Well, that was meant to be a reference to Slade’s Merry Christmas Everybody… (Probably my favourite Xmas song, because I’m cool.)
Anyway, so everything has been very busy in the run up to Christmas. I only finished working in the lab in the last couple of days, so things have been very stressful trying to get results and things sorted before I had to stop. It will be nice to get a rest anyway, looking forward to a little bit of time off to recharge (having had two days off…sick… since July), and one day of holiday during the past 12 months. That doesn’t include time spent off when I was feeling particularly ill and depressed at the beginning of the year, although I have got over that since then, and have been consistently at work, thanks to a mixture of the mentoring scheme provided by the University’s disability service, and also, very importantly, my girlfriend who has been such a huge help, and who has been there for me, and done a lot to help make me feel much happier and more comfortable during the course of this year.
In other news this week, I went to my GP and we agreed that I could stop taking my medication. If I am honest, not taking it has been actually very good for me, as I think I have been at a stage for some time where it is no longer really necessary, and not taking it has made me realise that there is much less of a problem now than there was in the past. I think it is very easy to keep thinking that there is a real problem because of the help you are getting, which can in a sense mask where you really are in your treatment. That is why it is important to keep in constant touch with any medical help you are getting so that these things get discussed regularly, but unfortunately I had found it difficult to make a GP appointment in the last month or two due to a lack of time with work (poor excuse really!), and because I was happy enough getting on with things as they were, hadn’t made the effort to make the appointment. I am so happy that I did go though, as it has made me feel much more positive now that I do not have to take medication (not that there is anything wrong with it, I think it can be an important part of treatment, but I don’t want to be taking it longer than necessary), and I am going to discuss my experiences with antidepressant medication in a moment.
Another thing that I had recently been attending was an eating disorders service, although that has now wrapped up too. We had 6 hour-long sessions discussing my relationship with food, my view of myself and my body, and how eating made me feel etc. We made a lot of progress, and came to some deeper understanding about why I feel the way I do about my body-image etc, and my eating has definitely stabilised (although I had done a lot of this whilst waiting for the sessions to start), and I have been consistently and steadily losing some of the extra weight that I would like to get rid of, whilst also being mindful that I need to maintain a healthy body weight and shape, without going too far. So, I am glad that chapter is closed also, it is showing me that I am making steady progress, and am definitely much more in control of the problems that I felt I had.
So, going back to talking about medication, I’d like to just say a few things, without going into major details. In total, I have taken 5 different antidepressants (along with a supplementary medicine that was an antipsychotic, though not in the low dose I was given), in a few different combinations over the past 3 years. I think that probably sounds like a bit of a nightmare, but I don’t think it has to be like that. Different medications work in vastly different ways (in terms of where they act upon in the brain). Famous examples like Prozac (an SSRI – Serotonin Selective Reuptake Inhibitor) work in one way, whereas there are completely different classes such as tricyclic, tetracyclic, SNRIs etc, that all do the same job but by working in different ways, some of which will be more effective for some people that for others. It was important for me at the time to try the medication, because while some did seem to work, there are sometimes side effects that can be unwanted (and different, and with different strength for different people). I eventually did manage to settle on something that was generally quite effective, and it was doing the job for me, although again there were some different side effects that I would probably have preferred not to have had, but were for the most part bearable in order to achieve the benefit. The main benefit for me was allowing a stability to keep pushing on with work, and getting on with life, whereas and making me generally feel a little better about facing each day. While it was a long journey in finding the right combination, I think that for the most part it was worthwhile, and has helped me in some sense to getting better, and being able to better cope. I think that if I hadn’t been taking medication, then I would not have been able to be so receptive to some of the more recent help I have been getting, so overall I am glad that it is something that I did go through with. There is a lot of stigma attached to taking antidepressants, anxiolytics etc, because if you are taking medication you “must be” crazy, deranged etc. Well, I think that is certainly not true. While it is not something to be taken lightly, if it is something that you and your doctor think could help you get on the road to recovery, and something that you have discussed in depth, then I do not see it as a bad thing. It is only one part of a multifaceted strategy to overcome depression, anxiety, or other illnesses, it might help get you in the right place to be more receptive to other treatments, and if that means you are more capable to be helped, then I think it is a positive.
Well, that’s enough rambling for now. I hope that everyone reading this has a fantastic and happy Christmas, and that you all have time to relax, rest, recuperate, and recharge your batteries for the New Year.