Store-bought is fine

I have been depressed for a long time – most of my life if I’m correct in my suspicions. But I didn’t have a formal diagnosis until 2010 when things were so bad my friends bullied me into seeing a doctor after I spent some melancholy afternoons on St Leonards Crags with a bottle of alcohol wondering if I should end it.

That’s when I started on citalopram, and it was fine. It helped some, but I didn’t feel quite right, and I felt my creativity was being stifled. Eventually I just stopped taking them – I was in a good place and I didn’t think I needed the stifling crutch any more.

Long story short, I was wrong. Or at least I was wrong about not still needing the help. A combination of CBT techniques and self-taught handling kept me going when it went bad, but breakdowns were bound to be on the horizon.

There are a few points since my formal diagnosis of severe depression where I can vividly remember there being a change in my mental state because of the reactions I got from other people.

One of them was shortly after joining my current company when I got my dentures and felt confident in smiling again – that was a profound realisation on my part and I was shocked by how much difference it made.

Another was when someone found my last straw while I was working and I ended up rather violently exploding at her before leaving the office. That was not a good day.

The final big point was in August 2017. Having just been fired from the LRP group I’d spent five years building, I was suddenly free of the responsibility and stress associated with it. That feeling of losing the weight I’d been carrying on my shoulders was brilliant.

All of those moments occurred while not on medication.

And then the pandemic hit. Suddenly I can’t see my friends, I can’t travel, I can’t do anything. All my holidays are cancelled and I’m working from home. Stress piles up as I’m working on three or four projects at once, all of which have become urgent and in need of immediate launching because of other foul-ups.

Amidst all of that, I’m trying to figure out my own brain and gain a measure of control over myself. Stress and depression and confusion all layered up until it burst. And that catharsis was exactly what I needed. Suddenly able to think again, to see clearly, I was able to see just how bad things had gotten.

I discussed things with work and I now have a ongoing therapy programme being worked out (provided by the company) and I’ve now been on Sertraline for three months or so.

The thing I find with using drugs to assist your issues is that when you have a string of good days, you start thinking that maybe you don’t need the extra chemicals and then you don’t have that support when things get bad. So there are days when I wonder if I need to keep this up. And I know that the answer is yes.

Not only did I start feeling better after taking them pretty much immediately (psychosomatic relief, but I’ll take it), but I’ve now managed to get to a point where not only am I capable of seeing the problems, I’m capable of dealing with them. In the last two weeks, I have cleaned out months of recycling, tidied the living room, cleaned out the bathroom of rubbish, filled several black bags with rubbish, cleaned out Jeremy’s viv1my corn snake is called Jeremy, got Euphy back on a schedule2Euphy is my robovac who is happily vacuuming every morning, made improvements to the flat, and generally made a positive difference to my living environment.

Would that have been possible without the drugs? Yes, but it might have taken months. My last cleaning spurt was probably this time last year, and I didn’t make anywhere near the same dent then as I have in the last two weeks. I can see clear discernible progress and as the flat becomes more liveable, my mood improves further, enabling me to clean things up even more.

In short, my point is that if you can’t make your own neurotransmitters, store-bought is fine. Finding the right medication can be a trial, but if you can find it, it can make a huge difference to you.

On the note of finding the right medication, my therapist said something to me which was quite interesting, which is that citalopram is supposed to be used to treat anxiety in the main, but it gets used as the first drug for depression for some reason by a lot of GPs. Something to be aware of – not all antidepressants are equal in their effectiveness. Amitriptyline is another antidepressant medication but it’s better used to treat sciatic injuries (which is why I have some) than depression.

A cartoon medication bottle labelled "if you can't make your own neurotransmitters, store-bought is fine". The pills are shaped like cats
Image by Megan Fabbri
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