Before antidepressants I used to listen to the voices of fear and anxiety so closely, analysing them in the search for what was true and false – which only continued to blur the more intently I questioned.
What I didn’t question was that voice, the one that so desperately wanted to create calm out of chaos; to make it to the eye of the storm for a better angle. What I didn’t realise was this was the very attitude fuelling the engine and keeping the storm raging on.
This realisation only came as a by-product of one of the bravest things I have ever done: I accepted that I couldn’t do this alone, I accepted the need for antidepressants.
I used to believe the things I learned from being on the outside of mental health issues, that antidepressants steal what’s left of you and change who you are – turning you into a soulless, empty vessel.
Because of this, I was afraid. I thought taking these antidepressants was accepting the fate that I would never be the same again – or if I needed to get better, my personality and who I was needed to change. That’s what I thought these white tablets do.
It takes two seconds to take my medication – two seconds of being brave. That’s how I dealt with this acceptance, I took the plunge and did it almost in, what I believed at the time, was a moment of recklessness – and what I felt surprised me.
While the side effects aren’t pleasant, many experience heightened anxiety, fatigue and insomnia among others, my personal experience, after a few months of dosage trial and error, was noticing a few brief injections of my old voice finding its feet – the one that balanced things out, spoke calmly and gave perspective.
It’s important to note: Antidepressants don’t restore you, they can offer the opportunity to rebuild.
I am four months into my six month course of 100mgs of Sertraline taken on a daily basis – which is quite typical in many first cases of panic disorder and depression – and while I still have rough days and may opt to continue medication – I find myself noticing when I’ve lost the presence of that voice and attitude keeping me on track to my recovery and managing to reinstate its power more quickly every day – mostly.
The gift of antidepressants is foundation. Now the real work begins.
Note: I’d like to make clear that antidepressants aren’t suitable for everyone, the side effects can be intense and different for individuals – this is my personal experience with using them, and it has been positive, but I do believe they should always be considered – not feared – with advice and support of a medical professional.
Dan is Head of Engagement at Gay Star News and works with the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ LGBT special interest group as a lived-experience adviser to the Department of Health.
Dan is also nominated for the UK’s National Diversity Award for Positive Role Model. To vote, click here.
To read his full story of dealing with panic disorder and how it began, click here.
To follow him on Twitter, click here.