Last year, in July, I hit a really low patch with my anxiety. My anxiety which, I thought, was getting better. In a way it was – at least I wasn’t scared to do EVERYTHING anymore. But deep down, I knew I was stuck. I had reached a wall that I just WASN’T getting past. My life felt completely halted but my anxiety and all the things I never thought I’d never be able to do and all the “normal” life I never thought I’d have again.

After a pretty severe bout of health anxiety which had me crying to my nurse, she promptly made me an appointment with the doctor to discuss medication and additional therapy. I’ve said it before but I cannot fault the care I received from my nurse and doctor during that period. They were so on the ball with everything and genuinely cared about my well-being.

So, after 8 years of refusing medication on the grounds of:

  1. I was scared of the side effects and
  2. I wanted to BEAT THIS ON MY OWN
  3. Being on my high horse

I finally started Citalopram – a common SSRI used for depression and anxiety disorders. I finally caved. And in a way, it felt freeing to finally admit and accept that I did need extra help, despite for so long convincing myself and everyone around me that I was “better”. I wasn’t. And anxiety medication taught me that more than anything.

So in July, I started Citalopram. I was put on a tiny 10mg dose to start which is apparently quite common to get your body used to the change in hormones etc, which I stayed on for around 2 months. A little longer than average because I was still worried about the side effects of a heavier dose and I also had a holiday planned, which I didn’t want ruined by nausea or feeling dizzy.

I didn’t have to worry because my side effects were very minimal – even when I did up my dose to the therapeutic dose of 20mg. I felt a little sick occasionally but nothing ground breaking. My main side effect was a dry mouth which I was warned could happen. I’ve never peed so much in my life because I can’t stop drinking!

So point 1) of being scared of the side effects: COMPLETE.

Of course this is a strong medication and everyone reacts differently. Some people have very little side effects and others have loads but considering asking for Citalopram is certainly not a decision you should make based on someone else’s experience.

As for the high horse… Well… I had been well and truly kicked off of mine. I’ve always wanted to “beat” this anxiety on my own – only with the help of therapists (the one I saw years ago was incredibly helpful) and herbal remedies such as Bachs and Kalms. I wanted to stay away from medication at all costs.

8 years I lived with this attitude. And whilst yes, I did get better over time, like I said, I’d hit that wall. I wasn’t progressing any further.

Until I started medication. And truthfully, I’m kicking myself that I didn’t get down off that bloody horse sooner.

Medication has been a life starter for me. This tiny white pill has given me my life back. Of course there’s been other contributing factors, such as extra group counselling and making new friends through the course. But I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere without this medication.

Over the last 6 months I’ve:

  • Gone out for tea and cake by myself – something I haven’t been able to do in almost a decade
  • Took myself on a solo cinema trip – one of my 2020 goals!
  • I’ve started driving again. My anxiety made it impossible for me to drive but now I’m driving places on my own with little to no anxiety. Something I never thought I’d be able to do again.
  • I’ve booked a trip away by myself. Something I wouldn’t have been able to even fathom a year ago.
  • Started a new exercise programme and I’m getting fitter and healthier than I have been in years.
  • I’m making more plans than ever and the best part, is that I’m not dreading them anymore. Before Citalopram, although I could make plans and go out, there was always a part of me that dreaded it because I knew I was going to get so anxious.
  • I’ve started to enjoy my life. Finally. For the first time in almost a decade, I AM LIVING. Not just sitting in my bedroom, existing.

I am in a better place mentally than I have been in a very long time. I mean… almost a decade long time. The second half of 2019 was the most transformative time of my life. I feel like it was laying the foundations for me for 2020 and beyond. What a time for a transformation. A new year. A new decade.

I’m not sitting here trying to sway you either way. Medication for mental illness is an incredibly personal thing that only you and your doctor should be making informed decisions about. But I think it’s important to share your stories. I’ve been on both sides of the coin and I know what works best for me now. And that’s all you can do – find what works best for YOU.

I share more about my personal experience with a severe anxiety disorder in my book, Finding Your Way Back To You, which is out this September and available to pre-order here!

I’d love to hear about your experiences with medication for mental illness – the good and the bad. Leave me a comment and let’s have a chat!

90 Comments

  1. I used to take Citalopram for depression, and eventually stopped because it weirdly gave me incredibly bad nightmares. But having watched the amount of progress you’ve made over the last few months, I feel really inspired and keen to go back on SSRIs, this time for my anxiety. I feel like I’m still being held back and I’m just wasting so much time. You really encourage me to grasp for better – I hope I can be as brave as you.

