When Are You Finished With Therapy?

In January 2018, I had just been dumped (seven days after New Years), I was working a job I hated, I was still living at home, and I was so depressed that the only options I saw for my future were to start therapy or suffer a nervous breakdown. I could feel the breakdown looming just outside the edge of my emotions. I was holding on by a thread; a thread that was frayed and about to snap. I knew I couldn’t do this on my own anymore. I needed help.

I sat in the therapists office on the verge of tears, ringing my shaking hands like I was washing them in soapy water, as I began to explain my situation. This was only going to work if I talked, I knew. I hated talking to people, especially strangers. But I knew I had to talk or it would have been a wasted trip and a waste of money. So I talked. And more came out than I ever expected from myself.

In my first hour session of therapy, I unloaded all of my deepest baggage in the hopes that she would be able to guide me away from the hypothetical ledge of my nervous breakdown.

It was this or the bridge.

One year ago yesterday (as I am writing this), I stepped into the therapists office for the first time. Yesterday, I walked out after having been put on “maintenance”, which meant I was done until I felt I needed to come back in again.

We had reached a point where I had nothing left to talk about. Things were going well. I had started working another part time job, I was in a healthy relationship with a wonderful man, I had coping mechanisms to help me when I was feeling anxious, and I was finally medicated to help deal with my depression and anxiety which before had completely consumed my life.

There was nothing left to talk about.

But life always has its ups and downs. I know that there may come a day when I will need to go back to her. That may be the result of a death in the family, another break up, financial struggles, or something completely unexpected.

So to answer the question “When are you finished with therapy?” I think no one is ever really done. You just enter periods of your life that are easier to manage on your own. But don’t feel bad about going back, starting your sessions back up, or asking for more help. Therapists and life coaches are there to give you advice, help you through the hard times, and get you back on your feet. They are an anchor in the angry sea of life. Allow them to ground you and guide you.


To find a therapist near you, check Psychology Today.

For more posts regarding my mental health journey, check out: Dealing With A Life Plateau, Things Become Okay, and Sunday Pep Talk | Trust Yourself.

Thank you for reading! Stay up to date with new blog posts by following me on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.

 

Take care, and don’t forget to take your medications!

Kat

Antidepressants Killed My Creativity

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I used to be very depressed, and very anxious. There was a voice in my head constantly berating me and degrading me, telling me I wasn’t enough and I shouldn’t even try. I projected that negativity onto everyone around me, but mostly I projected it onto myself. But that voice did something else too; it created incredibly complex scenarios in my head that fueled my creativity. After all, good art is complex, and often darkest before it begins to grow light.

The things that I produced were dark, flawed, and filled with emotion. Being on antidepressants has done wonders for my mental health, but since I started taking them six months ago, I haven’t been able to write on any of my fictional stories. The nonfiction seems to flow just fine. It’s part of the reason this blog is doing so well. I am able to put together coherent thoughts in the nonfiction realm, but when it comes to creating in that paracosmatic world that I so often lived, I find that my well of creativity has run dry. There is no desire in me anymore to work on those stories, because to get to that negative headspace again would be miserable. Oh sure, I created some interesting pieces of writing, but to do so I had to depress myself so entirely that I felt on the verge of mental collapse. I would isolate myself for months at a time, especially during the winter where most of my writing happened. I would research dark topics to fuel my ever growing imagination. I would let myself spiral down and down in order to create what I created.

It seems to be a difficult tossup. Be mentally stable, healthy, and produce orthodox blog posts, or let myself sink back into that tortured psyche and create vastly interesting fictional worlds. Some of the best writers in history were known to have suffered from excruciating mental problems. Edgar Allan Poe, Stephen King, Sylvia Plath. In one way or another, through drugs or simply lack of mental stability, these authors produced some of the most tortured works of fiction. After all, how can someone create such dark literature if they live in a world of light?

In some ways I feel like that darkness was a piece of who I was, and I owned it completely. By medicating myself to become more mentally and emotionally stable, I don’t quite feel like myself. Oh sure, I feel happy. Actually, I don’t really feel anything at all. The pills I take are quite enough to deaden all of my emotions, which has definitely helped me in the real world and dealing with my anxiety. But I don’t feel like myself. Because depression is something I identified myself with for so long that it became a part of who I was. Now without it, I look back at the life I lived and wonder if that was the truer life, the truer way to live, the reality which I was born into this world to suffer through. Am I learning the lessons I need to learn by dulling my emotions? Am I fulfilling my life purpose this way? What if my life purpose was to create beautifully dark fiction and then leave this world? Surely Edgar Allan Poe’s life purpose was not to become a successful accountant. No. His life purpose was to create great works of dark fiction. That was his gift that he was born into this world possessing.

