I have experienced depression and anxiety for many years now. Anxiety is still a major issue for me, while my depression is reasonably under control. This may be due to my medication, though it’s difficult to be sure. I’ve had some rather mixed experiences with my psychiatric drugs. This blog describes some of my medical history.
Although I was hit by depression in my teens, the first time I was prescribed anti-depressants was in the 1980s. The first drug I took was prothiaden, one of the tricyclic anti-depressants that were popular at the time. My immediate feeling was of shame that I’d let things get so bad. At that time, there was a very strong stigma associated with taking anti-depressants, particularly among men. I had to cope with the side-effects, particularly the drowsiness, dry mouth and general ‘bleurrgh’ feeling. The drugs helped a little but there was one major flaw with tricyclics: they were dangerous in overdose. It was easy to store the tablets. It seems astonishing that it was considered safe to prescribe such dangerous medicines to people in a disturbed state of mind. In my case, the inevitable happened. When I had the drugs washed out of my system, it was decided to put me on an MAOI class drug. This class of drug was already out-of-date then. But it was the hospital doctor’s favourite drug so I had to take it. One of the many problems with MAOIs is the long list of dangerous interactions, including tasty foods such as cheese, chocolate and alcohol. I couldn’t expect to be served alcohol in hospital but I missed the cheesy bakes produced by the ward kitchen!
After I was discharged, the GP immediately took me off the MAOI, but there had to be a long gap beforeI could take another drug. Eventually, I had a risky return to prothiaden. Other drugs I tried included trazodone (which ruined one New Year) and the famous or infamous SSRI drug fluoxetine (Prozac). None of this really worked but finally I ended up on paroxetine (Seroxat). This seemed to have a useful effect so I stayed on it for quite a well. In fact, things went well enough for me to decide to take myself off it. This was a huge mistake. I wasn't aware of the problems associated with coming off the SSRI class of drugs, particularly this one. The result was that I was struck by a horrible attack of depression which completely floored me. It hit me at work one day when I suddenly realised when I couldn't cope with anything at all. Work colleagues were very sympathetic, and I received free counselling through an Employee Assistance Programme. My GP put me back on a high dose of paroxetine with firm warnings not to take myself off it again. I’m still taking the drug to this day, and really don't want to take any more risks with it. Theoretically I’d prefer not to take paroxetine for the rest of my life, but I feel I have no choice.
Further problems led me to see a psychiatrist, who diagnosed me with severe Generalised Anxiety Disorder. She prescribed me a drug I’ve never heard of before called pregabalin. It’s an interesting medicine which started off life as an anti-convulsant. After taking it for a while, I was shocked to find that it’s being misused as a recreational drug because some people are getting ‘highs’ from large doses – not me!
Both of my medicines have become more controversial since I first took them. I have to make a judgement each day about whether I’m right to take them. Do they really help me? On balance, I believe the drugs work for me, so I plan to keep taking them whatever my occasional doubts.
I firmly believe that no-one should feel ashamed of taking psychiatric medication. We have identified a medical problem and then taken steps to find a solution. We can feel proud that have taken this action to help ourselves.
An incredibly positive piece from Ian about a subject that is incredible personal to people. Do you recognise the relationship Ian has with mediation in your own? How do you feel about the meds you're on? Let us know in the comments below.