Coming off antidepressants after two years

Ello loves! This week is Mental Health Awareness Week. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll know that in 2018 I was prescribed Sertraline (an SSRI antidepressant) to treat anxiety and depression. After taking it for two years, I’m happy to say I’m pill-free and feeling better than ever! So in light of this, I’m sharing my experience. Just like you recover from flu, you can also recover from periods of mental instability and go back to “normal” (whatever that is). Don’t think that because you’re anxious/depressed now, that you’ll be that way forever. Let’s crack on shall we…

Making the decision to come off medication

Because I felt better and was no longer experiencing any symptoms of anxiety or depression, I decided I was ready to stop taking medication. The other reason I wanted to come off was that I wasn’t feeling a range of emotions (a common side effect of prolonged SSRI usage). For example, I felt pleased when I received good news, but I wasn’t ecstatic and I never got really excited. On the other side of this, I never felt upset, and I reacted neutrally to bad news. Anyone who knows me knows I’m a massive crier, and it felt weird that I didn’t cry for months on end. So after a discussion with my doctor, I started petering out my medication. This was done gradually over six weeks.

Withdrawal side effects

My GP warned me that I could get withdrawal side effects, so I was expecting to get that Monday-morning-after-a-festival-feeling, where you’re exhausted and think you’ll never be happy again. But in reality, I ended up having zero side effects to coming off the medication. This isn’t the case for everyone so I feel very lucky; this was a sign that I’d made the right decision! I didn’t experience any notable difference in how I felt on the medication, compared to how I feel now I’m off of it.

Getting hormonal

When I was on Sertaline, I barely experienced any premenstrual syndrome (PMS) because the medication balanced out the amount of serotonin in my brain, reducing hormonal mood swings. Since coming off medication it’s come back with a vengeance; I recently cried at three adverts and an episode of The Simpsons all within the space of an hour. Still, I wanted to feel a range of emotions again – in the words of Nicole Scherzinger, “be careful what you wish for cuz you just might get it“.

Let’s get physical

Soz to be one of those annoying people, but I’d say 75% of the reason I’m feeling better with no side effects and a (mostly) good mood is because of exercise. Before lockdown I was going to the gym four times a week; now I do a home workout most days. To quote Elle Woods…

(Side note: the problem with this is that before I went on medication I felt anxious even going to the shop, so going to the gym would’ve felt like a mission to Mordor. I also had zero energy (I would go to bed at 7pm most nights) and no motivation. So while exercise has improved my mood, it’s unrealistic to tell people who’re anxious/depressed to “just go for a run”, because the chances are, they won’t be up to it.)

Was it worth it? (Let me work it, put my thing down flip it and reverse it)

I’m really happy that I made the decision to go on Sertaline, despite a lot of people telling me I shouldn’t do it. It’s not a happy pill – you don’t walk around thinking everything’s all smiles and rainbows – but it is an effective mood stabiliser. Over the past two years I’ve learnt meditation and mindfulness, and I’ve started exercising most days, all of which are positive lifestyle changes that I didn’t feel motivated to do when I was anxious/depressed. Now I’m off medication, I can practise these methods and I no longer need to rely on Sertraline for a sound mental state. Antidepressants weren’t a necessary longterm solution for me personally (it varies from person to person as our brains are all unique), but they were definitely effective and it was deffo worth it.

Thanks for reading!
Love Rachel x

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