Are we, in effect, disrupting the natural flow of destiny by making ourselves comfortably numb? Is it better to take the red pill and escape the matrix of our minds? To live with the pain and discomfort of mental instability in order to grow as humans and use our greatest gifts we as creators possess; our creativity and our imaginations?

Withdrawal Symptoms After Antidepressants

An article published by Benedict Carey and Robert Gebeloff discusses an issue many people never really consider when they begin taking antidepressants; the risk of quitting. I would like to offer my thoughts about this article, as I myself am on antidepressant medication.

I began taking Zoloft in February or March of 2018, a step that in my mind was long overdue. I had suffered with severe depression and anxiety my entire life, to the point where I could barely function on a normal level. I was antisocial, withdrawn, always cranky, uninspired, and detached from reality. I went through two antidepressants before settling into Zoloft, which seemed like the perfect fit for my personality. It dulled my anxiety, which to me seemed like a tiny man running around inside my head, constantly telling me that I wasn’t good enough and people were watching me and no one actually liked being my friend, that they were just using me. After starting Zoloft, that voice was silenced. If you’ve ever seen the movie Moana, when the spirit of the Island turns into that horrible volcano demon, that’s what my anxiety was like. It lashed out at everyone, and tried its hardest to isolate me. The Zoloft was like the heart of the Island being returned.

My depression was how I identified myself. It was the reason I used to justify my bad behavior. I hurt so many people through the years because “I was depressed”, or “I was anxious”, and part of that might have been true, but I now realize that being depressed was never an excuse to be a shitty person.

So there’s some backstory. Now, onto the article.

They state that

Antidepressants were originally considered a short-term treatment for episodic mood problems, to be taken for six to nine months: enough to get through a crisis, and no more.

and that makes sense. Antidepressants may have originally been designed to be taken to get through a difficult time in your life, but that is an example of an environment, and non-permanent form of depression. Someone might become depressed after losing a family member or ending a relationship, but that depression is not a long term issue. Things like that are fixed with time and experience. There are professionals there to talk to about these huge life changes, which can be shocking and depressing.

However, this does not take into account those people who suffer from long term, genetic, or clinical depression. The depression and anxiety that has been there since before they could remember. The depression and anxiety that made their childhoods into nightmares.

“Most people are put on these drugs in primary care, after a very brief visit and without clear symptoms of clinical depression,” said Dr. Allen Frances, a professor emeritus of psychiatry at Duke University. “Usually there’s improvement, and often it’s based on the passage of time or placebo effect.

Yes, as was the way I began my prescription. I filled out a questionnaire to get a broad idea of how bad my anxiety and depression were, and then as quick as ever, I was taking my first pill. Now, was my improvement in mood simply because I was leaving a difficult period of my life, or that I was under the placebo effect? It’s possible. But as someone who has suffered from depression for a very long time, I knew one thing; I was feeling better than I had in years. Placebo effect or not, the pills had changed how I thought about my life and the world around me, and it was for the better.

The article goes on to state that this placebo effect might mean that a patient will end up taking a drug that is basically useless for a much longer time than is necessary. And long time use is one of the things that leads to such bad withdrawal symptoms. Ok, fair enough. However, the symptoms they state sounded an awful lot like symptoms of depression and anxiety returning. Of course a person who was depressed, starts taking pills, and then stops is going to once again experience depression, if it’s clinical. If the depression is environmental in nature, then yes, by stopping the use of antidepressants, they can return to a normal life. But if the depression continues after the discontinuation of the medication, is that withdrawal? Or is that simply the mental illness returning?

Antidepressants are not harmless; they commonly cause emotional numbing, sexual problems like a lack of desire or erectile dysfunction and weight gain. Long-term users report in interviews a creeping unease that is hard to measure: Daily pill-popping leaves them doubting their own resilience, they say.

