Seven weeks ago I quit all my psychiatric medications cold turkey. I’d been on four, definitely over-medicated. I was starting to feel disillusioned and was tired of relying on chemistry to function. I was feeling blunted, unable to feel much of anything at all. On top of that, I’d been medicated for the past six years straight. I simply didn’t remember what it was like to be un-medicated, or why I was on medication in the first place.
So I made a rash and irresponsible decision. I woke up one morning and skipped my pills. One morning turned into two which turned into a week. Within the week I was experiencing serious withdrawal symptoms. Shaking, sweating, restlessness, anxiety. My emotions were roller-coasting out of control and I admittedly used negative behaviors to cope. The withdrawal symptoms waned after a week and my emotions started to stabilize.
It was really great at first. I could actually feel. I could be happy and sad and excited and disappointed. I was laughing freely and crying at every little thing. For a few days I could really focus and was ultra-productive. It was so liberating, to let my emotions regulate themselves. For the first time in a long time I felt like I was truly living. But then the depression hit.
I didn’t really see it coming, though I guess I should have. It just snuck up on me. The first time the cloud engulfed me I attributed it to maybe just a lack of sleep or a bad day. But soon that bad day had turned into a bad week. I hardly noticed the change, but soon I was spending every free moment of the day in bed either sleeping or distracting myself with Netflix. My days became consumed with fighting the thoughts that suggested suicide as an answer to all my problems. Any time I made a mistake or simply opened myself up to the world by speaking, I immediately ran to the comfort that suicide would bring. I was never really in danger of doing anything, it simply wasn’t an option. But that didn’t stop the thoughts. So I drowned them out with my favorite TV shows and loud music. I stopped doing my homework and only left my house for mandatory events like class and dance practice. My future dissolved before my eyes. All my plans became gray and unappealing. I’d lost interest in even having a future at all.
It wasn’t until week five that I realized my little experiment was coming to an end. It was the second time in a row that I showed up to my therapy appointment with tears in my eyes. It was becoming apparent that this episode wasn’t going to pass. I’d been hoping that I was just in a slump and everything would resolve itself with time and I’d be able to lead a normal life. The reality was that I am, indeed, mentally ill. I wasn’t faking it, I didn’t grow out of it. I do actually have a problem, one that makes it nearly impossible to function without some sort of chemical support.
Seven weeks after I skipped my first pill, I agreed to start medication again. To be honest I’m scared of losing my emotions. But I’m also desperate for any relief from this stifling depression.
It may seem like my decision to quit medication worked out OK for me. In the grand scheme of things it did, but these are seven weeks I can’t get back. I can’t change the bad grades I got on exams because I was too depressed to study. I can’t change the new scars on my wrist from my inability to cope. While my decision did allow me to restart medication on a low dose and on my own terms, it was also incredibly irresponsible and dangerous. I in no way condone my own behavior. If you’re concerned about the side effects of your meds, please talk to your psychiatrist. Make your decisions with them, not on your own. It’s safer that way, and it’s what I should have done.