I STOPPED TAKING MY ANTIDEPRESSANTS AND DON'T KNOW WHY
Six months ago, I stopped taking my antidepressants for no apparent reason. At first, I wasn’t sure why. I’d wake up in the morning and lock eyes with my pill bottles and just straight up ignore them. I’d tell myself I’d get to them later but never did. Maybe a little bit of forgetfulness mixed with laziness, but I just couldn’t pin point why exactly I didn’t want to take my antidepressants. I have nothing against them at all. These tiny, two pills are what pulled me out of my postpartum depression manic episode, and I have seen the difference they can make first-hand. But still, I just couldn’t get myself to swallow those two pills in the morning. At first, it started with me forgetting to take them every other day. Then, it transitioned into forgetting to take them for weeks at a time. Eventually, I found that I hadn’t taken them for six months. At that point, I just didn’t see the point in taking them at all even though I had stopped taking them without the green light of my psychiatrist.
After feeling unsure of why I just couldn’t get myself to take my pills, I decided to turn to the internet for answers. However, my questions were still left unanswered after various searches no matter how I worded my questions. There were no articles describing this weird mental block I was having with my pills. However, when I turned to a postpartum depression Facebook support group I’m a part of, a few women did come forward saying they do the exact same thing and don’t know why either. It’s not exactly forgetfulness, as I was aware of my actions and what I should and should not be doing. I just didn’t want to take them for some odd reason.
After a lot of self-reflection, I’ve finally come up with some sort of answer for myself. When I first started taking my antidepressants a few weeks after giving birth, I was at my pre-baby weight. I looked great and fit right back into my favorite pair of skinny jeans. However, slowly but surely, I began to gain the baby weight back and then some. In a matter of weeks, I was at the weight I was when I went into the hospital to give birth. And it didn’t seem to be stopping. Now, I’m about 10 pounds heavier than that. Every day, I’d step on that damn scale that society, including myself, takes so seriously. How could a simple number have so much power over me? It seemed like every day, this number increased by at least one pound. It didn’t matter if I was eating right or working out, the numbers on my digital scale just kept rising. I began to feel depressed despite the antidepressants because of the way I looked and how I felt. I couldn’t fit into any of my favorite pants and had to buy all new bottoms and even tops.
Not to mention, those rude family members that just had to jump at the opportunity to comment on my weight gain also brought me down. It seems like we all have a family member like this. They take pride in bringing others down because it makes them feel powerful and secure about themselves. But these supposedly funny “fat jokes” weren’t so funny from my end. I’d smile and laugh with them, but deep down I was hurting. It was no longer a possibility that the weight gain was all in my head. It was concrete now that other people had noticed.
When I noticed the sudden increase in weight, I spoke with my psychiatrist about my concerns. He said we could try another medication that is supposed to help with weight loss while at the same time combatting depression. I was excited at the prospect of going back to my normal weight while also maintaining my sanity.
Immediately after starting this medication, I began to experience the most debilitating headaches of my life. I stayed in bed for a whole weekend with excruciating pain. After scrolling through a few internet forums, I found most users said this would only last two weeks and then it would be smooth sailing afterwards. But the headaches never went away and I had to stop immediately. Since then, I bounced around with other antidepressants, but they all seemed to cause the same weight gain. It’s the type of weight gain that can’t be combatted with healthy eating or exercise. Research is still unclear on whether the antidepressants slow down the metabolism or just increase your appetite, thus the weight gain. It’s really a difficult battle to fight.
After a while, I came to accept my new pounds and welcome them in. But in the back of my mind, I think I still felt the pain and insecurity that came along with my weight gain. Eventually came the point in my life where I stopped taking my medications. My husband would get after me when he’d find out I wasn’t taking my pills consistently, because he wanted me to be my best me. I told him I needed him to hold me accountable and then maybe then I would stay on top of my medications. At first, he would text me every day to make sure I took my pills, but soon those texts stopped and so did the pills. My husband just couldn’t understand what was so hard about taking my pills everyday. Any woman on the birth control pill will tell you that things happen. You forget and rush out the door without taking it or you run out. But for me, it was so much deeper than this.
I’ve now come to realize that I didn’t want to take my pills because I didn’t feel that the weight gain was worth it. Sure, the antidepressants help me with my postpartum depression, but they don’t help me with the depression that comes along with poor body image perception. I was beginning to feel more depressed on my antidepressants than off them. This is going to sound horribly vain, but I figured I’d rather be skinny and depressed off my anti-depressants than fat and depressed on them. It was this toxic thought in my head that made me so hesitant to follow my doctor’s prescription.
Please don’t get me wrong, I believe all body types are beautiful in every single way. But still, we’re allowed to have preferences for our own body and I personally did not like what I saw in the mirror every day. This was taking a toll on how I saw life in general. I wasn’t confident in myself or my abilities anymore. I didn’t want to be involved in family pictures or dress up for special occasions. I just wasn’t myself.
I lasted 6 months without antidepressants before my husband persuaded me to get back on them. He noticed a change in me that wasn’t for the better. I was losing control over my emotions and he saw that I needed help. After re-starting my antidepressants, I noticed a positive change in my attitude and outlook on life. It’s something so tangible, it simply cannot be played down to be the placebo effect. But there are many days where the dark thoughts creep in. The dark thoughts that tell me I’m not capable of being happy without antidepressants. The thoughts that tell me that my antidepressants make me a different person and that the real me is actually not the bubbly, friendly person people know me as. It’s simply the me on antidepressants. But I have to believe that I wasn’t always depressed and that it was simply the effect of hormonal changes due to giving birth that haven’t leveled out yet. I have to believe that my antidepressants just help me be my “old” me. I am absolutely an advocate for antidepressant use for other people, so I should be one for myself as well. I don’t know what the road ahead looks like for body, but I am at least getting the help I need from my medications so I can be the best mom to my son and wife to my husband. At the end of the day, I’m know my husband cares much more about me being happy than whether I still fit into my size 0 Aeropostale jeans.