‘History is, strictly speaking, the study of questions; the study of answers belongs to anthropology and sociology.’
– W.H. Auden
‘You don’t have to make something that people call art. Living is an artistic activity, there is an art to getting through the day.’
– Viggo Mortensen
‘You can best serve civilization by being against what usually passes for it.’
– Wendell Berry
‘They say, timing is everything. But then they say, there is never a perfect time for anything.’
– Anthony Liccione
‘You will know who the enemy is intimidated by because they’re the ones he targets and keeps beating down.’
– Donna Lynn Hope
‘I regret that it takes a life to learn how to live.’
– Jonathan Safran Foer
How do you search for an answer to a question you don’t know how to ask?
What (the Doctors don’t tell you) to expect when you decide to take Anti-Depressants.
The decisions to start taking any kind of anti-depressant medication can be very daunting, especially when you may not know much about the drug your GP is prescribing or recommending. Most of the time, in my experience, you don’t even really make the decision at all – your GP does.
And although Doctors/ GP’s are intelligent and educated people, they don’t always gets it right – much the same as us. Sometimes they forget that there is a human being attached to their diagnosis and treatment plan. It’s for this reason that I recommend always double checking a few things, and even perhaps getting a second or third opinion, before blindly beginning a long-term medication.
When I decided to visit my GP on the suspicion that my depression and anxiety was getting worse, this is (step-by-step) what happened:
All of these questions, and diagnoses, were completed by my GP within 20 minutes. And a lot of people have the same sorts of stories. So for starters, let me just note a few things here:
Every GP you see will be different, but just remember that if you have any questions, or doubt what your GP might be saying or prescribing, remember you have every right to ask questions. It is your body, your mind and your life.
You do not have to go into any details with your GP about why you’re feeling the way that you are – they are not a Psychiatrist. You have the right to ask to be referred to a preferred psychologist, or be referred to a psychiatrist.
You are within your rights to not take any medication without seeking a second opinion – this type of medication can sometimes be very hard to come off of, so it’s important you know what you’re getting yourself into. And you should always ask what the side-effects may be.
Within an hour of leaving the GP’s office, I had been to a chemist, had my prescription filled, and had taken my first pill, and that was that. Or so I thought.
When I hopped in my car to head home after visiting the chemist and doing a bit of shopping, I realised something was really wrong. I drove halfway up the street before I had to pull over. My head was spinning, my vision was blurry and I felt lethargic, like every muscle in my body was working in slow motion.
I rang my GP straight away and explained my symptoms. I was told this was completely normal, and that I would be okay in a day or so. I managed to get home safely, thank goodness.
But that information may have been better received before I tried to drive home.
I can not stress the importance of researching your medication enough.
The first night, I went to sleep very early. I woke myself up about 10 times that night grinding my teeth. By the morning, I was exhausted, my head hurt and I felt terrible. So I decided to look up the product information for my new medication, to see what else I might be in for.
It was hard to tell which possible side-effects I might experience, because there were quite literally hundreds of them.
And the GP never told me about a single one of them.
Beginning a new medication without being warned of the things I might experience, like common side-effects, was really upsetting and confusing.
Not only was I dealing with the issues I had before I began taking the medication, I now had a plethora of other sub-issues to contend with.
At one point, I was even prescribed a higher dosage of the same medication, when I explicitly explained the side-effects I was suffering from to a completely different GP.
It’s been over seven years since I was first prescribed my Anti-Depressants. I am still taking them, and I do still suffer from a lot of side-effects. I’ve learned to manage most of them, but more importantly, I’ve learned how important it is to question your GP’s opinion if something (no matter how small or how silly you think it seems) doesn’t feel quite right.
Anti-Depressants can be very dangerous medications, so it’s important you ask questions. For me, this medication rules my entire life. When I first started taking my medication, I wasn’t told much, so I thought I’d compile a list of a few things my GP didn’t tell me about:
My GP didn’t tell me much about the side-effects of my Anti-Depressant. The way they described it, I would take the medication, and I would feel better.
