I’m quite reluctant to write about what I don’t like about my depression medication, because the last thing I want is to dissuade anyone who could benefit from antidepressants from taking them. So let me say, right off the bat, that I think SSRIs have saved my life many times over. I both mean saved my life in the really scary “I might be dead right now” way, and in the way that my life if I hadn’t been on medication these past few years would be a Pottersville-esque nightmare. I was scared to go on medication, for reasons both unreasonable and reasonable, and I wish I hadn’t let them stop me for so long. If you need help, get it!
Successfully disclaimed? Ok then. I will now expound upon the HATE portion of my love/hate relationship with SSRIs.
Something I think is poorly understood about antidepressants is that they don’t make you happy. They don’t even really make you not depressed. They make you LESS depressed. Your rock bottom gets a little higher, and you spend less time there. If you’re starting out where I was, at “hella bummed” (I think the medical term is “in a major depressive episode”), this is still going to leave a couple notches short of “normal.” And that’s when you are on the right medicine/dosage.
How do you find the right medicine and dosage? Lots of trial and error, where “error” can mean “suicide.” And no one really understand why these drugs work, or why sometimes they don’t work, or why sometimes they stop working but switching to another drug that theoretically does the exact same thing will fix you, and other times you need to go on old fashioned brain-blasters or untested, “atypical” wallet-blasters. It’s pin the tail on the neurotransmitter with the blind leading the fucking blind.
So when you find a drug that is “good enough,” it can be hard to try something new, even when you’re unsatisfied with the results. I’ve been on Prozac for almost a year, and I’ve been thinking about switching for about as long. It’s effective, but not as effective as I want it to be (it’s not like the “Holy crap! Everything is better!” feeling I had a few months into my Celexa regime, which happened to be right around the same time I met Collin, so there goes any scientific usefulness of that memory). So me and my doc have been steadily increasing my dosage.
Which in turn, steadily increases the side effects. Which are a bummer. Every time I add more Prozac, I gain five pounds almost as quickly as taking that first pill. My weight adjusts back (or I force it back with amped-up exercise), but it’s still annoying to need Prozac Jeans alongside my Period Bras, and probably not all that healthy. The pills give me heartburn. There’s sexual side effects, troubling enough that they really deserve their own post (to be written when I’m feeling less uncharacteristically bashful). Since my latest dosage hike I’ve had two new side effects to manage. I have less energy and I sleep a lot more. You know what waking up on your couch when it’s dark out and the last thing you remember is lunch feels like? It feels like being majorly depressed.
And then there’s my favorite, the side effect that lead me to briefly believe I was pregnant: the night sweats. I’ll wake up drenched in sweat and shivering, like I’m menopausal or breaking out of a fever. It’s gross, it makes me have to do too much laundry and have to take extra showers which are terrible for my skin. Gosh, Collin regularly wakes up screaming and I regularly wake up in a cold sweat. We really are some pair.
I used to say, “I’ll get off Prozac when I’m on Collin’s insurance,” but as soon as that happened we’d decided to move to South Africa, where Prozac is readily available, and other less common antidepressants are not necessarily. So I guess I’m saying I’m going to be taking a drug that doesn’t REALLY work and DOES have significant unpleasant side effects for the next two years? That, my friends, is a depressing prospect.