Mamamia spoke to six different women about their experiences with antidepressants. Here are their stories.
I was first prescribed antidepressants (Venlafaxine/Effexor) six years ago, during a crippling bout of depression and anxiety.
I was spending all my time in bed. I couldn’t write a sentence and it looked like I wasn’t going to finish my University degree. I was filled with hate and anger and was stuck in a toxic cycle that I felt completely unable to free myself from.
My mum took me to the GP, and I was prescribed Venlafaxine on the spot.
The next morning I woke up feeling like there were electric currents surging through my body. Whatever was in my head didn’t feel like my brain. I went to the bathroom and threw up. Then I fainted.
I spent the next three days on the lounge being sick. When the car pulled up in the driveway that afternoon, my heart nearly exploded out of my chest. Every sound was amplified. I was constantly nauseous and had an awful taste in my mouth. It was hell.
I had been prescribed far too high a dose of medication – and once I halved it, everything changed.
Simply, it saved my life.
It was like I got a jump start. My sleeping patterns changed and the negative self-talk quietened. But the best thing was a sensation I felt returning. As I stood at work one day, I felt butterflies creep back into my stomach – good butterflies. I suppose it’s anticipation or vitality. I had rediscovered my zest for life.
My sex drive plummeted for a while but then it came back. I also experienced night sweats and bad dreams, but those side effects were worth it.
After a number of years, I felt a bit disconnected, and like I wasn’t feeling the full spectrum of human emotion. I found that in some situations, I was unable to cry which felt really uncomfortable.
I decided to go off them, without consulting a doctor. What ensued was one of the worst periods of my life. I got so enormously depressed, and was having panic attacks on my way to work every morning. I ended up needing time off, and then switched to a different medication.
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Now I’m on Lexapro, and have been for more than two years. For me, it’s had far less side effects than Venlafaxine, although every now and then I still get night sweats.
My sleep has improved enormously. I have energy and experience excitement. I still cry if I feel sad, and no longer feel disconnected. They have been an absolute godsend.
In my teens I went on a very light antidepressant after struggling a lot with body image.
I started taking them right before I went on an overseas exchange in Year 11, where I had the time of my life. So I figured they worked, but that could’ve been the change in environment or that I was having lots of fun.
I’ve struggled on and off with depression, or just feeling down since then, but it wasn’t until just recently – seven years on from when I first took antidepressants – that my depression started having a big effect on my life. After moving to a new city where I didn’t know anyone, living out of home away from my family for the first time, and starting my first real job, it got to a stage where I couldn’t face getting out of bed.