What comes first? Anxiety or depression? (second attempt!)

(I had to re- post as for some reason my previous attempt didn’t allow comments. I’m hoping this works!!)

I know from all my reading and research that they are closely related and one can trigger the other. I also know from my own personal experience that 8 weeks on (YES!! 8 WHOLE WEEKS! … sorry couldn’t help myself) my own depression has lifted and my anxiety, though not completely gone, is definitely reduced and manageable (mostly). I am a little fearful when I write that here because it feels like it’s tempting fate but hey ho, it’s the truth in the present moment and I’m trying to be more ‘present’. I don’t know if I can find out the answer but I wanted to process it because it’s important to me and my overall progress and self awareness.

Why is it important for me?

I’m not really sure. It’s definitely not that I want to find an excuse to drink again. I don’t think that’s the case anyway. It’s more that I have always had an internal struggle accepting my diagnosis of anxiety and depression. I was all “No way, not me. You got it wrong! I’m just tired, fed up, stressed, lonely …. anything but A & D. I’m not ‘that’ sort of person. I’m tough, I’m upbeat, I’m a ‘can do’ woman”. I was soooo angry and I flatly refused to accept it, although I did acknowledge it. I told people about it and I dealt with it. That’s what I do. Problem … sort it. I refused antidepressants; no way, no how. I had counselling and I was going to get better. 8 months later, 2 stone lighter and still engaged with toxic people and unhelpful situations. I was drinking more than I ever had before. There was no choice, I ‘gave in’ .. antidepressants it was.

Meds

I took them, I cried, I was off work for 3 days and I felt like a complete and utter failure. I set a target, 6 months and then no more. I didn’t drink for two weeks because that was sensible and advised. I still had counselling and I didn’t make any other changes. The alcohol consumption once again increased. My behaviours remained the same. My self esteem was nil but I ‘appeared’ to be improving. 6 months later (and actually spiralling into more dodgy, toxic friendships and relationships) I came off antidepressants and my counselling had finished.


That was a year ago. For the next 5 months I rapidly went downhill. My weight was better but I wasn’t sleeping and I was drinking fairly heavily. I was anxious and sliding into depression. I was disappearing and self medicating with wine and unhealthy interactions.

The past 6 months

In June I started different antidepressants. They suited me better. I went back to counselling and I began to examine what was going on. Sure I was only skimming the very surface but it was a shift. I still drank – A LOT! The meds worked but in truth I still wasn’t well. Counselling had stopped. I could go either way. It felt like balancing on a tightrope and any minute I’d fall into the abyss. (God I’m so dramatic 🙄)

Alcohol

On November 17th, after a few weeks of reading and stalking the sober blogs, I gave up alcohol. It changed everything. It opened up my life again and allowed me to ‘feel’. Bit by bit I have reduced my reliance on toxic relationships and I am learning to like myself once again. I always drank .. from 17 yrs old onwards. I have always been a ‘big’ drinker and alcohol has always been a big part of my life. Did it cause my A&D? Or did my mental health issues lead me to rely on alcohol more and then that made my recovery more difficult?

What now?

My concern is this. If I stop taking my antidepressants will I regress or was giving up alcohol the catalyst for improvement in my mental health and the meds are neither here nor there? What if I stop them, I feel awful and want to drink again .. and can’t stop myself? That scares the shit out of me. Don’t worry, I have no intention of coming off meds any time soon but how do I know they are helping? Their impact was minimal compared to the impact of becoming sober. How will I ever know when is the right time to take the risk? So many questions and I suspect there is no answer. I don’t want to take antidepressants indefinitely but the past two plus years have really been a challenge and I never want to go back there again.


If you have persevered to the end of this post then you deserve a bloody medal. I felt I needed to put down what has been churning around in my head for a while so I appreciate you sticking with it. If you skipped to the end, that’s fine too.
Hugs to all you lovely bloggers. My very own ‘sober tribe’ ❤️ 🤗


Love Claire xx
(8 weeks)

22 thoughts on “What comes first? Anxiety or depression? (second attempt!)”

