02/01/2018 12:17 SAST | Updated 02/01/2018 12:17 SAST

5 Things One Woman Learnt Taking Antidepressants For A Year

'They aren't magical happy pills.'

Tero Vesalainen via Getty Images

Journalist Ellen Scott says that over a year ago, she was "a miserable bundle of dark emotions and thoughts stuck in a pit of my brain's own making".

She would go to work and have panic attacks, then go back home filled with worry that someone would break into her house, or she'd receive news of someone's death, she tells Metro UK.

After debating with herself for some time about what she should do, she sought help -- not the therapy she was hoping for, but antidepressants.

"Now, in 2018, I'm one of millions popping fluoxetine each day," she says -- and shares her five lessons since taking the medication:

1. Antidepressants aren't magical happy pills

"I am not ecstatic. I am not full of joy. I do not dance down the streets on footsteps of sunshine followed by a sparkling rainbow. Antidepressants don't get rid of problems, and they haven't made me happy –– they've just made me not miserable."

She explains that they aren't happy pills –– instead, they're "living life" pills that have pulled her out of the pit of depression and anxiety enough for her to do activities that make her happy; like baking and stroking cats.

2. Side effects can be a real pain

"In my first weeks of taking antidepressants I had the shakes (especially in the morning, when it felt terrifying trying to walk downstairs) and my sleeping pattern was completely messed up, making me stay up late, feel bouncy all day, then fall asleep for the entirety of the weekend."

About a month later, those effects calmed, with the only remaining side effect being dryness around her entire body -- mouth, face and lips. But she drinks plenty of water and carries a decent moisturiser and lip balm to deal with those effects.

3. Antidepressants don't make you an emotionless zombie

She says one of her biggest concerns was that taking the medication would rob her of her thoughts, feelings and creativity, which are all-important to her, but that was not the case.

"Antidepressants didn't take anything away from me. It gave me myself back –– the me without a heavy filter of mental baggage. I'm more creative. I'm just as empathetic and quick to sob at pictures of kittens' paws or romantic storylines."

4. Antidepressants don't work alone

"If I continued doing exactly what I had been doing last year, just with the addition of 40mg of Prozac, I would still feel bloody awful. Just slightly less so, probably. Antidepressants don't fix everything, and therapy is absolutely essential."

Scott believes that through therapy, one can learn coping techniques and get to the root of what's going on. "Antidepressants work, but you do have to be ready to work on yourself."

5. There is no shame in taking antidepressants

"I'm no longer ashamed of taking medication for my mental health, because I've realised needing meds isn't a weakness or a mental failing –– it's a way to take control and take something that will help you to move forward."

She explains that she keeps taking them because she can see how much progress she's made since taking them. "There's no shame in that. There's bravery, a commitment to working on an essential bit of being a person -– mental wellbeing. I'm proud that I'm putting in the effort to improve who I am, how I think, and how I feel. So I'm proud that I'm taking meds."