I have never had a problem with medications in general, and in my work as a nurse I’ve seen how much good they can do. Despite that, I’ve gone off the meds I take for depression a few times, and that’s what this post is about.
My first episode of depression was in 2007. I ended up hospitalized following a suicide attempt, and spent 2 months in hospital. I continued taking my meds for a few months and I then I had another suicide attempt, this time by overdosing on my psych meds. I didn’t do any significant damage, so I chose not to tell anybody at the time. I decided that to hell with it, if I was on meds and still feeling shitty, what was the point of continuing meds? Continuing on my deceptive theme, I didn’t want my treatment team to know I wasn’t taking meds, so I continued to pick them up regularly from the pharmacy. I ended up getting into full remission without meds, and I remained well for almost 4 years.
My plan all along was that if I started to have signs of getting worse, I would restart meds. When the depression started to hit me in 2011, I quickly recognized the red flags of poor sleep and low mood, and made an appointment to see my GP. I had to practically beg for meds, and he begrudgingly gave me 10mg of citalopram, although his preference was that I attend group therapy. 2 weeks later I ended up in hospital.
It took a year and a half to get fully well again, and I ended up on multiple weight gain-inducing meds (lithium, quetiapine, and mirtazapine). The weight gain was hard to adjust to, although I recognized it was probably a fair price to pay for being well. After 2 years in full remission, I decided I wanted to try going off the quetiapine, and my psychiatrist was agreeable. We tapered down the dose gradually, and at first it seemed like I was going ok, until suddenly it wasn’t. I got really slowed down, and ended up having to go back on the quetiapine as well as up my dose of lithium. Clearly I needed my full med cocktail.
It wasn’t too long afterwards that my workplace bullying debacle began. This culminated in me deciding to quit my job, and I became quite depressed again. My psychiatrist ‘s reaction was tremendously invalidating, so I stopped seeing him. I had recently begun seeing a new GP, and when I told her why I wasn’t seeing the psychiatrist any more, she came out with the same invalidating comments he did. I refused to see her again, so she booked me in to see another GP at the same clinic, who ended up being even worse. I couldn’t bear the thought of going to see another doctor, so I decided that with the meds I still had at home I would do a gradual taper and then stope them. It wasn’t that I wanted to stop taking meds, I just wasn’t willing to see another doctor. Not surprisingly, that strategy didn’t work out very well for me. I was barely sleeping despite taking everything over-the-counter I could think of.
It was when I decided that I needed to go back on meds that I found my current GP, who’s very reasonable and pragmatic. Even so, there have been a couple of times that I’ve thought screw it, there’s no point going in to get my meds reordered because I just feel like crap anyway.
My logical mind is very adamant that I need meds. Unfortunately, sometimes depression sneaks in and twists things around, and for me I don’t think that’s something that will ever go away no matter how pro-meds I am most of the time.
Have you gone off meds before? What was the experience like?
You can find out more about psychiatric medications in my book Psych Meds Made Simple.