After watching Panorama’s latest episode ‘A Prescription for Murder?‘, a lot of feelings were stirred inside of me. Particularly anger – working within this mental health community means that I’m incredibly aware of how wonderful and life-saving anti-depressants (ADs) can be. The stigma around mental health is already so vast and this programme feels like we’re taken a step back to reducing it. However, my personal experience was not a good one at all, and I think it’s very important that people considering anti-depressants understand that it is not a miracle cure.
My first experience of SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) came in September 2014 when I was asked by my mother to go to the doctors and ask for an anti-depressant – this came four months before my official diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder. I came out of the appointment with a supply of the most commonly distributed AD, Fluoxetine, commonly known by it’s American brand name Prozac. At first, things went swimmingly, I felt fine, better in fact, than I had felt in a very long time. Life seemed to be going really well and I thanked my lucky stars for a tiny pill that helped me behave like a ‘normal’ (I use this word very lightly) person.
A few weeks passed and unfortunately the itching began, was it a different detergent from the salons at college? Maybe I’d changed something? Maybe it was a reaction to food? Another trip to my GP surgery confirmed that I was actually allergic to Fluoxetine, so should stop using it immediately and to be changed onto a different type of SSRI, Citalopram. To be honest, I can say the exact same thing for all four anti-depressants I was on post-Fluoxetine, they did not work for me.
Over the course of a year/year and a half, I tried Fluoxetine, Citalopram, Venlafaxine, Sertraline and Escitalopram. My experience on Fluoxetine was definitely the best experience that I can recite. The first two to four weeks on a new anti-depressant are always especially hard, but my mental health was non-existent and this continued no matter how many weeks I was on the drug. To name a few of my side effects: increased suicidal feelings and thoughts, increased self harm, chest pains, palpitations, migraines, fatigue, wheezing, dizziness and probably the scariest of all the side effects – not feeling anything at all. Unlike what was shown in the Panorama episode, I never wanted to hurt another person, but if anything I can relate to how an anti-depressant can change you as a person. I’m not listing these to scare you, I just want to give an honest reflection of my experience and feel that I would be dishonest if I were not to give a full account.
This experience may seem as though I’m extremely anti-anti-depressant but that couldn’t be further from the truth. For me, evidently, anti-depressants did not work and I’m pretty reluctant to try one again due to what I’ve been through. However, I believe that with the right doctors and support that it is something everyone suffering from mental illnesses should at least try because they do help so many people. If it doesn’t work for you, it doesn’t work, but you should at least come to that conclusion through trying yourself. After all, they may just help you!
**If you or your loved one’s condition is critical, suicidal, or just very worrying, please call 999. You can also contact the Samaritans on 116 123 – 24 hours a day or Mind‘s infoline on 0300 123 3393 (Mon-Fri 9am-6pm)**