Category Archives: antidepressants

Therapy and mirrors

I had a telephone consultation with my GP (doctor) this morning. He is happy with regards to me starting my antidepressants again and I already referred myself for the NHS counselling service. I have been put on a waiting list for 6 sessions and in addition I am currently following an on line CBT programme. I’m grateful to have access to anything that might help and willing to give things a go. I’m not loving the online course I have to say. There’s a lot of information I already know. My problem seems to be with using the strategies. It’s all very logical and sensible but bloody impossible when you feel like crap and logic and sense have done a runner.

Overall, I haven’t had a lot of success with counselling. I had 6 sessions CBT face to face when I was initially diagnosed as depressed and anxious. This was organised through work. I’d go as far to say, it was a load of rubbish and a waste of time. I hadn’t taken any medication at that point in proceedings and I was in a bit of a state. The lady was lovely but I just said what she wanted to hear. When she suggested I looked at myself in the mirror every morning and say the words ‘I love you’, I just knew we were on a completely different wavelength. After the final session I walked out feeling extremely grateful. Grateful that I didn’t have to go back again!

My next dabble into the wonderful world of therapy was a locally run charity. My cousin had recommended it. There was a long waiting list but after 4 months I had my first session. Unfortunately, within 3 weeks of starting, my mental health hit an all time low and I had stopped eating. I saw the GP again and there was no choice really. Time to medicate. I continued with the counselling and we talked about a whole range of things. It was more helpful than before and certainly, with the antidepressants kicking in, I did feel more positive. That said, though it’s nice to have someone to talk to and not judge, I honestly don’t think it changed anything for me. It was interesting and I learnt a few new things but in terms of it improving how I was feeling or dealing with life stuff, it didn’t. Again, the counsellor, Sharon, felt I had done really well in the sessions and called them to a close. I am really good at talking the ‘counselling and therapy talk’ by the way. I don’t know why I do it because it doesn’t do me a single favour. I still do it though.

This is most definitely a cycle. I stopped the meds not long after this period of counselling because I felt well again. Yup, you guessed it, within 4 months I had re-referred myself back to the same charity and had started sessions again, with a new counsellor, this time a man. A few weeks in, I was back on antidepressants and so it goes on. I think I possibly took more from the counselling that time. He gave me lots to read and research and I learned so much about personal development. By this stage I felt I deserved a degree. I still however could not apply it to myself. Or maybe I just didn’t try. Again, the sessions came to a natural end. I was one of the hardest working clients he’d had. Same old story. Top of the therapy class. Gold star. Still no real progress for me though.

Not long after these sessions finished I gave up drinking alcohol. Interestingly my reliance and addiction to booze had never come up in any of my counselling or therapy sessions. I’d touched on it and I’d always been open and honest about how much I’d been drinking. On reflection I think they dropped the ball with that. Since being sober I have felt so much better. Sure there are times when it’s been horrible to have to experience the emotions without having wine as my crutch but I am more honest with myself and others. I’m not giving up on counselling or therapy, I just not sure what it can give me anymore. Whilst sober and taking antidepressants I can use the information and the strategies and yes, they work. Take away the meds and it’s like I’ve never heard of triggers, behaviours, reframing etc. Maybe I’m not cut out for counselling. Maybe I just haven’t found the right ‘fit’. Maybe it will finally be successful one day. I am absolutely sure of two things though. One, taking the medication only ever really worked when I was sober. Two, I am never going to stand in front of a mirror and say ‘I love you’. Just saying.

Claire x

Peace

Ah! Peace at last. My busy, bustling, burdensome brain has finally calmed. There are no big waves of feeling and no strong emotions to deal with which, after the month I have had, is nothing but a blessed relief. I love joy and excitement and fun just as much as the next person but I think maybe, like many things in my life, I don’t do emotions in moderation. The flip side being when I fall, I go to the other extreme. Occasionally it is good to take a break from extremes and sit in the middle and I think maybe that’s the place the antidepressants help me to settle.

