Why I took Antidepressants
I’m going to begin this article with a quick background on what antidepressants are and how they work in the body, just in case anyone reading this article is unfamiliar with them.
Antidepressants are a pharmaceutical drug used predominantly to treat depression and sometimes anxiety. They come in two different forms: SSRI’s (Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors) and SNRI’s (Selective Noradrenaline Re-uptake Inhibitors). The most common are SSRI’s but most studies conclude that both types have a similar affect. Personally I took SSRI and that is the type that I will be talking about in this article. SSRI’s work by blocking serotonin (happiness chemical) from being reabsorbed by the body therefore making more serotonin available and increasing your overall serotonin levels. They were manufactured on the “assumption” that people who are depressed or anxious have a chemical imbalance or deficiency of serotonin and don’t have enough of the neurotransmitter to make them feel happy. I say “assumption” because as far as I know there is no way to test serotonin levels in the body so you cannot know for sure if you truly have an imbalance/deficiency.
People are sometimes unaware that antidepressant are not just prescribed for depression and anxiety. Doctors often prescribe antidepressants for many conditions that could potentially have a neurological or psychological link. Most often they are prescribed for things like chronic pain, fibromyalgia and even things like vertigo and tinnitus.
Personally I can attest that I have never suffered from depression, and although anxiety has been a common companion for me for many years, my anxiety is not what lead to me antidepressants, so why did I take them?
If you’ve read my Implanon experience you will know that I suffered from very severe progesterone deficiency that lead to partial seizures (the type where you don’t lose consciousness) amongst many other symptoms. As a result, I was put on antidepressants to help manage the seizures as well as the overwhelming panic and anxiety I was experiencing. I was never sad or depressed, just extremely scared. You can read my Implanon experience here http://hazelandcacao.com/my-experience-with-the-implanon/
Initially I refused treatment with antidepressants. At the time I knew nothing about them but the idea didn’t sit well with me. So I waited, not really knowing where my seizures were coming from or what to do about them and just hoped that I would get better on my own. But with no sign that things were improving (in fact I was getting worse) I knew I had to do something because I literally thought I was going to die.
The doctor reassured me that because I was not being treated for depression I was going to get a very low dose of antidepressants, just enough to help my nerves settle as they were “hyperactive” and making my muscles spasm and contract without reason. I was put on ¼ of a child’s dose of Paroxetine (most commonly known as Paxil) as well as a very low dose of an anti-anxiety tablet that I was only allowed to take in a seizure. My seizures came about every 6-7 weeks or so, a few days after the end of my (late) period when progesterone levels are at their lowest. They would last about 3-4 days on and off. I was told that it would only take 3 months for my nerves to settle and then I would be off the meds all together.
The low dosage and short time frame did make me feel a lot better about things and to be honest the treatment actually worked! Initially, the meds did not take away my seizures, they still came like clockwork, after the end of each period but they made the seizures a lot more manageable. The anti-anxiety would put me to sleep in about 30 minutes and I would sleep through my trembling and spasms. The seizures went from lasting hours on end to about an hour and as time went on the seizures stopped coming. I slowly began to live again and eat and function like a somewhat normal person.
So why did the antidepressants work for my seizures? At the time, it was unclear what was causing my seizures, it took years to determine that they were caused by a lack of progesterone. I didn’t understand the mechanism at the time, but now I know that both serotonin and progesterone bind to the same receptors in the brain. So serotonin was in effect taking the place of my progesterone. Considering the fact that bio identical hormones were not commonly used by doctors 9-10 years ago and that synthetic progesterone (which caused all the problems to begin with) binds to different receptors in the brain, antidepressants were by far the best treatment option available for me at the time and I am very grateful for such an intelligent doctor that knew how to treat me. They worked to get me out of a desperate situation and possibly saved my life but like so many other pharmaceutical drugs, I was treating the symptoms and not the cause of my problem.
Although the antidepressants worked to combat my seizures, when it was time for me to come off, my seizures slowly started to return as well as some horrendous withdrawal symptoms that I knew nothing about. My option was to go back on the antidepressants or change something drastically. Despite being grateful for how the antidepressants helped me with my seizures I was honestly shocked and horrified at the side effects that withdrawing from antidepressants produced. I could not bring myself to ever touch anything resembling an antidepressant again (I will share more about this in another post).
I chose instead to drastically change my diet and lifestyle and begin a very slow journey towards REAL healing.