'I’ve just come off antidepressants after five years. Here’s what happened.'

Five years ago, I had a panic attack in the supermarket. Pretty sure I was staring at a bottle of Heinz tomato ketchup when feelings of mortal suffocation crept quickly to my throat. It was as if someone had snatched all the oxygen from the air, and you couldn’t have convinced me otherwise – I was going to die, right there, right then, in aisle five. 

In fairness, the panic attack itself was entirely warranted. I was in a complete situational crisis, though the supermarket trigger was odd. But breakthroughs so often happen in unexpected places, and this was the kick up the arse I needed to finally get help

Even if all the things I’d told myself were true – that pills would make me numb, a zombie, just bury problems, steal my personality – they were still preferable to *gestures vaguely towards the supermarket scene* this.

Watch: Birth trauma and the debilitating impact on physical and mental health. Post continues below.

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While the adjustment period was rough, once the meds kicked in, they gave me a new lease on life. I started sleeping well, got a handle on my emotions, eradicated PMS, stopped having panic attacks, and started parenting way more patiently. 

For half a decade, they provided a much-needed buffer between myself and the swirling bulls**t that afflicted my life.

They held my hand through the toughest moments I hope I’ll ever have to endure. And eventually, like shafts of sunlight slicing through clouds, I just didn’t feel like I needed them anymore^.


Everyone knows that you taper off your meds, right? Let’s say you took 20mg, well, you’d work down to 15, 10, five… you’d do it slowly. Sensibly. You’d get your doctor across it, go gently, and not for one moment consider going cold turkey.

Well, I’m stubborn AF and once I decided I was done, I was well and truly done. Rather than squeezing the brake, I just slammed my foot right down on that b**ch and screeched to a total stop. And it made me sick.

So, so sick.

I had shocking migraines, was consumed by nausea and spent the first week in bed, crying and throwing up. I was physically unwell, like I had a bad virus. A lesson was learned, classically – just way too late. 

I suffered rotten withdrawals for about two weeks, so please – if you’re considering coming off your meds, get some professional guidance. 

Once I’d jumped that first horrible hurdle, though, there were plenty of unexpected discoveries on the other side. 

1. I had much more energy. 

Advised that the medication may cause fatigue, I had always taken it (as instructed) at night. But even still, I badly struggled to wake up. I dragged myself begrudgingly from bed, couldn’t muster enthusiasm for anything before 12, and took to the waking day with very little pleasure. Naps were LIFE, and I often joked that left to my own devices I could sleep for a week.

Since coming off the pills, I am a morning person!? I’m up most days before six, watching the sun rise over the regional park from the steps of my front porch. This renewed vitality extends not just to getting up, but to working out, cleaning, cooking, gardening, working. I’m ambitious. I get s**t done now. I love that for me.


2. My mental clarity increased.

I always felt so foggy before, and now it’s like my brain has had a sparkling lens clean. I can think ahead, make plans, focus, stay (mostly) on track, and even remember stuff. I’ve seen a huge increase in my professional performance and overall success, and this clear vision is highly useful for honing in on toxicity in your personal life, too. 

3. There have been times I think I might need them again.

I very briefly went back onto a different class of medication after I had a mental breakdown and crashed my car into a concrete pole. But then I realised, that happened because I was stressed to f**k, had no work-life balance, and was trying to do way too much.

So I quit my job, started freelancing from home, and this time WEANED myself off. Sometimes the problem isn’t you, and having that improved mental clarity really helped me to be able to see the difference.

4. There’s no path to happiness unless you pave it.

You hear people say they would die for their children, but would you live for them, too? I have had to make a conscious effort to pursue happiness, knowing full-well that life’s f**kery means it’s not always freely given.

I needed anti-depressants to envelop me in a little protective layer as I weathered a storm I wasn’t able to shelter from. But now, that storm has passed, and with renewed energy and a clear head, I have actively chosen to be somewhere where the climate’s not as volatile.


There is no shame in seeking mental respite, and no pressure to relinquish it.

One in seven Australians take anti-depressants, and for many, they really are the difference between life and death. 

But if you’re thinking about coming off them, and anxious about how that might look, hopefully this has been a little bit of a help.

^Always speak to your doctor before stopping taking any medication.

Carly is a single mum to twins and freelance writer living in Sydney. You can connect with her here.

If you think you may be experiencing depression or another mental health problem, please contact your general practitioner. If you're based in Australia, 24-hour support is available through Lifeline on 13 11 14 or beyondblue on 1300 22 4636.

Feature image: Instagram/@_carly_sophia_.

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