Friday, 17 July 2015


Now that I've opened the lid it's all coming pouring out! Thank you to everyone who commented on my last post or emailed me directly with their messages of 'me too'. I am very grateful for them.

I didn't want to have depression so I didn't want to take anti-depressants as this would confirm the diagnosis, and I declined these for a long time.

The evidence for treatment of mild depression is that non-pharmacological treatment is equally as effective.
I did regular exercise- despite my exhaustion, assuming that because it did not give me the extra energy and well being as promised, that I wasn't doing enough. So I did more, but got no better and became more fatigued.
I reduced my working hours and then increased them again when I became bored, having no inclination to fill my time with anything.

When I stopped drinking I expected my depression to be cured too; I had a guilty conscience, knowing I drank too much and thinking that maybe, this was the cause of my problems. It wasn't.

 I accepted referral for cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). I had high hopes for this and embraced it wholeheartedly for over a year. I can now recognise that during this time, the signs of my illness were clear: I worried about wasting the therapist's time, I felt stupid that I couldn't manage my life and I ended up in tears when I couldn't do the 'homework'. I tried hard but could not translate my week into the categories of thoughts, feelings and actions. I just didn't understand them. This made me feel a total failure- not only did I struggle with the minutiae of life, I could not 'do' the treatment.

As the frequency of tears increased I was sent back to the medics who thought it was time for medication. I accepted. I had remained sober and felt I had exhausted all other therapeutic options.

I threw up 40 minutes after my first dose of antidepressants. I panicked. What now if  I couldn't even take the drugs? What a total failure, beyond help!

I persevered and became used to the side effects and could tolerate the increases in dose that kept happening slowly but surely.

The first time I felt that it was working was one evening whilst driving home from work. It was dark, pouring of rain and I was stuck in a traffic jam at roadworks. It had been a busy day and I was tired. As I sat in my car I was aware that despite the situation, I felt calm and peaceful. Content. I was not my usual grumpy, fed up, pessimistic moany self.

I had never before been content and I suddenly thought, this is what normal people must feel like all the time! How lucky are they? No wonder they think life is good. It feels great!

I know those heights now, as well as the depths that my mood can sink to, so I know that day to day I'm somewhere in between. Sometimes up and sometimes down. I stay this way on a dose and combination of anti-depressants that would knock a horse out. Far above the licenced levels, and recommended for use only in 'moderate to severely depressed in-patients'.

That is why the exercise and CBT did not work. I did not have mild depression. I had significant depression and still do, whether I like it or not.


  1. Your experience is very similar to mine.
    It took about 3 weeks for my medication to work, but one day it was like the clods parted a a beam of light got through.
    It continued to improve. And I now feel better than I have in many years.

    my body needs the medication. Perhaps it will forever. It is an important part of my sobriety and my absolutely amazing life.

    There is no shame in having a medical condition and treating it. It is the responsible choice.

  2. Hi Rachel,
    It's cunning how we resist anti-depressant medication and this delays our recovery and progress even further. I am amazed at the cumulative effect of delay and resistance in making my own experience with depression so needlessly long and painful. Taking action as soon as possible is crucial.
    Bren Murphy

  3. Similar to mine, too. I had CBT for my anxiety, but found I couldn't really use the techniques to help until I was on anti-depressants. Once the dose was right, I barely needed the techniques anyway. It was a total revelation to me too that this must be what most other people felt like all the time!

  4. Dear Rachel,
    I am on anti-depressants too.
    They seem to help me, although gray days are still a problem sometimes.
    Now that I am not drinking, I my medicine is working!
    Fancy that!

    1. I've heard it say that drinking alcohol while on antidepressants is like fighting with both hands tied behind your back: useless!

  5. Thanks for this piece, I think it is so important that we tell others about the things that have helped us. I also suffered from depression and was resistant to taking antidepressants as they are often looked down on in AA, which I was a member of, at the time. In the end I went back to the doctor and was prescribed some which really helped. They got me to a place where the CBT techniques were able to help me more and I did start to exercise which has also helped.
    I am happy to say that my depression seems to be in the past and I have not felt it for over 5 years, and have made many changes to my lifestyle. Beating depression is not an instant process and can be difficult when battling addiction. I went down hill after about 18 months in recovery and antidepressants were what I needed at the time to help me out. Some people in recovery groups view antidepressants as another drug and avoid them. They consider this a breach of their sobriety. I feel this is an old fashioned idea that comes from the day when benzos were given for depression, which just knock you out. The medication today is totally different and when combined with therapy and support can really help. I really think that people being honest about this, in the way you have done is the best way to break down some of the old fashioned ideas and help people today.

  6. This is really a wonderful post.

  7. Not very many people in my life know that I was also once on antidepressants but I found them helpful for just getting me into a better place to get on with things and to manage the longer term things I needed to put in place to look after my mental health for the rest of my life.


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