I have been holding off writing this blog, so I had a clear idea of what the tail end of anti-depressants, more specifically Prozac (Fluoxetine), looked like for me, and I am glad I did because it hasn’t all been plain sailing. I took Prozac for a total of 6 months, and It has been 6 months now since I came off it. Here are my thoughts about this roller coaster of a journey.
Before I start to explain my experience, I first want to say that Prozac served me very well in a dark time. I was in a terrible state of mental health, and I needed some help to move through that stage. Prozac definitely came through with the goods, and it helped me manage both my moods and feelings. Prozac took away the mind chatter, completely as it turns out, it reduced my anxiety and feelings of hopelessness, and it gave me a chance to breathe.
From my experience, my overall opinion is that anti-depressants worked extremely well to get me through a tough lull, but they are not a long-term lifestyle choice for me. Every person is different and takes medication for different reasons, so please don’t use this information as a blueprint for yourself or anyone else. I am just sharing my own personal experience.
I am genuinely shocked at the number of people who are taking antidepressants. Had I not been on this journey myself and been blogging about my experiences with mental health, I would’ve remained blind to the dire state of the mental health issues affecting, well, everyone in one way or another. Most surprising to me is that the people taking anti-depressants seem to be the people who look all together on the outside anyway. I would have bet my house that they were just busy living their natural best life, but no.
Anti-depressants and weight gain
My first month taking Prozac saw quite a huge change in my body. I had low to no energy the first week, slept a lot and basically stopped eating. I lost 2kg in the first fortnight and was a bit shocked because you always hear about how much weight you will gain on anti-depressants, not start losing it because your appetite has disappeared. I didn’t have a lot to lose at the time, so I was a little concerned.
This seemed to plateau for me after a month, and I started to put that back on, plus some, plus a lot. Weight gain was quite a problematic thing for me to get my head around. I was still exercising and eating well, but over the six months, I steadily gained weight. In the end, I was up 7kg in total, and there seemed to be no way to slow this down. When you are already feeling down, this can be a hard pill to swallow – pun intended, especially for someone like me who places a high priority on exercise, activity and maintaining healthy body weight.
No longer fitting my clothes was very upsetting. I didn’t find any way to manage this well; the weight seemed to come no matter what. This was a hard side effect to deal with; if you are already not feeling good and start to gain weight, which you are really upset about rapidly, it can be horrible.
Since stopping anti-depressants, I maintained the same weight for a good 4-5 months, but it seems to be coming down now, finally. I have read a lot about this, and the weight can take months, even longer to come off once you stop taking the meds.
My motivation and drive took a rapid, steep decline. I am a very busy person who thrives on projects and has a few balls in the air at any one time, but I started finding it hard to be interested in doing anything and ended up feeling like the colour had been removed from life.
Anti-depressants absolutely did their job to numb the sad emotions I was feeling, but in the end, I noticed that it had taken away the happy feelings too. I was living in the middle third of the emotional spectrum. Not happy, not sad, not really anything. I started to wonder what the point was because it was like groundhog day, very stagnant and not achieving much. No joy, no sadness, no nothing.
My mind on Prozac
After the initial body shock of adding this drug to my system (1-2 weeks), The following month of anti-depressants felt AMAZING. It felt like the rainbows and butterflies were back and more vivid, I was motivated to exercise a lot more, and I was back on my “A” game workwise.
You may not know, but a side effect of taking anti-depressants can be the inability to cry, and this was the case for me. I think I had one tiny what I could only call a half cry the entire 6 months. I physically could not shed a tear. Well, a few weeks after coming off Prozac, something small happened, I can’t even remember what, and my god, did I let rip. It was like a flood gate had come down, and the tears and noises came forth, like really big loud, ugly crying, and I was so happy about it, which must have made it very strange for Chris to watch.
I was crying because I was free to have this release again. I have been crying a lot since, and I’m not even mad; crying is like pooping for your mind; it lets all the crap out so you can enjoy the feeling of relief. That’s my view anyway.
