“Prozac”, like many forms of antidepressant, is a very controversial medicine.
Late last year I was prescribed fluoxetine (to give it its medical name). (Prozac is a brand name, and like ‘hoover’ has come to refer to various vacuum cleaners, ‘prozac’ refers to fluoxetine, which is made by many different brands. The brand I was taking was actually called ‘prozep’ until I changed to a gelatin-free form).
And the truth is this medicine has saved my life.
It’s as simple as that. The best way I can describe being on SSRIs is like after you have a cold for a long time with a constant blocked nose, and then you are able to breath clearly again. I was not suddenly happy, or magically ‘fixed. But I felt ‘normal’ again – life was manageable, instead of being a whirlwind of emotions. Prozac gave me my life back.
But the truth is also that this medicine has also made some of my friends feel ten times worse. If you’re reading this as someone potentially trying fluoxetine, please don’t let “horror stories” put you off as they affect the minority of people. If the medicine doesn’t work for you, an alternative can be found. Your health takes priority.
Prozac can have nasty side effects – luckily my only side effects have been nightmares, but they are infrequent, and the benefits outway the cons for me. However, for some people, the cons are unbearable and that just means this medicine isn’t the right medicine for them. It’s not possible to say whether the insomnia I suffer with is a side effect of the prozac or just a continuation of the insomnia I suffered with prior to taking prescription – but this leads me to add that many “side effects” are listed due to the technicality that they can’t be ruled not to be side effects. For example, bulimia is listed as a side effect despite prozac/prozep being used to treat bulimia, this is because the disorder may still occur in the patient despite being on medicine, and it cannot be decisively concluded if prozac is causing the disorder due to it being taken by the patient. So that doesn’t mean prozac causes these disorders, just that it doesn’t help everyone with their mental health problems in the same way it has been helpful for me.
I am a little bit scared about the day I come off fluoxetine as it is ‘addictive’ medicine. But I have also made peace with the fact I may never come off it; There’s no shame in taking medicine if I need it to help me function. The past week has been very rough as due to administration issues, I was without my medication for 8 days. (And you could tell.) My poor boyfriend had to handle a lot of my mood swings and irritability, which could have been my mental health problems that were not being managed by medicine, or could possibly have been withdrawal symptoms.
If you are on antidepressants it is so so important you take them regularly!
The reason I was placed in this precarious situation is I found out my medication had gelatin in (something I’m not okay with consuming) and had to faff about getting veggie alternatives. I was very peeved that no one had informed me that my medication contained gelatin (but also annoyed at myself for not checking the ingredients). My medication was initially handled by my dad, so I wasn’t aware of the ingredients, and only recently actually read the box. (Always read contents before you take any meds kids – Lesson learnt!). The pharmacist I spoke to also implied I wasn’t told that the capsules contained gelatin as “all capsules do” so it’s common knowledge (that I was not aware of.) I’ve luckily been able to source an alternative I’m happy with taking so for the foreseeable future, taking a dose of fluoxetine is as much a part of my morning routine as having breakfast and brushing my teeth. It’s helped me immensely, and countless others. There should be a push for more medication to help those suffering from mental health issues, as as I have outlined, fluoxetine isn’t a “cure” and does not help everybody.
I truly hope we can tackle the stigma about mental health and medication, so that one day, my being on SSRIs is viewed no differently to me taking medicine for a physical illness and maintaining my health and wellbeing in other ways. I also personally hope that medication also moves away from using animal produce unnecessarily.
Sending love to all my mentally ill babes, medicated or not. Please seek help when you need it! Although I cannot help, I’m here to listen if anyone wants to get anything offrom their chest! -A x