LIVING WITH DEPRESSION
“I no longer feel like a Zombie”
– Sarah*, 52 years old
The following story contains thoughts of suicide and self-harm. Some people may find this distressing. If you need to talk to someone, support is available.
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Sarah* is 52 years old and was diagnosed with depression in 2002. The diagnosis explained a lot. Sarah had stopped enjoying things she usually loved, like travelling. She also recalled often feeling anxious, especially in crowds. “I didn’t have much tolerance, I would lose my temper easily, I’d argue for no reason and I just didn’t want to do things.”
Before the diagnosis, Sarah did not realise she was depressed. “I didn’t know I was depressed. It was my husband Mitch* who had noticed that I had not been acting myself and mentioned it to my doctor.” Reflecting on her childhood, Sarah believes that depression ran in her family.
The GP prescribed Sarah an antidepressant without discussing her treatment options or giving her much information. Sarah experienced side effects, so was put on another antidepressant.
After taking it for a year Sarah started to develop unpleasant side effects, so she stopped taking it abruptly without consulting her doctor. “I suffered dizziness, it affected my sex drive and it made me feel like a Zombie. So, I stopped taking it.” This resulted in difficult withdrawal symptoms, suicidal thoughts and attempts to self-harm.
“Now I do not feel like a Zombie.”
Concerned about this, Sarah’s husband Mitch took her to the hospital for help. She was started on yet another antidepressant but experienced similar side effects. This prompted Mitch to look for alternatives. During his research, Mitch came across an antidepressant that she hadn’t tried. Sarah discussed this other option with her psychiatrist and asked if she could be put on it, insisting that she wanted to try something different given the side effects she had experienced with the others. Her psychiatrist agreed.
After starting this other antidepressant, Sarah began feeling much better. She started exercising and her lifestyle was healthier. “The great thing is I feel more normal and it takes the edge off things. Now I do not feel like a Zombie.” Feeling great and thinking her lifestyle changes had cured her, Sarah thought she no longer needed to be on medication and stopped taking it. Without realising, her mood began to deteriorate. It was Mitch who convinced her to restart her antidepressant. Her mood improved again. Stopping and restarting her antidepressant became a cycle for Sarah.
“A strong support network and talking about your depression is vital.”
Despite being on treatment, Sarah knows that stress can affect her mental health. “I can be rolling along happily, but some life stresses can push me into the deep end, no matter what drug I am on. This is why having a strong support network and talking about your depression is vital and can be life-saving.” Sarah finds that people are more aware of mental health, more empathetic and more willing to help than they were 10 years ago.
Like many people with depression, Sarah has needed to stay on treatment for a number of years and may need to for the rest of her life. Sarah has a Mental Health Care Plan and sees different health care professionals, including a psychologist when she feels she needs extra help coping. “When I am at my worst, feeling stressed or am not coping, I see my psychologist.” She sees her GP regularly who checks on her mental health and monitors her treatment. Sarah believes that discussing your treatment options can help you make informed decisions to best manage your mental health.
*Names changed. Stock photo shown.