I still feel all the emotions and enjoy them just as much. They somehow don’t take over when I’m in a better place with my mental health. I can appreciate them, like or dislike them, but they aren’t the end of the world or the only thing that matters. I can experience the feelings without them overwhelming me. That’s so important in being able to function. Some might consider it boring. Some people adore that high and low, rough and smooth. I used to be one of those people. I wonder if too much living life with such emotional extremes puts you into the ‘at risk’ category for depression? Or maybe I was depressed at times when I was younger but didn’t recognise it as that. Post natal depression with my first was the first experience I remember.

The other, completely lovely feeling of having your mind quieten down is the opportunity to stop thinking about yourself so much. Depression , amongst many other things, is so bloody boring. I mean, I’m really not that interesting a person to be spending so much time focusing on myself. The space in my brain means I can think about other things and care about other people. That makes me happy. In a selfish way it helps me climb the ladder to the top of the wall I have built around myself. Being compassionate and kind towards others really improves my mental health but when I am depressed my kindness mojo is switched to off.

So, after all the deliberation about the antidepressants, it was the right thing for me at this time in my life. I can feel they have worked even more quickly than last time and although I have a long way to go, I am grateful for the quiet and the calm inside my head and my body. I am also hugely thankful to all of you who supported me, sent me love and hugs and had your kindness switches firmly on.

Like I said at the beginning, peace at last!

Claire x

Hitting the wall again.

It will come as no surprise to those of you who follow my blog and are in my little community that I have made the decision to restart taking antidepressants. I started them yesterday. This will be the third time in over 2 years and I am equally as sad and disappointed that I need them today as I was when I first took one in 2018. I honestly believed that I had this licked. I’d battled the demon and won. It has become apparent over recent weeks that really is not the case.

I will keep on going, using all the strategies and tools I have at my disposal. I will discover new ones on the way and rebuild my resilience and strength. I will remain sober and continue to focus on helping and supporting myself. Finally, I will accept that I have a diagnosis of anxiety and depression, that it is real and needs attention and that it is not a life sentence.

Claire x

Reframing

After my last post, where I found myself in Limbo Land, I made a decision to try and enjoy today. We are back holidaying in the caravan and this time have come back to a place we have visited many times and love dearly, The New Forest. For those who don’t know, it’s on the south coast of England and is a beautiful area. Beaches, villages, gorgeous coastline and of course the forest itself. The weather is not forecast to be in our favour but today, other than one almighty downpour, it stayed dry and sunny. We cycled around 10 miles through the forest directly from the caravan site. Coming across wild pony after wild pony. Gorgeous brooks and purple heather stretching far and wide. It was gorgeous. Once back, we all sat out in the sun and I lay back in my luxury reclining chair (a treat to myself on our last trip) and I fell asleep. Completely zonked out. Likely I was snoring or dribbling, I was so out of it. I was fast sleep for an hour and woke up feeling totally refreshed and renewed. We ate dinner out (huge bonus), followed by us all doing our own thing for a while before watching a movie in the awning (tent attached to the van).

All in all it has been a better day than of late. At times, I still felt irritable and snappy. I also worried excessively that one of the boys will hurt themselves, or that we were cycling miles in the wrong direction. I just can’t seem to ‘chill’ or ‘go with the flow’. There were, however, other times when I cycled merrily along at my own speed and just enjoyed the moment. No real yearnings for alcohol today and not wishing for something different or better. A good day.

I have started to wonder if restarting the antidepressants might be a good idea. It’s been a couple of months since I stopped them and I am noticing the difference without them. I know they don’t solve underlying problems but I have lost that sense of peace and calm I had when I was taking them. The combines effect of antidepressants and sobriety seemed to reduce the negativity and endless worrying about everything and nothing. I’m not sure, still thinking, but it is worth considering.

I had another thought today, triggered by something Collette said in a comment on my last post. I am in limbo at the moment, feeling stuck and somewhat trapped. Collette suggested considering that it might be for a reason. There could be a purpose to not moving forward right now. After today, it dawned on me how little time I have left to be with my two boys doing what we have done. Cycling, having tea out, chilling in the sun and watching a movie in the awning. Maybe, just maybe, I am meant to be standing still. I have focused on the negatives of Limbo Land but there could be positives. This is an opportunity to focus on my children. To be available for them should they need it. I have been worrying about the future, when they have flown the nest, forgetting that they are still here now. This could be the time to truly build my ‘adult to adult’ relationships with them both. It is also the time to soak up the last few years of their childhood and form some everlasting memories. I am reframing ‘being stuck’. I’m changing it to ‘taking a pause’. There will be an appropriate time to make changes and move forward again. For now I will pause, tread water and be Mum for a while.

