Happy Birthday Prozac!

In recognition of the 25th anniversary of Prozac the media have been engaging in their customary ‘analysis’ of medication for depression.

Browsing the BBC website (as you do), I clicked through to this article, hopeful that 25 years on the state media provider would offer a pleasantly less than critical appraisal of a drug that has treated millions of unwell people.

Ha! More fool me.

So then when I saw an early evening tweet from Scotland Tonight asking for experiences on Prozac, I decided to bear witness, and let them know that my experience has been wholly positive and that Fluoxetine is a drug which corrects a chemical imbalance in my brain and enables me to function in a way that was impossibly difficult without the drug. (It’s not easy now, but it is undoubtedly less difficult).

They didn’t acknowledge my tweet, so I tweeted a couple more responses, variations on a theme. And then they did read out the first tweet on the programme. But it started me thinking, and weighing up the coverage.

And, medicating for depression is still seemingly unacceptable. According to mainstream media, and the internet (if you don’t look hard enough). I have lost count of the interviews, reportage, websites, blogs, whatever, that I have read that claim that ‘talking therapy’ is the best solution, and even if drugs do work, folk should still be talking. Talking talking talking.

But what about being listened to? Which brings me back to my tweet to Scotland Tonight. I thought about their non-acknowledgement and asked them (again via twitter) how they felt about asking vulnerable people to share experiences via a public forum and then not even acknowledging the testimony. They didn’t respond to that. Now I know this is stretching a point, but don’t request information from people who admit they are struggling with (amongst other things) self confidence, and not give them the appreciation they will be subconciously asking for by providing that testimony.

And… maybe talking isn’t always the answer. In fact one of the major symptoms of my depression is avoiding conversation, and certainly talking to a stranger about my feelings was not something I was even half prepared to think about, for fear of a complete collapse. So I took Prozac for two years before I was even slightly ready to consider talking about my mental health. And then it was essential that I was taking the drug whilst I underwent the CBT. And then there was no way I was going to survive without CBT if I wasn’t taking Prozac.

Which all goes to say – This is a drug which stabilises me. It isn’t something I ‘use’ for fun, or as an alternative to thinking cognitively about my behaviour. It’s the first time in my life that I’ve felt stable. Not normal. Normal is not something I aspire to, I just want to be able to function in society – to be able to engage in small talk, to have self-confidence and to leave the house of a morning. I wish I had found it years ago, decades ago frankly, and then I wouldn’t have lost so many friends or missed out on so many experiences because I was too anxious to leave the house and interact with the world.

So, I have a request. I know some people don’t find that Prozac suits them, and that some people’s experience is worse than awful, and that there have been suicides linked to Prozac. BUT, for some people it is a life saver, a hugely positive alternative to a life of unexplained sadness and anxiety. And I worry that it is hard to find those positive stories, and that the media skew their reporting against what is, at the end of the day, a massively succesful treatment. There are caveats, as there are with all medications, but I just wish I could see or read one story that accurately reflected my experience.

Oh and, please don’t employ the pejorative ‘use’ in relation to Prozac. No-one ‘uses’ chemotherapy or drugs to relive the symptoms of alzheimers. They take a medication to relieve their condition. And so do I.

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2 thoughts on “Happy Birthday Prozac!

  1. Wow. I applaud your honesty and I’m so glad that the wonders of modern pharmacology keep you stable. I’m all for whatever interventions make it easier for folks to get by in the world. And, don’t worry about being normal. Normal is boring.

  2. Well done for writing about this stuff. Mental health really isn’t taken seriously enough, and definitely having people talking about their own experiences helps others to share – or just acknowledge privately – how hard these things can be. Go you.

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