A Word To The Wise About Antidepressants…

Since June 2017 I’ve been on prescription antidepressants. 

They started me on Sertraline but one of the side effects it gave me was severe night sweats and I couldn’t cope with waking up drenched every morning, so last September, I asked for it to be changed and they gave me Citalopram instead.

More recently, I’ve got worse at remembering to take it every single day so sometimes I’ll forget in the morning and not take it until lunchtime and some days I’ll forget entirely and miss a day. This week I’ve had a right royal memory lapse.

On Monday night, I went to stay at Toby’s new place in Surrey and I know that I didn’t take it the following morning because I forgot to take any with me. I’m pretty certain I haven’t taken it since then but I’m not sure whether I did take it the days before. So the most recent possible time I last took Citalopram was Monday morning, 5 days ago.

On Wednesday, I barely managed to drag myself out of bed but was unsure why I was feeling this way. I hadn’t had a particularly enjoyable Tuesday evening and it had been a late night. Maybe I was just tired? I had to get up because I knew I had packing for uni to get on with. I did very little and what I did manage, was done on the living room floor while binging Suits on the TV. Thursday came and I had a coffee date arranged with a close friend. Had to postpone this by half an hour because I overslept and I actually very nearly cancelled. I probably would have done if it hadn’t been the last opportunity to see her before going back to Brighton. I had a lovely couple of hours though and it really made me feel better.

‘Maybe I just needed to get out of the house,’ I thought. I was wrong.

Today was the worst day. Overslept again and had to really face the music with what was left of my packing because I head back to Brighton tomorrow! I was still feeling low and by this time very anxious about going back to uni (which I have been for a while so not entirely unexpected).

As I was packing up my bedside drawer, I pulled out my Citalopram packet and had the sudden realisation. “Shit. I haven’t taken this in days.” I took one there and then but by this point it was way too late. When I received some disappointing news concerning a family issue about half an hour later, I burst into tears and started to have an anxiety attack. I phoned Toby in a state, crying about how I don’t want to go back to uni, and how awful the other situation is that I’d had an update on. He managed to calm me down enough that I wasn’t sobbing down the phone and when he had to go back to work, I went to bed for a mental rest and a short nap.

Around 5pm, I woke up feeling calmer but exhausted. Mum and I finished my packing and then went to the home of another close friend for a farewell drink.

The point of my telling this long winded tale is that if you are on medication for your mental health, it is SO important to take it regularly and at the recommended dose. As someone who’s training to be a pharmacist, I could have told you that anyway, but living out the consequences of going cold turkey for almost a week is something truly different to learning a fact in vocational training.

If, like me, you take medication to help you live a relatively normal life, please do everything you can to maintain your medication. Set an alarm on your phone (this is what I’ll be doing from now on); ask somebody you trust to remind you; buy a pill box with days of the week on so that you can see when you’ve taken today’s dose; keep spares in your handbag in case you forget before you leave the house. And if you do want to come off your medication – deliberately! – don’t do it without talking to your doctor and/or pharmacist first and seeking advice on whether you need to reduce your dose gradually rather than going cold turkey.

There’s no shame in taking medication for your mental health, just as there’s no shame in taking painkillers for a headache or anticoagulants to prevent a stroke.

Just don’t pull a Hermione and forget about your bloody meds for 5 days!

 

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On 1st October I’ll be announcing an exciting event that I’m going to be a part of. Stay tuned!

Reality Check

I wrote this on the 31st July and have thought about whether or not to post it. I’ve decided I shall. I’ve left the post as it is so when it says ‘today’, it refers to the day I wrote it…

“This morning I did an at-home blood glucose test and realised it’s time to make a change. (Trigger warning: depression, weight loss/body image)

During my first year at uni – in fact particularly during the second half of that year – I found myself feeling particularly depressed. I take Citalopram for depression anyway but with medication and my own coping mechanisms I manage usually to remain on an even keel. However, from about February, up until the end of the academic year, I stopped doing things I enjoyed, like exercising and reading; my motivation was at rock bottom and I was missing about 50% of my lectures. I spent most of my time laying in bed, watching Netflix and eating cookies, or just sleeping the day away. I couldn’t be bothered to cook most evenings so I bought reduced microwave meals from the M&S garage down the road.

‘But you ran a 10k!’ – yes, I did, which I signed up for at the end of March, thinking that a big goal like that would help me get back on track. To be perfectly honest, it didn’t. I did the 10k and I loved it and was so proud of myself, but before I arrived in London that day, I was totally unprepared! The only thing more powerful than the voice in my head telling me to give up and call it off was the voice telling me what a loser I’d look, having hyped it up and written about it, only to chicken out. Fake it ’til you make it actually worked on this occasion I guess.

Since I’ve been home, I’ve been in a much better place. I’m working full time again and while that’s tiring, I really do love my job and it gets me out of the house five days a week which can only be a good thing. Having found out on the 11th July that I did actually pass my first year at uni, I’m feeling much more confident about going back. (Yes, dropping out did cross my mind back in June). But the effects of those sedentary few months and the comfort eating that came with it have stuck around.

Those who have known me for a few years will know that I’ve always been slim. Since the beginning of this year, I estimate to have gained about 2 stone. (Estimate because I don’t weigh myself very often and don’t know exactly how much I weighed a year ago, but I can make a good guess.)

Now please, please don’t misunderstand me. There is nothing wrong with gaining weight or being the weight or size or figure that I am right now. I don’t look at myself in the mirror and hate what I see. Nor should I! My personal issue is that after being a certain way for the first 21 years of my life, and then for that to change in the space of 6 months without me really noticing until now is weird for me. My body now is not what I’m used to. And I’d like to go back to what I’m used to. Basically, I don’t feel like me. I hope that makes sense.

From a health point of view, most of the weight I’ve gained appears to be visceral fat – the kind that manifests around the abdominal cavity and therefore surrounds important internal organs such as the liver and pancreas. This type of fat is also linked to insulin resistance, which can be a precursor to Type 2 Diabetes. This is where that blood test comes in. I’d been doing some idle reading and research on this area and knew that it was possible to buy an at-home one-time blood glucose testing kit (which is NOT a diagnostic tool!) and figured I’d have a go. My blood glucose level is sitting somewhere around 110 mg/dl (milligrams per deciletre). Normal levels are considered to be below 100mg/dl and 100-125mg/dl is considered pre-diabetic. While this is all super interesting and possibly a bit concerning, I am obviously not a doctor (or a pharmacist, yet!) and I’m definitely not in the business of self diagnosing. The instructions in the kit suggest that if your blood-glucose is above or below the normal range, that you repeat the test in 10 days time and if the result remains the same then you visit your GP for proper diagnostic testing.

I’ve been telling myself for a few weeks that I should change my diet but because my weight wasn’t bothering me that much, I’ve put it off and procrastinated. Until this morning, when I realised I could really be putting my health at risk by not taking action against my poor diet.

I’m writing this so publicly, partly because writing at all helps me to process and – as with the Vitality 10k earlier this year – I’d like to hold myself accountable, which I struggle with unless I feel like I’m accountable to someone else.

This blog, when I created it, was all about sharing my journey with people I love and people who don’t know me at all. This part of my journey is about self-care, self-love and the desire to be the healthiest version of myself.

In a future post I will write about some of the specific goals I have set myself and the way I’m going to achieve them. Plus, look out for an unrelated but exciting announcement coming soon..!

Much love xx

(Disclaimer: Most of my research has been from Dr Michael Mosley’s literature and from Diabetes UK. Please don’t take my word as fact and if you’re worried about your own health, go and see a pharmacist or your GP.)”