“[You] feel by turns the bitter change;
Of fierce extremes, extremes more fierce
From beds of raging fire to starve in ice
Their soft ethereal warmth, and there to pine
Immovable, infixed, and frozen round,
Periods of time . . .
“No rest; through many a dark and dreary vale
They passed, and many a region dolorous,
O’er many a froze, many a fiery Alp,
Rocks, caves, lakes, fens, bogs, dens, and shades of death,
A universe of death . . .
– John Milton, Paradise Lost
This passage from John Milton’s Paradise Lost captures the picture of my relationship with antidepressants and the struggle to be rid of them. It is a long, tedious and epic slog that has summoned every ounce of human grit from every corner of my physical, emotional and spiritual apparatus. I have come to learn that this is also the picture of millions of other strugglers’ relationships with antidepressants. We are hidden band fighting epic battles inside our minds even as we do the laundry, check out books from the library or show up to work.
I had no idea then how taking an antidepressant during a rough stretch of my life — a seeming logical and life-giving step — would alter my life, ruin parts of my interior architecture and, for a long time, control my destiny. All of this will be explored in the subsequent posts, which, thankfully, recount not only my trial but also my eventual deliverance from these meds.
I write because during the dark isolating moments of my struggle I needed desperately to know if someone — anyone, ever — had succeeded at getting off these medications. I combed internet forums typing in “success stories” and found precious few. I have since understood that there are many (hard-won) success stories, yet often once a person has navigated this ordeal, they tend to back away from forums and not continue to be active in the midst of these heart-wrenching postings. This blog and website is for the people who desperately need to hear a “success story,” as I myself once did.
Over these years I have learned what SSRIs do to one’s brain and what tapering SSRIs also does to one’s brain. I have learned how to recognize these shocking symptoms for what they are and, with God’s help, to manage them. I have also learned what it takes to prepare oneself to undertake discontinuation, physically, mentally, socially, nutritionally, relationally, personally, bodily, and spiritually. I have likewise learned that all these forces must be summoned in concert in order to advance in this battle if we are going to survive it.
The world of the taper can be a dark and troublesome desolate landscape like that described by Milton noted above. But let us not forget that there is a second book Milton wrote bringing his story full circle: Paradise Regained. This too is part of the battle to get off antidepressant medication and it is achievable. For me, by God’s grace, after the third attempt my feet found their footing and I emerged a survivor. It is my hope that, with patience, persistence, and a lot of self-care, Paradise Regained can be be your story too.