Happy Pills

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Talk to me about psychiatric meds, if you're willing. Are you on them now? Have you been on them in the past? Is your SO on them? Are you a two-antidepressant household? If you're not on them, have you thought about it? What do you do instead of medication?

(Just a few questions.)

-- Anonymous, August 21, 2001


I'm not on any pyschiatric meds, but I had the opportunity. I have a condition called trichotillomania, which causes me to pull out my eyelashes and eyebrows when I'm under a lot of stress. Most times I'm not even aware that I'm doing it. I've got a fairly mild version of the disorder (it's similar to Obsessive Compulsive disorders) - the more severe types can end up with bald patches on their heads. Mine at least I can hide with makeup, usually.

When I finally got up the nerve to go talk to a psychiatrist, he suggested I could go on Prozac. Unfortunately, to treat this, I'd have to take the highest dose, plus possibly some enhancers (Buspar, for one). Having seen what Buspar can do (I have a cat who has been on anti-anxiety meds twice now. No I am not kidding), I just wasn't willing to try it.

I'm lucky in that my 'problem' is controlable - mainly because I have just had to learn to accept it.

There's no shame in having to get help. Too many people don't want to accept that they might need some assistance (medical or otherwise). You're very brave to have gone to get the help you needed.

I don't know anything about the medication you're taking, but I hope it works well for you.

Good luck!

-- Anonymous, August 21, 2001

You've been reading my journal long enough that I think you already know the long answers to all those questions, Melissa. :) So I'm just going to do the "short" versions. As always, if there's something I say that you'd like to know more about, I'd be happy to elaborate. So... I'm not on any psychiatric meds now. I took Prozac from May 1999 through February 2000, combined with therapy for most of that time except the very beginning and end. It was one of the most difficult decisions I ever went through, and probably one of the best. Meds are not (usually) the cure-all for problems in one's life, but they can lift you out of the blackness enough to let you look around, see some sunlight, find out what you need to change in your life, and make a start at it.

As for SOs, my boyfriend at the time was not on meds and was extremely unsupportive of my medication and therapy. We broke up for many reasons, but ultimately that was one of them. I first met my current SO a few weeks after I quit going to therapy, and just as I was starting to ease myself off the Prozac. He had been on Celexa and in therapy for quite some time. He was on Celexa (and intermittently, Ritalin and Wellbutrin) for the first 17 months of our relationship, until he went off them about a month ago.

Apart from my ex's attitude about anti-depressants, the only negative effect of medication itself, in both relationships, was a serious diminishment of sex drive. Perhaps more frustrating, even when the desire was there, often the physical responses just weren't. Lube: learn it, live it, love it.

I also think that L and I having both been through the depression-therapy-meds route adds an interesting dimension to our relationship, but I'll shut up on that one for now since it's not immediately relevant to you as far as I know.

-- Anonymous, August 21, 2001

I've been on Prozac and Wellbutrin (at different times, several years apart). All of the meds you mentioned (Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, Celexa) are SSRI's; they all have the same basic action, and I'm rather surprised to hear them talked about like they have very different side-effect profiles, but hey, I am not the world's greatest expert -- though I did do a fair amount of research into them back in the day. They all have the potential for sex-drive (or sex-ability) sapping, which is the biggest complaint about them. It doesn't happen to everybody -- I'm just saying, if you notice anything odd, don't hesitate to suspect the pill.

I, personally, did not have a very good time with Prozac. My depression eventually lifted, but I was never sure if the drug was responsible or if it was just the passage of time. Rather than having difficulty sleeping, I was practically put to sleep by the stuff. I had strange, vivid dreams, and didn't feel as rested as usual when I woke. My solution to that part was to start taking my dose at night, so I could sleep afterward, rather than in the morning, when I'd be sleepy all day and suddenly perk up at 10pm. You may want to go the opposite route, if it's making it hard for you to sleep -- try taking it in the morning?

I also had 'brain shivers' when I withdrew from the stuff -- it's a common phenomenon with SSRI's, yet still remains highly anecdotal. I didn't believe in it till it happened to me. It's more an annoyance than anything else -- a brief flash of dizziness or buzziness in your head. Less than a second in duration, I'd say. They took about six weeks to cease completely, and were highly annoying, but they're not dangerous and they do always eventually stop.

Not to be alarmist -- I am all for biologically-based treatment of depression when you need it. I don't think the drugs are bad for our souls or that we're weak for taking them or that we're trying to take the easy way out. Depression is a horrible thing, and anything that helps pull you out of it is doing good.

