Flora was first diagnosed with depression when she was 21. Since that time she has tried a number of different SSRI antidepressants but had problems tolerating side effects and did not find them helpful. After a severe crisis she spent a short while in hospital. She currently takes tranylcypromine, an MAOI antidepressant and has found it to be effective, and also takes an antipsychotic medicine to help relieve anxiety.
Flora experienced depression as a teenager but didn’t know that was what it was at the time. It was when she went to university, and was finding it difficult to cope that she first went to seek help and was diagnosed with depression. At that time the GP, who knew that there was a family history of depression and anxiety, prescribed Prozac (fluoxetine). For a while she felt that the combination of taking an antidepressant and having support from university tutors, and a counsellor, helped ease the load and she began to find life was more manageable. For the next few years she managed without antidepressants, although she experienced episodes of anxiety at times but looking back realises that she had a tendency to muddle through’ when things were difficult.
When she was in her 30’s Flora had what she called a major episode’ or a breakdown.
When I do crash, it’s in a really dramatic way, it’s like falling off a cliff and at that point when that happens it’s too late to try and come back, it really is‚’
She tried a number of different antidepressant medications, including paroxetine and venlafaxine but side effects led to her feeling worse. Flora said that although taking antidepressants helped her to function she did not feel that they addressed the underlying depression.
I felt it was masking things‚. Not really helping me but just somehow keeping me going‚ I got very overtaken by thoughts and feelings which were so overwhelming ‚ I felt extremely hopeless about it’.
Flora was intermittently experiencing extreme periods of depression, followed by times when she felt able to cope, but her family were worried about her having so many ups and downs and she was eventually referred to the community mental health team during a particularly difficult crisis. During one of these periods she attended day hospital’ as an outpatient. After a time, and with the GP trying her on a number of different antidepressants, she began taking Seroxat (paroxetine) which she stayed on for about two years. During this time she gradually got things back on track, and began to feel well again. Flora decided she wanted to try to live her life without taking antidepressants.
I didn’t want to feel that I had to be on some form of medication‚ somehow it always felt like some kind of weakness and it meant that I had to acknowledge that there was something not right with me’.
Sometime later Flora had started a new and challenging job and was gradually finding it difficult to cope again. This time the GP prescribed citalopram as there had been some controversy over Seroxat (paroxetine) that she taken the previous time. Flora found citalopram heightened her feelings of anxiety and did little to alleviate her symptoms.
I couldn’t relate a lot of the time to any feelings, I’m not sure how much medication contributed to that, but I know that after a long period on these medications I felt often quite numb, unable to laugh or cry‚ just existing, it felt like I had lost my humanity‚’
Finally, Flora experienced a severe episode of depression and was admitted to hospital. At this point she wanted to try something different, and asked if she could be prescribed an antidepressant that a relative had taken, called tranylcypromine. This is one of the older types of antidepressant drugs that are rarely prescribed nowadays as there is a high potential for adverse effects. However, given that none of the other antidepressants she had tried had been effective, and after reading the information she was provided about it, she decided to try it. After a few months Flora began to feel more able to address the issues in her life that she felt she needed to deal with.
Something shifted for me‚. But partly I was able to wake up and suddenly see where I was
She now takes this antidepressant on an ongoing basis, along with another medicine that helps alleviate anxiety, and she says she has felt the most impact from this combination, compared with other medicines she has tried over the years.