The drugs don’t work – but something does

I’m now two and a half weeks into my new job, and my legs are much better (and so are the family), but just recently I’ve not been in a good place mentally. I was wondering if this last batch of pills don’t work so well, or whether I’m becoming resistant to Sertraline, or if maybe the combination of the winter weather and the stresses of the last few months have caught up with me…

Anyone who has been on SSRIs and then come off them will know what I mean when I talk about the side-effect of changing the dose that feels a little like minor electric shocks. It varies from person to person, obviously, but for me feels as if the world around me jars or shudders slightly every so often. I lose my balance slightly sometimes, or feel a little dizzy. I know others have suffered badly with this sensation, so it must be a minor case for me, but it’s very distinctive, and only happens when I’m raising or lowering the dose. I’ve been having this sensation for a few weeks now, and it’s coincided with the start of a downhill slide.

I’m nowhere near as bad as I have been in the past. But feelings of anxiety, pessimism, and the tiniest whispers of the voices in my head telling me I’m useless and unworthy, have been creeping into my psyche and solidifying, trying to gain a hold. Some of the symptoms of depression that manifest physically have arrived – exhaustion, lethargy, anhedonia, and feelings that the things that used to be important to me are no longer important at all.

In some ways this last is very constructive. It’s the whole breakdown/breakthrough issue – in Tarot terms, the Tower… It’s as if I’ve worried so much about all of these things that my worry lever has broken completely. The feelings of unworthiness have been unable to stick to any great extent, or for any length of time, because I’m too exhausted to care. This is needless worry rather than anxiety – I still care about the health and safety of my loved ones, but for instance – I’m fat. I can buy pretty clothes in my size still, so I don’t care. I’ve stopped worrying whether I’m any good at work – I know I work hard and I’m good at what I do. I’ve stopped worrying about whether I’m a good enough wife – The Husband is still here 23 years later, so if I’m not a good enough wife that’s his problem – he should have had the sense to chip me in for a new model by now if he wasn’t happy.

Most crucially of all though, I’ve stopped worrying about whether my friends, and in fact people I wouldn’t call friends, really do like me. That’s been a huge area of concern for me for years now. Am I keeping in contact enough? Do I care enough? Am I saying the right things? Suddenly I realise if someone wants my company or input, they’ll come find me. If I want someone, I reach out to them. If they knock me back, well either they have a problem with me which they should be telling me about, or they don’t, in which case I’ll try again tomorrow…

And this is what blogging is really all about. Having written it all down, it’s now clear to me that this is probably nothing to do with the medication (although I’ll be interested to see how I feel after the festive season). I am no longer spending my time worrying about whether I’m doing what I should be doing, but I’m spending my time figuring out what I really want to do, and if it measure up to my code of ethics, doing it. Obviously I would have liked to shout at the woman at the booking office who told me that my colitis appointment would be near to the end of January, probably – but it’s not her fault that the NHS can’t cope with its workload. I would have liked to not go to the Chanukah party at synagogue today after having worked all weekend, but the boys enjoyed it hugely and when they read out their parts of the Chanukah party, I was so very proud.

It looks as if I’m just going through another healing process. They’re never comfortable at the time, especially when I’m getting rid of old habits that are no longer useful to me. This one is guilt. And the constant harsh review of my actions/usefulness/relevance against what I perceive to be other people’s requirements and impressions of me… which are usually wrong… as Sandy Toksvig once said, if you ask a man what he’s really thinking, it’s usually about motorbikes or biscuits…

Perhaps I got so tired and so pressured that I couldn’t keep up the constant vigilance, and the worry any more. Now, I know who I am, what I want from life, and how I think I should behave. I know the things I love about myself, and the things I think are not so constructive, that I could do with changing at some point. Perhaps it’s time for me to worry about whether other people are living up to my expectations rather than whether I’m living up to theirs.

