There is so much debate around whether or not medication will help or even work for those of us with a mental health problem. I personally have always been one to give medication a go despite feeling cautious. I know that many people either don’t want to have to do this or are too worried to. Medication might not work for some or produce side effects that just put them off all together. All this is totally understandable but I hope that through this post, I can shed some light on what the experience has been like for me and maybe help someone in two minds about taking this route.
These little tablets are supposed to help reduce the physiological side effects of anxiety. So basically, they help reduce the horrid feelings you get when your anxiety has reached record levels like sweating, nausea or constant butterflies. This was the first time I had been prescribed tablets for my mental health and I will admit, I was scared. The thought of taking a tablet for something mental seems so much more, well, anxiety provoking than taking a course of antibiotics for say a physical problem. However, despite my reservations, I decided the best thing to do for myself was to take them.
For me personally, they didn’t work but now looking back, I think that’s because my anxiety had gone beyond this and into a depression. I didn’t have any side effects which was a bonus so although they didn’t work for me, they may well work for someone else. Plus mine were like a cool purple/red colour. Don’t get such exciting coloured tablets very often do you?
Sertaline (Part 1)
Sertaline is an SSRI or in other words, an antidepressant. When I was first prescribed this, I couldn’t believe that I actually needed it. Initially, I felt uncomfortable with taking a tablet to make myself happier. However, I knew that it was worth trying if it made me feel better than the terrible place I was in at the time. I was prescribed 50mg for depression and I’m afraid to say I had horrid side effects. They warned me that it would be worse before it got better… I felt 10x more anxious, my chest felt tight, I felt panicky, I felt sick and I couldn’t eat. But I’m happy to say that once I pushed through this, and the early months waiting for them to take effect, they did help a huge amount. I will always remember what the doctor said to me who prescribed them:
‘It’s a chemical imbalance, you are just lacking serotonin and these will bring those levels up’
Thinking of it in such a way made taking the tablets better for me. It made me feel like I had an explanation as to why I was suffering and that it could be treated.
Sertaline (Part 2)
After taking sertaline for 6 months for my depression, I gradually and slowly came off them. I think they played a huge part in my recovery but stopping them and being able to cope in life without them felt like a huge success. I didn’t have this constant reminder everyday that I had a problem and that I had to take something to help me with it. I know as you’re reading this you are sensing a but AND you’re quite right.
After being off sertaline for about a year, my symptoms of my OCD reached a whole new level. It was getting quite hard to function in normal life and my intrusive thoughts were haunting me 24/7. So, after putting it off for quite some time, I went back to the doctors. They again prescribed me 50mg of sertraline and although I knew it would most likely help me, I felt a bit upset that I was going to have to take them again. After all my hard work and the most difficult period of my life over, it felt like by taking them, I was re-entering that world. I felt like I had to justify to both myself and others that I didn’t feel as bad as I did when I had depression just so I didn’t dwell too much on the situation.
This time, although I was bracing myself for them, I had 0 side effects. And again, I know you’re sensing a but… BUT… 50mg of sertaline did absolutely nothing for me. I felt like I wasn’t even taking anything. I felt the same anxious, OCD riddled person. After I informed the doctor of this, they upped the dose to 100mg and ever since, I have felt the effects. As I wrote about in my post on My Happy Place, my head feels quieter. Don’t get me wrong though, it isn’t the absolute and ultimate cure.
Amitriptyline, apart from being really hard to both remember and pronounce, is basically a sedative. It can be prescribed to people with mental health problems like OCD to relax and sleep better. I was prescribed this because I was finding myself with an intense headache pretty much everyday and thought it might be down to my obsessive, overactive brain. To be fair, it did work. My headache disappeared and hasn’t returned throughout my period of taking them. It also made it SO hard to wake up in the morning! Once I had finished the course, my doctor told me to just stop taking them so I am still waiting to see if this has any side effects. Yippee…
My personal opinion is that a combination of both therapy and medication is the best remedy for treating a mental illness. I think that medication is great at doing the ground work and preventing the symptoms from spiralling whereas therapy contributes to the long term changes. Also, with such lack of funding in the NHS Mental Health Services, people who are struggling can endure a waiting list of up to a year long. A YEAR. Many of us may feel, myself included, that taking medication is better than doing nothing at all, an ultimatum of which I think we should not have to face in the first place.