Claire x

The unexpected (missing) joy of holidays

My last post was all about my saying ‘yes’. It was a kind of poem, sending out a declaration of intention. Sadly I haven’t really abided by many of the statements I made. All too quickly the negatives and the ‘if only’ thoughts crept in.

I’m away on holiday right now. It’s drawing to a close. I was really looking forward to coming away. I told myself I’d just sit, be happy with chilling and not doing anything much. I would be the queen of zen and tranquility. I even brought my yoga mat to take to the beach. What was I thinking?

In reality, the whole arrival and setting up the caravan was a complete fiasco. The drive took almost 5 hrs. The site information had clearly stated “levelling blocks would be required” but my husband had chosen to ignore this little nugget. As we perched at a very precarious angle on the side of a slope he finally admitted defeat and I had to race down to a caravan shop to buy ‘recommended’ levelling blocks. The van would still not level out and we enlisted the help of 5 other caravaners and a ramp, kindly donated by some bloke that felt sorry for us. Eventually we were level. Two hours later.

Level and ready to go, we started the mammoth task of unpacking. We have an old, small van and a large awning where most of our junk gets housed. Last year the awning broke. We got it fixed but one of the new poles was a little awkward. Holding up the proceedings even further. Then, no running water. The pump was doing nothing. This was something that had been a problem when we last used the van. Something that was on the list of jobs that my husband had a year to sort. You can see where this is going can’t you? No running water in times of COVID-19 is absolutely not my idea of fun. The shower blocks were set up for social distancing, two people at a time. Not only would we have to queue every time we wanted a shower or a wee (my husband bans using the toilet on the caravan) but to wash our hand and brush our teeth too. Deep sigh.

So, at around 9.30pm I had to start cooking burgers and sausages. By this point, I was seething. I kept trying to channel ‘the power of now’. This isn’t a problem. This is holiday time. Stop yelling at the world and your family and get over it. I’m ashamed to say that I couldn’t and I didn’t. I raged against humanity. I spiralled into ‘poor me’ and ‘this is so unfair’ territory. I was a complete toddler and I became more difficult, with an increasing bad temper, as the night (and next day) wore on.

We managed to buy a new pump eventually. My husband was slow to sort it, waiting for me to go buy it no doubt. My mood remained uptight and stressy for a good few days. Not helped by observing my 15 year old giving me the finger when he thought I wasn’t looking. He was upset I’d asked him to put his phone away for a while. I resented everyone and everything. I knew I’d reached crunch point when I suddenly had an overwhelming desire to go and buy a bottle of wine and drink it. I’d even reasoned that although sobriety had improved my mental health for many months, it was doing nothing for me now. I was grouchy, cross and stressed. I wasn’t enjoying the moment and peace evaded me. Why not just go back to having something in my life that I could look forward to and enjoy? It was the closest I have been to drinking again in 8 months. I chose not to drink but my resolve is wavering.

Eventually, after a torrent of tears yesterday evening, I picked myself up and made the decision to say ‘yes’ to enjoying the rest of the trip. The little that was left of it. My son apologised, told me he loved me and it was a sudden ‘reaction’. We moved on.

Today has been better. I ran this morning. I haven’t done that in weeks. I wrote an email to a friend and read her lovely long reply which was immensely supportive. Her suggestion, that I maybe reconsider taking antidepressants, is something I have thought a about a great deal. I’m still very undecided. I don’t want to but I also don’t want to waste my life worrying and stressing about unimportant issues and small hiccups. The peace, calm and sense of ‘all is ok’ is not with me as it once was. I’m not crazily anxious and nor am I ‘depressed’. I just don’t have the ability to give myself a good (and well deserved) kick up the bum.