I am what I am. The great advantage of self-acceptance is that when you know you don’t need anyone else to be a complete person, you can concentrate on weeding out the negativities in your life without being judgemental, and focus on the people you love and/or respect, on building truly decent relationships, knowing that you choose to give love, affection, care, attention with a truly open heart, rather than out of a need to get something back.

The disadvantage of huge leaps in healing and self-development is that they’re bloody knackering. I had no idea I’d come so far – no wonder I’m exhausted. So I’m off to find as much chocolate as I can and make myself a nice cup of tea.

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12 Responses to The drugs don’t work – but something does

  1. allison says:

    i know exactly what you mean about the sertraline. I came off them in June and the side effects were terrible. Serious dizziness and panic attacks that took over a month to go away. Coming off the tablets has made me more anxious and I worry more about stupid stuff but I do feel more like myself and its manageable until now – I blame winter, working again and just too much going on. Do you really need to work at weekends? I think I would completely lose it if I didn’t have my weekends to catch up with other stuff. Forcing myself to leave the house currently as I think I would never go out if I did what I feel like doing. Looking forward to seeing you soon.

    • Sorry to hear you’re feeling a bit more anxious – I do think the weather has a lot to do with it… could you try some of the lighter weight remedies for a bit? St John’s Wort teabags work very well for Graham, and eating lots of very dark chocolate is also helpful:-)

      I do need to work weekends – it’s an essential part of the project, and I knew about the weekend working when I signed on. But next project I might try to choose something longer term and less intense at least to start with!

  2. The Crone says:

    I know they are exhausting but it sounds like you are growing. Your going to beokay

  3. Cas Coote says:

    Thanks for your honesty and clarity Eleanor – This process of learning and growing is truly uncomfortable …… for those brave enough to tackle it!!! I have had periods of depression as you know and have those episodes of doubting my own worth. I recognise so many of your insights in the area of people’s expectations, and the need to identify your own expectations of yourself. My learning seems to ebb and flo…. or more like my understanding is working on a dimmer switch; sometimes I can see my relationships and my role in them as in a bright light. Then time passes and I realise I’ve lost the sharpness and I’m in the shadows again…..and. its really frustrating. Don’t give up the struggle to know yourself.. you are truly worth the effort!!!! In single words I know you to be Intelligent, loving, spiritual, warm, caring, diligent, reliable.humorous and I am glad to have you in my life!!

  4. Kriss Fearon says:

    Letting go is really hard isn’t it. The stupid thing is that it’s not like we get to control people’s feelings about us through our own behaviour but tantalisingly it feels like we can, or worse, that we OUGHT to be doing stuff to please them constantly. Like we are not good enough unless we’re constantly in service of some kind.

    Graham seems like a man who knows his own mind ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. I think there was something wrong with the batch of pills I was given. I have to get one month’s supply at a time, and last month I had pills from a different manufacturer than usual. This month they’re different again, and the symptoms have begun to ease off, starting with the shock effect, but a general overall improvement in my mood.

    • allison says:

      Thought I’d share a recent experience. Been having problems sleeping, panic attacks etc since before Christmas. As I came off the tablets last May and have been fine since getting over the terrible side effects of withdrawal I suspect the current problems may be menopause related. So after weeks of not sleeping and my heart pounding away I decided enough was enough and I had to get a grip. After deciding there was nothing in my life to cause these symtoms and that I didn’t want more medication from the doctor unless it got deesparate I tried something I;d done previously but more by accident than plan. Playing my happy playlist on my ipod and singing along for 3 hours a day while I worked. Not only have the panic attacks subsided I actually feel much more posative and thats after a week. May not work for anyone else and is very painful for anyone in the vicinity but worth a go I think.

      • I also find that listening to the right music really helps:-) I don’t have the time or space to sing for three hours a day but maybe when the boys have left home…:-) Glad to hear you’re feeling better – long may it continue!

  6. Nancie Kay Shuman says:

    It was still an excellent opportunity for growth!

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