accident.

Looking back and reflecting when I first started taking the tablets, I don’t think I’ve ever felt so sick. Whilst taking tablets is different for everyone, in my experience, I was physically sick, every morning and evening, in a constant state of disorientation and completely numb for the whole time I was on them. It was horrible and only helped to make me feel worse than I originally was.

When I realised the first set wasn’t working, my doctor prescribed another type of tablet. This time feeling a little bolder, I asked the doctor what would I expect from taking them. What worries me is if I hadn’t asked, I probably wouldn’t have known about the side effects of mood swings, sickness, and the fact that generally, when you start taking antidepressants, you feel worse before you start feeling better. If this is something that you’re considering doing, don’t be afraid to ask. I’m sure though most doctors would tell you this – maybe I spent too much of my appointment trying to justify why I was feeling down. Another handy tip is to actually read the guidance included with the tablet. It’s pretty full on reading, but it may help you prepare for how you feel when you’re taking them.

Using websites like these will also help you understand what to expect if you’re thinking about going to see your doctor, and can hopefully help you deal with the side-effects a little better:

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/antidepressants/

https://www.mind.org.uk/

http://www.stepiau.org

The pressure of trying to keep the plates spinning got worse and I eventually went on sickness leave and spent 3 months not really leaving my bed. I couldn’t face going into work and seeing a group of people hate me any more. When the second set of tablets didn’t work for me I went onto a third which I was told would need a bedding in period.

I’ve never wanted to take my life before, but after taking these I spent a long time thinking about how I could. After 6 months of being on anti-depressants I weaned myself off, lowering the dosage over a week and went cold turkey. I simply couldn’t keep thinking the way I was.

I was lucky. I have a very supportive partner who would talk sense into me and listen when I needed him. This was important and if it’s one thing I’ve learned throughout having depression is that it’s important to be able to confide in someone and let them know what you’re going through. Everyone needs someone to help, listen but also keep an eye on you. I bet that if someone asked you for help or for asked you to listen, you would. Make sure you offer yourself that same courtesy and ask for help, however hard it may feel.

I never want to feel the way I felt during that time. Making changes to work has helped, but it’s counselling that has helped break through. Don’t get me wrong, this wasn’t a walk in the park either. It took me 8 months to build up the courage to see a counsellor. Counselling doesn’t always work either. I’ve seen four different people to date and have finally found someone who has helped me change the way I look at my thoughts.

It took me 7 years to get in this pit so I know it’s not going to be an overnight process to get out. If you’re feeling the same, think about talking about it and processing it with someone you trust. Also, think about finding a professional who may be able to help you process it as well. I wish I’d done it sooner.

There are free options, however, be prepared to wait. Your doctor’s surgery will have access to refer you to a primary mental health unit in your area or even a surgery councillor. Ask! There’s also the charity Mind, who have local branches, small programmes and courses that can help you get started. Locally, if you want a bit more info or 121 support,  you can get in touch with groups such as Cardiff Concern and Stepiau also offer help and can point you in the direction.

Whilst medication didn’t work for me, it’s important to say that I know people who do use medication to help them feel better and it does work for them. They are absolutely wonderful human beings, one, because they were willing to share their experience with me, two, they are brave enough to not let the Big D define them. The most important thing to do is to take the first step and make sure you take stock of how you’re feeling. No matter how hard it is to grab a hold of depression, I’ve found that the first step comes from you and a belief in yourself before it actually gets better.

Thank you to everyone who has pushed me along, picked me up and been there when I needed it. You don’t know how much you’ve actually helped.

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