“If you’re taking an antidepressant, it’s working, and you’re not experiencing side effects, go on taking it. But if it’s not working, or not working well enough, or if you have side effects you don’t like, talk to your doctor about an alternative approach.” ~ Irving Kirsch
Well, as I mentioned, the first one they put me on was paroxetine.
If you don’t recognise it by that name you may be familiar with it by one of its brand names Paxil or Seroxat.
It’s a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, or SSRI. It can be prescribed to treat depressive disorders, anxiety disorders, post traumatic stress disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and/or premenstrual dysphoric disorder.
I’m not particularly sciencey, so I’m not going to go into how it works, you can read all about that on its Wikipedia page. What I want to talk about is my experience of taking it.
Anyway, the first GP that I saw when I finally figured out that I was unwell put me on paroxetine.
He seemed to assume that he would need to talk me into accepting medication before I’d even said anything.
He told me that lots of people worry about taking medication before they’ve tried anything else first, but that there was little point in him referring me for therapy if I was going to be too out of it to participate once I got there.
He said that the medication and the therapy were complimentary; the medication would give me the energy to be able to manage my therapy and psychiatry appointments.
I thought this sounded reasonable.
In fact this GP was altogether more sympathetic and helpful than I’d been expecting him to be; unfortunately he was a locum so I was never able to see him again.
So, I went away with my prescription.
Lots of people tried to talk me out of taking it.
The person I was seeing at the time thought that medication should only be used as a last resort; that I didn’t need medication, I needed coping strategies.
He didn’t really understand the concept of a mental illness, from his perspective I just had some character flaws. My rate of recovery rapidly improved once I eventually got rid of him.
At least one friend told me that there was nothing wrong with me to take medication for; that I couldn’t be depressed because I was nothing like this other person, we both knew and she didn’t like, who was also depressed.
What she was really saying wasn’t that I couldn’t be depressed but that people like me, and so by extension people like her couldn’t be depressed. If she’d had to accept that there was something wrong with me she’d have had to face up to her own mental health issues and she wasn’t ready yet.
On the other hand this was the same person who also didn’t believe that I have a nut allergy and tried to spike me with peanuts to prove it to me, so… She didn’t exactly have the closest relationship with reality as most of us tend to experience it.
There were also a host of horror stories online – but I try not to factor those in as it’s only usually the people with bad experiences that want to warn the world about it, the rest aren’t as invested in what anyone else will do if offered the same choice.
Plus, even reading some of the stories it sounds a lot more complicated in many cases than the way the people telling them necessarily saw it.
And I didn’t know what else to do.
So I took it.
And I got worse.
I got more depressed, more anxious, more unstable.
This would have happened without the medication in any case. I was firmly set on a downward spiral at this point.
But because I took the medication I don’t know how much of the later deterioration in my mental wellbeing was down to natural progression of my illness and how much was due to the side effects of the medication.
Physically it made me vaguely nauseous for a while, I slept more heavily, and had an increased appetite.
All of which I would have considered worth it if the paroxetine had actually made me feel any better.
I ended up being on paroxetine for, I think, four months in total. As long as the wait to get to see a psychiatrist. Athough it seems worth mentioning that wait was cut shorter once I took an overdose.
My psychiatrist then switched me on to mirtazapine because she said that it was a better medication for someone with complex post traumatic stress disorder.
And as I’ve talked about before that medication worked brilliantly. For a while. There were some horrible times I’m certain that I wouldn’t have survived without it.
But I’ll tell you more about mirtazapine, and why I’m not on it any more, in my next #medications post. This post is about paroxetine.
And as far as paroxetine goes I think all I can say is that I had a very ‘meh’ experience with it. I’m not sure it did any good, I’m not sure it did any harm. I don’t think I can say that it didn’t do anything at all, I could, in a way I really can’t describe, feel it doing something, but it didn’t get me to where I needed to be in term of functioning.
Not a horror story though.
Have you ever taken paroxetine? How did you find it?