my history with anti-depressants & where I'm at now 11 years later


I started taking anti-depressants at the age of 19. It took over six months (maybe more) and several different drugs before my psychiatrist and I found a drug and dosage that worked for my brain chemistry and body. Medication combined with therapy is what's helped me manage my depression since my diagnosis.

Until about a year ago I had been on that same anti-depressant and same dosage for close to 11 years. Somewhere in the first few years we tried adding a second drug to help boost my mood during a low period but it never seemed to help. Eventually I stopped taking the second drug all together.

Being in my twenties and in school, I moved every few years which meant I had to find a new doctor to prescribe my medication every time I changed cities. Sometimes I had to go to a psychiatrist and other times my primary care physician would write my prescription.

Until I moved to Spokane none of my new doctors ever questioned or explored other drug options with me. I would go in for my intake appointment, give them a brief overview of my mental health history, and they'd write me my same prescription. Some of my experiences with psychiatrists were absolutely awful, but that's another post for another time.

The past two to three years my mental health has been the most stable it's been since my major depressive episode when I was 19. That stability, along with meeting my husband, made me start to wonder if I should try getting off my medication. I had no idea if that was a possibility or not but I also had never asked the question.

I knew I was a different person with more coping skills, knowledge and confidence than the 19-year-old girl who had a major depressive episode that sent her home from college. Plus, now that I'd found my partner, I knew I wanted to get pregnant within the next couple of years and that there are certain risks with being pregnant while taking anti-depressants.

But by the time I met with my Spokane doctor about potentially getting off my meds, my husband (then fiance) and I were starting to plan our wedding, he was getting ready to move to New Mexico, and I was on the hunt for a new job so I could move too. My doctor and I both agreed that it was not an ideal time to start messing with my depression medication.

So I didn't do anything. I got a job in Albuquerque, waited for my new health insurance to kick-in and made an appointment with a new primary care doctor. I told her about all of my current life circumstances and she too didn't think I should try lowering my medication.

Then I had a bad 4-day depressive episode, lost my job, and found myself in need of dedicated mental health care again. Luckily, I found Sage Neuroscience Center and was set up with an awesome therapist who I've been seeing for the past year and a half. The psychiatrist I was assigned to at the practice was only so-so but I was happy to have all of my mental health care providers in the same office for the first time.

Last July it was finally the right time to re-evaluate my meds. The psychiatrist I'd been seeing left the practice so I was assigned to a new doctor to manage my medication. When I met with her for my first appointment she was more thorough than any of the other doctors I'd seen over the years with the exception of my very first psychiatrist.

I told my new doctor how long I'd been on my medication, my desire to get pregnant in the future and my interest in trying to get off my medication. She listened to me and asked me lots of questions. Together we decided to start lowering my meds to see if I could get completely off of them.

Four months into lowering my dose my depression returned with full force. I was living with it everyday again. October and November were hard months for me. I pushed through but came to the conclusion with Dale and my doctor that I couldn't fully get off my meds like I'd originally hoped.

My doctor recommended that the next best thing was to transition me to the safest known anti-depressant for pregnancy--Zoloft. There are risks with any anti-depressant and pregnancy but Zoloft has the most research and is considered the safest among medical professionals. You can also breastfeed while taking Zoloft, which is not the case with all anti-depressants.

It's been a long seven months and I have three more months to go before I'm fully transitioned from Effexor to Zoloft (I take the generic of both brands). I'm ready to be done. Every time my doctor lowers the dose of my Effexor and ups my does of Zoloft it's rough on me mentally, emotionally, and physically. I get frequent headaches and have manic days followed by very flat days. It usually takes me at least a week to fully adjust to the new doses.

So why do I share all of this? To shed light on what it's really like to live with depression and the complicated world of anti-depressants. I wish I didn't have to take medication. However, for me, medication combined with therapy, continues to be the best way to cope with my depression.

It's different for everyone. You have to try a lot of different things and sometimes a lot of different medications before you find out what works for you.

11 years after my diagnosis there are still days where I don't want to accept that I have a mental illness. However, I'm grateful for the support of my husband, family, friends, doctor, and therapist who help me to live my best life.

It hasn't been easy switching medications but doing so is bringing me one step closer to preparing my body to carry my future child. Anything I can do to help that cause is worth it to me. That's what I remind myself on those days when I just want to give up.

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If you or someone you know needs help with a mental illness, I highly recommend visiting NAMI.org.

2 comments :

  1. Thanks for always being so open about everything. I've been meaning to ask you how things are going for a month but haven't. I was pretty sure things were going better mid Dec and Jan and I'm glad my suspicions were right! Crossing fingers for the next three months!

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  2. I was on the same roller coaster and finally tried Zoloft. It's been a game changer. I hope you find the same success in it :) I love reading your blog!

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