Since being diagnosed with clinical depression a few years ago, I’ve been on and off (mostly on) the anti-depressant Fluoxetine.
I’ve taken varying doses between the minimum and, most recently, the maximum.
What beneficial effects did Fluoxetine have for me? What were its side-effects?
Rather than writing about how anti-depressants are supposed to work, in this post I’ll share my subjective experiences, which may be typical, or they may be anomalous.
[Nerdy science warning: Care should be taken before drawing conclusions from a sample size of one with no experimental controls in place.]
Fluoxetine seems to take the edge off the more difficult aspects of life. And by “difficult” I really mean “intensely emotional.”
I experienced less emotion while on the medication. This felt a bit like having a force field, enabling me to more easily endure uncomfortable situations (whether they occurred in the external world, or purely in my internal world of thoughts and feelings).
Fortunately my emotions weren’t numbed completely. I think that would have felt unpleasant for me, though I can understand why someone who’s been through a lot of trauma might want to numb everything and feel nothing.
Often it’s really beneficial to have a force field which prevents you feeling so much emotion. For example, in stressful work environments, it’s easier to keep your cool.
Along with dulled emotions, I believe my thinking wasn’t as sharp. It’s hard to quantify exactly how dulled my cognition seemed to be. At a rough guess, maybe 10%?
I’m finding it easier to get out of bed now I’m off the antidepressants. And the morning’s mental grogginess fades faster. I concede this is partly because I’m simply enjoying life more, so I have more willingness to engage with the morning rather than trying to hide from it.
Sometimes life is fucking brutal. Our loved ones will die one day, many of them before we die ourselves. That kind of loss can cause immense suffering and pain.
Dr Jordan Peterson rather bleakly proclaims, “Life is tragedy tainted by malevolence.” I have some sympathy with that outlook.
So it’s no wonder people turn to antidepressants to get some temporary relief from the bleakest parts of life.
Was my life ready that bad?
I wasn’t taking Fluoxetine short-term. I’ve been on it for years. So what unbearable trauma happened to me? Why was my life so bad that I didn’t want to live any more?
In short, I simply didn’t like life. I wanted to escape from it. I spent large chunks of my time wishing I wasn’t around.
At the time, my understanding was that if life’s making you depressed, then it’s perfectly natural to take anti-depressants so you can cope with it.
I liked my Fluoxetine-powered force field. I didn’t want to give it up. It didn’t miraculously make me happier, but at least it reduced the intensity of negative emotions.
And that’s the key point: I had decided I didn’t want to deal with everyday life any more. I constantly wanted to escape, through anti-depressants, through videogames and eventually by taking drugs.
And that lead me to addiction and Narcotics Anonymous.
It might seem strange, but I’m incredibly grateful I hit that low point.
Because it was there, as my life teetered on the edge of total destruction, that I learned the last little secret to curing myself of depression.
The root problem wasn’t that I was depressed. My core problem was that I couldn’t cope with everyday life.
And the solution wasn’t to mask or escape from reality (via games, drugs etc). The solution was to learn how to accept life on life’s terms.
I needed to stop running away. I needed to take responsibility for my life.
It’s thanks to Dr Jordan Peterson and to Narcotics Anonymous that I’ve made these astonishing realisations.
It’s taken me literally years to get to this point. Change is often really hard.
It’s been almost 8 weeks since I cold-turkeyed Fluoxetine. I don’t recommend that anyone else does this – it can be very risky to suddenly stop taking antidepressants, in some cases fatal.
Two months ago I couldn’t fully articulate why I wanted to stop taking my medication. But I knew it felt like the right thing to do for me personally.
It’s only now that all of this is becoming increasingly clear to me, almost 5 months clean from drugs and 2 months free from anti-depressants.
Ultimately, I needed to learn how to cope with everyday life again.
I needed to start taking responsibility for myself. And I needed to learn a better way to relate to so-called “negative” emotions.
Without Jordan Peterson and NA, I expect I’d still be on anti-depressants… possibly for the rest of my life.
So, it’s difficult for me to understate how grateful I am to both NA and Dr Peterson (via his YouTube videos).
Who knows where I’d be without their help.
[Caveat: depression is a complex disease. It has many different causes and seems to affect different people in different ways. In this post I talk only about my own experiences. I’m not a doctor or a medical professional. I am not recommending what I did for anyone else.]