  1. Hi Claire – my thoughts are that it doesn’t sound like the meds have done much for you and removing alcohol is what has lifted your mood – makes sense when you think about it being a depressant and also the dysregulation that comes from yo-yoing between intoxication and withdrawals. It’s hard to unpick what came from the effects of drinking and what was there before that it was ‘helping’ us deal with – that’s what we’re all doing on here I think – processing and making sense of who we really are and how we got here. My hunch is you’ll be ok off them but it’s early days still so I think it’s totally understandable to be anxious about taking them away. maybe set a date to start to reduce them and keep a check on how you are doing with your mood? I definitely have been flatter in mood, less sociable and more self focused a lot of the time since stopping drinking and at times it tips into something more hopeless and depressed but I think of it as grieving and processing all the stuff I used to drown out, as well as working out what I actually like doing and what was just an excuse to drink. I took antidepressants when my kids were younger for a while and they helped but I noticed I could drink a lot more and after about 6 months I was verging on hypomanic so I stopped them. You’ll know when it’s the right time for you to stop xx💞💞

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thanks so much for your comment. It’s so helpful. I’m struggling to tease out what’s happening for me and I know it’s fear of heading back into that dark place again. It is early days so maybe I say 100 days sober and then begin to reduce the antidepressants if it feels right. That gives me a time frame. I could put my name down for counselling again to support coming off then perhaps??
      Claire xx

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  2. cool..you got it to work. First of all let me say i am can only give my own perspective here.( i really wish more of my fellow bloggers in recovery would respond to my questions like this as i try to do that as much as i can.) So here is my 2 cents.First – i never had any type of anxiety or depression disorder my whole life. In fact i used to wonder how those who had it couldn’t just “get over it”.( i was naive). i didn’t start drinking really until about age 43. So, fast forward about 8 years or so i was struggling with terrible anxiety and depression and i knew deep down most of it was the alcohol. When i decided to get sober for good i assumed it would all go away, some miracle would happen and i would be amazingly calm and content. About a month or so into it, i noticed a marked decrease in the anxiety. Mainly in the sense that i was no longer waking up in the middle of the night with it…or waking up with it either. It was a huge difference..I was overjoyed about that..thinking that it was only a matter of time and i would be completely cured. But after about 6 months i realized that i still had ( and still HAVE) bouts of both.I tried Lexapro, and a few other things around that time but the side effects were worse than without it. So, i just stopped and decided to ride it out. BUT( and it’s a big but here..lol) NOW they are not even close in the intensity, they are way less frequent, and they last wayyyyyy less time. It has literally gone from a very frequent-days long, horrendous, roller coasters to very short ( maybe 1/2 hr at the most) episodes only once a week or so. They pass fairly easily with only minor interventions. i cannot speak for those who have been on a medication for extended periods or for those who have suffered with these issues all their lives. And i most certainly can tell you( as a nurse), it is really dangerous to go off of any SSRI cold turkey. But i would suggest talking to your doctor about weaning and see how it goes. Perhaps,too, some of the anxiety you feel is a fear of going off of them ..which can make it even worse….just food for thought…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Really good points and thanks for taking the time to comment. I’ll definitely go to gp for advice and wean off slowly. Maybe I wait until I’ve been sober for 3 months or 100 days .. see how I feel then? What I’m not sure about is did the alcohol prevent the antidepressants from doing their job? Has giving it up allowed them to work? If that’s the case then maybe they are impacting more than I think. Or were they only having minimal impact and it’s the no alcohol that in itself has instigated the progress and ‘recovery’? Difficult to untangle.
      Claire xx

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      1. oh..ok..i understand better now..well, since alcohol, is a depressant it is highly likely that it certainly did affect any medication you were taking. When i stopped drinking my sleep medication surely worked better after a few weeks( but then i weaned off of that anyway in few months)..i’m pretty sure there are a ton of articles online related to your concern..but some would probably be kind of anatomy directed ( like neurons & synapses kind of thing) lol

        Liked by 1 person

      2. That sounds heavy!!! 🙃
        The alcohol likely was impacting on the meds. Good to know you weaned off sleeping tablets. I think I will give weaning off these a go. I have to at least try I think.
        Xxx ❤️

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  3. Great support system from reading the comments above! I wish I had some advice for ya on this topic however your thoughts would have never even come to play if you hadn’t stopped drinking! That’s so awesome that you have opened up another avenue in bettering yourself emotionally. Maybe awesome isn’t the correct word, but I admire you for 8 weeks sober and it takes a lot of perseverance to keep carrying on past your initial goal! I know it may be hard. We are all here for ya! ❤ ❤ You are inspiring!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. After 6 years of sobriety I have come to the acceptance that I probably will take and antidepressant for the rest of my life.

