Hi, my name is Alicia, and I’m taking antidepressants.
Let’s rewind a bit. I know you’re used to seeing picture-perfect photos of me smiling on social media. I’m pretty good at this whole blogging thing after doing it for nine years. However, I do struggle with moderate/major depressive disorder and anxiety, and over recent years, it’s been pretty evident that therapy alone would not be enough to manage my symptoms.
Long story short, my doctor recommended an antidepressant to treat both my anxiety and depression symptoms. I’ve been on them for almost five months now. Today, I’m telling you the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to antidepressants, and hopefully, we can all get one step closer to ending the stigma of mental health here as well.
My Breaking Point
So, I’ve struggled with anxiety for a few years now. My anxiety skyrocketed after I started blogging full-time — being your own boss is very fulfilling, but also incredibly stressful at the same time.
One thing that’s started happening to me over the past few years is that I’ve started having panic attacks while driving. I experienced my first one back in 2018, and I had no idea what was going on. I was driving into Philly and crossing over a bridge on I-95, and I just got so nervous being that high up. I started getting tunnel vision, breathing heavily, and I did not feel in control. I was able to pull over, and I immediately burst into tears. It took a while for me to calm down, and I called a friend to help bring me back to reality.
Fast forward to this past February. My panic attacks behind the wheel started increasing in frequency. I had a lovely birthday lunch for my mom, and then I left to go to a doctor’s appointment. I started to panic yet again on the interstate. I pulled off and on the road several times, but it got to the point where I knew I couldn’t complete the drive back home. I spent 3 hours trying to calm myself down, and I couldn’t. I checked myself into the emergency room, and the nurse (who also told me she had anxiety!), said to me that it was time to look into medication management for my anxiety.
Going to the Doctor
I went to the doctor, and I went through a mental health analysis. In addition to anxiety, my doctor also told me that I had moderate/major depressive disorder, and that medication could be beneficial for me. She broke down my options, and I decided to go with Zoloft.
For the first week, I was instructed to take half doses in order to get adjusted to the medicine. I was scheduled to come back for a follow up six weeks later, but then COVID-19 hit, and I wasn’t able to get a follow-up appointment with my doctor.
Starting the Antidepressant & Side Effects
So, I started my antidepressant in Mid-March. Like, literally, the week when everything was beginning to shut down, and it was becoming clear that 2020 was not going to be a normal year.
Like everyone else, I was more anxious and depressed than normal because of the uncertainty of everything in mid-March, so it’s hard to tell if I had extreme side effects or if I was just going through a major depressive episode. It was probably a combination of both. Either way, it was a tough week.
The first week, I was pretty restless. I was hardly sleeping and hardly eating. I lost about 10 pounds when I first started my medication, mainly because I was never hungry. After a couple of weeks, I got back to a regular sleep schedule, and my appetite finally came back, but I noticed that I was just a bit more sluggish than usual. Typically, I’d sleep about 6 hours a night, and my anxiety would get me out of bed in the AM, but I noticed I was moving a lot slower in the mornings and hitting snooze on my alarm a bit too much.
The Final Verdict
Although me taking antidepressants doesn’t “cure” my anxiety and depression, it definitely helps me manage it. I’ve experienced fewer panic attacks while on Zoloft, but admittedly, I haven’t done much driving due to the pandemic, so it’s hard to tell how much it has helped on that front. I do feel more calm and collected when it comes to managing my tasks, however, and I feel like I can get things done.
I’ve had some major depressive episodes while on Zoloft, but we’re living in pretty unprecedented times right now. We’ve had a few family members pass away over the past few months, the George Floyd protests brought up traumatic, racist memories, and COVID-19 hit us hard financially the first few months. I really don’t think that any pill could magically “fix” me and make me feel happy with all of that going on.
I need to go back to my doctor to talk about adjusting my dosage, but overall, I’m happy with my decision to go on an antidepressant. I still feel like me, but just a more improved, alert version of myself.
Have you ever been on or are currently taking antidepressants? Let me know in the comments!
Photo by Tom McGovern