I needed help!
When I was a working mother with young children I found life really hard. There always seemed to be too much to do and guilt followed me everywhere. I either felt that I wasn’t home enough with my children or I felt that I didn’t really have a career and was always zooming off to collect the kids. On top of this stress, I had a house to manage, I had to cook, clean and conduct all the other life admin. Life was hectic and something had to eventually give and that was my sanity.
Antidepressants for anxiety
Like so many other people in this country and around the Western World, I went to the doctor for help and I ended up being prescribed anxiety medication (there are an estimated 4 million people in the UK on antidepressants – The Guardian, 2018). There are many different drugs for anxiety and depression but the brand I was on was called Citalopram. Now, for full disclosure, I am not knocking these drugs. They are incredibly useful and certainly helped me through tough, busy, stressful times. However, I didn’t want to be on them forever. Pharmaceutical medication can come with side effects, some you can live with and some you can’t. The side effects I encountered were night sweats, skin dryness, fatigue, irritability and a decreased libido. What Citalopram also did, as well as stopping me from having downs, was that it also stopped me from having highs. Effectively, it took the mood extremes away but it left me pretty flat and I wasn’t happy with that. I wanted to feel life again, both the ups and the downs.
Anxiety medication dependency
I had only planned to be on the drug for a little while, perhaps to tide me over whilst the kids were young but the reality was very different. In the end, I was on them for nearly 10 years. Over those 10 years, my body had developed quite a dependency. I had tried a number of times to wean myself off the drug but the reactions to a decrease in the medication, in both my body and mind, made this virtually impossible. The withdrawal effects that I felt included being irritable, irrational, tearful but the worst, by far, was something known as ‘brain zaps’. These zaps were like you were getting electric shocks that started in the brain and travelled all over the body, they were horrid to experience and came very quickly when I started reducing the dosage. They were so bad that when I had previously tried to come off I simply couldn’t cope with the zaps so I upped my dosage again. Effectively back to square one.
A new determination
In 2018, I had a new desire and strength to come off the drug once and for all. My life hadn’t necessarily changed radically in terms of daily stresses, anything but, however, I was fed up of feeling dull and irritable. With advice from my doctor, I started the long process of weaning. In total, it probably took about a year. For 4 months I reduced my daily dosage from 20mg of Citalopram to 10mg. Then I spent another 5 months taking the 10mg every other day, then every 3 days, then every 4 days. This process wasn’t easy and I often felt like giving up and returning to the full dosage but I really wanted to see this through. The brain zaps were pretty bad and in fact, when they started kicking in it reminded you that you hadn’t had your dosage for a number of days. My family also had to put up with the emotional and mental fallout which wasn’t easy by any means. Eventually, though, I decided that it was now or never. I needed to just face the brain zaps head on and take the leap of faith once and for all. I just sensed that I would be ok without the anxiety medication if I could just come off it. So I stopped all doses of the drug and the result was excruciating. The brain zaps were so intense, they occurred numerous times a day, every day and made me feel horrid but I was bloody-minded and refused to give in.
I’m finally medication free
I can now happily report that I am finally Citalopram free. Even now, after 3 months of being drug-free I still occasionally feel the effects and have the odd brain zaps but the strength of the zaps are becoming less and they happen now without me really caring. I am certainly more emotional now, as my son says, I cry all the time but this isn’t always because I’m sad. It is mostly because I am a complete sop, so if someone is loving or kind it sets me off. In fact, every time something soppy happens in real life or on the TV my kids instantly look at me to see if I am welling up (I always am!). The other day, however, something happened that I haven’t felt for a while, I felt a bubble of happiness erupt out of nowhere and for no reason and I felt like laughing and do you know what, it felt wonderful and had been missed!
Please note that this experience is a completely personal one and I am not encouraging the reader to come off their medication. Should you want to come off it is important to speak to your doctor to ascertain if it is the right time to do it and to make sure that it is safe to do so.
There are many different types of anxiety medication of which Citalopram is just one and for many years that drug was very beneficial to me and my mental health.