Day 91. I was out with work last night. I caught the train home at 9.30pm and, unusually, was picked up from the station by my husband, who managed to get off work early. We came home and sat in the garden in the sweltering July heat with a couple of beers. We stargazed in between games of fetch with our four-year-old border collie. It was perfect. Perfection, like happiness, is not an end in itself, but rather a moment in time. They say perfection doesn’t exist, but it does and I experienced it last night in those relaxing few hours in the garden with my boys. I realised in those few hours I can be a good wife, a good caretaker of our dog, our home, our family. I can make good decisions. I can choose to be angry and jealous over irrelevant things or I can choose to let go. In that moment of clarity – ironically through the fog of beer – I committed to trying to be a better version of myself every day. I’ll fail sometimes, but that’s okay. Fail fast, learn fast.
I slept beautifully after such a wonderful evening. I woke up this morning with only one thought on my mind. 92 days later after beginning my withdrawal from antidepressants, I took my final 25mg tablet of sertraline this morning. I can’t believe I have made it to this point. The last 92 days have been a real mixed bag – this I expected. There have been extreme highs and lows, but mainly just a lot of “in-between”. I’ve cried more in these last three months than I have done in the preceding six years; I think perhaps my body was purging itself of more than just the medication. I’ve felt more sharply where normally there was a dullness. I’ve slept better on the whole and had some long periods of decent eating and exercising, permeated with a few weeks of pure laziness. I have survived some crippling withdrawal symptoms. I have loved, hated, shouted, felt the crushing nothingness of indifference and apathy, and come out the other side. I’m here and I’m ready for the next six years.
Thank you for being on this journey with me.
Is This This Loneliness or Just Me Being Introverted? A Story of my Week.
It’s Loneliness Awareness Week. Loneliness has played a constant role in my life, and in my experience – and I suspect in the experiences of many other ordinary people – it’s still a taboo topic. For me, admitting I get lonely feels painfully vulnerable. It exposes me – here I am, a married woman, with friends all over the country, a sprawling family across the globe, and yet sometimes I feel like the only person in the whole world. No one to talk to, to listen, to share with.
Living in London for four years enabled me to be open with my loneliness. London is a wonderful city and it was only because I lived there that I became comfortable with being on my own. Therein lies the rub – being on your own and feeling lonely are not the same thing. At my most introverted, I want nothing more to be on my own. At my most lonely, I’d start a conversation with a paper bag if I thought it might talk back. Some of my lonelinest moments in London were in rooms packed full of people. Some of my loneliest moments in Wigan, in Manchester, in Leeds, have occurred when sat with the very people I love most. Loneliness sometimes has no logical reason.
Talking about my loneliness is liberating. As soon as I put it out there, it loses some of its power. Nine times out of ten, someone will respond, even if just to say, “yes, I feel that way too”. To be lonely with someone else, even across an internet connection, even with someone I’ve never physically met, legitimises the feeling. I am here, I get lonely sometimes, and others get lonely too. We can be lonely together.
“Loneliness is the human condition. Cultivate it. The way it tunnels into you allows your soul room to grow. Never expect to outgrow loneliness. Never hope to find people who will understand you, someone to fill that space. An intelligent, sensitive person is the exception, the very great exception. If you expect to find people who will understand you, you will grow murderous with disappointment. The best you’ll ever do is to understand yourself, know what it is that you want, and not let the cattle stand in your way.”
― Janet Fitch
“…the people who love me, the people I really depend on, were never the critics who were pointing at me while I stumbled. They weren’t in the bleachers at all. They were with me in the arena. Fighting for me and with me.”
– Brené Brown
I did really well over the weekend. A combination of seeing friends, getting out and about despite the rain, and having a lazy day on Sunday. It went all too quickly and I’ve spent the first 36 hours of this week feeling a bit grumpy. As I’ve discussed before, I’m never sure if my grumpiness is directly linked to my depression, my withdrawal, or if it’s just general malaise.
I am not a morning person and it shows – ask any of my family/friends. I’m not sleeping well, despite what my smartwatch tells me, and this continues to have a huge impact on my general mood. The dreams I’ve had the last two nights have been bizarre – thinking back to my first round of withdrawal, I experienced some very inconsistent sleep. This, I think, is almost certainly part of the withdrawal. Thankfully, the restless sleep and crazy dreams settled down within a week or two, so I’m hopeful this will peter out soon.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again,
because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause;
who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Theodore Roosevelt, “Citizenship in a Republic”, 23rd April 1910
It’s been quite some time since I updated my blog. I’ve been away on holiday to Poland and also had my Mum visiting for a few days, so my time has been taken up with lots of fun, relaxation, and distraction from the world of antidepressant withdrawal – no bad thing! But now is a crucial time for me and it’s important to not lose focus.
Tomorrow I will take my next step towards full withdrawal – reducing my daily antidepressant dose to 25mg from 50. It feels less scary than over a month ago when I had no idea how withdrawal would actually feel. Reading back through these blog posts has been enlightening and reassuring – I’m glad and fortunate that I’m one of the people who has not suffered from the extremes of antidepressant discontinuation syndrome. Bar those first two weeks of withdrawal symptoms, I have found the entire process manageable – thus far.
I make no assumptions about the next phase of my withdrawal. I’m making a conscious effort to avoid creating elaborate scenarios in my head about how this might go (this is something I have a terrible habit for doing in most situations that cause me anxiety – it takes a lot of energy to rationalise with my inner catastrophiser!). It may be fine. It may be awful. I will find out in the next few weeks and I’ll write about the journey [almost] every step of the way. Thanks for sticking with this blog (assuming you’ve read this far…). I hope you’ll stick around for this next part of the adventure.
It’s been a week since I last wrote a blog. I’ve had another week of minor mood swings, but largely I’ve slept well, kept active, and been relatively happy. This has felt like one of the easiest weeks so far on my withdrawal.
The caveat is that it’s hard to tell if what I feel is because of withdrawal or if it’s just how I’m naturally feeling. Which brings me to today. I’m seeing my GP this afternoon for the first time since I decreased my antidepressants by half. We will discuss my progress and whether it feels right and appropriate for me to withdraw completely once my doses of 50mg have finished.
I am quietly confident she will agree to full withdrawal. Watch this space.