I started a low dose of Prozac in early 2010, with the intention to take it about six months and be done. I did take it six months, and then it took me about six and a half years to fully be able to stop taking it completely. During these six and a half years I tried everything, from slowly reducing the prescription, to natural remedies such as St. John’s Wort, meditation and therapy. For the first few weeks, sometimes even a couple of months, I was feeling good. Then I started getting easily irritated, tired, anxious, combined with dealing with the stress of owning a business, I felt “pushed” to take it again. Each time, I would feel guilty to have to rely on a chemical to stay balanced. After a while, the positive benefits of Prozac wore off, but being off was so emotionally painful that I would go back, again and again.
I started doing research on “addiction to anti-depressants” and found very little; only a few articles and videos. When I would talk to therapists I would hear words like “chemical imbalance”, only to find out from a British doctor specializing in mental illnesses that very little is known about chemicals in the brain. It’s convenient to say “you have a chemical imbalance” to justify prescribing more medications. The fact is that not much research has been done about the true effect of anti-depressants on the brain or even if there could be an addiction to it.
After a lot of research and trying all I could to get off Prozac I decided, by mid-2017, to just stop. Yes, simply STOP and deal with the consequences. They were many, and it pushed me to question life itself, made me face some of my deepest fears and after almost a year I can finally say that Prozac is not part of my life any longer and it is not welcome back. Ever.
One key to my “success” was to decide that taking it again was NOT an option anymore. The other was to have a strong spiritual practice to rely on and the tools to make the necessary changes. I had sold my business, let go of an unhealthy relationship and moved to a city by the ocean where I could retrieve and just be. It became the “Year of Shedding”.
My path was unique, and it’s important for each person to find the right path with proper tools and support. My intention in sharing my journey is to bring hope that there is light after the darkness.
Life without Prozac
Learning to Feel Again
My relationship with Prozac started in 1993 in Paris when I was 28. My life looked like a dream to many, living in a small apartment near the famous “Champs Elysees”, a job I enjoyed and although I wasn’t in a relationship at the time, I had plenty of friends and support. But I felt completely alone, and numbing my emotions through an eating disorder that had plagued my life for many years. In the 90’s, eating disorders were not part of an open conversation, it was hidden, misunderstood, and mostly mistreated. I had tried to talk to doctors, therapists, and family members, but I would get little to no support from anyone. I was told to just eat when I was hungry, and stop when I was full. It sounds simple enough, unfortunately an eating disorder, or ED, as referred to sometimes, doesn’t respond to an analytical mind. ED’s masters are emotions, triggers and the only answer is to either eat or starve, or a combination of both in my case. It is a lonely place to be. I don’t like to call it a sickness, or a disorder, it is simply a cry for help from the emotional body.
Back in April 1993, my life seemed normal, but ED had taken over so much of my time and energy that one Friday evening, after a long week at work, all I was looking forward to was to sleep. I proceeded to take many over-the-counter sleeping pills that evening as well as the following day. As a result, I wasn’t able to wake up to work on Monday morning and dragged myself to the phone to call a doctor. It wasn’t suicide, I truly just wanted to sleep, long enough that I didn’t have to FEEL anymore and could go on to just pretend that all was well. I was referred to a therapist who after listening to me for about 10 minutes casually prescribed me “Prozac” and I was on my way! At the time, I had very little knowledge of the danger of anti depressants and took it without questioning. The affects were quick, and within a week I had endless energy, a positive attitude and made important changes in my life such as moving back to San Francisco. My plan was to just take the “pills” until I ran out which was about five months. At the time, it seemed like a miracle pill, ED was in remission, I was back in the city I loved, so as my box of pills ended I didn’t feel the need to get more, I was done. Or so I thought.
Moving forward to 2010, my life once more seemed to be falling apart. I was dealing with a loss of the job, the end of a marriage and now in my 40s, questioning my entire life plan. The emotions that I had carefully buried were resurfacing, causing a lot of chaos. I was only able to sleep a couple of hours a night, consumed by anxiety and fearful of seeing ED pick its “ugly face” again. Even my seven years of regular yoga practice didn’t seem to help anymore, I was drowning. Depression is an easy label and then a simple solution comes with it, medications. I won’t blame doctors or a therapist, this time, I was the one who requested Prozac. It had worked before, so all I needed was just a few months on it and then all would be fine again. This time, it wouldn’t be. Instead, it took me on a wild ride that lasted over seven years, cost me the loss of important relationships, a business, friendships and took me to the edge of a cliff in 2017, wondering, as I look down into the ocean, if that was the end of the "road" for me.
It took me many years to shade layers that had been slowing me down.
The first one, was to move away from a culture that I didn't feel I belonged in and moved to California in 1991. This part might be in a different blog post. This last layer of changing my first name had been a long time coming. I remember growing up, then being called Sophie, and not understanding why that name never fit. We are born with so many choices, so why can't we choose our own name, the one constant in our lives, that will identify us to the rest of the world?
I let go of my birth name in 2017. It was if the time has come to let "Sophie" go, no hesitation, no strange feeling, my heart had always been Padma. Now I can fully embrace the one I had been all along. Padma had been waiting in the shadow for too long. She is out, she is here and she is ready to spread her butterfly wings for the world to see.