I thought I'd write something about how things are, a few months down the line after having stopped antidepressants. Someone asked yesterday how I was getting on, and it made me think about it, more than I'd thought about things in a long time; so I thought I'd write it here, for those of who might be interested, or used to follow the Farewell Prozac blog and might have been wondering.
I suppose one thing to say is that it isn't really a defeat if you don't manage to give up antidepressants; but nor is it a victory if you do. It's not like you've given up smoking, where you can congratulat yourself that you've rid yourself of something that makes you ill, gives you very little pleasure other than satisfying an addiction, and might even have killed you. There are no such victories to be had in quitting anti-Ds. You aren't going to be a whole lot better off; it may seem like marginal improvement, or hardly an improvement at all.
Life seems a whole lot similar. You don't go around seeing everything in Technicolor, whereas previously you only saw it in black and white. You don't go dancing around, shaking the hands of strangers and humming a merry tune to yourself. It's not like that, at all, and it's not a good idea to have any expectations that it will be that way. I think I had hoped that life without antidepressants would be more stimulating, fun, sensuous; but I don't think it is.
It's simply the case that I'm not taking antidepressants any more. That is something which does bring me relief, rather than joy. Finally, that little part of my life is over. That is something that I do celebrate, deep down, but it's more of a quiet satisfaction than a rousing epiphany. The world keeps on ticking over, whatever chemicals are kicking around in your system. And antidepressants, if used properly, and if they're right for you, are benign things.
There is no moment when you feel like you've crossed the finishing line. It's more subtle than that. There is no way in which one day becomes noticeably more bearable, less bearable, distinctly different, from the one that came before. It's only when you look back from a distance that you can see how you've got on. So now, several months later, I do feel very different. Not altogether healed, or better, or whatever, and not that I expected to be: there are still plenty of things that need tinkering and making better. But then who can say that they don't need fixing somewhere, somehow? If antidepressants had never been there at all, a lot of the problems would still be the same, and so are the ways to cope with them, and change them. It's just that they're gone now. That side of things has gone, and isn't going to help any more. That part is missing, and it's not coming back.
But it's the taking away of the safety net that matters, and does make a difference. That brings with it all kinds of uncertainty and queasiness - not just from the physical sensations of discontinuation syndrome, those things that you expect to happen - the fuzziness, the lack of concentration, the feeling that you're not really sure where you are or what you're doing, the headaches, and so on - but also the things you start bringing up in your mind. All those questions like: Am I ready? Can I cope? Am I going to be OK with this? And if this doesn't work, does that mean I'm condemned to being on medication forever, with no way out? All those things start firing up, whether you want them to or not.
It's probably a bigger leap than most people made it out to me to be. I don't know if that's because people like my doctor hadn't been through it themselves; but it was certainly a harder thing to do than it had been made to sound. It's quite a struggle, and if you're going through it now, you ought to know it can be quite tough. Not for everyone, of course, and some may find that it's like walking from one room to another; I certainly wouldn't want to put anyone who's thinking about it off trying. Probably, if you're thinking about it, you might be ready anyway, and you've already started building the bridge. The hard thing for me was walking across it. You don't really know how it's going to be, for you, until you do it.
So how am I? I'm OK. Not vastly improved, or spectacularly well, or glowing with satisfaction at a job well done, or any of those things, which I didn't really imagine would ever happen anyway. I'm just relaxed, occasionally hopeless, frequently wrong, prone to anger, often unhappy, plagued by feelings of frustration and failure, and sometimes agitated to the point of insomnia. Normal, in other words. Normal for me. The writing helps. I've heard it said, and I can understand it, that you shouldn't really write too much about how you feel, because you run the risk of sinking further into the pit, or of boring your readers. The latter, I can understand, and I apologise to those who've made it down this far; the former, no. Not for me, anyway. Sometimes it's only by articulating something that you become aware of it. Sometimes you have to ask yourself the questions that only you want to know the answers to. That's how I find it, anyway.
I thought I'd write about this, and it might make me feel disappointed, or deflated, or unsure about things. But really, it's made me feel a bit more confident, and pleased, because it's reminded me just how bloody hard it was for me, back then those short months ago, to do what I did. And maybe there is a difference between then and now. Maybe having done that has changed my outlook for the better, and made more things seem possible. If so, then it was worth doing. And that makes me happy.
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