I felt it a lot easier to be around people for longer periods of time while on anti-depressants, which was a nice change to the social anxiety I would usually have.. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t joining a book club or any real-life groups as such, but I was definitely less agitated and less eager to leave wherever I was, and I was more attentive to what other people had to say
This was greatly reduced. I had nowhere near the amount of anxiety I experience while not on anti-depressants. The effects even seemed to last about a month after stopping taking this medication, but man, did I notice the difference in month 2. It was back, with a vengeance. I have had to gather up all of the anxiety tools I have learned recently from books and therapy to keep this at bay, and mostly I have managed it well. It was really nice not to have to worry about it at all though, that’s probably what I miss the most—a less anxious way of life.
I have experienced one big depressive episode since stopping anti-depressants. It lasted approx 2 days and was quite a rough time. Luckily for me, I had great support and worked through it. Generally, I feel more ups than downs, and I am using the 1-10 scale to check in with myself. 1 being the most relaxed and 10 flying into a shit storm of anxiety and sadness. If I notice I am getting up to a 4, I pull back, deploy my self-care toolbox and reduce stressors. This works really well, and I have been able to manage myself a lot better.
Things other people have to say
Something I have found interesting is the way that people talk about antidepressants in general. There seem to be two obvious camps when it comes to anti-depressants. I have heard people say “taking those happy pills” in a derogatory way. People who have never had to use the medication nor having any medical background offering their opinions on how “bad” they are, how unsafe they are, how addictive they are and of course, how embarrassing it must be to have to take them. AND why on earth would I talk about it to strangers on the internet about my private business??
The reasons I share my experience is:
a) To take away the stigma and let people know that mental health is a normal part of life in today’s busy world
b) Let fellow humans know that it’s actually nothing to be embarrassed about
c) I feel like it gives people who are struggling a little insight into some options and opinions from someone outside of the medical field.
An experience that really struck me, and quite frankly pissed me off, was an experience I had at the local public library a couple of months ago. Two middle-aged men set up at a table offering their signatures to people as “Justices of the peace” how ironic. I was a book aisle away from them with my daughter. They were loudly discussing, in the library, how “antidepressants are just a cop-out, and people don’t need them and that our society has become dependant on a pill to survive” one of them stated that depression isn’t even a real thing; it’s been made up by all of those “namby-pamby” types.
There were various other comments about how wrecked and dependant “this generation” is (not sure which one of us they were referring to), and it all started when smacking was outlawed.. you get the picture. As they were talking, my blood was boiling, but I didn’t turn around and say anything to these horrid men because I was with my young daughter at the time. I was worried I would have embarrassed the hell out of her, but god do I regret that now and given the opportunity again, I would have absolutely said something.
These men had no right to sit in a public place like that, discussing medical disorders and mental health in such a judgemental and uncompassionate way. I am not sure if they were entirely ignorant of their surroundings and that others could hear them or if they were so arrogant that this was the point.
If I were newly suffering from my mental health feeling on the fence about medication or thinking about getting help and I heard them jabbering on with their uneducated opinions, then I would feel horrible inside, like a loser and like the way I was feeling was invalid. I felt horrible that my daughter had to listen to this nonsense, but I knew I would talk to her about it in a more appropriate place, out of the library, which I did.
No one has the right to speak of the experiences of others that they know nothing about, and no one has the right to make you feel like shit for your choices. So if you come across men like that, give them the finger from me. I will be sure to do this next time too. It still makes me feel furious; you can probably tell.
My take on mental health
There is no shame in trying different things to help improve your mental health when you are stuck.
Want to meditate? Go for it
Want to exercise? Great
Want to change your diet? Cool
Want to see a therapist? Go you
Want to go to your GP and explore anti-depressant options? Sweet as
Try whatever feels good for you and do what makes you happy because people will have an opinion no matter what.
Yours is the only one that matters. Fuck what everyone else thinks, and especially fuck the older men in the library who are trying to shame, blame and belittle those who are trying to manage and improve their mental health stressors.