Well that’s me right now. In the morning I’m up early for seal watching with my younger son. Some quality time (another bit of good advice I followed). I’m trying not to be hard on myself and I’m trying to ignore the guilt and regret I feel at wasting this precious holiday time. I know it’s time I won’t get back. I guess there’s a lot of sadness and some deep rooted unhappiness that prevents me really feeling at ease. I can see the caravan holidays are coming to an end as a family of four. The eldest is outgrowing it both physically and emotionally. I suspect their growing up is an event I have not wanted to face. The grief it stirs up is too painful for me to even allow in. Perhaps that is something to reflect on and maybe a post for another day.

Love Claire x

Thank you

This is a really quick post to let all you lovely people know that I’m ok. Yesterday was an awful day but I survived and I’m a teeny bit calmer this morning.

Thank you for all your amazing comments, support and love yesterday. I can’t tell you how much your kindness helped and how much it meant to have you all here. I was going to delete the post because I felt slightly embarrassed and self pitying but I’ve decided to leave it there. I think it’s important to read the comments when I feel that way again and to remind myself that, no matter how scary it was at the time, I got through it. It may help someone who stumbles across it and connects with the emotions and distress. So it will stay.

Thanks to you all once again. You really are the most amazing group of people. Your love and care for me yesterday was palpable.

I’m still here

Love Claire x

Unanswered questions …

You can never take your sobriety for granted. Never take your eye off the ball. Don’t assume you are safely through to the other side. That is what I’ve learnt today.

This past week has been full of anxiety triggers for me. Work pressures and stress, the sad loss of a very old family friend, not having been able to see my closest friend for 4 months now (and still likely to be longer) and the outlook and reporting on the news just so bloody bleak. In addition, I am fully med free having spent 4 weeks weaning off my antidepressants. I have had virtually no sleep since Friday, struggling to go off until 2 or 3am and then awake again at 5am. Then, today, for the first time in ages, the unthinkable happened. I wanted a drink.

It wasn’t a romantic, sit by a lake, enjoying a picnic, sipping a glass of Prosecco type of longing. Oh no! It was a full on, fuck this, I want to go and buy two bottles of wine (white or red – I’m not fussy) and drink the whole lot type of craving. Nor was it a, “I’m a bit curious as to whether I can moderate and be able to live with alcohol once again” moment. Nope. It was a, “moderation is for idiots, I’m going to get totally pissed and I don’t care” attitude.

Don’t panic. I haven’t. I went out and bought plants and shrubs for the garden. I bought paint for the utility walls and white spirit to mop up the paint I will undoubtably spill on the floor. I did not treat myself to a Chablis or a Shiraz. I’m not currently lying on my bed half comatose having fallen spectacularly off the wagon. It is however a sign I’m struggling again. What I can’t work out is what is acceptable and ‘normal’? Is it ok to feel anxious because problems, challenges and change are all happening at once? Is it ok that the anxiety is kickstarting my over thinking and subsequently affecting my ability to accurately read and interpret a situation? Is it ok that sleep has suddenly evaded me after achieving a consistent 8hrs every night for months and months? I suppose the question I really want the answer to is this. Is this the return of generalised anxiety disorder and is it directly linked to my coming off the SSRIs? I honestly can’t face it all again.

How long do you wait to find out? What if I’m basically just a stress head and I need to accept it as part of me, rather than blaming it on a mental health illness? Everyone gets stressed. I’m just not sure when my ‘stressed’ tips over into becoming unwell. Mental health is so complex. The interplay between lack of sleep, stress triggers, meds, personality and, let’s not forget, the lovely peri-menopause, makes it hard to tease out the cause and therefore the best way to manage it. I used a word early on in my sobriety. Tangled. It’s such a descriptive word and is exactly how I feel once more. Tangled.

I didn’t drink. I won’t drink. I know it is not the answer. Quite what is, I really have no idea.

Love Claire x

Today

Completely exhausted. That’s how I feel today. From the moment I woke up to this moment right now. 7.40pm UK time. There is no reason why it should be the case. I slept ok. I haven’t had to work much. I’ve actually spent most of the day doing very little. But still I feel worn out.

