Tuesday, 8 May 2018

A medication-free recovery

It’s time to start coming off my anti-depressants.

For the past seven years I’ve been on some form of medication for my mental illness. For the past six, I’ve been on the same dosage.

But coming off my medication hasn’t been an easy decision to make. In fact, up until recently I was adamant to stay on them eternally – if it’s not broke, don’t fix it. I’ve battled with guilt about giving them up when I’ve always been vocally pro-medication. I’ve battled with a fear that I could end up suicidal again. The last time I tried to come off them I went cold turkey - I just stopped taking them and I suffered from self-harm and suicidal thoughts returned.

But this year is also a year of change for me. I’m moving in with my partner in a month’s time. I’m moving to a different part of the city – and will need to find a new GP as a result. I’m leaving a job and home I’ve loved for the past five years. I want to start working towards my driver's license (a huge mental battle for me over the years).

So why now?

I’ve been happy and coping with my mental health for a long time now. I haven't had a breakdown in years, literally YEARS. Yes, I still feel sad, I have good days and bad days. But I have more good days now, they grow in number every year.

I've also heard some negative about long-term anti-depressant use and the effects this may have on my liver. I haven't researched this one, so it may or may not be true. But it did make me rethink why I'm staying on my medication. Is it a need? Or is it just the fear of what might happen without them?

I also want to take the next step in my recovery. I've always seen recovery as a journey, not a simple solution or a quick-fix. But my recovery has been stuck at one point on the journey for years now without progressing. It's time to keep going.

So I met with my GP, and we discussed my current medication and why I wanted to quit. We also talked about my fears and she made a very valid point.
*side note* Can we take a minute here to acknowledge those amazing doctors who are supportive of mental health issues? Who get it? Those who don’t force anything on you? Those who ask how you're getting on with your medication and what do you want to do ? 
She pointed out that this will not be the same as when I tried to quit six years ago. That I've built up coping skills, knowledge and tools to help me. That I have a support system. That we can manage it slowly and gradually.

And so we put together a plan. We decided that coming off all my medication must be done gradually, and will most likely take a year.

We set a short-term three month and a six-month plan. We'd reduce one medication slowly, and then stop it. And then we'll work on reducing medication number two.

Having a professional support and encourage me on this journey has been a huge help. I don't think I could do it without her. But now I also have to work on building my supports around me.

Today is day five on my lower dosage of medication. It's the start of the next part of my mental health journey.

Until next time,



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