    1. I gotta admit, my dreams since being on it have been so much more vivid. I’ve always had vivid and weird dreams anyway but Citalo seems to have amplified them! I hope you can get something sorted soon! <3

  2. I’ve never been on any medication for my mental health but reading this was really interesting! I’m glad it’s made such positive changes to your life! xxx

    – Charlotte / charlottesspace.com

  3. I was on it for a while quite a few years ago and found it so helpful! I’m glad it’s working out for you! 🙂

  4. I really relate to this as I had a similar experience. I went for years determined not to use medication, mainly because I was scared of the side effects but also because I was worried I’d essentially be on them forever (not a bad thing of course but I didn’t want to be reliant on them) and I wanted to beat the anxiety (and later the OCD) by myself. It wasn’t until I was actually diagnosed with OCD that I decided to just do it because it was clear that nothing else was working and I had nothing to lose. I started on 50mg of Sertraline and was upped to 100mg a few months later as my anxiety took a turn for the worse due to the time of year (winter + more bugs + contamination anxiety). Side effects wise I had a bit of an upset stomach for a few days but it quickly went and given the fact I knew what was causing it this meant that I didn’t end up getting even more anxious because of it. I’ve been on them four years this year and I could kick myself for not doing it sooner. While given current events my MH isn’t in a very good place (but I think we’re all in the same boat right now), I do feel that medication was the right choice for me and after the first year or so it felt like I had got my life back. As for the being on them forever – that doesn’t bother me, for the sake of one tablet a day keeping my brain in check I would happily do it! So glad that Citalopram has worked for you and has really made a difference, people are so quick to slate medication and report on side effects so I think these sorts of stories are well needed! xxx

    1. So glad to hear that and yes sounds very similar to my process with these too! I’m sure a lot of people’s anxiety is through the roof at the moment so I’m grateful we have these drugs to at least take the edge off x

      1. Hi, great post! Someone on Twitter recommended I give it a read as I’ve just been prescribed and citalopram and I just took my first pill today and had a bit of a rough experience. But reading how transformative it’s been for your life is inspiring and even if this pill isn’t for me I will want to keep trying to find what will work for me, because all the things this pill has enabled you do to and achieve is what I’ve always wanted to do with my life but instead I too have just existed in my bedroom. Thank you for this post 💕

      2. I’m so glad you read this and took the time to comment. I hope Citalopram works for you but if not, don’t give up. There’s plenty of pills out there! Side effects are always worse within the first few weeks so do stick it out! 💛

  5. I finally caved too about two years ago when my response to a morning in my own house with nothing to trigger me was crying. As I poured tea. I am a different person now.

  6. It’s amazing how much progress you’ve made! I was on Citalopram too however switched over to Venlafaxine as that deals with migraines too, and both have been amazing for my mental health – honestly don’t think I’d get through the winter months without them.

  7. I’m so happy medication has worked for you and you’re in a better place! You seem so positive and it’s lovely to see. I started on medication last year for anxiety and I found for the first few weeks whilst I had side effects, I felt better but then once the side effects wore off, everything else did too strangely so that’s where my run with medication for it kind of stopped. I do want to go back to the doctors though and try a different dosage as I do think generally it will really help and it seems to have such an effect on so many people, it’s worth a try at least! xx

    Tiffany x http://www.foodandotherloves.co.uk

    1. Oh no that’s a shame that it didn’t help. I’d definitely suggest going back and trying another one. There’s so many of them and there might be another one out there that’s perfect for you!

  8. Thank you so much for being vulnerable and sharing your story. While this is not something I have struggled with personally, it is people like YOU who share their stories that help me to have understanding and empathy for others who are going through this. It’s something people don’t talk about and therefore, we lack the understanding and compassion that is needed to help support others. Thanks for your bravery!

  9. I find meds essential, and, like my manager told me when I was saying I wanted to come off them just because I shouldn’t be on them, we take medication for physical ailments so why not take things for mental health (arguably still physical though!) I’ve had to chop and change over the 7 years I’ve been on them – tend to max out the Sertraline dose then have a meltdown so it’s not working then swap! I’ve tried Fluoxetine (okay, horrible side effects coming off = very agitated!), Escitalopram (AWFUL), Sertraline (horrible side effects coming on or off it but overall has had the most success) and am now on Vortioxetine (going okay so far!). I’m so glad that you feel able to share all this and are doing so well!

  10. wow Jenny! This is all so great to hear – you’ve definitely been on a journey but it’s great to hear all the postives of being more confident being out alone – I find it quite inspiring to start doing more things fo myself. I’m so happy you found a medication that works for you 🙂

    Sarah x

  11. I’m so glad that medication has worked for you! I’ve been on SSRIs before and found them so useful. It’s difficult to deal with the stigma but you’ve done a great job!

