Some of you may know the name Johann Hari – he’s a newspaper columnist from the UK and he’s written about his use of Seroxat on a few occasions.
It’s an interesting journey to document.
In the Independent in 2003 he wrote: “…The problems caused by extreme ecstasy use (and the widespread problem of depression caused by other, unknown factors) can, thankfully, be largely rectified by SSRIs. But there is at the moment an irresponsible scare campaign – orchestrated by sections of the media that should know better – that is stigmatising SSRIs.
A tiny number of suicides have been tenuously linked to anti-depressants, and on the basis of these unproven accusations, an entire demonising bandwagon has been put on the road.”
He went on: “Many people do have problems coming off the drug, but since I never intend to come off (and I think any depressive who tries is crazy), why should that bother me? Dependency in itself is not a problem. I am dependent on food and water and oxygen and the maintenance of the social fabric around me. Diabetics are dependent on insulin, and I don’t hear anybody lecturing them to wean themselves off.
Nor do SSRIs turn people into zombies, or make them incapable of thought; these are stereotypes left over from the old, terrible antidepressants such as lithium. I feel things just as keenly as I ever did; the difference is that Seroxat prevents one dark feeling – of emptiness and self-loathing – from overwhelming all the other, more subtle and interesting feelings.
I often wonder why the impact of SSRIs is not more widely appreciated. One of the great, lingering curses of the human condition – depression – is now, in all but a small number of cases, treatable”.
Clearly Johann was a FAN.
In 2004 he wrote a piece in the Independent on Sunday entitled “In defence of Seroxat”: “Seroxat saved my life. It’s as stark – and stupidly melodramatic – as that. I was eighteen, lost and suicidal. I couldn’t sleep; I couldn’t eat; I could only think fitfully, in manic bursts in-between tears. I was becoming unanchored from reality, alternating between being shut morosely in my room and wild, anarchic sociability.
And then came my small blue tablets – 30mg of sanity once a day – and success. Seven years on, I have never once doubted or cursed my Seroxat. Like the vast majority of people who use it, I have found – for the first time in my life – a sense of coherence and control.”
However, by August 2006 Johann was changing his mind: “… I have never regretted taking the anti-depressants to lift me out of the depression, and I never will, but I began to wonder if they were really a lifetime companion rather than a long fling. I sensed somewhere that they had drawbacks, but I could never really articulate what they were…”
“… although depression is a disease, unhappiness is not. On the contrary, it is an essential state, a signal we all need from time to time to show us when our lives are going wrong. Stripped of that signal, it is easy to lose your way – as many, many people who take antidepressants too long do….That’s why I have decided, with one last synthetic tear, to bid antidepressants goodbye.”
By October 2006 this was what was happening: “I have spent this week in bed shivering, sweating and in withdrawal. No, I haven’t done a Pete Doherty – as my mother reassured me recently, “I know you’re not a junkie son, you’re far too fat”. My drug is legal, my dealer for the past decade has been my GP, and this withdrawal is Officially Sanctioned. It is called Seroxat, sister of Prozac, proud member of the SSRI family of anti-depressants. This is the first week of my adult life where I have had only a trace ten milligrams of Seroxat in my bloodstream – and it feels…”
” So why? Why now? After a decade of joy, after spending all my adult life chemically enhanced, why stop? … over the past two years I have slowly begun to realise that, in addition to their great, glorious strengths, anti-depressants cause slow, subtle problems too.”
So I want to know what it is like, to be an ordinary undepressed, undrugged adult. How much of this is me, and how much is the medication?
Of course I am anxious. Could the depression come back? Will the withdrawal be agony? Will my ugliest character traits re-emerge from below the Seroxat? But I also know there will never be a better time – when I have a job and a life I love – to try.
I’m taking it slowly. I’m cutting back by inches. I’m gently – very gently – acclimatising to the colder climate beyond Seroxat. And so far, from my sick-bed, it feels… yes, it feels okay. I am beginning to cry at films again – warm, healthy tears – and to feel flickers of rage at small irritations. It feels real. It feels human. It feels like me, after all these years.”
It sounds like Johann has been very lucky – Seroxat didn’t harm him while he was taking it – or not that he has noticed yet. I wonder if he’s ever looked in on Seroxat Secrets? There’s a whole lot to learn about this stuff, Johann and here’s as good a place as any to start.
I hope the withdrawal is going well.