I’d go one step further and even say I feel jaded with life today. On the whole I think I’ve stayed pretty positive through lockdown. I’ve harnessed my introverted self and for the most part, I have found the time, without social pressure and commitment, enjoyable. Work has been extraordinarily busy but that has meant my downtime has been more precious. I’ve interacted with people who make me happy And I’ve chosen not to engage in situations that do the opposite. I realise I am luckier than most right now and I have been grateful everyday for the things I have.

Today I’m struggling to find the energy it takes to be positive. Today I am left wondering what if this is all my life will be. Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with my life. I just don’t know if I can do this day in and day out for the next 6 or 12 months. Maybe even longer. Our trip out to the US to visit my cousin and family in North Carolina is off. Today we finally made the decision to cancel. I am gutted. My cousins wife is like the sister I never had. We are exceptionally close and the thought of seeing her each summer (either here or there) keeps me going on low days. I knew deep down when the lockdown and pandemic kicked off it was unlikely we’d be going in August. I just lived in denial and hoped it wouldn’t be the case. Sadly it is not going to happen. I see the summer stretching in front of me and find myself wondering how we will fill it.

The boys have now been at home constantly for almost 3 months. Ben is 15. It’s unnatural for him to not have any periods of separation from his parents. It’s a weird way for him to experience these teenage years. We all need a break from each other. None of us can find any space. I know I need some space. A half hour walk is lovely but you take for granted those few times when you are truly alone for a morning, an evening or a day. I know I did anyway. It probably doesn’t help that I often feel alone within my relationship with my husband. I can’t find the connection we once had. I think we have functioned really well through this period but there is still something missing. As time goes on, I become less and less confident it will be found.

I hope tomorrow I feel differently. Today has been tough. Today I can’t see a way though. I know there is one. A path will become clear and life will move forward. It always does. But today is just one of ‘those’ days.

Claire xx

Parachutes

14 days of a lowered dose of my SSRI meds and it’s time to check in. Doing ok I think. Some low moments last weekend and physically felt rough with tiredness, nausea and headaches. Strange really because it doesn’t feel like I have been putting anything much into my body, but it’s clear that’s not the case.

I’m still suffering with the nausea every now and then but all the other stuff seems to have gone. My skin on my face is incredibly dry. Not sure if that is related. Hormones have a mind of their own and do strange things to the body, so it could be. I’m still not off them entirely so now it’s alternating half a pill each day for a couple of weeks and then nothing. Med free. It feels like I’m jumping out of a plane and praying my parachute is going to open. I’m pretty sure it will but you never know.

On a completely different note, I’m sitting in my garden and admiring our new fencing. Still have to finish off the borders and plant new shrubs and trees. It will be lovely in the end. There is a minor issue though. The view from our patio is slightly hampered by the interesting choice of buildings and creations popping up in next door’s garden. Last year they removed all their grass and had a few shrubs. Fine, each to their own. Different strokes and all that. Then they erected a large type garage build. Not tucked to the side, or at the back. Oh no, two thirds of the way down. Believe me, it isn’t a pretty building. Stone clad walling. The lot. Next up, another shed type thing. Green corrugated sides and squeezed in behind the pebble dash delight. Now, the cherry on the cake. They have a constructed a seating area. Again, right in the middle of the garden. It would be quite pretty. A little gazebo type build with fairy lights that twinkle sweetly at night. The effect however has been slightly ruined by the long, sharp and very scary looking metal spikes on the top. All of a sudden it’s an instrument of torture. With the somber ‘garage’ directly behind it, I can’t help feeling we have entered either silence of the lambs or game of thrones territory. We have a great relationship with said neighbours and I don’t want to disrupt that. Luckily, I now I’m sober and have found my inner peace, I can laugh it off and accept that there is ‘now’t so strange as folk’.

