Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit citalopram…

April 28, 2017

It’s been 8 months since I last checked in about my mental health and mostly for a reason. My counselling sessions stopped, I was trundling along on citalopram and nothing else was really happening. Now all of a sudden a few weeks ago I got a letter with my first DBT session and now I’m off my anti-depressants. So what has happened?

Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT)

I had almost forgotten that I had been referred to a new round of treatment. Back in August when my counselling sessions ended I was given a choice, refer myself back to therapy and get some more counselling sessions, or try something different.

I opted for something different, DBT, a group based talking therapy, and it was a decision I took far from lightly. One of my main issues is anxiety, in particular social anxiety, so the idea of sitting in a room with strangers to work through my mental health issues made me want to scream and run away. Those same feelings of anxiety returned a couple of weeks ago when the letter arrived in my postbox, but I knew I had to go.

It didn’t get off to a great start, the name of the building and street were wrong on the letter, as was the length of time the session was supposed to take. The letter was also supposed to include a consent form, a map to find the building and a leaflet to give more information about what the sessions would entail. These were all missing. The letter also couldn’t agree with how many sessions there were supposed to be, in one piece of A4 it claimed there were 6, 9 and 12 sessions. It wouldn’t be the first time that the administration department of the NHS has failed me. Mistakes happen, sure, but to get a letter that catastrophically wrong is embarrassing. Mental health isn’t something you can mess around with, but unfortunately with merciless cuts to services and funding, people are hoping the issues will just ‘solve’ themselves.

As for the session itself it was about as awkward as I expected, a room of 10 or so people with various experiences and issues that led them to the same place. The first few hours were mainly an introduction into what the course will entail and to help ease people in. Over the 9 weeks there are three distinct ‘courses’; Mindfullness, Distress Tolerance and Emotion Regulation.

Once again the same feelings came to the fore. Looking around the room I felt like the odd one out, everyone felt like that had a genuine reason for being there, everyone but me. I was wasting my time, I was wasting everyone else’s time and I didn’t need to be there. I also felt guilty for having these sessions during working hours, something that is unavoidable, but still something that was at the back of my mind the entire time.

I feel guilty going to therapy to treat myself feeling guilty about going to therapy

I’m hoping over the coming weeks these sessions will get easier, they will begin to make sense and I will actually feel like I deserve to be there, like I deserve to feel better.

Withdrawing from Citalopram

For a number of weeks I’ve felt myself getting heavier, clothes aren’t fitting comfortably and it was affecting my depression. I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t been exercising as much, or eating exactly as I’d like, so I decided to weigh myself at the gym I was shocked to find out that I’d put on over a stone since Christmas.

If the weight I’m gaining is affecting me that much and causing me to be depressed, then are the anti-depressants actually worth it?

After a bit of research which included talking to people I’ve known to be on the same tablets I discovered that weight gain is a fairly common side effect. No matter how hard people exercise, how ‘clean’ they eat, the weight doesn’t shift whilst you’re on these tablets. The only way to lose it? To stop taking them. It left me with a bit of a dilemma, for the past 8 months I have been on citalopram but I was now faced with an overwhelming urge to come off them. If the weight I’m gaining is affecting me that much and causing me to be depressed, then are the anti-depressants actually worth it?

So I made a decision, a risky one without consulting a doctor or anyone around me and one without any real plan. I decided to come off the tablets and to see what happens with my weight. My opinion on the effectiveness of being on them anyway fluctuates on an almost daily basis. At the time of going on them it seemed like the right decision, there was a lot going on in my life and without counselling I needed a support mechanism. Since then though a lot has changed, I generally feel a lot more stable and so wondered if they were having any real effect. Did I feel better because circumstances have changed, or do I feel better because of the tablets? There was only one way to find out.

It has proven to be a difficult week to come off my anti-depressants. Is shit getting to me more because I’m not on citalopram, or has it just been a really shit week? It’s probably a little from column A and a little from column B.

Ultimately I’m going to continue with the therapy sessions and give it a month or so off the anti-depressants and see what happens with my weight and general wellbeing. If the weight magically drops off then it’s obvious what the cause was, if it doesn’t then who knows.

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