But I didn’t feel better, necessarily. I came to realise that the medication simply numbed my emotions. On the one hand, I wouldn’t feel very depressed. But on the other, I wouldn’t feel very happy, either.
It’s taken a long time to adjust to feeling very… well, bleak. Not too sad, but not too happy. Just existing, some days. Yes, not having overwhelming sadness is good. But not being able to feel joy and excitement can sometimes be hard.
A very common side-effect of Anti-Depressants is having a constantly dry mouth. And one definitely not worth overlooking. Dry mouth can lead to infections, soreness and a bunch of other oral-related nasties, including bad-breath.
While there are other factors involved in gaining weight – lifestyle, work, levels of activity – since beginning my Anti-Depressants, I’ve gained around 15kg. That might not seem like a lot to some, but weight gain can cause serious self-esteem issues and can make you feel even worse about yourself.
I would say that I was about average when it came to being sexually active, but as time has gone on, I’ve noticed my disinterest in sex. Which is another thing my GP failed to clue me in on. Sometimes I really have to force myself to have sex, and it’s not a nice feeling.
On the occasions where I do feel like sex, I also have to battle with the fact that it doesn’t feel as good as what it probably does without medication. It can really drop yours (and your partner’s) confidence, and it can be difficult to connect without that intimacy.
The right person will understand, of course, but it can be an incredibly difficult thing to bring up.
This is the biggest challenge I have with my medication these days.
If I go even six hours without taking my medication on time, the withdrawals start. And they’re not pretty. I wind up feeling like a full-blown drug-addict coming down, and I’m not over-exaggerating.
I get headaches, lose concentration, feel dizzy and nauseous and sweat so much people notice the marks under my arms and on my back.
If I go twelve hours without it, my anxiety kicks back in with a vengeance, my heart races and everything around me is suddenly overwhelming – too loud, too big, too close. The fine balancing act my brain plays on a daily basis is derailed and I become a nervous wreck. Every noise is terrifying.
Twenty-four hours without my medication is agony. The only reason this usually happens is if I forget to get a prescription filled and the chemist is closed for a public holiday, or I forget to pack it if I go somewhere.
It’s horrendous. I get brain-zaps, which are basically described as a feeling as if your head, brain or both have experienced a sudden jolt, shake, vibration, tremor, zap or electric-shock. You can find out more about them here.
Along with the brain-zaps, I start to get so wound up I can’t sleep, can’t talk properly and every muscle in my body is tensed. I don’t eat and I become paranoid. I can’t even begin to explain to you how much pain you experience, having to go through this.
And my GP never told me about any of it.
Even though my GP knew I was studying at university, they still failed to mention that a possible side-effect of my medication would be that my memory could be affected.
I became forgetful, unfocused, lethargic and wasn’t able to remember basic things, like what I did the night before. I couldn’t describe certain things – my mind would go blank. It was an awful feeling, realising my memory was becoming hazy. Even now, I struggle with words, remembering small things and even people’s names.
Again, you would think that the GP may have mentioned to me that I might get sudden urges to swerve my car into a tree, purposely do dangerous or risky things (like drugs) or think about how utterly pointless existing is on a daily basis. Nope!
Suicidal thoughts are a common side-effect of Anti-Depressant medication, and it’s hard work, reminding your brain every day that you don’t, in fact, want to kill yourself. Especially when you’re getting urges to do just that. Not to mention, it’s pretty disturbing and can feel incredibly invasive.
There have been loads of times where my medication has made me question my own sanity.
Every person will experience the effects of their medications slightly differently. You may find that you experience things I haven’t noted here, or perhaps there are things you don’t experience, that I have noted. There’s no right or wrong answer.
Deciding to take Anti-Depressants is a personal journey, and that’s why it’s so important to listen to your body, and ask questions.
Remember to keep an open mind, ask questions, don’t overlook your concerns, and remember that Anti-Depressants aren’t going to fix you. You need to use them in conjunction with therapy, healthy lifestyle habits and in a responsible way.