On the other hand, if I do suddenly disappear, either my parachute didn’t open, or it might be worth someone checking the next door neighbour’s outbuildings. Thanks heaps. 😊

Claire xx

ps. The photo at the top is a beautiful spot South of England .. the coastline of the New Forrest. A favourite place of mine. 😊❤️

Big steps

I started this blog at the suggestion of the lovely Jim, Life Beyond Booze, who was really my first connection with the sober Word Press tribe. Although Jim’s posts are now as as scarce as a hen’s tooth, he was a great support to me and many others and he occasionally pops up to treat us to one of his hilarious and clever posts. The folks I met through connecting with Jim have pretty much remained a firm group and I now consider many of them friends. My sobriety blog developed into a managing anxiety and depression blog and, unsurprisingly I suppose, others on the ‘sober train’ had similar experiences and mental health challenges. It has been an interesting and eventful journey up until this point. A journey I had no idea I was taking but one I absolutely needed to invest in.

Why am I talking about all this today? Well, firstly, I have reached my 200th day sober. 100 days is supposed to be a phenomenal milestone and now I’ve doubled it! Secondly, 4 days ago I began the very slow process of stopping my antidepressant medication. Almost one year ago I started taking SSRIs for the second time in my life. I’d initially taken them for 6 months, stopped for 6 months and then my mental health regressed so much I was back taking them again in June 2019. Anyone who has followed my blog will know how totally devastated I felt when I started taking antidepressants. It was truly soul destroying and I had tried so hard to manage and cope with my depression with counselling, support, exercise etc. But it had become a desperate situation. For the sake of my family, I finally admitted what I viewed as defeat and I ‘gave in’. Both times I took that first pill I sobbed and was inconsolable. I had two different types of medication because the initial ones triggered some rough side effects that unfortunately didn’t reduce with time. I swapped to a different type for the second time round and apart from the initial 5 days of the worst anxiety I have EVER experienced, I have had no other issues with them.

On both occasions they helped. I wouldn’t say they ‘cured’ me or made life miraculously wonderful, but they gave me a way out of the grey, colourless existence I had been living. They put me on an even keel and hit the ‘pause’ button of the terrible downward cycle that is anxiety and depression. They gave me back a little bit of control over managing my own illness. I still felt pretty crap much of the time and I definitely did not achieve my one focus; to discover Claire again. I continue with counselling which ended around last September. Looking back now, I would say I was ‘better’ but still not well. I started reading more about anxiety and depression, looking further into alcohol addiction and soaking up any literature I could find. Then on the 16th November 2019 I gave it up. To this day I don’t know how I have succeeded. I was a ‘drinker’. I loved my wine. People who knew me knew I loved my wine but oddly had no idea how much I really drank. I also realised I had significantly increased my reliance on alcohol as a crutch for my mental health issues over the years. In addition, I drank rather than ate … my body seriously lacked any nutrients. I was underweight and my hair was just as thin and disappearing just as fast as I was.

Fast forward to today. 200 days later. Taking the antidepressants allowed me to examine my behaviours and realise I needed to make that huge step into the unknown. Taking alcohol out of the equation gave me my life back. It was clear that 2 weeks into sobriety, living an alcohol free life was the answer I’d been searching for. The grey quickly changed to a rainbow and the excitement and interest in life, gone for so long, had reappeared. The past 6 months haven’t been easy. As many of you will know, my mood regularly fluctuates and anxiety and depression still lurk at my door. I am starting to recognise the signs and pre-empt the downward spiral by using new tools. I am 2 stone heavier and my hair is thick and has grown back. Claire returned!

This past few weeks I have been deliberating a lot. I am ready to remove the last crutch and stop my medication. I have read around the subject and want to be sensible about it. (Thanks to Ashley, Mental Health @Home, for the suggested reading material). Some people have suggested I remain on the antidepressants as they aren’t impacting on me with any side effects. I understand their view and I appreciate stability is not something to be sniffed at. The crux though is this … I want to come off them. I want to know if I can do this without antidepressants. If I can’t, then I will have no option and they will be part of my life for a much longer time, maybe a permanent fixture. It’s time to find out.

So, here I am, 200 days sober and 4 days into taking a reduced dose of my SSRI medication. I will keep posting. Checking in is so important right now. I am scared and nervous. It feels like I’m taking one last final big step. It’ll be ok though. Whatever happens I know it will be ok.

Love Claire xx