Nicola’s Story

Thanks to Nicola for this story! (Personal friend of mine without a blog, hence no share)

“I wanted to share my happy ending story of a lifetime of on-and-off depression.
My first episode of depression was triggered by a very traumatic relationship break-up when I was aged 26. I had always been an insular child and quite a weepy teenager but nothing particularly serious on the depression front so it came as a bolt out of the blue. I  had some psychotherapy but was told that I was psychologically normal and had just had a sad shock which had triggered an episode of depression. I took 20mg of Prozac (fluoxetine) for a few months and all was well …. until my first pregnancy some 6 years later when another episode of depression was triggered – probably post-natal depression caused by hormonal changes. I had three pregnancies in quick succession and was taking Prozac on and off between the pregnancies to stave off the baby blues. I found that 20mg a day would start working within about 2 weeks and I would be on it for several months at a time before weaning off by reducing my dose over a period of 3 weeks or so.

I then had about 10 clear years between the ages of around 40 and 50. No depression. No drugs.

Then, with no trigger whatsoever, when I was about 51, I was hit one summer by a massive depression. Couldn’t get out of bed. Couldn’t see anybody. Couldn’t do anything. Couldn’t make any decisions. Horrible dark thoughts about life being too exhausting to carry on. My life was perfect – lovely husband, 3 gorgeous teenage sons, lovely house, great friends. I just didn’t want to engage with any of it.
So I was put on Citalapram which I honestly thought was going to kill me. It gave me terrible panic attacks where I thought I was going to die. Made my heart pound and made me feel as if I was about to pass out. Changed back to the trusty old Prozac and slowly – very slowly this time – began to feel better. By early winter I felt well again so weaned off. Felt OK through Christmas, a bit wobbly in the Spring and then bang! It hit me again the following summer. Same deep depression. Another summer in bed.
This cycle continued for 4 summers until I went to see a psychiatrist who diagnosed me with medium to severe depression and anxiety caused by chemical imbalance possibly triggered by the menopause. His advice was that, as long as the Prozac worked and I felt well on it, I should just stay on it.

So that’s where I am now! Aged 55 and possibly as happy as I have ever been. I have now done 18 months on 20mg of Prozac a day and I feel great.

I did have an initial reluctance to stay on medication, probably for the rest of my life. The attitude of my generation is that being permanently medicated is somehow wrong, defeatist … I spend a lot of time justifying and explaining to those who have no idea what’s feels like to live with a mental health problem. Many of them have physical illnesses that they medicate so if they express reservations about my taking Prozac every day, I suggest that they might like to stop taking their asthma meds or their back pain meds or their allergy meds or their chemotherapy. Just because my illness is invisible to most people doesn’t mean that it doesn’t respond to medication in the same way that their illnesses do.”

What I particularly enjoyed about this story is the willingness to admit that medication was necessary. There can be a keenness when we feel so much better after a while having been on meds to stop taking them, particularly if there are nasty side effects. Personally I’ve been on Olanzapine before now (bloody hell I hate that drug), but was encouraged to stick with it, and that was the best decision I could’ve made. I switched to Quetiapine, which I find much less destructive, and so am now much happier, rewarded for patience!

We should never feel any pressure to come off drugs just because of some kind of taboo about being on medication. For me, I really couldn’t care less what people think of me taking medication every day, and if they do judge me then they’ve chosen themselves as people not worth knowing!
Big love X

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