At the end of December, I shared my complicated journey with anti-depressants and the ultimate decision to begin re-taking them again after many, many years. It has been three months since I began a low dose of Fluoxetine (Prozac), making it the perfect time to check-in and talk about how it’s helped, what is not working, and why I may increase the dose a bit.
Please note that I shall be discussing Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) in some detail. I shall try to limit the depth of their descriptions, but I advise visitors to proceed cautiously if these are subjects are potential triggers. Also note that these are my personal experiences with taking anti-depressants and are in no way indicative of how these medications shall affect others. I share my experiences freely with the hopes of helping other people that may be feeling conflicted about trying this treatment for themselves. Maybe these write-ups can provide a bit of insight and make the decision-making process somewhat less intimidating.
Back in December I reached a point with my MDD where none of the coping mechanisms were working. I also had a few hefty near-death experiences in my family, along with setbacks with my heart condition that contributed heavily to my depressive state-of-mind. Rather than allow it to control me, I gave it an immense amount of thought and then made the decision to start Prozac. Since I started taking this medication, I have noted a few positive changes with a couple of not-so-great ones.
I’ll start with the not-so-great changes as I’d like to end this article on a positive note! One of the main changes that have been strongly apparent is the impact they’ve had on me when my body undergoes a menstrual cycle. I won’t talk about the gory details, just the emotional ones. I’m not entirely sure if it’s conflicting with the hormonal changes that occur during this cycle, or if it’s merely not strong enough to counteract the symptoms that I typically experience. Either way, I am significantly more emotional during the week prior to and the week of my cycle. It almost feels like I’m undergoing Bipolar shifts of being extremely up or extremely down with few instances in the middle. This shift is by far the most frustrating of the two negative changes that have arisen.
I feel it’s important to note that I am not on HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) yet, so for any folx on HRT, I could definitely consult your physician prior to starting any kind of anti-depressant. I have a family member on HRT who is also taking a different brand of anti-depressant and it took quite a bit of trial-and-error to find a dosage that worked well with their individual dose of HRT and their depressive disorder.
The second aspect that has been a bit annoying is finding a good time to take the medication. Initially, I started taking it before bedtime as the first set of side effects of the drug is lethargy and drowsiness. Once my body became accustomed to it, it was supposed to go away and then I would slowly transition to making it a part of my morning medicinal routine. However, the chances of drowsiness still hasn’t gone away. When I first took anti-depressants in 2012-2013, the lethargy and sleepiness only lasted for the first three weeks. This time around, I noticed that if I feel extremely depressed, then the medication basically lulls me into this strange mode of indifference (physically) and I became sleepy enough to not be able to get a lot done, but not so sleepy that I can take a comfortable nap to satiate the drowsy impulses, if that makes sense. I’m grateful it only happens on the worst depressions days, but I still wish it would go away completely. My suspicion is that I may require a stronger dose than the 10MG I’m currently taking.
I have discussed both of these issues with my physician and we are going to continue with the low dose for one more month to see how it fares in full bloom. If I’m still having the same problems in March, then we will increase the dosage and monitor it for another two months.
Beyond those negative things, there have also been some marvellously positive changes as well. I mentioned this first aspect in my three-week musings, but my sleeping has become far more regular. Where I used to sleep for approximately ten to fourteen hours at a time with the exhaustion always sticking to my bones no matter how much rest I received, I now sleep consistently for approximately seven to nine hours. After the nine-hour mark, my body becomes restless and I must get out of bed, even if I’m not completely rested. I expected to feel extremely tired on days when I have bouts of insomnia, yet after having my morning cup of coffee or chai (or some other form of caffeine), I feel rather ready to tackle the day shortly afterwards.
I confess that this initially felt strange to me and I had a difficult time adapting to this fresh wave of morning energy. I’m very much not a morning person. As such, it would trigger my ADHD and I would try to do everything that popped into my mind, which would then become so overwhelming, I’d sit down and feel frustration and become unable to accomplish any tasks at all. That happened around the one-and-a-half-month mark. In order to cope and manage these ADHD triggers, I began making schedules. I have more than one so that way I can switch between whatever shall work best for my mind and body on that specific morning rather than trying to force myself into a single routine. This has been a pretty good resolution thus far.
Another positive result that I briefly touched upon was my ability to take the initiative when a hefty depressive episode started to weigh me down. For the first two months, I was able to see it coming and convince myself to start coping measures immediately. However, I’m starting to have a bit more trouble with this bit. Granted, there have been some challenging developments in my personal life that has essentially taken over my ability to cope with stress at the moment. Nevertheless, while I am struggling more, I’m also able to fight the impulses to give into the depression on an all-day basis. I will allow my mind and body to wallow, so to speak, for a couple hours, and then I will force myself to get up and change activities, environments, or whatever else is needed to help me pull through the episode for the remainder of the day. Compared to last November-December, I still count this as a win because I’m still actively trying to cope through the depression rather than allow it to consume me completely.
The last bit is something that shall not seem like a positive for some people, however, for me personally it has been an immense lifesaver. Over the last three months, I have found that I am a bit more apathetic to strong emotional developments in my life. Don’t get me wrong, they still hurt, and I feel them intensely, but I’m able to put on a stronger face and even shove the event or feeling out of my mind entirely if need be. This is a huge positive for me because my empathy and the severe way that I tend to feel emotions used to make my life unbearable whenever my depression became inherently grotesque. Now with mild apathetic tendencies, I can go on with my days and my weeks. Not being able to feel things so strongly has been a humongous relief, I only wish it were slightly more heightened (the apathy).
Overall, the anti-depressants have been a blessing in my life. I’m still in a trial-and-error mode and my current plan is to have the dose increased to 20MG. Given how much I have changed, with respect to both positive and negative results, I think 20MG will be the perfect dose for me and my personal mental health needs. The toughest part about this is being patient. I openly admit that I would love immediate results as it would make life so much easier, but unfortunately, mental health does not quite work that way. Either way, I’m looking forward to moving ahead in my treatment processes and I’m going to appreciate the lesson in patience as I do it even if it makes me a teeny bit batty!
I shall do one last check-in in April or May. That should give my body and mind ample opportunity to acclimate to the new dose so I can gauge properly whether the higher measurements were a good idea or not. If you have any questions, please drop them for me in the comments and I’ll try my best to answer them. If there’s a question I cannot answer, I’ll let you know upfront.
Until next time, happy Sunday to you!