I’ve had different views towards taking medication over the course of my life. Interestingly, for someone who turned up at the doctor’s surgery at 17 with Depression, I wasn’t offered any sort of chemical relief until I was having a breakdown in my final year of University age 24. This corresponded with an extremely unhelpful consultation I had with a witch-like psychiatrist who I am tempted to name, even though I don’t ordinarily do that for fear of a libel suit. After a ten minute session with witch-features, I came out with a prescription for Prozac and my first sojourn into the world anti-depressants began.
I was hopeful that tablets would help me. At the very least I hoped they would enable me to get to the end of my degree and graduate with my friends.
They did, but Prozac turned me into even more of a nutter than I already was. Within 2 weeks I was having manic phases and rampant insomnia. I couldn’t relax even for a second and had to burn off my restlessness by going for dawn perambulations around the council estates of Huyton. The only good thing that came out of this phase was the sudden completion of my 10,000 word dissertation over the course of one weekend.
After a few more weeks of mental mania I decided I couldn’t cope with the new fast-forward style me and threw the Prozac in the bin. I didn’t attend any further appointments with witch-face as I didn’t trust her to prescribe anything remotely appropriate.
My second adventure in anti-depressant land happened when I was 26. I had moved house and got a different GP; under his recommendation I decided to try a course of Amitryptiline. I was gutted when the same reaction happened and I became restless, agitated and uncontrollably manic within weeks. I was now living by a park, so my restless ramblings were conducted in more picturesque surroundings, but the mental mayhem was the same. Again, these tablets were lashed in the bin.
I was starting to think that medication just wasn’t for me, but a third dalliance with Depression when I was 28 caused me to reconsider. I’d just been diagnosed with Neutropenia (rare blood disorder-see previous posts) and was finding life to be very trying and incomprehensibly shit. After being hospitalised for a week and tested for Leukaemia, HIV, Hepatitis B and C before the diagnosis of Neutropenia was arrived at, I asked to see the hospital shrink as I wasn’t sure there would be any person left to treat if my feelings escalated. I explained all about the bad reactions to Prozac and Amitryptiline and the psychiatrist listened very carefully and deduced that the other 2 practitioners clearly hadn’t listened to how bad my anxiety was. He thought giving those drugs to someone with extreme anxiety was very bad judgement and highly unprofessional. He prescribed a course of Dosulepin, an older tricyclic anti-depressant which had sedative properties.
It took about six weeks to kick in, but it proved to be a very welcome addition to my life. I found the will to carry on living and felt able to deal with all the medical drama. I stayed on it for the next eight years and five of those were the best years of my life.
I decided to come off it in my early thirties. I’d managed to get a secure full-time job and everything was just peachy. I stayed alright for a good few years but then the untimely death of my father once again knocked my brain settings out of whack. For a while I didn’t notice I had deviated so far off my axis. As the slide towards Depression was so gradual, I’d got used to feeling bad and started thinking it was normal to feel absolutely fucking terrible. By the time I arrived at my GP’s surgery a gibbering quivering shadow of my former self, I was so far gone that it took many months for the Dosulepin to re-acquaint itself with my neurotransmitters.
I am still on it to this day. I have fought with many new doctors, psychiatrists and other medical personnel to stay with Dosulepin as it’s apparently not a recommended drug any more. There are newer, ‘better’ anti-depressants on the market with less side-effects. Dosulepin worked so well for me in the past that I don’t see the point of taking the risk of changing. Especially when I have tried and failed to enjoy the company of both Prozac and Amitryptiline.
It’s difficult to question the authority of doctors, especially when you are feeling vulnerable and your head is wrecked with Depression. But doing so got me off two anti-depressants which clearly made me worse. It also helped me to find one which did actually suit me.
I have to attend a medication review every few months with my GP and they still keep suggesting I change to a newer anti-depressant. Recently I was asked to consider coming off anti-depressants altogether but I’m not doing that either. If I had my way I would stay on Dosulepin for life. It clearly fills in the blanks in my brain chemistry and I will deal with the long-term side-effects if and when they arrive.
I’m not someone who has a problem being on medication for Depression. I take injections for my Neutropenia and the principle is exactly the same. Medication isn’t the only thing that made me feel better, but it has made a massive contribution which cannot be underestimated.