I always was a little different. It’s hard to say when my sensitivity, bouts of despair and crippling anxiety crossed the line from childhood angst to something diagnosable, but when I was 15 I started taking a drug called Citalopram.
Citalopram is used to treat major depression. It is also used to treat anxiety, panic disorder, body dysmorphic disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
I came home from the doctors full of shame, but having sat in the practice and sobbed through an appointment, I felt the overwhelming desire to fit in with my peers. I wanted to try something. I’d been to counselling at school, but I didn’t have anything particular I wanted to discuss. I felt very isolated throughout my childhood. I was an easy target for sniggering and vulnerable to being left out, but never bullied. I would sometimes experience very intense, debilitating feelings of grief and despair. Sometimes, I would withdraw and feel numb. Sometimes overwhelmed, sometimes anxious, sometimes I hated myself, often I felt isolated. My brain wasn’t functioning like a healthy human brain. It affected my happiness and emotional wellbeing and safety but the cycles were unpredictable. It would come and go sporadically with seemingly no pattern in duration.
When I brought the medication home, my parents’ reactions were not overwhelmingly positive. Of course, they read the potential side effects that all drugs have and FREAKED OUT. Besides, I was their little girl. Hadn’t they given me everything? Hadn’t they kept me safe? I felt ashamed, but went ahead with the medication anyway. Below I would like to list some pros and cons of the medication in my personal experience, as well as how to go about getting medication if you feel that route might be best for you:
How to get medication
Easy. Maybe too easy. In fact some doctors would prescribe too readily in my opinion. Before going ahead with medication you need to think seriously and research some of the alternatives such as talking therapies and CBT which can be incredibly useful and accessed through the NHS. You can speak about these options with your GP.
It may be that medication is not quite right for you. If it is, it takes some time to understand which medication and what dose is going to be most helpful. To begin, if you believe you are experiencing anxiety, depression, sadness or mood swings which are affecting your ability to function in a normal and healthy manner – get a doctor’s appointment. Do not feel ashamed. As many as 1 in 3 people in the UK are currently diagnosed with some kind of mental health issue. The doctor speaks to people EVERY DAY who are struggling with day to day life.
It’s as simple as saying. ‘I feel very sad and I want some help.’ I can’t vouch for all doctors at all surgeries, if you aren’t happy with the result of the discussion make another appointment with a different doctor and try again. I’ve seen many different doctors who have all had different advice and experiences. Student medical practices are particularly good at dealing with mental health concerns as many students are affected by stress and anxiety, especially during exam season.
I would really recommend writing down a few notes before the appointment and making sure you read that note to the doctor. The first appointment is very intimidating to some – fear of the unknown! By writing down your essential points you can make sure the doctor will hear the most important things. For example:
- I cry nearly every day
- I try to avoid situations where I might feel uncomfortable
- I have feelings of self hate
- I sometimes think about hurting myself etc
It is very likely the doctor will give you a questionnaire to fill in. By ticking boxes of things you are feeling it can help identify all the necessary info. If they don’t produce one – why not ask?
Everyone’s brain is different. For me, medication has helped to regulate my mood to a more normal cycle. I still have sad days and feel stressed sometimes, but I feel the medication allows me to be myself and act more rationally. It won’t stop you having feelings, but for me it allowed my feelings to regulate enough that I could deal with them in a constructive manner.
I have less moments of hysterical upset. I am much less likely to let my low moments get out of control.
I feel more able to discuss my mental health. By managing it and having a plan in place, not only do I feel less helpless, I feel empowered and this helps me discuss what’s going on with other people. In my experience almost everyone I’ve spoken to has been supportive and understanding. By discussing you are able to lend support to one another. Many people will be in the same boat as you, I was surprised by how many people admit to having similar issues once you get them talking.
Mental health medication can affect your sex drive! Obviously throughout the month women have days when they are more and less sexually active, but it is known to reduce sex drive in many cases.
Dependency. Once you start taking medication it is ESSENTIAL that you take it regularly. If you forget your medication or stop suddenly, it can wreak havoc with your emotions and cause extreme depression which may be worse than you would have experienced if you’d never taken medication to start with. When you decide, with your doctor, that it’s time to try life without medication, you can decide together how long you will need to wean yourself off of it. This might take many months. You might not be ready to stop until years have passed.
It gets worse before it gets better. Mental health medication tends to make you feel worse before you feel better. It is important to be aware of this, let close family members know what’s going on so they can keep an eye on you and call your doctor if you feel you are losing control. If you ever feel suicidal and think you might be a risk to yourself, call 999 immediately.
I hope you have found this article helpful. Remember that everyone is different so no advice will be right for everyone. If you are struggling I really recommend seeing your GP who can help you devise the right care plan for you. You do not need to suffer alone and there is always hope of feeling better!