So you've gotten off antidepressants! You feel great! You're champion of your own mental health, your mood disorder can go get bent, and you're kicking ass! And then, suddenly... you're not any more. You monitor your moods, get specialist advice, and it starts to look like going back on drugs is going to be necessary for your continued health. This, understandably, can be a crushing and frustrating decision, and it may be hard to deal with.
I get it. Coming off antidepressants is often hard, and living drug-free can feel like a spectacular relief and a moral victory, particularly if you've suffered through the litany of side effects that can occur with antidepressants. The need to go back on the regime may feel like a personal failure. Newsflash: it ain't. We invest mental health with far more personal and ethical guilt than it really deserves.
I've gone off antidepressants once in the past, so I know how it goes. It turned out to be a poor decision for me, and I have never regretted going back on them. And if you realize that you need to go back on meds, you are awesome, and you're making a good decision for yourself. You should go out and buy yourself a cake and some goddamn streamers for being so brave. And I want you to have these seven bits of thought in your mind as you go to fill that first prescription:
1. I Am Not A Failure
No, really. You are not a failure. This is not some gigantic collapse of will or a step "backward" in your health journey. Mental health doesn't "get better" for many of us — we just learn how to deal with it, shift our thinking, and help ourselves through. Depressive thinking encourages us to belittle our own capabilities and worth, but going back on your meds does not make you weak. On the contrary, it makes you exceptionally strong — you have to be, to be willing to go through a medical process that can be so challenging and hardcore. Give yourself a hug.
2. I'm Lucky To Already Know How This Works
Try to focus on the positive. (Yes, I know, don't punch me — it's a very specific positive element.) Remember the first time you went on antidepressants? It is quite possible that you didn't know exactly what lay ahead, and you may have made some mistakes or taken a while to reconcile yourself to the whole idea. You're an old hand now, a battle-tested veteran. You're basically Charlize Theron in Mad Max: Fury Road. You've seen it all and you know how to deal with it. Be the badass you are.
3. I Know Myself Well Enough To Recognize My Needs
Self-knowledge is something to be celebrated, as is the fact that you've been closely monitoring your moods. Ignoring depressive dips and warning signs in pursuit of being the "healthy" person who's come off their pills is not a positive. You've been listening to your body and your mind, and that's pretty amazing — so many people aren't willing to take that step, even if it leads to them ending up in some very scary places. Don't downplay your accomplishment here.
4. A Lot Of People Deal With This
No, really. Stories of people coming off antidepressants and finding that the experience is not the amazing, daisies-and-sparkles-forever utopia they imagined proliferate. Statistics about the rate of going back on antidepressants are difficult to find, but the sheer number of personal essays about peoples' experiences with depression show that this is not an isolated thing. Coming off antidepressants is often seen as a personal achievement — which it is, in its own way, but only as part of the overall achievement of properly managing a disorder. You aren't alone.
5. I'm Prioritizing Mood Over Side Effects (And That's OK)
If you came off antidepressants because you couldn't deal with the side effects, and now find yourself in a pickle without them, it can feel like a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" scenario. I sympathize. This is sh*tty. But I fully support your decision to make an adult choice about what's important to you. If your mood is more important to your daily, ongoing health and happiness than whatever side effects pills throw at you, you have the complete right to go back on them. Don't feel embarrassed about it.
6. Experimentation May Give Me A Better Experience
This goes back to the old-hand element. If you came off last time to negate bad side effects, you're more prepared for them this time around. And perhaps this phase could be a little different, because you and your doctor have the experience to do it differently — try certain new combinations, utilize new therapies or doses, and generally anticipate the problems before they show up. If you came off your meds as your depression seemingly recovered itself slightly, it's likely that your previous experience will make you more able to be flexible to your own needs as they change — and you may be able to get off antidepressants again sooner.
7. I Can Always Get Off Them Again (But If I Can't, That's Cool, Too)
Going into this with the aim of being drug-free once again is OK — but it's important to realize that your big focus is health and stability, and that a life on meds isn't the end of the world. Don't set yourself deadlines to come off them again, and try not to be envious of those around you who may be tapering their doses with apparent success. Depression is hugely varied, and your experience is likely highly unique. You're doing really well either way.
Whatever's going on, high five! I think you're brave and stupendous for doing this. And I bet a lot of other people do, too.
Images: Sunset Girl/ Unsplash, Giphy (7)