If you, or someone you know, wants to find out more information, there are plenty of places that you can reach out:
Headspace: 1800 650 890
Kids Helpline: 1800 551 800
MensLine Australia: 1300 789 978
QLife: 1800 184 527
If you enjoyed this article, feel free to check out more at: www.theartofoverthinking,com
My story and the lessons I learned along the way.
Before I go any further, let me just say – it isn’t anyone’s place to judge another’s relationship, and that is not the intent of this article. This is simply a personal experience, and the things I found to be true for me.
The topic of a abuse within a relationship is often hard for a lot of people, which is one of the reasons I haven’t written about it until now. A lot of the time, the person that puts you through this type of thing has such a profound emotional hold over you, it’s hard to talk about your experiences, no matter how much time has passed.
For that reason, in this particular article, I’ll refer to that person as ‘He’.
For me, ‘He’ was the one. We had known each other for a couple of years, He was a social butterfly, He made me laugh and every time we hung out, it turned into some kind of fun adventure. People talk about the ‘Honeymoon Period’ of relationships – a brief period of time where everything seems perfect, you agree on everything and arguments are non-existent. This was the Honeymoon Period to beat any other – and I should have realised then that it was too good to be true.
I had suffered from Anxiety and Depression for a number of years before meeting him, and he helped me see the fun in life. He was smart and logical, but He had a spontaneous streak that was so much fun.
I truly believed we would get married, have children and live happily ever after. We had stupid nicknames for each other, we played pranks on each other, we stayed up late giggling and we took photos of each other snoring. We spent our weekends happily exploring the city and beaches and never fought about anything. Everything was fun and easy.
At that time in my life, I was a University Student, and he was a tradie/ labourer. It didn’t take long for us to move in together. He worked long hours and was the main breadwinner, and He was proud of that. I would spend my days studying, going to Uni, cleaning the house and making sure there was food on the table for Him when He finally trudged through the door.
Soon enough though, I could see He was starting to resent the fact that I didn’t have a job, although I was trying to work my way through Law School and look after things at home. I spent every penny of my Student Allowance on rent and things for the house, but it wasn’t enough. Before I knew it, I had picked up a couple of casual jobs working retail to try and even things out. I wanted to help. I loved Him. He could do no wrong in my eyes.
It wasn’t long after this that He came home and said He had been let go. At the time, I didn’t see it as too much of an issue – He was a robust and confident person, and I was sure He would pick up something new quite quickly.
I was wrong.
Ever since He was an apprentice, He had never not had a job, and His confidence plummeted. Something ‘snapped’ so to speak and He was never the same. Him being fired sent Him into a rapid depression, followed by paranoia and anxiety.
I tried everything in my power to help Him, but I was struggling too. I began taking my anti-depressants again, was stressed and taking on extra shifts at work to get us through to the next week. I eventually realised that I would have to drop out of University if I was going to help us get by. So I did. I deferred University to focus on looking after us. I loved him. I wanted to help.
I had heard about people developing paranoia, but His paranoia was something I had never experienced before, and I had no idea what I was meant to say or do to help Him. I tried everything. I listened to his rants without judgment, I offered my support, I told Him I believed Him when He said He was worried about people following him. I helped Him write job applications, introduced Him to new people, suggested He get professional help.
Nothing would calm him down.
He truly believed someone was ‘out to get Him’. Every conversation we had would go down the same path; ‘there’s someone following me’, ‘someone’s been in the house’, ‘they know too much’, ‘don’t talk about personal stuff over the phone’… it was overwhelming.
I came home one day and He was scanning the walls with a device that checks for ‘bugs’. He wouldn’t apply for jobs because he was convinced ‘they’ would sabotage him. He would constantly sat he was being followed in his car, or at the shops.
He started to become suspicious of me. I didn’t understand it, because I couldn’t see it. There was never anyone following us, nothing out of the ordinary happening in our lives besides His behaviour. I couldn’t find a way to help Him. All I knew was that I loved Him dearly and believed that He would snap out of it as quickly as it all started, if He just got another job and got back on track.
