My Love/Hate Relationship With SSRIs


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.


  1. I feel you. :( I’ve been on Cymbalta for…a year and change? And it helps a lot, a lot, a lot. Medication has saved my life, too. But it makes me bruise easily, and it’s hard to tell whether it’s the reason why I have spotted continuously for pretty much the whole year that I’ve had an IUD. But the prospect of changing meds is just…ugh. It does not help that the whole class of SSRIs is ruled out for me, as they all make me suicidally depressive to varying degrees. Add that to the fact that Cymbalta is famed for horrible, horrible withdrawal issues and sticking with a medication that makes me bleed randomly is the lesser of two evils.

    (And, like you, I’ll say again that medications saved my life, and that having my baseline “awful feeling” lowered from an average of 5 every day to an average of 3 is a HUGE quality of life improvement. I am way more functional and happy and more able to put into place other coping mechanisms to make me more functional and happy, too. My side effects are manageable, I have no side effects from my beautiful anti-anxiety meds, and even though going on meds is a scary prospect, I believe that it’s really worth it. Even if it sometimes really sucks.)

  2. Oh lady, I hear you. I wish I had anything helpful to say, but all I’ve got is that I’ve been there. I’ve recently been considering rejoining the world of the medicated after almost 7 years off them and the ambiguity and side effects are precisely what I don’t want back. Ugh and birth control is just as bad. I’ve been on the same “just ok” one for years out of fear that trying something else will backfire.

  3. I’ve tried a ton of different antidepressants, and it’s so weird how they stop working! I’m back on Wellbutrin, which I like pretty well. I am more on the anxiety end of the depression spectrum, less on the lying in bed for days end. But I knew I needed to increase my dose when I started to really understand why people committed murder as I was watching the daily jaywalkers cross the busiest street in town in front of my car. Not good.

    I feel you on the night sweats. I felt like I was going through menopause. I think Prozac was the one that also gave me muscle twitches so just as Collin would be falling asleep I would start doing the Stanky Leg in bed. Also insomnia, with which I had NEVER had a problem. Fun!

    Can you stock the hell up on drugs that may be better than Prozac? If you explained the dilly?

    • Yes, this! I am also on Wellbutrin and it seems to manage my depression symptoms really well… but the anxiety is a bit higher than I would like, esp. since I am currently planning a wedding and would probably want to kill everyone anyway.

      Can you get mail order drugs in South Africa? Or would that take forever and be unreliable and not a good idea, why did I even mention it?

  4. I really really apprecate your honesty about all this

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