Happy Pill

I thought I’d write something about medication for depression and anxiety. I take the active Paroxetine, marketed as Paxtine, Paxil, which is a class SSRI drug which means it tries to increase the body’s uptake of seratonin (happy hormones).

It’s used to treat major depression, obsessive-compulsive, panic, social anxiety, and generalised anxiety disorders in adults. Oddly, in teenagers it can cause depression. Just goes to show how much of a black art treatment options are for this illness.

For me, I wasn’t so much struggling with sadness, it was more social anxiety. I didn’t want another meeting, another phone call or another email to deal with. I didn’t want to see my family or friends. I just wanted to hibernate. I hibernated in my office, in my bedroom or in the lakes country a couple of hours drive away. Sometimes I hibernated in my car.

I was getting out of control too. I was extremely irritable which could be triggered into a rage at home. Press the right buttons and bingo, I was wild. It all seemed logical though at the time – a righteous anger if you like. I didn’t feel like I was losing my mind, but the reactions were definitely disproportional to the perceived provocation.

The medication worked a miracle. The physician said to take a half dose for the first week as it may have side effects. Then after a week to go on a full dose, but not expect any change for 4-6 weeks until it stabilizes in my system.

After two days, I was totally changed. I felt calm inside. An unshakeable peace had permeated my core, deep in my emotions. But it was more than peace, it was almost like a non-emotion. In other words, it seemed to dull or remove emotion rather than soothe. I had swung the other way. I was so calm, there really wasn’t much you could do to provoke me.

I remember hopping on a mates powerful trail bike and doing some dangerous stuff and realising I felt no fear but logically, I should have. I can no longer cry and whilst on medication I have no libido. But that doesn’t bother me though, because I have no libido, therefore no desire!

My wife noticed an instant change. It didn’t give me motivation or “strength” to do my work or face my issues, it just levelled me out and calmed me down.

Others are far less fortunate than I in trying to get the right medication. There are several classes of drugs that have differing mechanisms and it’s a matter of trying different actives at different dose rates and watching side effects. It’s a long protracted process for some because physicians don’t expect a change for a couple of months minimum. The side effects can be hard to deal with too, so there is compromise for many people.

I notice that if I go off my medication for two days, my sex drive comes back, but so does my temper and aggression, so that’s a trade off too. I don’t think my wife particularly wants to have sex with an irritable, cranky husband!

Sometimes I forget to take my meds. I feel fine for a few days as it works out of my system but eventually I become anxious, nervous, foreboding and tense.

I have noticed that my meds don’t do anything for sadness though. I’ve only had a couple of bouts of sadness lasting a couple of weeks at a time, but this stuff doesn’t really seem to make much difference.

What’s your experience?

How did you get over the stigma of having to take antidepressants?

How long have you been, or were on them for?

How did you get off them?

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