When the Happy Pill Didn't Work: Finding the Right Antidepressant
Depression blogger Adrienne Santos-Longhurst details her experience with finding the right antidepressant and the scary nights she had on the wrong ones.
When you’re diagnosed with depression, you trust your doctor to put you on medication that will work its magic and make you all better. That’s what doctors do, isn’t it: know what to do to make you better. Perhaps that thinking is why my struggles with finding the right medication felt like a punch in the gut that caught me completely off guard.
When I finally stopped kicking and screaming and accepted my diagnosis, I was happy to be given my prescription for antidepressants even though I was, and still am not, a fan of taking meds. I was sick of feeling miserable and had a vacation coming that had been planned and paid for long before I started to feel sick. I fully expected that the medication was going to part the clouds that seemed to hang over me and make everything all sunshine and rainbows like it used to be. That’s a lot of pressure for one little pill and it proved so almost immediately.
The pill in question was with Prozac, a.k.a.: The New Happy Pill. It had only been available for a short time but was touted as being the best of the newer generation of antidepressants and faster-working than the older meds. I was on it for just over a week when my doctor took me off of it after being told that it increased the risk of suicidal thoughts in younger patients, which, at the time, I was a younger patient. And for the record, it hadn’t really made me feel anything except for nausea over the course of the week I was on it. The next antidepressant, which was also new and said to be just as great as Prozac, was Paxil. Again, I was hopeful and having visions of being my old self again so that I could enjoy the spring that was in full bloom around me, except in my brain. That hope was short lived, less than 3 days to be more specific.
Long story short, I took the first pill before bed and by morning was feeling anxious and especially down. I chalked it up to a bad day and not enough sleep. The second night on it my heart was racing and so was my brain! I couldn’t seem to calm down and even though I was desperately tired and longing to sleep, it never came. I spent the night unable to relax or even catch a breath! The next morning I was prescribed low dose of Ativan and told to take a half a pill if I was feeling very anxious and a full one to sleep. Even though I was so anxious I thought I would explode, I opted not to take any and hold off until bedtime. Years later, I can still recount everything that happened over the course of that night, from the sound of my parents snoring to the creaks of the house settling and right down to the amount of times that the clock ticked from 3 a.m. until my mom’s alarm clock went off at 6:45.
It was even worse than the last night as far as the anxiety and racing thoughts. By mid-morning, I was so exhausted, nervous, and scared that I was starting to understand how someone could contemplate suicide and wanting to free themselves of that torture at any cost. It was the first time I EVER thought anything remotely close to that and it scared the daylights out of me and my mother who I hysterically confessed it to.
Off to the doctor we went. Instead of prescribing me an antidepressant, she sent me to emergency to meet directly with a psychiatrist who she was friends with.
The purpose was to get me treated by a professional without being admitted for the two-week evaluation in the psyche ward, which she didn’t believe I needed after having known me for years, and feared might leave me worse off.
My meeting with Dr. Head (Yes, that was my psychiatrist’s name) is something I’ll talk about in a future post. What I will tell you is that I was put on one of the older antidepressants, Amitriptyline, and though I was told it wouldn’t be a quick-fix or miracle pill, that it would be a better fit for me. He was right.
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