But it didn’t work that way.
Things went downhill. Rapidly. Nothing I would say would convince Him that there was no-one out to ‘get’ Him. I was so caught up with trying to help the person I loved, I failed to see I was becoming tangled in an abusive and toxic situation.
It was subtle at first, but by the end of our tumultuous relationship, the house was a war zone. Even now, years after, I experience the effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Small things like someone grabbing my wrist, coming too close to my face, raising their hands or even the slightest raise in someone’s voice sets me off.
I’ve wanted to write this for a long time. And I wanted to list the types of warning signs I missed, but wished I hadn’t. It’s hard to recognise these things when you’re blinded by your situation. Because you don’t want to believe that the person you love is also the person destroying you.
Even if this helps one person recognise their situation for what it is, that would be enough for me. Keeping in mind that every relationship is unique along with the people in it, these are the 5 signs I look back on and wished I’d noticed:
I realised too late that I had distanced myself from many of my friends, probably at a time when I needed them the most. Once He became paranoid, He needed to keep me ‘safe’. He was scared someone was out to ‘get’ me too. He didn’t want me on Social Media, He was suspicious of visitors, new friends and even old friends.
I ended up cutting ties with a lot of people, all based on who ‘He’ thought was ‘safe’. Every person He met was a threat. He believed people who visited the house planted devices or stole things, and eventually it became easier to placate him by simply cutting people off.
Whether it was intentional or not, He made me believe I was going crazy. He used my history of mental illness against me, telling me I was the crazy one. He would tell me that I was a psychopath, that I was the one with no heart and that I had no idea how much I put Him through.
When we fought, He’d tell me to ‘take another pill, crazy’, ‘go cut your wrists in the bath’ or ‘do the world a favour and kill yourself’. We had a small unit, so I would try and lock myself in the bathroom to get away from the taunts. When I did, He would yell that I was crazy and why would I lock the door on Him? Clearly I was the suicidal one, and would kill myself in the bathroom. He’d break down the door to get to me, ripping the handle completely off, or making a hole in it – just so He could tell me to stop being an attention seeker.
If I tried to leave the house to get away from Him, He would stop me. He would stand in the door frame and tell me I was being dramatic. He’d tell me I had started the fight and that He hadn’t done anything wrong. He’d tell me I wasn’t leaving because I might hurt myself. He’d steal my keys, break my phone and threaten me. All the ‘help’ me.
He truly convinced me that I was the crazy one. That hiding in the bathroom to get away from Him meant I was the one with the issues. .
When I’d eventually open the door (or He’d break it down), He’d say things like: ‘I’m trying to help you’ or ‘I don’t want to have to break down the door again or call the police on you because I think you’re going to kill yourself in there’. He and I both knew that it was never my intention to hurt myself, but I began to believe that maybe I might. Maybe I was crazy. Maybe I was suffering from my mental illness in such a way, I couldn’t see how crazy I really was.
This is the stereotypical sign of being in an abusive relationship, but it wasn’t until the physical abuse became very violent that I realised it had started long ago.
It started with things like grabbing my wrists or arm to stop me leaving a room, or holding me on the ground or on the bed so I couldn’t use my phone. But it got worse.
Any time we had an argument and I tried to leave, phone a friend or go into another room to get away from all the verbal abuse and tension, things would go flying (me included). He would put things like my laptop outside in the middle of the road. He would take my dinner outside and tell me to eat out there ‘like the dog I was’. He would laugh when I cried and begged to be allowed to leave.
Arguments in the car were common, because He know I couldn’t escape. He wouldn’t get out when I asked Him to, and He wouldn’t let me pull over and get out either. I had no choice but to keep driving, while He screamed in my ear, spat in my face and kicked the interior of the car.
One day He was so out of His mind with rage, He ripped the radio clean out of my car, wires dangling, and threw it out the window of my car into traffic while I was driving.