When it came back a couple of years after I stopped the Prozac, I was adamant about wanting to try a non-SSRI. They gave me Wellbutrin, which worked well for me; I had minor dry mouth on it, but no sexual difficulty or sleep disturbances. Some people find it too jitter-inducing, though (which is also sometimes indicated with Prozac, even though I had the opposite problem). You just don't know how you'll react to these things until you try them. Your doctor's quite right that side-effects tend to crop up like crazy in the first week or two and then taper off -- you won't know till the third or fourth week what you're really going to have to deal with. I think I had some headaches or nausea early on with one of the drugs, but it really did pass quickly.

Are you going to do some kind of therapy in addition to the meds? I've long been dubious about its merit, but I did find it useful -- once I was feeling a little better, my shrink helped me work on some ways to avoid depression in the future. If you can catch it early and recognize it, or notice patterns in your life that are enabling it to get more of a hold on you, you may be able to do whatever it is you need to do (increase or restart meds, avoid some unnecessary stresses, delegate, whatever) to avoid hitting rock bottom before you get there. In times of stress, I comfort myself by doing lots of web research. Maybe it's goofy, but I'd say get out there, read up on Celexa and SSRI's and antidepressants and people's experiences with them. You'll find some nonsense, but a lot of useful information as well.

-- Anonymous, August 21, 2001

I am thinking about therapy, yes. It's difficult to get it covered under my insurance. They want to send me to a county-run facility that I don't want to go to. I don't want to get just shuffled off somewhere. I have decided to keep my benefits through COBRA, because the college medical plan sucks eggs. So I'll definitely be researching how to get myself some therapy, if I decide to go that route. As much mistrust as I had built up against meds, I have even more against therapists - mostly because of some disastrous marital counseling.

-- Anonymous, August 21, 2001

I was on Paxil for about 6 months last year, though not for depression...it was to help treat my IBS. It actually did help, though it didn't solve all the problems. My sleep was majorly screwed up for a while until I switched from taking it right before bed to taking it in the morning. I also had something wacky happen with sex: it became incredibly difficult to have orgasms. Even, uh, solo.

After I went off the Paxil, I had no idea there would be side effects. I thought I had the flu. My boyfriend was pulling over on the freeway because I had to hurl. I was incredibly dizzy.

I went back on it and weaned myself off very slowly; chopped the pills in half, then went to every other day, and that was manageable.

It did help with some of my IBS problems, so I'm glad I went on it. I just wish someone had told me how to stop taking it properly.

-- Anonymous, August 21, 2001

I am not on any medication, but I understand what you are going through. I recently made the decision to start therapy and it was extremely difficult to do. I've been in therapy a month courtesy of my Employee Assistance Program. I think I am getting something out of it, but there are often times that an hour just isn't long enough to really get to the root of a problem. I have thought about medication and may still need to go that route. For the time being I am going to stick with the therapy and see how that works out.

I applaud you on the courage to take care of yourself. Please know you have a lot of support - even from people you've never met.

-- Anonymous, August 21, 2001

Hi, I'm on your notify list and read off and on ... I'm on paxil -low dose- have been for a couple years - being on the drug doesn't stop sadness from happening - but i've noticed that i can become sad or down and not become desolate/suicidal/hopeless. i think paxil is more appropriate for anxiety ... rather, because i'm depressed and anxious, i was put on paxil rather than another option. i do not have an SO at the moment - and i don't think i'd want to reveal that i take meds very soon in the relationship ... at the time i was first prescribed them, i was in such a state that people were relieved to hear i was doing something about the despair i was in.

depending on the nature of distress, i've found one thing that really helps, when the meds just ain't enough: professional massages. there's a student massage clinic near me, and for some reason, i find them very grounding and soothing. it might work especially well for me, as i used to be ragingly anorexic, and massages help me appreciate my body as a pleasure-accepting, sensing, cared-for thing - rather than my ugly enemy.

thanks for the forum!

-- Anonymous, August 21, 2001

Oh yeah, my SO's been on Celexa too. Practically everyone I know, at some time or another, has been on an antidepressant. My SO and I were aware before we got together (we were acquaintances/friends for quite some time before we got lovey-dovey, as my mom says) that we both had histories of depression. It was a long-distance relationship for much of that time, when we were both on AD's; we were both off before we moved in together. I think the relationship itself helped both of us more than anything else did, certainly more than the half-assed therapy and extremely low dose of Celexa he was getting -- his dr kept him on something below the usual introductory dose, the whole time, he found out later. Gah.

My therapist, luckily, was a good one -- a calming older woman who asked intriguing questions. I'd seen a few 'student' therapists briefly while I was in college, and they never helped anywhere near the way she did. She pushed me along in the relationship, too, encouraging me to express what I wanted and not be afraid.

I was very lucky in that my insurance was oddly un-restrictive when it came to mental health benefits -- it was mostly an HMO-type deal when it came to physicians, etc, but for therapy you could go anywhere, even outside the system, and get full benefits. I found a "women's therapy center" and though I usually don't like gender factionalization I thought they sounded gentle and supportive and that's what I needed at the time. I was right.

