One day, I decided to stop taking my anti-depressant medication. I was prescribed it for OCD and, unsurprisingly, depression, and had advised my consultant that this was what I was going to do, much to his indifference.
Coming off the venlafaxine was an ordeal. I experienced sleep paralysis, insomnia, brain zaps, dizziness, nausea and a low mood. The brain zaps were awful. It felt like someone was shaking my brain around my skull or giving me electric shocks. But the sleep paralysis, insomnia, dizziness and low mood were awful too.
It was all just awful.
Thankfully, after the longest two weeks of my life, the withdrawals stopped.
When I told my GP what I had done, she congratulated me. “Well done,” she said.
I was perplexed, and, if I’m being honest, a little annoyed. I wondered whether she had ever congratulated anyone for completing their course of antibiotics. I doubted that she had.
In the year that followed, my brain entirely free from any psychiatric medication, I had the worst time.
My head was spinning with intrusive thoughts: rapid, vicious and upsetting. They were there when I woke up and when I tried to go to sleep. They were there when at three-in-the morning when I got up thirsty. They were in the background as I tried to watch the TV. They couldn’t be drowned out by music or alcohol. They were relentless, incessant, maddening.
Eleven months later, I dipped back down into a sleep-deprived depression, and went to my GP, bleary-eyed and nauseated from the lack of sleep, begging her for zopiclone.
Instead of giving me this highly addictive sleeping pill, though, she put me on an anti-depressant which, taken at night, causes drowsiness.
That night, for the first time in months, I slept the sleep of the dead.
Nowadays, I can’t see myself experimenting with a med-free life. My brain, in its natural state, is not my friend. I need medication to temper my depression, calm my OCD, and soften my Tourette’s.
This isn’t a bad thing. I feel very lucky to be alive in a time where such medications are available. I just wish people weren’t so fearful of psychiatric medication. In my opinion, they’re there to be your friend when your brain is not. They’re not magic. They don’t cure everything. But they help, and for me, that is enough.