I was first prescribed antidepressants four years ago, during a crippling bout of depression and anxiety.
I had resisted them for as long as I could. A part of me felt like there was something authentic about my tortured and despairing self. Like my haunting thoughts and feelings were actually the truth, and everyone else was under a spell. I had always identified as someone who “thought too much” and approached the world very critically, so something about this sustained sadness felt very much like me.
In going on medication, wouldn’t I just be denying my true self? I thought that perhaps bouts of paralysing depression and anxiety were just part of the human condition, and something didn’t feel right about ‘curing’ it with medication.
But the reality was 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.
I'd been seeing a psychologist for months, but things were getting worse. So my mum took me to the GP and they prescribed me antidepressants on the spot. I didn't want to take them, but I did.
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 one 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.
When I went back to my doctor, he suggested that I'd just fallen ill with flu, and the symptoms were unrelated. He told me that the only side effect should be feeling a little more sleepy than usual. The warning on the packet of the medication, and the accounts I'd found online, told a very different story. My experience was far from the exception. (Post continues after gallery.)
I had been prescribed far too high a dose of the wrong kind of medication. I was then put on Venaflaxine (Effexor), which I cannot deny absolutely changed my life.
It was like I got a jump start. My sleeping patterns changed and the negative self-talk quietened. But the biggest change 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.
With that said, antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication come with a whole host of side effects we don't talk about. Some of them can be extremely debilitating. We need to destigmatise the use of medication, but also be honest about the fact it's not a magic cure. Medications work differently for different people, but here are the things I was never told: