The Citalopram Verses

I felt like I’d been sailing a tiny rowing boat through a storm in the middle of the ocean. It was almost impossible to stay afloat and the threat of my boat sinking due to a poorly plugged hole played on my mind constantly. I can’t exactly pinpoint why I was depressed. A lot of it was stress from work and the feeling that my mind was slowly slipping away into a nearby abyss. To be honest, when I look back after 16 weeks on 40 daily milligrams of prescribed “salvation”—AKA the SSRI antidepressant Citalopram – I think I’ve probably been rowing through this storm since I was about 12-years-old. I’m now 22 and trying to commandeer some kind of ocean liner after battling with an antidepressant conflict recently. It all came to a head four months ago…

Generally I’ve had bouts of depression all my life, but I’ve always managed to claw my mind back from the clutches of the dark beast without ever having to step foot inside the doctor’s office. This time, though, it was different. This time I couldn’t carry on beating the beast back into its pit. I was wading through a bayou with concrete boots on—even walking upstairs was like pushing a boulder up a mountain. I couldn’t concentrate and found it impossible to write anything coherent, which is what I do to make money. I was a journalist without a brain (actually there’re plenty of those!)—a woodcutter without an axe.

I felt ashamed yet still reasonably defiant, but after noticing the detrimental effect my mood swings were having on my missus and our daughter, I bit the bullet. The doctor read a quick questionnaire out to me.  Questions such as “do you ever feel like you want to take your own life?” and “have you ever harmed yourself?” were reeled off. It hadn’t got that bad, but I “scored highly” for everything else. Feelings of intense sadness, random bouts of self-loathing, a complete lack of concentration…

The doc told me I could be bipolar but to instead “try these pills first” in case it was just a standard bout of depression. So off I went. I was now a diagnosed depressive after a five-minute appointment.

I felt defeated—I’d lost the battle and the Citalopram would now move in and start dropping bombs on the state of depression for me, all because my one man Solid Snake type espionage mission had failed. I was wounded. But at the same time I started to feel a sense of relief. Finally, all this strange behaviour had a name and a little white pill would solve all my problems. Or so I thought…

After taking my first dose of Citalopram I felt as if my brain had been hit by lightening.  Within an hour I was hoovering my house at high speed, shirtless and humming to myself. I felt energised but at the same time completely out of my mind. An hour later I crashed and fell asleep. When I woke up I cursed the medicine but carried on taking it any way.

I’ve never been keen on the idea of taking medication to heal any kind of mental problem, but the reasons I continued was because without it I felt helpless.  I’d given up the fight and the drugs gave me a helping hand until I could get back on my feet.

After 2 months I began to feel… better, I guess. My mood wasn’t lifted but it was more stable. Things that made me irrationally angry before (such as running out of milk, burning my toast, slow internet) weren’t such a big problem on meds. But then again neither was somebody pushing in front of me in a queue or talking to me like I was some kind of idiot—I began to lose the “edge”. I felt as interested in life as an accountant (I joke, thanks for the cheques guys!). In life, you need that “edge”, whether it makes you swing violently in and out of depressive moods or not, I believe that you need to have some kind of “ok let’s go” mechanism, and the Citalopram dampened mine completely. I was a zombie without bloodlust – pointless.  I was either miserable or “meh”.

The zombie feeling subsided a bit after a while and I began to feel more confident and less paranoid. Before medication, I would scope out every location for potential weapons and escape routes. The Citalopram put my mind at ease slightly, I began to realise a clandestine ninja death squad probably hadn’t been sent after me which was a relief.

In turn, this newfound confidence made me look past the depression and at myself again. Something had lifted. If it was the Citalopram that made me realise I was in fact Solid Snake with an unlimited ammo bandana on (well, in terms of fighting depression at least), and yes, I could beat depression on my own, then for that I am grateful, but as soon as I began to feel better within myself, the medication tried to put an immediate stop to it.

It’s like learning to become a successful personal trainer. Of course you want to help people get fit, but at the same time you need to make money. Capitalise on this by teaching people how to get just a little bit fitter each time, that way they’ll always need you and come back for more. But I didn’t want that. I wanted to be shown how to dead lift and squat then be told to clear off and get strong. The conflict worsened.

By the fourth month I had time to get back into the gym three days a week, which made me feel on top of the world but as soon as the endorphins died off, the cloud returned – a total lack of interest in even opening my mouth to speak. Then came the anger. I’ve always had anger issues and was sent to anger management when I was 17 (something I stopped attending when the counsellor presented me with a “rage gauge”), but now fury was back with a vengeance. I just wanted to fight. Anyone.

Sick of feeling constantly exhausted, angry, confused and completely unable to organise anything, I decided it was time to put the Citalopram to rest. I weaned myself off slowly by going down to 20mg a day then 10mg every other day (approved by my GP). I’ve now been free from Citalopram for a week, and although I’m having mood swings worse than ever, the highs are welcomed and the depressive episodes are much easier to deal with.

So how do I feel about the future? Well hopefully I never have to get back onto any kind of SSRI again, but I wouldn’t completely rule them out as, at its midway point, Citalopram did help me. And maybe the conflict it brought me is actually what saved my mind from giving into depression, making me mentally strong enough to move off the pills and away from the darkness. I don’t know, but for the moment I feel like I’m slowly winning my war.

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10 Responses to

The Citalopram Verses

  1. I really enjoyed reading this, thank you for writing it. I am where you were at your crossroads. I have also started weaning myself off Citalopram. For me the tiredness has never subsided, but I feel a million times better than I did before I started taking them. I have been on them for six months now and I really miss the ‘edge’, I dont miss the lack of confidence, faith and hope though. I wish you well on your journey. I think you should keep a log and keep posting how you are doing off the meds. Good Luck. xxx

    abracax 5th November 2012 at 12:07 pm
  2. I really wish I’d written this piece on Citalopram. I’m on my 6 month now and to be honest I felt the same as you at the start, but now it seems to be working less and less and I seem to be constantly on the edge of depression. Great piece of writing.

    Dicky Carter 5th November 2012 at 1:04 pm
  3. I suffer with depression as well and it took a diagnosis from two psychiatrists to convince my mother that I do. Even after that my father does still not believe that I haven’t despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. However coming from someone who confuses a migraine with flu I find that ludicrous in the extreme. In truth I hate both of them and in some ways although I live by myself in their house I just wish I could be dead so I’ll never see them again.

    I have had many fantasies about killing myself over the past eighteen months and despite many attempts have always seemed to change my mind at the last moment. On the last attempt I tried to jump from a motorway bridge but two motorists stopped and dissuaded me from doing so. Sometimes I watch things about depressing things not to wind myself up but to convince myself that I am not the only person out there. I may come across as selfish and self-indulgent but I have unemployed for three and a half years now and sometimes do really contemplate ending my life although my mood can change very quickly

    Tom Gould 15th November 2012 at 11:35 am
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  5. was taking maximum dose of gamanal, mid dose stillnoct, seroquel, xanex,since 2009, became physically ill in October 2012; my stomack balloned, hot flushes, chronic constipation; my digestive systmem stopped working. i weaned off gamanal as the withdrawels are tuff, but the others just cold turkey; within 2 weeks side effects disappeared. medication is no longer an option for me, i have to live life as i am and with depression. i have enough of a sence of responsibility to not end my life as it would hurt my loved ones. i keep working and try to do normal things as much as possible. i avoid alcohol as it causes depressionto increase and thougts to become distorted. i cant accept the way my mind is but it looks like nothing can be done; medicne is lightyears away from finding a “cure”, all medics can offer are theroies; and really thats all they are. so i survive, sometimes i function well enough! My life would have been totally different if depression visited someone else instead of me when i was 11, thats the hardest part; what might have been. thank you all for sharing your experince and insights and taking the time to post them.

    ashputtle 29th January 2013 at 1:38 pm
  6. I really enjoyed reading your first hand account of using anti depressants. Im a counsellor and a soon to be psychotherapist and its great to get a creatively written account. Sometimes I feel anti depressants break the thick ice of depression and get clients to my office so we can do some work. I’m still undecided on what I actually think about SSRI’s. I guess its different strokes for different folks? Good luck with your battle Jake.

    Ross 7th February 2013 at 11:19 am
  7. Thanks for all the comments everyone.

    Jake Hanrahan 5th April 2013 at 10:39 am
  8. hi pal , i was prescribed citalapram many years ago, along with many other drugs , of which i am still on . the citalapram made me into an invincible monster. i have been in the army and knew how to control my anger but those small pills made me into an animal. i never forgave my psychiatrist for that experience .

    muhammad isaq 10th April 2013 at 8:00 pm
  9. Hello

    I have been weaned off Citalopram and have not had a tablet since 10th September now (almost 2 weeks), I feel like everything is annoying me, I’m permanently angry at anything, cry at nothing in particular, snappy and it’s getting me disliked at home and work. Is this normal and if so how long does it last?

    Please help.

    M

    M 29th September 2013 at 5:51 pm
  10. great article and very well written. the similarities between yours & my own story are startling. i have not read anywhere prior to this, the description of losing your ‘edge’ & thats exactly how i felt on citilopram. saying that,it was a trade off that i was for a while happy to concede. i weaned myself off ftom 20mg to 10 to none. 6 months on i feel fine but its now bursts of anger, not depression thats gripping me. one thing the citilopram noticeably addressed was any anger issues. they were simply suppressed along with my instinctive nature to keep busy, think sharp & stay alert. As the months went by I began to resent this side effect. So much so that I came off them. Overnight. Suffice to say it didn’t work out too well & I went back on them. Months later I tried again, this time with a bit more planning & the determination to get my self together. 6 months down the line I’m fine. The depression has gone as hhave the negative thoughts & ‘dark time’ but I have a terrible temper that’s ignited by the slightest spark. PC don’t work, text won’t send or something doesn’t go againy. Its not constant and I can go days weeks with no outbursts but that’s no consolation. It has made me consider trying citilopram again maybe in 10mg…..firstly I’ll be trying self help techniques though as I really want to live life to the fullest & without meds.

    jamie 14th January 2014 at 11:17 am

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