Saturday, September 13, 2014

I Put The "Pro" in Prozac Part Two

To refresh, here is Part One...

There were many costs to the temporary relief from my anxiety and depression and, unfortunately, they became more troublesome than the mental illness itself.

For starters, there were the typical culprits; no sex drive and weight gain. And I mean nothing says "well-adjusted" like a chubby girl with no libido. However, when I discussed these issues with my doctor, in good, old-fashioned, American medical tradition, another pill was prescribed. Back to a low-dose of Wellbutrin to counter the side effects of Prozac. I didn't argue. I was so unperturbed on Prozac, I would have ingested a low-dose of arsenic rather than lower my dosage of "the miracle drug" as I was referring to my head.

The combination worked and I was eating less compulsively, having more fun in the bedroom (cover your ears...errr eyes, Mom), and not visualizing myself dying tragically in a car accident twice a day. Things. Were. Good.

Fast forward to September 2013. I am now a full-time school counselor, splitting my time between two schools; one is grades PreK-3, the other 4-8. I'm going to give you a minute to speculate which school I experienced the most clients. Wait for it...yep! Grades 4-8. Middle school. A lot of angst, crying, and crises. A LOT of crises. I mean, I cannot express this enough. I'm talking crises resulting in calls to the Department of Children and Families (DCF) AND Mobile Crisis several times a week, sometimes several times a DAY. I was quickly becoming overwhelmed and my caseloads were so different; content- and quantity-wise, that I asked if I could spend more days each week at the middle school. My request was denied and I felt forced to continuing "handling" things.

This is where, I believe, my medicated state played a large role in my impending breakdown. I worked, I ate, I slept. I was overwhelmed and knew I was, but couldn't feel it emotionally. I was out of touch, numb, blank. I was distanced from myself, unattached and unaware. I can say this, now, with certainty of course. In the moment, my false sense of "feeling ok" made it easy for me to ignore the need for self-care.

In October, I asked for another clinician to help me with my caseload. I was told "it's not in the budget." So I pushed on. I was staying late (sometimes 2-3 hours after school let out) to finish paperwork. I was making and taking calls from DCF workers and crisis counselors after hours, most of the time in my car on the way home. Within a few short months, the only break I had from work was sleep. And even then, I often sleep horribly and/or had nightmares about something going terribly wrong. Long weekends and school vacations were burdened with follow-up calls and the fear of a parent retaliating after leaving a message (two days before Christmas) stating: "I am so mad, I could kill you." This being in regards to a mandatory DCF call I had made.


Writing this now, I am surprised my breakdown didn't happen sooner. I have shared the details in a previous post. What I did not share is as a condition of my release, my meds were upped. Doubled, in fact. This not only meant more Prozac, but more Wellbutrin. With increased tolerance for my surroundings came increased detachment of self. I also felt a raging conflict inside me; the desire to write and the complete apathy about being creative. I knew enough, from personal and professional experience, that psych meds often stunt creativity, being why many individuals with Bipolar Disorder go off their meds. They enjoy the creative mania they experience.

So, I began thinking critically about my medications. What they were. What they had (and hadn't) done for me. I started to weigh the costs and benefits. And after a lot of soul-searching, I theorize the reason my depression and anxiety reached "hospital-stay status" may very well be due to the lack of self-awareness I had while on my medication. It's not a cause-effect theory, to be sure. I am in no way blaming the medication for my breakdown. That was a dam ready to break for MANY reasons. Some of which I haven't shared (not-so-awesome living situation, five-year relationship ending).


In thinking about my situations, I asked myself: "If this is The Best Medicine for OCD (as proclaimed by my doctor) and I have been on it for a year and a half, how did I STILL end up in the hospital??" The answer is complex, but to put it simply, I found:
  • I was numb to major life events that should have provoked more emotion (i.e. the break-up, job stress, living in a negative environment)
  • I couldn't cry. Like, at all.
  • I had no desire to do the one thing that always helped me process my stress and distress: write.
  • I was disconnected from who I was. Completely.
So, I talked to my psychiatrist (I was now getting my psych meds from her instead of my general doctor, for obvious reasons). She wasn't thrilled with the idea of me stopping my meds only a few months after my hospital stay, but agreed that if I implemented therapy skills, such as CBT (Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy), self-care, and general wellness (exercise, eating well, stress management) it was worth trying.

I slowly began weaning off my meds in June of this year. I didn't notice much of a difference until mid-July, which ironically is when I made a major life change and moved 300 miles away to start a new job. The first two weeks in Corning, I stayed with the family I would be working for, as their nanny, and I felt all the emotions I had been numb to for over a year. I started grieving the break-up that happened 8 months earlier, I was crying A LOT, and I realized that I had not been "taking care of myself" while on my meds, I had been hiding out. For me, Prozac was a scapegoat and I was happy (for a while) to let it take the hit for all the life junk that came my way. I didn't have to deal with any of it. In theory, that sounds great, right? But in reality that means you miss out on fully experiencing everything, the bad but also the good. To put in another way, that some may understand better, the first verse of one of my favorite songs describes how I felt...

In the words of of Evanescence's "Farther Away":

"I took their smiles and I made them mine.
I sold my soul, just to hide the light.
And now I see what I really am:
A thief, a whore, and a liar."


That may seem a tad over-dramatic, and it probably is, but it's also accurate. The first two lines describe how I feel on psych meds. Like I'm not really "me." Like I am floating around, mimicking  those around me, trying to "act" normal. It also feels like I have given away a huge part of myself, because I am afraid to show who I really am.

The last two lines describe how I felt coming off the meds. I felt all the bad stuff the Prozac hid and left me (especially in those first few weeks completely Prozac-free) feeling horrible about myself. I also felt like a fraud. I felt like choices, decisions, and plans I made on my meds weren't really me, but a "me" that wanted to want those things. I felt like a phony. I am just now starting to feel like myself, feeling that it is okay to want things that are unconventional or nontraditional.

This, I am certain, is not everyone's journey on psych meds, or even Prozac. In fact, I know several people on Prozac who are doing fabulously. For me, I prefer to treat my OCD non-pharmaceutically , in an effort to maintain the "me" inside me I have come to love; flaws and all.



  1. You are amazing writer Mel. Such an inspiration ♡

  2. Yes! Practice that self-care! Just like the woman at the Renn faire said. She didn't even know you and she hit the nail right on the head. I love you Sil! Deep breathing, eating healthy, and writing. Xo

  3. Well, well, well one more thing that we have in common. Mental breakdowns requiring hospitalization. Mine was before you met me and happened in Florida. Which has an awesome psych ward (omg how normal is that to say), and I never wanted to leave (again omg how normal is that to say). I felt safe for the first time. All of the toxic people were limited in their contact with me, let's insert second husband here, just trying to keep it real. I am still on my meds, overweight, but content. Love your blog, keep up the good work. xx

    1. See? I knew we were brought together for a reason!