Emotional numbing? For someone like me, who feels everything amplified ten times stronger, that’s a good thing. I spent my entire life feeling so many feelings, and feeling them so strongly, that I could barely function. Some call it being empathic, some call it being sensitive, some call it being a little pussy. Whatever. There are just certain people in the world that are too emotional, and I was one of them. By numbing my emotions, I was able to function on a normal human level. I stopped overthinking everything and started taking action.

“Many were critical of the lack of information given by prescribers with regard to withdrawal,” the authors concluded. “And many also expressed disappointment or frustration with the lack of support available in managing withdrawal.”

It is true that during my doctor’s appointment to get on antidepressants, I was not told there would be such a thing as withdrawal. However, as I have weaned between several different drugs, I know the procedure. And I understand that going from a state of drugged to drug free is obviously going to carry some side effects. However, who would ever want to stop taking antidepressants. If I ever had to go back to the way I was before, where I barely left my house and it took every ounce of strength just to wake up in the morning, and putting on makeup just seemed like entirely too much work…if I had to go back to that life, I would be miserable again. I know that my depression would return. My depression was not caused by an environmental issue. It is something that has been there since as far back as I could remember. There is a chemical imbalance in my brain. That’s not something that just corrects itself.

Is it the same for everyone? Obviously not. These are just my thoughts based on my own experience.

In one of the earliest published withdrawal studies, researchers at Eli Lilly had people taking Zoloft, Paxil or Prozac stop the pills abruptly, for about a week. Half of those on Paxil experienced serious dizziness; 42 percent suffered confusion; and 39 percent, insomnia.

Among patients who stopped taking Zoloft, 38 percent had severe irritability; 29 percent experienced dizziness; and 23 percent, fatigue. The symptoms appeared soon after people were taken off the drugs and resolved once they resumed taking the pills.

Stop the pills abruptly? Well that would make anyone have withdrawal symptoms! If you stop a medication cold turkey, you are going to experience things like nausea, dizziness, and confusion. You need to wean off a drug safely in order to prevent severe withdrawal symptoms. And of course you are still going to have some symptoms, but weaning causes a less severe reaction.

And as another point, most of the symptoms listed about for “withdrawal” sound to me like it’s merely the symptoms of their depression and anxiety coming back. I often experienced insomnia, confusion, and fatigue during my years with depression. So can these really be counted as withdrawal? What if it’s just their mental illness returning? And the symptoms stop when they restart the pills? Well of course.

The drug blunted her PMS symptoms, she said, but also caused her to gain 40 pounds in nine months. Quitting was nearly impossible — at first, her doctor tapered her too quickly, she said.

She succeeded in her last attempt, in 2015, by tapering over months to 10 milligrams, then five, down from 20 milligrams and “finally all the way down to particles of dust,” after which she was bedridden for three weeks with severe dizziness, nausea and crying spells, she said.

Blunted PMS symptoms? Sounds like a regulation of emotions. And gaining 40 pounds? Perhaps the gaining of weight is in response to finally eating a healthy diet, as several people who suffer from depression and anxiety have very unhealthy eating habits, like skipping meals due to lack of appetite or energy. And being bedridden for three weeks with severed dizziness, nausea, and crying spells? Once again, sounds like several of the symptoms I often experienced when in the grips of severe depression. Of course these symptoms may be amplified by the lack of the drug. I’m not saying that withdrawal is entirely bullshit. Of course there is always the possibility that she was indeed experiencing withdrawal from her drugs. However, crying spells were something I often experienced when depressed, although I never experienced extreme dizziness. But that is to be expected when you stop taking a drug.

“Had I been told the risks of trying to come off this drug, I never would have started it,” Ms. Hempel said. “A year and a half after stopping, I’m still having problems. I’m not me right now; I don’t have the creativity, the energy. She — Robin — is gone.”

Again, sounds like clinical depression to me. Just a return of the mental illness.

Overall, this article does draw attention to something that is not often considered when discussing antidepressants, and it was very enlightening to read. While I did have some personal points to make about the article, which I have done above, I do agree that more studies should be done around the discontinuation of antidepressant medications, especially with the increase of users throughout the years. To educate myself further I will be having a discussion with my doctor about the effects or side effects of terminating my medication, which I eventually plan on doing if I feel stable enough to live again with my normal brain functioning.


Do any of you have any thoughts or opinions about this article you’d like to share? I would really be interested in what others think about this.

Also, just a reminder if you are one of those who takes medication, don’t forget to take your pills today.

Take care!