    If I’m honest I had severe anxiety most of my life and alcohol got me through. As did an eating disorder and excessive exercise. Shopping.

    I am successful and my anxiety also helped me be a perfectionist while crushing me at the same time.

    I used to have severe pms depression and have had episodes of depression.

    I take cymbalta now. I believe without it I would struggle to function in the world. I struggle anyways sometimes, even sober, practicing yoga daily, eating well.

    Some of us just need medication to live life at its best.

    Anne

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Anne. This time round I have tried to be more accepting of the antidepressants and I know for some people it is important to continue to take them. My period of anxiety and depression was a sudden onset .. or so it felt at the time. I suspect it had been creeping up on me for a while. I generally haven’t struggled with it before my 40s, apart from a period of post natal depression with my first son. I didn’t have meds for that. Maybe I just sit with it all for a while and let life settle for a while.
      Claire xx

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Hey Claire, loving the support you’re generating here… all great input. 💖

    I hear your dilemma… it sounds like the alcohol was the big problem… and yet you can’t yet know what it would be like to be off the meds, and without alcohol. You don’t want to compromise your sobriety either way, so you’re wondering, which will compromise it less? Yet, you’ve made it this far successfully. So whatever is working now is working…. tough one.

    I don’t have experience with meds, but do have experience with depression and anxiety… for me, at the moment I prevent it with daily mild exercise, fresh air, and journalling. I have experimented and the days I don’t do the mild exercise, in particular, the mood goes down. If I prioritize anything over that bit of exercise for long periods of time, my mood tanks and I go into deep anxiety and functioning-depression mode. So now I don’t even do it to look better, thinner whatever, that doesn’t motivate me much these days; instead, I do it for my sanity.

    Others swear by the meds (as well as exercise and all the healthy stuff, etc), including some of my favourite sobriety writers, like Glennon Doyle. I have a friend who is always on meds and one thing I know is that she says you can’t go off them quickly… to be safe, you have to wean slowly… but you likely know that already.

    Ultimately only you know what’s best for you… and journalling some purge pages might help you figure that out. That’s what helped me decide to try going alcohol-free.

    Really good history you’ve put here… I would roll off that privately if I were you, do a daily, stream of thought, “morning pages” purge… so that you can let the inner censor step aside, and find out what your inner voice thinks is right.

    Sorry for the long comment. Eek! xoxoxo

    Lots of love xoxo

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You are right Nadine. I think writing things down privately will help. Exercise is really important for me too. I’d like to find other means of supporting myself and maintaining good mental health rather than having antidepressants long term. Tonight I feel unwell though, my usual routine is affected and hey presto .. my mood has gone downhill. What a complex thing the mind is!
      Thanks for taking the time to comment. Lots of processing for me to do
      Claire xx

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi Claire: you already have so many wonderful comments with good advice here so I’ll be brief. I think about this, too. I know I have baseline anxiety, but I never needed medication for it until recently. I wonder what it would be like to go off the meds now that I’m sober, but I also do think that sobriety may just be making the meds work better (as others have said). And then I have a friend who removed herself from meds when she started feeling better, then started feeling worse, and then the meds didn’t work the second time around. Personally, as long as I’m not having terrible side effects, I’m just going to keep taking them for a while. I definitely think both a counselor AND a doctor can help you sort it out. ❤️🤗

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey … you really are my twin. ☺️
      I must admit I do feel a bit like you, if they aren’t giving me side effects and things are good then why not just stay on them. It’s a low dose and not causing me any problems. I really don’t want to start feeling worse now I’ve kicked the booze. It would be a massive backward step to undo all of the last 8 weeks. I do seriously think the meds had a small effect but couldn’t work fully because I was drinking so much with them. It was counteracting what they were supposed to be doing. Tricky to know really. And the big question is .. was it actually long term alcohol use that led to the final increase in anxiety and then depression? I do think that counselling now I am sober may be even more effective and help me address some stuff before I come off them (if I ever do!)
      Claire xx

