Autism Mental Health

Learning to be Okay With Antidepressants

I’ve slowly been lowering the dosage of my antidepressants for over a year now because I no longer wanted to be dependent on medication. I no longer wanted the struggle of making sure I took the right brand of apple juice with me to wherever I had dinner so I could mix the 20 drops of escitalopram with the strong taste of Appelsientje. I no longer wanted to have to take it late in the evening — when my IBS is at its worst — because I forgot to take it during dinner, when I’m supposed to.
But most of all, I wanted to see whether after 4 years of taking this same antidepressant it actually made a difference.

I guess now is the time to say that it did make a difference. Since lowering my dosage, I’ve been having a lot more anxiety attacks, sensory overload, meltdowns, and IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) cramps.

The meds don’t necessarily lessen my depression — which is what I initially got them for — but they help tremendously with managing my anxiety and IBS. The apple juice and my digestive system aren’t the best of friends, but they’ll have to learn to be around each other.

The first few months after I got my autism diagnosis, I noticed I seemed more ‘obviously autistic’. I know autistic burnout (sometimes called ‘autistic regression’) is something that can happen right after you get your (late in life) diagnosis, but I was still very bothered and confused by it.
I felt like I was faking or exaggerating now that I got confirmation that I was indeed autistic. But if you think about it, it’s only logical that after that ‘congratulations, you’re autistic’ moment, you can finally take off the neurotypical mask and be your autistic self. It sure saves a lot of mental energy.

At one point, I remembered that I was on a much lower dosage of medication than I was the year before, or even a month before. Of course! The medication must have been doing something if I was experiencing more sensory overload than I was when I was taking my normal dosage.

It took tonight’s hypochondriacal episode — one of many in the year I’ve been lowering my meds — to realize that I need my antidepressants, and I need them desperately.

I’ve since learned that antidepressants can decrease anxiety stemming from autism. But there’s an important catch: I need to take half the dosage (or even less) that non-autistics would get prescribed. It makes total sense if you consider the fact that autistic people are highly sensitive. A high dosage often does more harm than good. Another reason why it’s important that people with autism and mental health problems are correctly diagnosed, as early as possible.

At this moment in time, I can finally say that I’m okay with having to take antidepressants.

I can’t remember clearly what life was like with a higher dosage, but from photos and videos I can see that I was doing a lot better then. I’m excited to get back to that again.

Disclaimer: What worked for me may not work for you. Our bodies and brains are all different, and process medication differently. For some people, medication might do wonders. For others, it’ll only make things worse, or do nothing at all. A specific antidepressant might help one person but not the next. This is why I wouldn’t ever recommend any specific medication because it’s up to your psychiatrist to figure out what works best for you personally.
I lowered my dosage by myself (but extremely slowly — 1mg every 6 weeks) because I was on mental health waiting lists for the entire time and didn’t have a psychiatrist available to me. Doing what I did is not recommended, so please talk to your GP or psychiatrist before changing your dosage, and never stop taking your SSRIs cold turkey.

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