Caroline took antidepressants during two periods of her life when she became clinically depressed, but came off them when her mood had stabilised and her GP advised her to stop taking them. When she experienced a third episode of depression her doctor prescribed citalopram which she has taken on an ongoing basis ever since. She finds this keeps her mood stable, and is happy to continue taking them for the rest of her life rather than become depressed again.
Caroline first experienced anxiety some years ago when she was studying for a PhD and had been under a lot of pressure. She was living in London at the time, and remembers feeling tube phobic’ (feeling anxious when she got on the underground to go home). At that time she had some cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to help her to deal with the anxiety and after a time this passed.
A few years later she was working as a scientist on a large project and was again under a lot of pressure, and found herself feeling very down’, and had insomnia. She saw her GP who told her to see whether she felt better in a week’s time and to see if in the meantime she could do anything herself to improve her mood, but to come back in a week if things stayed the same. She returned to see the GP who prescribed amitriptyline, which she was advised to take at night because it has a sedative effect, which might help the insomnia. For a while the medication made her feel nauseous rather than sleepy, but after a few weeks she felt it picked her up’ and she felt much better, almost euphoric, which she described as feeling like a pharmacological high’. After a few months the GP advised her that she had been taking amitriptyline for long enough and the dose was gradually reduced until she stopped taking it altogether. Although Caroline worried about coming off the medication – she was concerned that she might begin to feel depressed again, in the event she coped well, and continued to feel well.
For the next ten years Caroline remained well. However, once again, after finishing a very intense work project she started experiencing insomnia and went to see her GP again; who this time put her on a course of paroxetine. Again, this took a while to begin to take effect, but after a time she felt her mood began to level out again. At this time she was also offered counselling which she took up, which she feels it may have helped her to get a better perspective on things. Again, after a time she stopped taking paroxetine and her mood remained stable.
When the same thing happened a third time, in 2004 her GP decided to put her on what he called a maintenance’ dose as he thought it would be appropriate for her to take antidepressant medication on an ongoing basis to keep things stable and prevent her mood from dropping again. This time he prescribed citalopram, which she has taken ever since.
I’ve taken it ever since then and I’ve not had any attacks of depression since then‚ I’ve felt and I feel perfectly normal ‚. it’s kept me stabilised . I feel very grateful to it. It’s been a really good experience taking antidepressant treatments and the only side effect that I’ve had is just the first couple of weeks you feel a bit sick’
Caroline has found that taking anti-depressant medication has enabled her to continue to work at her high-pressured job and that without it she may have needed to take substantial periods of time off work. Although Caroline still sometimes has difficulties sleeping, she copes by occasionally taking a sleeping tablet for a short time.
In my case it [depression] is always triggered by not being able to sleep properly and therefore not being able to cope very well or as well as I should be able to‚ I mean I’ve certainly had dips but I think I’ve always managed to get over them I’ve never got in that downward spiral. The thing about depression is you sort of get into a downward spiral that’s particularly exacerbated if you don’t sleep well but I’ve always felt able to bounce back’
Caroline is happy to continue taking citalopram on an ongoing basis and has no qualms about this.
I would see myself taking it indefinitely and I hope that they suddenly don’t announce that they don’t give it to over 70’s or whatever!’