Unspoken Conversations are the topics that are often swept under the carpet, whispered amongst the closest of friends and bitched about by many. I want to create awareness about difficult things that people face in life; grief, mental health, money, illnesses, family troubles, relationship difficulties and putting yourself first. I want to tell the truth about things that really matter.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

I'm Ready, Now What?! The Decision to Reduce my Depression Medication

For a long time I have debated whether I will ever be ready to come off of my depression medication.

It has been 3 years since I was severely depressed, but sometimes, it feels like only yesterday.

You see, my medication is my security blanket; when I take it every day, around the same time, I know that I am going to be okay.

It has helped me to rebuild the chemical serotonin in my brain, so that I can manage my emotions and learn how to control my thoughts.

It has given me my life back.

A little while ago I started to do some research by trawling the common mental health websites such as Beyond Blue, the Black Dog Institute and Lifeline about how to deal with the thoughts, emotions and decisions post depression.

I was searching for answers on when it's okay to start reducing your medication, how you go about it, what were the side effects, who you should go to for help, if there were any long term effects from the medication, could you take it for the rest of your life and you could have children whilst still taking it, and I was shocked that there wasn't a lot of information out there.

I wanted to read people's stories and find out the truth.

I kept being referred to my doctor or coming across dead ends.

I was torn. A huge part of me didn't want to be on medication for the rest of my life, and was worried that I wouldn't be able to have children while taking it, but at the same time, a huge part of me still shuddered at the thought of my depression ever returning.

It's really hard to describe the emotions to anyone who hasn't been in my position.

Many would think, based on their experiences with medication like the pill, panadol and antibiotics, that once your headache has gone or your cold has passed, that you don't need them anymore.

I guess many people are used to using medication as a cure, and not so much as a preventative (except of course, the pill).

I wondered how I was going to describe the feelings to someone who hasn't been there, to help them understand how someone they care about must be feeling who is worried about weaning themselves off of their tablets.

And I thought I could use the analogy of a cancer patient. If there was a small round tablet, that you could swallow every morning, that would prevent your cancer from ever coming back, would you take it? Even if you knew that the cancer tablet could have slight side effects, and could make you feel dizzy if you ever missed one or ran out of your script, would you knowingly take it so that you'd never have to go through the emotional and physical pain of chemotherapy, radiation, hair loss and the anxiety around losing your life and being out of control of your health?

One small pill could prevent all of that unnecessary worry, and could help you to live a happy and healthy life.

Would you question taking it?

Well that's where I'm at with my depression medication. The memories of my illness are still so painful, in fact, I can feel my heart start to race, and my eyes start to well, thinking about ever feeling that way again.

I don't think I could deal with it if I did. I think I would beat myself up for not seeing the signs, and not acting on them early enough. 

I couldn't put my friends and family through it again.

I just couldn't.

And one tablet, plus my increased awareness about the illness, my ability to say no, commitment to prioritising my health and the love and support from those around me, is what is keeping depression from returning in my life at this point in time.

So the prospect of losing my health again, to such a debilitating illness, scares the pants off of me.

And yet, I feel ready.

I feel ready to slowly start to decrease my medication.

I am currently taking 100mg of Pristiq a day.

A little while ago I sought the advice of my doctor to see how I should go about reducing my medication. She gave me a plan; to take one 100gm tablet one day, and one 50mg tablet the next, until I felt comfortable to decrease it even further.

I have had the scripts for the 50ml medication in my handbag for 3 months now. Sometimes I open my bag, pull it out and think am I ready?

Up until this week, the answer was always no.

Then, I thought to myself, why focus on the negative side effects, there may be some positive ones too. I could feel more energetic. I could surprise myself and do really well and begin to regain confidence in my own ability to produce serotonin naturally.

So I filed the script and I made a decision to give it a go...slowly....taking each day as it comes.

So far I have been experiencing quite a bit of dizziness and have been feeling a little headachey, which, I've read, is normal.

I am going to book another doctors appointment to chat about my progress.

I hope and pray, that it all goes well, and if I start to notice dramatic decreases in my moods and emotions, then I can always take the 100mgs again.

For now, I just trying to remain positive and have been doing more research into the drug, and how it works, and what the common side effects are.

It has helped, and I feel much more calm and in control, although I am a little nervous.

So this is where I'm up with my post depression experience.

I won't pretend this is easy to write, and I even debated waiting to see how I went before I did, but I wanted to be honest with my readers.

I have told those closest to me that I have started to reduce my medication so that they can  be supportive, and can look out for any signs of my depression returning.

I'm super lucky to have such amazing people in my life.

Have you ever decided it was time to decrease your medication?

What side effects did you have?

How did you feel?

Look after yourself and those around you,

Kirsty xxxx

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