I am a licensed mental health professional. Who happens to have depression and anxiety and takes an SSRI medication every day. Until I don’t. A couple of weeks ago I made some changes to my medication regime and emptied out my daily pill container. In filling it back up, I neglected to put my depression meds back in the pill box. For the first day or so I didn’t notice anything different. About day three, I started feeling pretty badly. No, I was feeling awful. I wasn’t sure what was going on, but I was sinking fast. I say often to my clients that if you haven’t suffered from depression, it is impossible to know what it really feels like. You can be empathetic and kind and show compassion, but you can’t really know. Just ask my husband.
One of the things we tell people who take antidepressant medications is that if you ever decide to go off of them, it is crucial to taper off slowly, under the guidance of your doctor. If you quit them cold turkey, there is a pretty good chance you will feel worse than you did when you started. I literally tell people this all the time. ALL THE TIME. “Don’t just take yourself off your meds. You have to do it slowly over a period of several weeks.” Trust me I know.
Last weekend I finally realized after about five days what I had done. Really?! I know better than to do this. How could I have possibly done this to myself? I got back on the medication and felt better the next morning. I don’t think the medication works that quickly. In fact, I’m pretty sure it doesn’t. But at least I knew WHY I had felt so awful. I knew I wasn’t going crazy, which for a time there I considered might actually be happening. Sometimes you don’t know if you feel better because you actually feel better or you feel better because you think you feel better. Maybe it’s the placebo effect. Maybe it was the meds kicking in.
I will never do this to myself again. Fingers crossed.
*Photo courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography