For 3 years, I’ve taken an antidepressant (Zoloft), a tiny blue pill at 3:00 pm every day, on the dot. Not going to lie, there were days that I didn’t always take my pill on time but it didn’t affect me. I started out with 25 mg and after a few months, I increased to 50 mg. The increase was mostly because I thought the 25 mg wasn’t doing enough for me. I couldn’t tell if there was a difference. So, I let my doctor know to up the dosage and we’ll see what happens. It’s not the best thing to admit or acknowledge, taking anxiety medicine. I didn’t tell anyone because I thought about the stigma with taking antidepressant medicine; people thinking you’re crazy or that you have a problem. But it’s my truth that I have to deal with. I’m all about keeping it real, not hiding anything or keeping secrets. I feel like sharing the most uncomfortable pieces of my life are bound to help someone else, so I’m exposed and a completely open book!
So here we go. I got on anxiety medicine in 2016. New chapters of my life were starting to open up and I was feeling a tremendous amount of pressure weighing on my shoulders. I felt like I couldn’t deal with anything. My friendships seemed wavering, my family (all of my family) rattled my nerves, I wasn’t happy with my job, finances sucked big time, and my relationship with my boyfriend was at an all-time low. There were things I used to do to get me through my rough patches—the gym, prayer/meditation, church, arts and crafts, reading, writing and occasionally getting together with my girlfriends for wine social events—but I wasn’t interested. These were clear, classic, textbooks signs of a nervous breakdown. I spazzed out on everyone that came near me. I felt out of control. The scary part is, I couldn’t tell anyone what I was going through because I couldn’t even explain it to myself. No one would understand what was going on in my head.
To feel like you’ve given up on everything and everyone that made you happy makes your stress levels increase even more. You feel crazy. I didn’t know how I was going to get out of this rut, but I had to find a way because I was afraid of where I was headed. When I finally made the decision to get on anxiety medicine, I thought I had found relief. And, for a while, I did. It felt calm most of the time in overwhelming situations and confrontations. Work was blah but I got through it, arguments and disagreements seemed to go over my head, and everything else just seemed to fall in place like a puzzle piece. It was almost like I was floating. I always had a nonchalant, uncaring attitude but something about being on the medication made it all make sense.
Seems like a no brainer to be able to stay on this medication that was seemingly making me feel mentally stable, right? Well, after 3 years, my decision to come off the medication came late January. There are multiple side effects to any medication, my antidepressants in particular. I had gained an excessive amount of weight in those 3 years, 30-40 lbs to be exact. I worked out but not as consistently as I did in my bodybuilding days. My diet and nutrition were up and down but I got on various diets to help curb my weight gain and appetite and nothing would happen. I just grew hungrier and more agitated. My hormones were completely off, and my libido was non-existent. I was feeling as if I had plateaued, where the medication had served its time and purpose and it was no longer needed.
When I spoke with my doctor about coming off, she asked, “how do you think you’ll feel when you’re off of them?” Without hesitation, I said, “that’s what I’m scared of.” I was using this pill as some sort of magical medicine that could fix any and all my problems with one swallow. Everything else that I used to do that interested me no longer had value in my life and I had displaced it. I didn’t know if I was scared of going back to the person I was before getting on the antidepressants or losing something that had become so much a part of my daily routine that I would feel lost without it.
My health is extremely important to me. If I’m not a complete whole version of myself I can be nothing to anyone else. Mentally, spiritually, physically, I have to be whole. I have to know myself, what makes me tick, and not feel so affected by it that it takes over my entire psyche. I decided I no longer wanted to be held captive or controlled by a pill. I wanted to feel natural. I wanted to be able to deal with situations and not run from them. I wanted to go back to the way I would calm my elevated stress levels without the urge to pop a pill. I could no longer pretend I was invincible to pain or stress by the pill. I had to be exposed and if something was going to knock me down, I would let it but I’d know how to pick myself back up without my 3:00 pm reminder.
My advice to anyone taking an antidepressant is this: know who you are with or without your medication. You can feel like you’re Superman or Superwoman from your mighty medication, but know you can still move mountains even without it. You have to trust and believe you are you, no matter what. I don’t scoff or look down on anyone that needs medication or takes it for any reason. If it’s for you, great. Just be strong mentally and physically with all the pressures that face you and push through.
Peace and Love!