Tag Archives: medication

Coping with the Stigma of Antidepressants

Why is it still difficult to remove the stigma of medication
for depression, anxiety, and other mental health struggles,
while so many are experiencing these disorders?

Coping with the Stigma of Antidepressants - The Last Krystallos

When we talk about eradicating stigma we’re trying to normalise or accept something that has been deemed a sign of social unacceptability: the shame or disgrace attached to something regarded as socially unacceptable. In general, society is becoming much more compassionate and educated about mental health, and the stigma is relaxing. However, we still have a long way to go and even those of us fighting to remove the labels can have trouble accepting.

I’ve lived with clinical depression, anxiety, and panic for most of my life, and dealt with it in many ways. I’ve had success overcoming it using natural ways, and I’ve had many times when I’ve needed medication. Accepting medications has always been difficult. Nobody likes to admit they’re not in control of their own bodies, let alone their own minds.

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© Lisa Shambrook

I know many people on antidepressants, and many who refuse meds, so how do you know if medication will help you?

I didn’t want to be on antidepressants for the long term and I believed meds would only offer the placebo effect after so long. I chose to take six month courses, weaning myself off by nine months, believing the serotonin, the meds, and my biological body would work together to rebalance.

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© Lisa Shambrook

So, what happens when your plans don’t work, when your body doesn’t do what you want it to?

Sometimes you have to allow your body to take its time.

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© Lisa Shambrook

The last few years have been tough, culminating in a psychotic episode almost exactly ten months ago last week. An episode I wasn’t sure I’d return home from. It scared me and my family. The following week got worse, and eventually my GP prescribed Setraline and got me on a waiting list to see a counsellor.

I was scared of where I was and with a history of self-harm and suicidal tendancies I sought out private counselling. This helped greatly with learning coping skills and discovering how to deal with my demons. However, medication does a funny thing. I saw an initial counsellor who saw me in a terrible state, tears, panic, and reflections of the psychosis, and she referred me to a therapist closer to home. By the time I saw my new counsellor, I was a couple of weeks into my antidepressants and despite the side effects they were working. I was calm, relaxed, intelligent, and totally understanding of my mental health state. We worked hard together for seven months – and I felt fine.

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© Lisa Shambrook

You know you often hear about people stopping their meds because they’re okay now? Yes, that. You truly believe you’re fine, and sometimes completely forget that medication is what’s at work.

Granted, I had many more tools in my mental health coping strategy tool belt, but I didn’t realise how well the antidepressants were working. I spent my seven months on them and (disliking the side effects) decided to lower my dose (with my GP’s say so). I halved my intake and within days I noticed the difference. My proposed weaning off from seven months didn’t go to plan. I became erratic, anxious, and paranoid. And when I experienced my second psychosis, my GP insisted I upped the dose once again.

I am now in what I call ‘no-man’s land’. I haven’t ever been here before and I don’t like it. I feel reliant on medication and I don’t want to be. I feel like I failed. Why didn’t my mind/body stick to my usual plan, the six month – nine month course that always worked before? I don’t want to be dependent on medication and I am stigmatising my own mental health.

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© Lisa Shambrook

Here I am, championing mental health awareness and trying to eradicate the stigma, yet I’m scorning my own need. There’s truth that mental health conditions mess you up – it’s what they do. And accepting that you’re not in control is incredibly hard. I’m a control freak, so there’s that too. I know that I need to be on medication to stabilise, and I don’t know how long it will take for my brain and my biology to do that. I can’t treat it like a broken arm. I can’t time it, or give myself expectations, and I can’t hurry it up.

So, instead, I work on myself, I work on acceptance. I work on loving myself and giving myself time. That’s all we can ask for. For ourselves and those around us also living with what seem like insurmountable health conditions. It doesn’t matter if you have mental health issues, cancer, a broken limb, or any other health condition, nothing should stigmatise what we’re each coping with. Compassion, education, understanding, and love should flow. More so, when governments are assessing and stigmatising conditions and people who need help.

I have no idea how long I will be on medication for, and that’s okay. While I’m on it, I’m fairly stable, and I’m mostly me, and that’s what matters.

Many health conditions are tough to deal with
when all we want are bodies that work the way they’re supposed to.
How do you deal with your health problems when they don’t go to plan?

We Need to Talk about Depression and Antidepressants

Depression is ever growing in our society, for a number of reasons,
it’s time to lift the stigma and understand treatment.

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I watched This Morning (UK Daytime Magazine show) last week and they had a phone in on Depression. They have phone ins every day on a huge variety of subjects, but that day it was depression and as they came to the item they explained that they had been utterly overwhelmed with phone calls, more than any other subject they had recently dealt with.

This didn’t surprise me as I sat at home feeling sick, dizzy, weak, ultra anxious, and shaky. I was at my one week mark of having started a course of antidepressants.

Depression is rife and the numbers of those suffering is growing.

There are many, many reasons for depression. Some is caused by social and circumstantial events, some by chemical imbalance, and some by medication or illness.

