Jenny started taking antidepressants when she was at university as she had been finding it difficult to cope. She took Seroxat (paroxetine) at first, but after a time it began to be less effective and she changed to venlafaxine which she took for around 6 years. During that time she developed severe chronic asthma which eventually led her to have to leave her job and return home to live with her parents who now care for her. Jenny has to take numerous medicines for her asthma, some of which are to counteract side effects that occur from the asthma medicines. She now takes sertraline and feels it keeps her on an even keel and able to cope more easily with the difficulties caused by having chronic asthma.
Jenny first experienced depression as a teenager following some difficult experiences including the death of her grandmother, and she began to self-harm, but the counselling she was offered was unhelpful and eventually she managed to get through the difficult times by herself. Jenny was first prescribed antidepressant medication when she was at university at a time when she had been finding it hard to cope with studying, and felt she didn’t fit in very well. The first medication she was prescribed was Seroxat (paroxetine) which worked well to improve her mood overall, but she thinks that it increased her appetite and that she gained weight during that time. Some while later she changed to venlafaxine which she took for around 6 years and found it really helped. During that time she developed severe chronic asthma which eventually led her to have to leave her job and return home to live with her parents who now care for her.
It was during these years that I developed the severe asthma and started having to go in and out of hospital. I was also started on long term high dose steroids which themselves are a depressant’. I think I coped quite well, people asked me how I stayed so cheerful. I just said it was the happy’ pill I took each morning. Don’t get me wrong though, I still had some very down days but I think that already being on the antidepressants when the severe chronic asthma kicked in really helped as I was on an even enough keel to allow me to cope with the asthma’.
Coping day to day with the restrictions that having severe chronic asthma places on her life can be a struggle for Jenny at times. She took venlafaxine for some years on a maintenance dose’, but there was one time she remembers when she had spent a long time in hospital and was feeling very low, and her doctor increased the dose. After a time she decided she wanted to cut it back down, but she tried to do this without consulting her doctor and found that she experienced very severe withdrawal symptoms for a few days.
The doctor said that with venlafaxine you have to drop down in much smaller doses than when you increase‚ I was given a stern talking to about fiddling with my medication dose without supervision!’
She now takes sertraline as her GP decided to change her medication when she complained that she was experiencing a very dry mouth. This may have been a reaction between a new drug she had begun taking for her asthma, and the venlafaxine.
The changeover involved weaning the venlafaxine down, whilst introducing the sertraline. This process took about 3 weeks and during this time my mood was rather erratic’.
Jenny feels that antidepressants can be really helpful for people if they work – in her case they keep her mood relatively stable under the circumstances. Last year Jenny had 9 emergency hospital admissions she can go from being perfectly well to being severely unwell in a matter of hours. She takes a total of 19 different medications each day some of which are to combat the side effects of her asthma medications – she also has another condition called secondary adrenal insufficiency which means her adrenal glands no longer function due to the large doses of steroids she has to take.
They [antidepressants] help me to deal with whatever else life throws at me‚. Trying to cope with a serious chronic physical illness whilst your emotions are yo-yoing up and down would not be fun. I’m not sure I would have coped this long if I hadn’t been on the antidepressants
Whist being an advocate for antidepressants if they work, Jenny also feels very strongly that better access to therapies such as CBT or psychotherapy is needed.
It’s all well and good to give out chemical help in the form of antidepressants, but they don’t address the causes of the depression or anxiety. Without some form of talking therapy or counselling‚. surely you just end up with people in a cycle of depression and regression.