    1. I’m so sorry to hear that. That must be difficult. It’s such a personal decision and not something you can force anyone to take. But I hope perhaps he changed his mind about medication in the future.

  12. Great to hear you’ve found something that has made a big difference to you. Onwards and upwards. Enioy your holiday and just being able to do the things you’ve wanted. Congratulations and good luck 😊

  13. So glad that you feel like you are finally living rather than just existing! Medication isn’t for everyone, but it sounds like it has definitley helped you on your journey. Also I think you are brave booking solo trips…I don’t know if I could do that!

    Thanks for sharing your story!

    Aimsy xoxo
    Aimsy’s Antics

  14. This was such an inspiring post to read Jenny, I’m so glad the medication is working for you! Such an honest post, I can understand why medication can appear so daunting, as I said I do think it was really inspiring that you took that step with going to a nurse and getting help. It can be hard to admit when the high horse is no longer working for us, especially when it comes to mental health. Thank you for sharing your experience and story in such a good post. I hope you enjoy your holiday you’ve got booked!

    bumblingalong.co.uk

  15. This is so amazing for you. I’m not on any medication other than pain killers for my knees and ankle, but I can imagine how amazing it must feel for you ❤️

  16. This is so amazing! I know it can feel like you’re admitting defeat when you ‘give in’ and start taking something but the way this seems to have given you your life back is truly incredible! I’m so happy that you’re in a place where you can try new things or do things you probably thought weren’t possible now. Such a great post that I’m sure will encourage people to get help if they need it x

    Sophie

  17. I’m so glad to read you are doing so well, Jenny! It sounds like the last six months have been amazing and you have achieved so much. I’ve been on medication for anxiety and depression in the past, and it definitely helped me through a low point and gave me the motivation to make changes 🙂 It’s great you have found something that works so well and has enhanced your life so much. This is a really encouraging post, especially for those who are unsure about medication – thank you for sharing your experience <3 xxx

    Bexa | http://www.hellobexa.com

  18. I absolutely loved reading your achievements over the past six months, it’s so uplifting! Medication didn’t work too well for me personally, therapy seemed to be the answer, but I’m glad to hear it’s a method that works! Love the honesty 🙂

    Anika | chaptersofmay.com

  19. I’m so glad to hear you’re doing so well Jenny. Anxiety is just plain horrid. Like you, I have avoided medication for a long time. Perhaps a little assistance is just what I need to start taking some steps in the right direction. Thank you for sharing xxx

  20. I’m a psychiatry resident going to complete my degree in psychiatry in coming years. Your post of how these SSRI helped you. It felt relieving to me. Keep up. Go strong. And remember dont just depend on medication. 😊

  21. This was a really good read, thank you so much for sharing your story – I’ve gone out of my way to avoid medication (in my case, for depression) for years and am now just starting to discuss my options. I am pretty firm on my decision that this is right for me and my situation, but reading this helped me to feel a little more at peace with it. It was nice to connect with the story of someone else that has dealt with a similar situation and had a positive outcome like that!

    1. Oh I can definitely relate. I was adamant for so long but honestly going on it was the best thing I ever done. It’s definitely worth exploring your options. Having a conversation with your doctor or therapist never hurt anyone! xxx

  22. I genuinely couldn’t have read this blog post at a better time. It’s so nice to hear from people who’re in a similar situation and have similar thoughts having a good experience. I had a complete mental breakdown just over two weeks ago and since then, every mental health service I’ve interacted with has pushed medication and I’ve denied them every time (I had a really bad experience with sertraline in 2017/early 2018, but that’s only part of the reason I said no) and this has made me seriously reconsider/re-weigh up my options. I think there’s so much stigma when it comes to medication for mental health purposes but this post just proves that if you find the right one for you, at the right dosage, it can be completely transformative and can literally change your life. I’m so glad to hear it’s worked for you and from one anxiety sufferer to another, I’m proud of you for how far you’ve come! Here’s to a great 2020.

    1. I’m so so glad you read this at the right time. I’m sorry to hear about your breakdown. I hope you’re taking it easy and taking care of yourself. I totally relate to feeing adamant about no medication but I’d highly recommend at least having a chat to your doctor. A conversation never hurt anyone 🙂 And there are SO many medications out there to try. They won’t all work for you but some absolutely will! Do let me know how you get on, if you decide to go to your docs! xxx

  23. I’m so glad to hear it’s helped you Jenny! I used to be on that one and I don’t think it did anything for me 😩 but I’ve just started Sertalin or something like that and I’m excited to see how that works! So lovely to hear you’ve managed to do all those things! I also find driving really difficult due to my anxiety, hopefully one day hey! 💕

    Ashleigh – https://www.ashleighsmoments.com