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© Bekah Shambrook

I have many friends who cope with depression, anxiety, panic, self-harm, bi-polar and other mental and emotional health issues on a daily basis. I have suffered depression and self-harm since the age of fourteen, and anxiety and panic from much earlier. At eighteen I was prescribed the antidepressant, Fluvoxamine, for the first time, a short course which saw me through a particularly difficult breakdown. I limped through my twenties, married and raised children, had a bout of post-natal depression, and pushed through with little recognition. In my early thirties, around 2004, I had a breakdown and was prescribed Escitalopram, then, around 2008 and 2011, Cipralex and Citalopram, and in 2014, Amytriptyline, which was to combat anxiety and panic rather than depression. The early Escitalopram series including Cipralex and Citalopram caused difficult side-effects for me, making me sleep much of my depression away. Sounds good, but not effective with a family!

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© Bekah Shambrook

When this current period of depression reared its ugly head I baulked against antidepressants. I didn’t want to become a zombie again. And despite my history of nine to twelve month courses of meds each time, there is still a stigma and, still, we fight what might work for us.

My depression is chemical based. It’s something I will battle my entire life. I go through good periods and bad, often depending on the stress levels in my life, but it’s always lingering in the background, a companion to chronic anxiety. When it’s bad I need a higher dose of serotonin than my body can produce, and I slip into a depression, much like a diabetic’s body not producing enough insulin.

Sometimes I can cope with depression and if I treat myself well, my body can re-adjust on its own, but sometimes it can’t and I need help.  

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© Bekah Shambrook

Not only do we need to rid society of the stigma of mental illness, but we need to understand why medication works and is necessary.

If I have heart problems I will take heart medication. If I break my leg I will have it put in a cast and wait while my body heals. If I am diabetic I might need to take insulin for the rest of my life. No one would question any of these situations, so why do people still stigmatise antidepressants and other mental health medication?

As insulin injections replace the insulin a diabetic’s body cannot produce, so SSRI’s (Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors) work in a similar way. SSRIs work by blocking a receptor in our brain cells that reabsorb the chemical serotonin, which makes more serotonin available to enhance the messages sent between nerve cells. This availability of extra serotonin helps to remove or lift the depression and help the sufferer find themselves again.

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© Lisa Shambrook

Some people still believe antidepressants might block or change who you are, but it’s the depression that masks who you are, and lifting that can help the real you return.

Two and a half weeks ago, I began taking Sertraline. The first few weeks of taking any antidepressant is tough. The side effects are vast and you are likely to be hit hard by them. It’s often a case of getting worse before it can get better, but life is like that so much!

If you choose antidepressants be kind to yourself in the early weeks, if you work, it could be good for your GP to sign you off as you get used to them, if not, be aware and let your employer know what you are doing. Make sure your family are also educated and supportive. It’s very hard for those who’ve never had depression to understand it, but many will be compassionate and supportive. The sooner the stigma of both depression and antidepressants is gone, the better society will be. People with depression are all around us and are valuable members of society, we must not demonise depression.

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© Lisa Shambrook

I recognise that medication is not for everyone, and there are many other treatments for depression and similar conditions. I am also now on a waiting list for NHS counselling. And I’ve blogged about Nature’s Antidepressants too. But we do need to recognise that for many of us antidepressants or other medication may be exactly what we do need to be able to recover, or cope, or battle the black dog and win.

I am incredibly glad that warriors fighting depression are everywhere, social media helps to destigmatise and current TV shows are also helping to show it in normal lives. I applaud Cold Feet’s depiction of Pete going through deep depression and the effects it has not only on him but his family and his friends too. And just last week another new drama Paranoid, showed a major character also dealing with depression and anxiety. Mental health conditions are a part of real life, and we need to not only be aware, but to be compassionate and show empathy, love and understanding.

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Blue Harvest Creative

I’m still at the vulnerable, nauseous, wibbly, and exhausted stage of treating my depression, but I am glad I have made this step and that light at the end of the tunnel draws closer every day. I’ve been there before, and I know I can make it.   

How has depression affected you?
Has medication helped you?
How can we fight the stigma?

The Battle to Beat Depression

We all fight battles – some more than others, but all of us fight and struggle through.

The Battle to Beat Depression | The Last Krystallos - black dog, depression, ways to beat depression, antidepressants, thelastkrystallos,

Fending off the black dog… © Lisa Shambrook

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle” (a quote thought to have come from Ian Maclaren but now widely misattributed to Plato – don’t you love Pinterest and its mass of misattributes?!) This quote speaks volumes.

Lara Croft, weapons, axe, arrows, bow, quiver, thelastkrystallos,

© Lisa Shambrook

Not one of us escapes these skirmishes, so we need to be well equipped.

Two things lead me to write this article: firstly I’m making weapons for Cosplay; just last week I made a quiver and arrows to go with my bow and this week I made an axe, so I have weapons on my mind. Secondly I read a post by a friend, who suffers depression, and she listed her ‘antidepressants’ over on her blog A Slice of Reality and it makes sense to know what yours and mine are too!

Back in 2013, The Guardian reported that ‘Nearly a fifth of adults in the UK experience anxiety or depression.’ That’s one in every five people you know. Simply put, we all know people who suffer with depression and/or anxiety and a whole host of other mental health problems. Thankfully, we are now becoming not only more aware, but more able to talk about mental health issues.

