It’s estimated that around 7.3 million people in the United Kingdom were prescribed medication for antidepressants in 2017-2018, 4.4 million of those had been prescribed the same drug in the two years previous. Medication can be an important factor for so many in managing their mental health condition and today I’d like to talk to you about my experience.
First a little background. I’ve had mental health issues since I was a young teenager, anxiety has always been the biggest of those. I was a confident, somewhat cocky child who thrived in education. I passed the 11+, started a popular all girls grammar school and did very well for the first year. However, something changed when I was 11/12. The pressure of anything and everything, things that most children would cope with fine, had me breaking down crying and screaming about not wanting to be at this school. Eventually my parents gave in. I moved schools and it felt easier for a while, but ultimately I became difficult. I started skipping school, self harming, just being angry and arguing with everybody.
My parents didn’t realise back then but this was when the decline in my mental health began. When I was 22 I had a complete breakdown. I went from working a job 30 hours a week as a horse riding instructor to feeling suicidal rage daily. My boss at the time noticed I wasn’t doing well, pointed it out to me and told me to take some time and go and see a doctor.
My GP suggested that I was struggling with depression, signed me off for two weeks and gave me a prescription for prozac. This was the start of a messy and long journey for me in finding the correct diagnosis and the correct medication. I never returned to my job since I was battling to make it through the mental health system and find something that worked for me.
Over the next few years I went through so many anti depressants that I’m not sure I even remember all of them. These are the ones I recall being prescribed:
These had varying side effects for me including increased paranoia, weight gain, dry mouth, heart palpitations. I could go on and on but the short of it was that they didn’t solve the problem for me.
I got referred to primary mental health care and was wrongly diagnosed with EUPD. It took a while but eventually a second opinion changed the diagnosis and somebody recognised that it was an anxiety issue. I got a good psychologist, spent two years in therapy and found a GP who heard me. This GP was willing to work with me rather than label me uncooperative because I didn’t like the way that things were handled. I tried a few different anti anxiety medications: propranolol, phernegen and then eventually settled on pregablin.
Pregabalin did not go well at first. It reduced my base level of anxiety but it had a rather worrying side effect for me. I lost most of my sight besides blurry shapes in my left eye. I went back to the GP who suggested it was time to see an optician and rule out any physical issues. All looked fine physically when I saw the optician. However, my left eye was so bad that I couldn’t complete the depth perception tests since I couldn’t see the dots. I decided to stick with it anyway since I’d already been through so many medications that didn’t help. This felt like the last chance I had to manage the anxiety a little.
It continued this way for about 6 weeks until it suddenly cleared and everything was back to normal. I’m so glad for the patience that I had. It has made my day to day level of anxiety a lot easier to live with. It does have one other side effect which is tiredness. I can manage this as long as I keep a good sleep routine. It doesn’t reduce my anxiety when it comes to situational problems. This is where I need to practice mindfulness and grounding skills to help myself to deal with things.
I guess what I’ve been trying to say through all of this is: don’t give up if you have a bad experience with one medication. There are many different types to help you manage your mental health. Keep searching for that doctor that makes you feel heard and persevere through side effects for a while. You may find something that works for you and makes your life so much easier to deal with. Good luck!