Missed part one of Bad Case of the Blues? Read it here
Being diagnosed is only the beginning, however back in January 2014 I didn’t know that there was still a lot of confusion and doubt ahead of me.
I didn’t get to see my usual GP that day, she was on holiday, which in the long run did make a difference. The first thing they do is ask you to complete a self-test, this involves a multitude of questions and you answer how many times you’ve felt like that in the past weeks. At the end it gives a score which determines if you have depression, anxiety and/or suicidal thoughts. It sounds a bit like guesswork, but that is because there is no reliable medical test for depression. You can’t do a scan or a swab or a blood test, however the self-test is a reliable and trusted form of diagnosing.
I was prescribed anti-depressants that day, specifically Loxalate, which is escitalopram oxalate, and within a week it was like a fog had lifted. Suddenly I felt “normal” as in I had energy, I wasn’t anxious, I wasn’t constantly going round and round in circles endlessly in my head and I felt, in general, more positive. I did notice in the first week my appetite was lacking but after the second week it was fine.
As I had shown signs of suicidal thoughts I was also rung daily by a mental health crisis team to check on how I was feeling. This lasted until I was assessed by the Auckland Mental Health Service, which involves an hour with two counselors talking to you. Here though lies a problem, I wasn’t “bad enough” to qualify for ongoing support, so I was quite literally left to it, here are your pills, yes you’re depressed but no not bad enough for us to continue helping you. At the time this didn’t seem like a big deal, however later on it would be.
January to April 2014
The first few months I still had ups and downs, I had periods of depression, lasting a day or two, but over time they grew to be less and less. I committed to going to the gym and practicing yoga, as I knew exercise was important for depression recovery. It took me around three months to reach a steady mood again.
My work flourished as I could focus and enjoy what I was doing, my confidence returned in spades and the voices of doubt and constant worry in head went quiet. I had heard that they could make you feel like a zombie with no emotions, I never experienced that. The only long term side effect I’ve had is very vivid dreams, which can be rather pleasant.
Don’t Rush Recovery
Even from the beginning I had people asking me how long I need to be on anti-depressants and saying things like “you don’t seem that bad.” At first this didn’t bother me, but over time it eroded at me and I felt a sense of urgency to get off them within a year despite no medical advice. Looking back I convinced myself that I was a failure, and that combined with other people’s well meant, but uneducated views, resulted in me halving my dosage within 8 months and going cold turkey in March 2015. All without consulting my doctor.
I was completely unprepared for this experience, I had no idea that it would be as bad as it was and I was ignorant, cold turkey withdrawal is very dangerous on your physical body and I would never ever recommend it after what I know now and went through.
For three weeks I was dizzy, constantly dizzy, walking up stairs was a huge task, which was less than ideal when you work on the first floor. Secondly I was exhausted, my gym routine fell completely out of whack, I could barely focus at work. Thirdly the nausea, it was horrendous, I remember driving somewhere with the CEO and praying to myself that I wouldn’t hurl all through his car (I didn’t). I remember dry retching and sobbing because it had been weeks and I felt absolutely drained. Funnily enough mentally I was fine, the depression didn’t return, I was just plagued with dizziness, nausea and exhaustion.
Then one day I woke up and it had all passed, I felt triumphant, I’d done it! I’d beaten depression and gotten off the medication in a year!
Yet in three short months it would all fall down again.