Several months ago, I weaned myself of citalopram, a medication I had been taking for anxiety and depression. In the space of two weeks I went from 40mg to nothing. I had been taking my medication daily since 2010.
I was in my last year of University. I was working towards gaining my BA (Hons) in Creative Writing when I suffered a debilitating migraine which lasted for over a week. Almost overnight my creativity and ever optimistic attitude towards life drained away and I was left feeling scared, empty and passionless. I couldn’t write, I couldn’t read, I couldn’t laugh, I couldn’t smile, I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t sit still, I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t watch TV, I couldn’t communicate effectively…I could hardly breathe.
I couldn’t understand what was happening inside my head.
Life was one terrifying moment after another, and I couldn’t see any way forward. I flinched at the sun and cried through the night. I didn’t want to sleep alone. I thought I was going to die.
I can remember when I first started on the medication. I was terrified. I had to be coaxed to split open the little silver tabs and swallow the pills. I couldn’t believe that they would bring Katie back. I felt hopeless.
After a few weeks, my limbs didn’t feel so heavy. When I picked up a book, the words didn’t swim. I started to shower because I wanted to. I noticed the stars again and I let the sun warm my face. I started smiling. I started to laugh. My creativity would whisper, like a patient friend, that I should pick up my pen. I began writing again. I started working on my University portfolio once more, after months of hardly being present in the world…and I completed it. I graduated later that year with a BA (Hons) First Class in Creative Writing.
The medication had brought me back to the surface. I could breathe again. When I looked at myself in the mirror, my eyes were clear and focused, not bloodshot and flitting one way then another.
After stopping my medication this year I felt euphoric. Life was so fucking beautiful and I appreciated every single moment. But after a few months, I noticed I was starting to feel anxious about things which had previously not bothered me. My creativity was harder to reach. I decided that I would not panic. I was living a dream in Sweden with a man who encouraged my heart to sing whenever I looked at his face, whenever he opened his mouth to talk to me. I decided that I would ride it, this budding storm, that I was strong enough. I decided that I was more than my thoughts. The moments when I was able to just be without anxiety – for example while out canoeing with my boyfriend, sitting with each other at the table working on our own things or having Fika with his wonderful family – were bliss of the purest kind.
But the storm became more fierce, and I realised that Katie was going under. My memory, concentration and ability to feel joy in the moment was suffering. That’s when I made the important decision to bring medication back. It felt like a defeat to begin with. I felt angry with myself for needing help. But over a few days, I started to accept that the chemicals in my brain needed some support if I was going to be my very best self again.
My boyfriend accompanied me to the Dr’s. He was with me in the room while the Dr laid out an action plan. We celebrated that evening with candy and a movie. I felt empowered.
The Dr prescribed some anti-anxiety medication along with the citalopram. It makes me feel fatigued and I need to nap at ridiculous times of the day, and nearly always fall asleep on the couch in the evening, but the panic that was holding me hostage is releasing its grip. I feel like I’m taking back control. I’ve been back on the citalopram for a little over a week now. The world is a clearer place and my creativity, once again the patient friend, is holding one hand. My boyfriend is holding the other, and encouraging me one step at a time.