It is Mental Health Week in Canada.
Since I was a young teen, I’ve been on and off different medications for my depression and anxiety and I wanted to talk about some of them today. I would love to talk about them all, but often I didn’t really care about what medication I was on and since I moved from place to place, it was rare that I stayed on any medication longer than three months.
St. John’s Wort
An herbal remedy, St. John’s Wort is one of the first things that I tried when I was around sixteen or seventeen years old. My mom got it for me since I wasn’t a fan of the drugs that I had been prescribed by the doctor.
There is limited scientific evidence that herbal medications like St. John’s Wort works; however, there are many people that swear by it, in fact those people even call themselves drug guardians. I don’t remember it being very effective for me but I did like that it didn’t seem to have any real side effects.
I should note that if I didn’t keep a consistent sleep schedule and keep my caffeine intake to a minimum, then I felt no effect from it at all. I don’t remember how long I took it for, but I don’t remember experiencing any side effects after I stopped taking it.
A recent medication that I tried was Cipralex. Actually called Escitalopram, I was on it for around a year. I stopped taking it because it caused me to feel less creative. My job required creativity and the brain fog I felt was making it impossible to be productive in my job. I was concerned I was going to lose my job which made my anxiety worse and it became more and more difficult to continue rationalizing taking my meds.
I was also gaining weight on Cipralex, which wasn’t great for my self-confidence or body image. As I’ve said before, my depression is just as smart as I am and any opportunities to drag me down are quickly taken advantage of. I had to stop taking Cipralex, but thankfully I had gone through the worst part of my depression already and thanks to counselling I was able to handle things rather well without the medication.
The most recent medication that I took was Pristiq, also known as Desvenlafaxine. What a crazy drug! For me, it definitely made the lowest of my lows go away, but it also reduced the level of pleasure and joy I felt when things were going right. The constriction of my emotional range made me feel a little like a zombie: never happy and never sad.
I stopped taking Pristiq, cold turkey, after around six months. I do not recommend this! Unfortunately, I was on the minimum dosage of the drug and the only choice to wean myself off would have been to switch to another medication in the same class. I didn’t really like that idea, and so I just suffered through the withdrawal symptoms.
Have you ever wondered what it would feel like if you stuck a 9-volt battery on your brain a hundred times a minute? That’s what I felt as I came off Pristiq. It was uncomfortable and very disconcerting. At some points, I wondered if it would ever stop.
There are probably around three to five different medications that I’ve forgotten to list, but my memory has never been great for such things. I do know that none of the anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medication that I’ve tried so far has worked perfectly for me. The long period of time that they take to start working, the horrible side effects when taking them, and the potentially worse side effects when coming off of them are issues that aren’t talked about enough.
We need better medications for depression and anxiety. We need better ways to figure out if a treatment is going to be effective, or not. The pharmaceuticals we provide people to help them get through times where they feel like one more problem, one more mistake and they’ll kill themselves shouldn’t have the side effect of increasing their suicidal tendencies.
If you have any questions about my experiences on these medications, or would like to share your own, please use the comment form below.