Numbness

Four pill fragments lie on top of the blister on my desk. It was day twenty-six when I decided that I needed to stop taking my medication. For the second time in my life, I'm getting off SSRI.

Why is there no end in sight? All these years are passing by. Memories of better days, slowly fading into gray. – Roads by Small Strides

The first time I took SSRI, I took them for a few months. After the initial period of panic attacks, random sweating, nervousness, nausea, headaches, and all the other lovely side effects that particular SSRI had to offer, I didn't feel any effect at all. I was taking pills every day but I wasn't feeling any better. The only effect they had was a constant and never-ending weight gain. I gained eight kilos in a matter of months and they were impossible to get off, no matter how much I exercised and how healthy I ate. I didn't put this together until much later. At the time, I just thought it was something about New Zealand produce, not that that makes much sense.

This time around, things are worse. I wish that they wouldn't do anything at all. That would be preferable to the numbness that envelops me. I don't feel. Things that used to bring me joy don't reach me. It's the small moments that were taken from me. My dog licking my feet after a shower to help me dry off would have left me smiling. Watching the sunrise behind the trees in the forest would make my mood rise. Joy doesn't reach me. Happiness doesn't penetrate the numbness.

Maybe I needed the numbness for a bit to get over the endless crying and overwhelm. Maybe this was necessary. But even if it was, I can't stand it anymore. The endless loneliness of depression gets amplified when you take away the little things. This seems to be a common issue. Antidepressants don't cure depression, they just change the way it is expressed. If you are lucky, they make you more tractable, manageable, but they don't actually make you feel better in many cases. In Lost Connection, John Hari explains that 65 to 80 percent of people on antidepressants continue to be depressed. It's a scary number. And yet, the serotonin myth continues.

Why is there no morning light? It's all these clouds still paint the skies. Memories of brighter days, slowly fading into gray. – Roads by Small Strides.

Two days ago, I started lowering my dose. As I wasn't on the medication for even a full month, the tapering won't take too long. After a couple of days on the half dose, I should be free from the drug. I'll go through withdrawal nonetheless. I don't look forward to the withdrawal. It's why I'm not quitting cold turkey this time. Quitting SSRI cold turkey is risky. I got lucky last time. I didn't feel any effect from the drug except for the weight gain and I didn't go through withdrawal. I don't think I'd be as lucky a second time.

So, this time, I'm doing it the proper way with guidance from professionals. It makes me cringe that I have to take the pill for even a few more days but if it means fewer withdrawal symptoms or a lighter withdrawal cycle, it's worth it. I'll still be drug-free before the year ends.

Small Strides, an indie rock band I recently discovered (by meeting their singer in a zoom call), released their latest single not long ago. I spoke with the singer about the lyrics as they resonated deeply. I had a feeling that they weren't talking about the pandemic, though a lot of the lyrics fit. Their lyrics find the words to describe antidepressants in a way that I would not be able to.

Kate Hildenbrand

Kate Hildenbrand

Kate Hildenbrand is a writer, youtuber, and podcaster about sustainability, minimalism, and living a life worth living.
Germany