Nobody starts a blog with the intention of leaving it 10 months between posts. On the other hand, nobody wants to read a blog full of complaints about depression. Consequently, when depression dragged me down, I decided to wait until I could discuss it in the past tense before posting again. The great news is that I have been off anti-depressants for four months and there is no sign of depression returning. Other things have got in the way, most recently a power cut that caused the first draft of this posting to be lost, but the main one is stress!
So what went wrong? I have a long history of depression, requiring medication increasingly over 20 years, eventually continuously. I have either found antidepressants ineffective or else had an adverse reaction either at the starting dose or the target dose. The continuous treatment over five years sustained me through a long rough patch however, side effects had emerged, including my weight increasing by almost 50% due to an insatiable appetite.
Becoming obese was never my plan and could have reduced my life expectancy so I was keen to get off the medication. I took the opportunity afforded by a new job offer to do so. The improvement in my overall heath was both swift and remarkable. It greatly exceeded my expectations, such that I ignored the red flags of my mood sliding back down. Eventually, I became deeply depressed, making serious mistakes that were evident to all. I realised I had to confront my gender identity issues, otherwise I’d be back on the antidepressants, probably for life. What sort of a miserable life would that have been? Self acceptance seemed the only possible route to contentment. This is what precipitated me accepting myself and coming out as a trans woman.
Unfortunately I realised I’d need to go back onto my antidepressants in the short term to improve my work performance and requested the same as before, but my doctor was no longer happy to prescribe them because of the now proven side effects. Instead they prescribed the last one in their kit bag that they’d never tried before – it’s probably one of the newer ones. With hindsight it could probably have been rejected without being tried because I’d had bad reactions to similar ones previously. I had seven nights of insomnia due to it during which I became like a zombie and then an allergic reaction known as “Serotonin Syndrome”. This required a cold turkey type immediate cessation and on top of the insomnia it basically broke me. From being functional to completely broken in just over a week. The day of “Serotonin Syndrome” was my last day of living as a man. I didn’t look back once.
With the doctor out of options (other than the devil I knew) I was referred for an ’emergency’ psychiatric assessment. It should have taken place within two weeks, it eventually happened after six weeks! After four weeks of waiting and several escalations without an appointment, I returned to the doctor and asked to go back onto the same medication as before. This eventually enabled me to get back into work, but by then stress was a major factor too. I will cover this in another post.
The psychiatrist prescribed a new antidepressant but the cut-over to it from the one I was on is fraught and would have entailed a period off medication in between to avoid potentially serious complications. This was planned for January but was overtaken by events as I got my Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) prescription first. However, the psychiatric appointment was not a complete waste of time: the psychiatrist confirmed my Gender Dysphoria and sanctioned my referral to the Gender Identity Clinic.
I’ll cover the details of my ‘coming out’ in another post. Suffice to say that I returned to work in my new female identity and my social transition was incredibly straightforward. I was like a duck taking to the water. On the one hand I was very pleased about the ease with which I did it as it was extremely validating, on the other, I was filled with remorse for leaving it so late in life. I was tough and held out for a very long time. Far too long. You only have one life, don’t do as I did.
When I got my HRT prescription, my mood was already much improved and I was very happy being my true self. Thus, my doctor decided that I should come off the antidepressants first and then start the hormones. Six months and one day after my “Serotonin Syndrome”, I started my medical transition.
I have not needed antidepressants since. I’m going through a very tough time and am in pain from stress, but I am really happy in myself and I’m loving the changes that are taking place to my body.
This post marks the breaking of a log jam, a contributory factor to my stress, but that’s also the topic for another post. With the log jam gone, my posts should now become more regular.