I was constantly having to come up with stories to tell my family and friends about why my things were constantly damaged and broken. The radio had ‘malfunctioned’. My phones were always being ‘dropped’ or ‘run over’ or simply ‘stopped working and needed to be replaced’. Sets of glasses never lasted long, the holes in the doors were from ‘tripping’ and the bruises were brushed off as me being clumsy.
Make no mistake, all of these things are abusive and violent. But when you love someone, sometimes you don’t see them for what they truly are, and brush them off.
There’s a saying: ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me’. But they do. Especially when you’re told everyday how awful you are. When you’re told you’re fat. Told you’re a psycho. Told you need to go to a psychiatric home. Told that no one will ever love you besides Him. Told that you deserved all the bad things that ever happened to you. That you deserve to be alone. Especially when you’re told all this by someone you love.
Eventually these things get to you. And once you start believing them, you gain a sense of hopelessness that doesn’t fade, even after you leave. You truly believe you are defected, damaged and no-good. It has taken years to be able to look in the mirror without hating my own reflection, and even now, I suffer the consequences of the verbal torment I was put through.
This mightn’t seem as important as the other signs. But this is the thing that affected me more than anything else.
Every fight we had, no matter how violent, ended with Him saying things like: ‘I’m sorry, I love you’, ‘Please don’t leave me, you’re all I’ve got’ or hours of tears and promises to do better.
It was emotional torture. The man I once wanted a future with and who I loved so dearly, was hurting me in ways I never knew I could hurt. Of course I wanted to believe Him. Of course I wanted to brush off His behaviour as nothing more than a momentary lapse in judgment.
I remember the fights, and the anxiety crushing my chest. The tears, the fists and the threats. Then one day, His beloved Nan died. I knew this would make everything so much worse. If He was depressed, anxious and paranoid now, then this would surely tip Him over the edge completely. I wanted desperately to be there for Him. I wanted to comfort Him, to bring Him back to what He used to be, but I couldn’t do it anymore.
I was exhausted. I knew every fight we wold have from thereon out, every time he would hurt me, it wouldn’t be ‘His’ fault anymore. It would be because His Nan had died. Everything He did would be blamed away.
So I left.
Maybe deep down He was messed up and maybe He was sorry and perhaps He truly did need me. And I knew He must have been feeling very isolated and hurt too. But I realised much too late, that you can’t help someone who isn’t willing to help themselves.
I left Him after His Nan’s funeral. I would have left sooner, but again, I felt an overwhelming sense of guilt. I loved Him. I felt like I needed to at least get Him through the funeral. I didn’t want to be ‘that’ person.
But who is ‘that’ person? I stayed so long. Put up with so much. For what?
Leaving Him was the most painful thing I have had to do in a long time. I’m not going to pretend that it was easy. I was so emotionally broken, I could feel my heart breaking with every breath I took.
Even after I left, I paid the rent in the unit we lived in for months until He moved out. I cleaned up all the mess He had left once he finally did leave. I never sent Him the bill.
I called Him every day after He moved out to make sure He was okay. He would cry on the phone and tell me He was so sorry. I would drive past His new house and bring Him food, because I knew He hadn’t eaten for days. I took Him to appointments, kept in touch, made sure He was okay and wasn’t going to hurt Himself.
Once I would get home, I would cry by myself on the kitchen floor for hours and hours, wondering how everything had gone so horribly wrong. I had given Him everything I had, and I had nothing left to give.
He begged me to give Him another chance.
But I couldn’t.
Because you can love someone so much, but at the end of the day, you have to love yourself more. And sometimes it takes a long time to realise that. When I look back on what I went through now, I wish I had seen the signs earlier. It took me so long to leave. Because I kept putting Him first, making excuses for Him, allowing His toxic behaviour to continue, because I was more worried about losing Him.
We do so much for the people we love.
But in the end, we are all human. I’ve come to terms with the fact that we are all on a journey. And you can’t save everyone on the journey to save yourself.
And that’s okay.
‘Time is an illusion.’
– Albert Einstein