If you are a regular reader, you will know that I have been on a multitude of different antidepressants. Most recently, I have been prescribed Venlafaxine. If you are interested in reading more on my experience with antidepressants specifically, you can check it out here. As for now, I want to get into my coping mechanisms during an intense depressive episode.
An intense depressive episode for me can hit very, very suddenly. Of course, there can be some hints to one coming on beforehand, but generally, it can be pretty abrupt and as a result of some trigger. For example, a month or so ago, an item of my dad’s was broken, and it truly floored me.
In those immediate moments after something happens, it feels as though everything has come crashing down. Perhaps a bit of a dramatic response, but honestly, it’s quite the ordeal. I might break down and cry, or I might feel absolutely nothing at all. I’m not sure which is worse. Eventually, though, the emptiness will turn itself into overwhelming sorrow.
Depending on how long these episodes may last, I will most likely have at least one panic attack. If you have been unfortunate enough to suffer from one, you will understand just how torturous they are. My racing heart would feel ready to pound out of my chest. My mind would spin, and I would struggle to focus on anything other than the emotional turmoil my body is going through. Unable to catch my breath, the world around me is hazy, and I feel faint. In those moments, nothing is okay, nothing is possible, and I am merely worthless. It is a very intense pain that feels endless.
If I am at home when these hit, I tend to stay in bed long after it has subsided, wrapped tightly in a bubble of self-pity and heartache. I probably won’t get out of bed until I need to. I won’t eat. I will withdraw from everyone and any plans I may have made. It feels as though I am incapable of much at all.
The real kicker is where my antidepressants come in.
When I reach that incredibly low point, I stop taking them, which is a pretty obvious bad idea. Perhaps it’s the feelings of personal insignificance, or a subconscious need to hit the self-destruct button, or maybe it’s a mix of the two, and god knows what else. But it is a terrible decision and one I appear to make every time.
Putting aside the fact that I need the medication to help control my mental health, but the withdrawal symptoms are not to be messed with. Especially not with Venlafaxine, which I have been informed gives worse withdrawal symptoms than my previous tablets. A side effect of “brain-zaps” is shockingly common and very much so not comfortable. The best way I think I can describe it is as regular and quick contractions of my brain. It is a very, very peculiar sensation. This is frequently accompanied by nausea, lightheadedness and a general feeling of simply being unwell.
It is also quite important that I mention, any doctor will tell you to never, ever do that. As I have said in a previous post, I am just incredibly dumb sometimes, and it is like a form of self-harm. I only recently put two and two together to realise that I have this pattern of stopping the medication for short spans of time during these periods of deep depression.
Clearly, these ‘coping mechanisms are not at all healthy. But it is how I am in those times. I am not proud of them, and I am nervous in publicly admitting to it, but if even one other person feels less alone because I am honest, then it’s worth it.
I wanted this to be a little reminder that yes, I have been on antidepressants for years now, and yes, I go to therapy, but ultimately I still have a long way to go. It is not a magical fix-all recipe; I have to work to build actual coping mechanisms and adjust how I deal with my emotions. There are years worth of inner work to build upon myself. It is exhausting. But even with the little bits I have put in so far, I am proud.