On the 29th of July 2014, I took my very first dose of sertraline, the SSRI I’ve now been taking for over a year. I’ve already made a post about medication for mental illnesses, but since I’ve now been taking antidepressants for twelve months, I thought I’d like to take a quick minute to reflect on that journey so far.
Things I thought about antidepressants when I first started taking them:
- So it’s come to this.
- This is not a long-term solution.
- It probably won’t even work.
- Does this make me weak?
- I never thought I’d be one of those kids.
- If this doesn’t help me, then what? I’m out of options.
Things I think about antidepressants now:
- It’s weird and kinda sad that I only started seriously considering medication once I hit a point of desperation where I didn’t know what else to do.
- I wish I’d started taking them sooner.
- I didn’t expect to be on them for this long, but that’s okay.
- That’s more than okay.
- Antidepressants aren’t a long-term solution for everyone, but they might be a long-term solution for me.
- They aren’t a magic drug that dissolves all my mental health problems. They just take the edge off my anxiety so that I can function like a normal person, and they give me the mental space I need to be able to take care of myself.
- It’s crazy that it’s already been a year! Time has just flown!
- I love my antidepressants. I’m so glad and thankful that they exist.
The thing about recovering from a chronic health condition such as anxiety (and I swear to god I’ve said this a million times before, so sorry about that, but I’m going to keep saying it) is that it’s a long-term thing. You have to expect it to take months, maybe even years, for you to get to a point where you can say you’re in remission. Sometimes I get impatient, or I get really disappointed that after all this time my anxiety is still affecting me. But I also need to remember how far I’ve come. Because I have come such a long way – I know that, and the people around me can see it too.
I’m not the person I used to be. I’m not the person who is anxious every waking minute; for whom little things like doing the dishes or putting a wash on seem like insurmountable, fear-inducing tasks. I’m not the person who is afraid of being out at night, the person who isn’t afraid of any tangible, logical thing, but is just so fucking afraid – and she doesn’t know how to explain that to anyone. I’m not the person who has countless panic attacks every weeks, where any and every attack hangs over her for days afterwards, and she’s scared to do anything which might set another one off. I don’t feel like my head is my enemy all the time.
But you know what? Sometimes I do still feel like I’m at war with my mind. Not always. Not even often. But every now and again, that old familiar fear rises up in me and in that moment it feels like all the progress I’ve made over the past twelve months has been for nothing. Because the anxiety is back – no, it’s still here. Hasn’t even left. Sometimes I still have panic attacks. I have bad nights where everything seems scary: where there’s just this feeling of fear that I can’t shut off or outrun. But I know why now. It’s because I’m ill. It’s because I have this illness, this anxiety disorder, and that’s not something you can just sleep off and wake up and you’re all better, it’s gone for good, end of story.
My anxiety disorder is something I will live with for years. I have to accept that. It’s a long-term thing. I sincerely hope it’s not, but I have to face up to the fact that it may well be the rest of my life. It might not be something I can defeat forever. There may never be a day where I wake up and I realise it’s completely gone.
Here are some things I can do now, which I couldn’t do before I started taking sertraline and getting better:
- Go out by myself at night without fear
- Go out with friends at night without fear
- Have a panic attack and still get a good night’s sleep
- Have a panic attack and be fine the next day (i.e. not be constantly afraid that I’m going to have another one)
- Sleep right through the night
- Fall asleep easily
- Not stay up until 2am worrying about little things
- Have adventures with my friends without worrying
- Go to uni and not come home feeling fucking drained
- Go to work and not be scared the whole time
All of that might not seem like much, but to me it’s an indicator of an enormous amount of progress. I realise how hard it is to imagine what it’s like not to be able to do those things if you haven’t experienced it for yourself, but that used to be my life. And it’s not anymore. Which reminds me that not only is it possible to live with an anxiety disorder, but it’s 100% possible to live well with an anxiety disorder. And that’s enough for me.
I still have bad days, more often than I’d like. But I pull through them all and I just keep carrying on. Because I’m a fighter, I’m a trooper, I’m a survivor. And whenever anxiety gets in my way, whenever it pushes me down, I’m just going to get back on my feet and I’m going to make it move the fuck over so I can continue with my life.
A little addendum: I’m in Christchurch for the weekend, and it just snowed everywhere and it was incredible and I’m so emotional about it, it made me so happy and here are some pictures of that event.