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi Claire
    Really interesting post and very honest. Unpicking various factors as to why we are like we are is notoriously difficult but one thing seems certain, you seem a lot better having given up the booze. The Antidepressants is something to maybe discuss with your doctor but ultimately it’s your body, you’re in control, so do what feels right for you, trust your gut as they say. Interesting that you mention toxic relationships. Don’t underestimate their impact. They can be the catalyst for low. Self esteem, anxiety, depression, addiction in themselves. Maybe seeing those relationships as toxic and ridding yourself of that particular poison has been a big part of your transformation. Whatever the reasons you have done brilliantly and you have a bright future I’d say.
    Jim x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Jim. Yes, maybe there are numerous factors and the toxic relationships are one of those. My self esteem is most definitely improving and I agree, that is due to ridding myself of people who treat me like shit and surrounding myself with others who love me and are kind to me. I guess giving up the booze has been a catalyst for many positive changes. Thank god I did it!!
      Claire xx

      Liked by 1 person

  8. All I know is in my experience with my strange body, it took me 3 years off alcohol, but with anti depressant to feel really good. Actually 4 years!
    However, I also can’t go off them! I’ve tried, with not much success.
    xo
    Wendy

    Liked by 1 person

    1. After reading all the comments, including yours Wendy, I am not going to rush or put pressure on myself to change anything. I’m always thinking ahead and actually maybe this is something I just sit with awhile. Thanks so much for commenting.
      Hope NY is fab xxxx

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  9. You have had some great comments.
    As you know we are all different and react to situations and medication differently. Whatever you do, mull it over, then again. Slowly change something if you think it benefits you. If it hinders you then stop it.
    For me I take Fluoxetine for hot flushes/night sweats. For some people, like me the side effect of this SSRI blocks sweating. I was taking this during Peri-Menopause. It helped a lot. I am now in Menopause. I am taking myself off the Fluoxetine slowly and plan to be completely off them by the end of February. So far so good reducing the medication.
    Does the medication help with my anxiety and depression? I really don’t know. All I know is that with stopping drinking my anxiety fell away almost to nil. For context, I’ve been sober for over a year now. No desire to drink again.
    I didn’t realise that high anxiety was not a normal state. I was anxious almost my entire life. I self medicated with alcohol to give myself some peace since being a teenager. Within the last five years reading and researching about it helped me greatly. Even today I have not spoken to my doctor about anxiety or depression. I prefer to keep that to myself.
    This year I am working on improving my food choices and to actively do things to prevent or lessen my depression. Being more active is great for depression. We know the things we should be doing but it’s much harder to follow through with the appropriate action.
    Being kind to myself is something I have added to my daily life and I hardly ever see anxiety anymore. It appears occasionally but nothing like before when I was drinking, I have discovered states of peace and contentment. I appreciate and observe what I am grateful for and write in a private journal as daily as I can. I write and don’t read it back. I flush out my thoughts and feelings. The good, the bad and the ugly.
    Do whatever feels comfortable for you. Sometimes doing nothing is the best choice. And you can always change your mind.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much. Really good points and advice. Interestingly the first SSRIs I took caused horrendous night sweats, which is why I also desperately wanted to come off them. Since going back on different ones that has now stopped, thankfully. My doctor feels that peri menapause could be a contributory factor and that I was better to have the lowest dose of antidepressant than HRT as the anxiety and depression was the main symptom at that time. I have to say .. even on antidepressants and before the diagnosis I never felt as calm and free from anxiety as I do since giving up alcohol. I too think I always had a level of anxiety and didn’t recognise it as that. Only when it developed into depression did it become more difficult to deal with, and the drinking increased even more.
      You are right, sometimes it’s best to do ‘nothing’ and just mull it over. I think that’s my ‘action’ for now.
      Thanks for sharing your story
      Xx

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Peri-menopause affected my moods a lot. Had a huge affect on me for the worse. Glad to be out of it. It was a big unknown for me going through it too. Reading as much about it as you can helps. Certain foods may ease the ride too. Some people are lucky and glide easily through it all. That was not me.
        All Settled down now. Touch wood.

        Liked by 1 person

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