-- Anonymous, August 21, 2001

I just recently slowly took myself off from Zoloft and Xanax. I was taking both to curb the anxiety attacks I was having. With Zoloft I did experience a lack in sex drive and also sleeplessness. I couldn't get my body to just go to sleep. The Xanax helped with the sleeping but if I needed to take one during the day at work I had trouble staying awake. In addition to the meds, I was in therepy and I learned how to talk myself out of an anxiety attack. Going off from them was hard. I didn't think withdrawl symptons were real until I experienced them. Luckily I dropped down 25 milligrams every week until all I was taking was 25 milligrams and now I am off them completely.

Taking medication won't cure you though. It takes work from within yourself to make you better. Don't rely completely on the meds!

-- Anonymous, August 21, 2001

I am currently on Celexa which seems to be working. Several years ago I was on Zoloft but decided I didn't need it. Big mistake! Now I combine meds with cognitive therapy and feel like my life has its color back.

-- Anonymous, August 22, 2001

Wow. Thanks for all your words, everyone. It's very interesting to hear about other people's reactions to various meds. I slept much better the second night, mainly because I took it two and a half hours before I tried going to sleep.

I've been warned about weaning off them, but since I just started taking them, I won't worry about that yet. :-)

-- Anonymous, August 22, 2001

Story short. In 1987 I was depressed enough that I attempted suicide. Diagnosed as clinically depressed I underwent counseling and a period of seeing which antidepressant I could handle, all the tricyclics I took had very unpleasant side effects. Finally Wellbutrin was the one the doctor came up with that worked for me. From time to time I have tried to wean myself from them, only to see myself going down again. Back on them I went. I remain happy and content and faced the fact that I shall be on Wellbutrin the rest of my life.

-- Anonymous, December 21, 2001

I was diagnosed as having depression by my physician. I was on Prozac for 7 months. It seemed to work pretty well the first 2 months and something made me "snap" (personality). I became more anxious and paranoid of people. I talked to my doctor and she advised to lower my dosage from 40mg to 20mg. This helped quite a lot, but not entirely. I was still anxious and I began drinking alcohol more. I had a ferocious appetite (before taking prozac my eating habits were normal) and I began bingeing and purging because I was worried I would gain weight. I have never been the type of person to throw up food. But with Prozac, somehow I became bulimic and alcoholic. Which I don't understand. I may have had tendancies before where I would overeat and I enjoyed drinking alcohol, but it wasn't to the point where I was destructive to myself. It seems that Prozac heightened this to where it was totally out of my control. I'm not sure if prozac did this, but it's a little ironic that I became this out of control when I went on the drug and I was fine before. Now I have completely gone off Prozac. I had a feeling something was wrong for me to be on this drug....period.I got so scared for my own well being (alcohol/bingeing and purging)I stopped drinking and modified my food intake while going off prozac. I'm still going through the withdrawl symptoms and my appetite is getting a little better. I am interested to see once this drug gets out of my system if my behavior will change. My behavior has already changed and it's been a week off it. I'm much calmer....AAAHHH. I may be a person who had an intense reaction and I hope noone else has had similar. Good luck to those who decide to go off the drug. It may possibly be for the best.

-- Anonymous, December 29, 2001

I have been off prozac for over a week and I am feeling dizzy and tired. I wonder if anyone else feels this way. I am grumpy sometimes but I am learning to deal with it better - it's like having your training wheels off. I am also getting mood swings. I assume it's withdrawl and I hope it doesn't go on too much longer. I'll be grateful for any responses to this post or any info you can give me (like websites or whatever). Thank you!

-- Anonymous, March 20, 2002

Elanor, I am sorry this is late. I have just stumbled across this web forum. I myself deal with bipolar II disorder(aka)manic depression. Please be careful with getting off your meds, definitely monitor your moods. If you feel yourself sliding, check with the doctor on what the best move is. For myself I am currently on Effexor, Depakote and Klonopin. I still have certain dark days to battle with, yet I am able to bounce back much quicker. Yes I have heard some bitter and sarcastic pundits say that medications are for people that are weak. I say to them nonsense! Live in the shoes of people who have seen blacker days then they ever will! I am not a sales rep or defender of meds, I just feel it is a valid option for someone going through depression. It is wise to check all options in medications. Therapy can be good also, with the correct certified person.

Please, Elanor and anyone else reading this, remember there are many people fighting along side of you in the war against depression. Even though you may not always hear about them, we are here. I have been to the edge and back. To me personally, I believe it is not about always winning the fight, it's if you get back up and start punching! To all of you fighting the fight, I extend my warmth and compassion.

"Your opposition is my opposition, our battle's can be victorious!" "Believe in yourself, as I believe in myself and together the war will be won!"

Here are some websites for anyone interested:




-- Anonymous, August 04, 2002

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