A friend or foe?

13 Nov 2021

When I was 17 after a boyfriend broke my heart, I was prescribed Prozac by my Doctor.  It was 1998 and SSRI Antidepressants were being heralded as the wonder drug for mental illness.

My heart mended quickly. I suspect flowers and dinner date invitations were the distraction and soothing balm to my short lived heart-break blues.

However I was told I needed to stay on Prozac for six months to one year. I came off them at the one year mark and subsequently found myself navigating relationships, career angst and the challenges of being a young 20 year old. Feeling melancholy once again, back to the Doctor I went.

This became a pattern. I began to connect feeling blue with needing meds. Did they really help or was it the well known placebo effect doing the work?

Through the hormonal rollercoaster of four pregnancies and the busy years with four children under six I held onto these little white tables as a lifeline. ‘I just had a chemical imbalance’ I was told by the Health Professionals. 

It wasn’t until my late 20s, discovering an interest in natural medicines, and my growing distrust of ‘Big Pharma’ that I tried in earnest to stop taking my AntiDepressants. I waited until life was agreeable, no major life events, I was healthy, exercising, journalling, seeing a counsellor.

But no matter how hard I tried I could not stay off them. Six weeks of physical withdrawal symptoms would pass, I could ride that part out. But 2-3 months of being medication free and the brain fog, apathy for life, fear of dying, constant worry would come crashing down. 

I am now 40 and I have tried in earnest four times over the past decade to be medication free. My counsellor tells me that some people can’t produce serotonin on their own. She uses the analogy ‘If you were a diabetic would you feel guilty taking insulin?’ There is a part of me that just doesn’t buy it. What if at age 17 I had never been given Prozac and told I must keep taking it for up to a year, regardless of whether I felt better sooner. 

I am now on 20mg of Paroxitine per day. I have just struggled through what will be my last attempt to come off them. During which time I fantasised with death, contemplated the futility of life continually and faced each morning with the dread of another day. I am a single mum with four beautiful children who are relying on my encouragement and strength in this crazy world, I couldn’t afford to stay in that place any longer.

I am now on Day 8 of being back on Paroxitine, my brain feels like an untuned radio slowly being tuned to the correct frequency. The beginnings of a recognisable song is gaining volume and clarity. 

But what if it has been all these years taking pharmaceuticals that has caused my brain to stop producing its own serotonin? Will I always feel at the mercy of a little white pill? What could my brain have been capable of without the introduction of Prozac in 1998? I will always wonder…


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