A Journey: Coming off Medication

I was a bit unsure about going ahead and publishing this post after last week’s. To explain it briefly, after watching a programme by the BBC’s Panorama on the antidepressant, Sertraline, I was left feeling very rattled and disheartened. I won’t go into it any more than that but if you want to read my response, you can find the post here. However, I’ve decided to share what’s going on for me in terms of my medication anyway. This journey of coming off meds can seem a long and scary one and I want to reach out to people who may be in the same/similar position with the reminder: you are not alone.

A couple of weeks ago, I went back to my GP after it dawned on me that I have been taking my prescription of Sertraline for exactly a year. This is the longest I have ever taken antidepressants before. The first time I was prescribed this was for depression after an upsetting and difficult break up. I took 50mg and was on it for 6 months. It was almost like I could sense when I didn’t need it anymore and the GP helped me to wean myself off them.

You can learn more about the medication that I have taken as a result of my OCD and depression here but to give you a brief overview: this time last year, I went back to my GP when I could feel OCD flaring up again. The whole thing was very upsetting; I hadn’t long been off Sertraline from the first time and had, for a while, been feeling in a (relatively) good place in my life. I knew that I needed to go back to the GP but I also knew that in doing this, antidepressants would be the suggested route to feeling better. And this scared me. I felt like a failure.

Fast forward through the year and I have been taking 100mg of Sertraline (stuffed into what I can now see was a pretty big tablet) every single day of every single week of every single month alongside CBT sessions. What sort of kick started me into booking another GP appointment was, not only realising I had been on them a year, but also the side effects I was experiencing.

I know this may seem like a change of subject but stick with me… I’ve recently been watching a show on Amazon called Please Like Me. I think I’m actually going to give this show its very own blog post because it’s just been absolutely amazing and I finished it in a week and I’m really sad about that. Anyway. Slight spoiler here. A scene which really spoke to me involved two characters in the show, one who was diagnosed with bipolar and one who was diagnosed with depression, discussing the side effects of their antidepressants. In this scene, the lines felt like they had been written for me, perfectly explaining how I felt on my own antidepressants:

“You take medication to get yourself out of a dark hole but you end up just in a display home on an empty street.”

 “I don’t want to spend the rest of my life feeling the same way at a friend’s wedding as I do at their funeral.”

“You know you feel like you’re ready to come off medication because the medication is working. You know it stops working when you stop taking it.”

 “It really hurts to know that I need to take pills simply to function… I can’t wait to be beige again.”

I have gone down to 50mg of Sertraline in the hopes that I will be able to slowly wean myself off them for the exact same reasons these characters discussed in Please Like Me. ‘Beige’ is the absolute perfect word; taking the higher dose of Sertraline seems to have helped in terms of quietening my mind down but I felt nothing. I didn’t feel happy, I didn’t feel sad, I couldn’t really feel anything. I was beige. And I was so tired of feeling beige.

Making the decision to come off medication is always a hard one or it is for me anyway. I knew it was something that I wanted to do but it is such a frightening decision to make. It feels like a gamble: I could be throwing all that hard work away, all that building up of my brain to be as ‘normal’ as it could be. What if I only feel better because of the medication and now I’ve taken the only element out the equation that was helping things to keep ticking over?

I’ll admit, I’m scared. I’m scared to find out the truth about how much of my ‘recovery’ has been down to my own hard work or whether it’s been that of the tablets. The trick with antidepressants is to come off them slowly, not to suddenly stop taking them all together one day. This can produce side effects as bad, if not worse, than those that people can experience when they first start taking them.

So that’s the plan. Slowly lower the dose until I’m not taking Sertraline any longer. To hopefully lose that feeling of beige and learn that it was my own hard work after all.

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6 thoughts on “A Journey: Coming off Medication

  1. Thank you for sharing your story regarding coming off medication. It is terrifying! In fact, you’ve inspired me to write a blog regarding my struggle with this. High level detail: I tried 4 SSRI’s, multiple anxiety medications, and others I can’t remember – all within 7 months. No one told me that when you stop one medication, you need to taper off and then gradually work up to a high dose on the next medication. My GP nor pharmacy told me this. I was so unaware that was going on in my brain, that I stopped cold-turkey all medication for a week, one time. All those changes so frequently caused me 3 suicide attempts, disability from work for 6.5 months, extreme suffering, lack of control of my thoughts and emotions, and mood swings that landed me a diagnosis of “chemical induced bipolar II”.

    I appreciate your vulnerability and sharing! When I finish a post in detail on my journey with my struggles with medication, you should check it out!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thankyou for your really kind comment, I’m pleased you enjoyed my post and that it’s spurred you on to do your own on the same topic! I have to say, after reading about your experience I was left feeling so angry for you and I really hope that everything is sorted for you now. I’m sure by writing about it in your own post you will raise more awareness of the importance of communicating this to people, particularly doctors to their patients!! I will definitely have a read of it when it’s all done but I have just tried to click on the link for your blog and it doesn’t recognise it… Could you send me the full link in a comment please? 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hey I came across your site as I was looking for sites around mental health based on my own (Im quite new to this!). I found your article really informative, Im learning all the time despite my work experience with customers and mental health issues previous. I really wish you the very best in continuing to lower your medication, it’s a very brave decision and I am sure you can achieve things you didn’t think possible prior. Isn’t it great how we find nuggets of inspiration from out of nowhere in life sometimes?? The very best of luck to you and your courage.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello there! Thankyou for your lovely comment, it really means a lot. I’m pleased you like the post and that you found it informative. It’s always important for us to remember that everyone experiences things differently and through sharing our own journeys we can learn so much more about mental health!

      Liked by 1 person

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