So go and read my friend’s post and see what her antidepressants are…see what mine are and then go and work on yours.

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© Lisa Shambrook

Medication is the first port of call when you go to your GP. In fact, in general, according to the British Medical Journal, antidepressants are being overprescribed. This is not to say they don’t have a place, but the most effective use of antidepressants is a short course that resets the chemical imbalance caused by depression until your body is ready to produce them again.
*Though everyone is different and Dr’s advice should be adhered to.

I’ve taken several courses of antidepressants during my life and each time they’ve helped me overcome the illness. If I need them these days I’ll take a six month course and work on lifting myself out at the same time. My family and I prefer me not to take them as I become a zombie – I want to feel alive not comatose. Antidepressants react differently with different people, but don’t expect to take them without the myriad side effects.

Lisa Shambrook, depression, pain, thelastkrystallos, the battle to beat depression,

© Lisa Shambrook

The most important intervention a GP can offer is therapy. I’ve taken courses of therapy, but only privately. The waiting lists were always too long for me. In my book ‘Beneath the Old Oak’ Meg’s mother refuses her GP’s help.  Her reaction is typical of someone suffering depression:

“I’m wasting money that could be spent on people who are really sick, and why? Because I’m sad!” She [mum] flung her arms in the air. “I’m sad, really sad, and not in the being upset terms either! Sad, weak and stupid. I’m stupid, therefore I do stupid things, therefore I should see a counsellor, but I can’t because I’m not stupid enough!”
Meg rolled her eyes.
“Maybe I should do something stupid…”
“Maybe we should get dinner, Mum. C’mon, let’s get dinner.” Meg moved towards the kitchen. “Mum? Did you put yourself on the list for counselling anyway?”
Mum shook her head. “What’s the point? I’ll be better after I take these [antidepressants]. I’ll be fine in less than a few years! The list is for people with serious problems, not bored housewives who feel sad.” She strode past her daughter. “C’mon, Meg, I’ll be fine in no time.”

If you think is that there’s always someone worse off, that it’s not so bad, that you don’t want to take up valuable NHS time, and you don’t put yourself on the list – that’s a vicious circle. You are worth it, and if you are ever offered therapy of any kind from your GP – take it!

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© Lisa Shambrook

Exercise is, for me, the most effective antidepressant there is. Another friend once sent me an essay she’d written, for her thesis, about the effects of exercise on depression, it was an eye opener! Exercise is a natural way to increase serotonin, as is getting out in the sunshine, and it can help lift the depressive state. Almost seven years ago we got a dog, and daily walks have increased my capacity to avoid depression hugely. Then last year our family joined the local gym. A mixture of exercise and a much healthier diet have impacted greatly on our weight, which has significantly decreased, our general fitness and health, and my predisposition for depression and anxiety. I cannot recommend exercise more. If you can’t afford the gym, or a dog, then just get yourself outside, take a walk and appreciate the abundance of nature!

psalm 61 2, overwhelmed, higher rock, scripture,In her post, my friend talks about her faith and I share it. It doesn’t matter what denomination you are, or aren’t, or what spiritual beliefs you have, there are good things in life to be appreciated. Things that increase your faith, whether in humanity or deity, and these are good. Lean on your faith like I can rely on words of comfort from scripture…let it carry you.

Being creative is what keeps me going. When the chips are down, when I’m stuck in a black hole, I can escape through writing. If you’re lucky enough to have a creative talent, use it. If not, search one out, cultivate one, or find a hobby that makes you happy. I write when I need to release the pressure of anxiety, when panic threatens to overwhelm me, and when the pit of depression attempts to bind and suffocate me. Words are my world, and they save me.

Anxiety © BekahShambrook

Anxiety © BekahShambrook

Some of us are also lucky to have families who, though they can’t always stop you from slipping into that pit, they can throw down the rope to haul us out. They may not understand, I know my self-harm is way beyond my husband’s comprehension, but he will always be there. They will make sure they’re there to hug you, reassure you and work out how to tug your little boat back into their harbour.

I know that for me these antidepressants work, most of the time. You may be reading this whilst you’re cowering in the darkness and these ideas may seem as far away as the sun is, but give yourself time, depression is not always curable, but it is liveable and survivable. I live with chronic depression, of the rapid cycling variety, (You can read more about mine here) and I know I will always live fending off the black dog, but I can – I can growl and he’ll back off… Learn how to tame yours.

How do you survive? What helps you through the tough times and what tips can you offer to tame the black dog? 

Beneath_the_Old_Oak_front_cover_finalTo read more of Meg and her mum’s battles, ‘Beneath the Old Oak ‘ is available in paperback and eBook on Amazon and Etsy.

‘Turn those dreams of escape into hope…’ Meg thinks her mother is broken. Is she broken too? Meg’s life spirals out of control, and when she mirrors her Mum’s erratic behaviour, she’s terrified she’ll inherit her mother’s sins. Seeking refuge and escape, she finds solace beneath a huge, old oak. A storm descends, and Meg needs to survive devastating losses.