How I learned to manage my mental health
It was 2014 when I was first put on SSRIs – one of the most commonly prescribed types of antidepressants.
I was 20 years-old, and had been experiencing varying degrees of what I now know to be depression for a number of years.
That year, I was having a really tough time in college, and found myself to be crying a lot, was unable to get out of bed most mornings, and my mood was really low.
Seasonal Affective Disorder
I popped into the college doctor who said it sounded like I had Seasonal Affective Disorder, a condition which is considered to be a subtype of depression and mostly affects people in the bleak winter months. This sounded right to me, so after discussing it with my mum, I began taking a form of SSRI.
Within a few days I noticed my mood was incredibly flat and I was no longer low, but instead extremely apathetic. After a week and a half of this I went to my own GP who changed my medication. I stayed on this new SSRI until March 2015.
My experience was, on a low dose, extreme tiredness, forgetfulness, and a sense of not really being ‘present’ when I was doing tasks. Towards the end of February, the crying and mood instability got worse, and with my GP I decided coming off medication was the best idea for me at this time.
My mood improved slightly when I went off it initially, but I took a nosedive again in April and I was brought to meet a psychiatrist who diagnosed me with Borderline Personality Disorder (also known as Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder).
This was later changed to a co-morbidity of BPD and rapid-cycling Bipolar II. The psychiatrist suggested I try anti-convulsants, which are commonly prescribed for Bipolar if SSRIs don’t work.
Making a decision
This didn’t work out so well for me either. Every few months I was switched to different medications as my mood got lower and lower.
I eventually decided that I wasn’t trying any more medication. It hadn’t helped me, and from reading anecdotal information online, I decided that perhaps medication wasn’t for me.
Working through a process
Do I regret trying medication for my depression and anxiety issues? Not in the slightest. There are too many people who will say it’s not worth trying or that they don’t do anything, but I’m glad I tried because it was a process of elimination for me.
Once I knew that that method of treatment was unsuitable, it helped me figure out exactly what I needed.
Periods of depression
In the end, I got various forms of counselling that have now seen me in a much better place than I have been over the past few years. I still have issues with emotional instability and periods of depression, and anxiety is still a problem on occasion, but nothing on the scale I was just before I started taking SSRIs.
The most reassuring thing for me to how good meds can be for people is that I have friends who have been taking them for years, and meds have enabled them to work, hang out with friends, and just feel like themselves in a way that they wouldn’t without medication.
Finding the right solution
I feel that some people are too quick to shut down the potential benefits of meds because people are too hung up on the idea that just talking therapies are the cure to any illness, when that often isn’t the case.
Some people need them and find they work, and others still will need them but will have to try a whole load of different medication before something works for them.
Recording my mood
What I learned through this experience is that while trial and error doesn’t always result in something working out, it does result in a person learning about themselves, their own body and mind, and what works for them.
I found that talking to my GP and my psychiatrist and keeping a record of my mood each day really helped them to decide what the next step should be.
Despite the difficulties I encountered, I was able to take a positive from the experience as I feel that without the initial issues that SSRIs initially caused, I don’t think I would have received a diagnosis, and without that diagnosis I don’t think I would have been able to access the therapies and help I needed.
Sometimes if things don’t work out, process can still be deemed worthwhile.