Everybody responds to medication differently. This blog only represents the author's experience. For more information, have a look at our medication pages. For medical advice, always speak to your doctor.
I had two years of sleepless nights.
After many appointments with my GP, I was prescribed temazepam – a hypnotic medication used for short-term treatment of insomnia. I took it, not knowing much about it, just praying that I would get more sleep.
I would take temazepam, fall asleep for about two hours (no more than normal) only to be woken up feeling like my head was being split in half. I would then spend the rest of the day feeling like I was asleep with my eyes open.
I took it, not knowing much about it, just praying that I would get more sleep.
Very quickly after that, my referral to my local child and adolescent mental health service (CAMHS) came through and my newly appointed psychiatrist took me straight off it, much to my relief! I was then prescribed melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that occurs naturally in our bodies to regulate our sleep cycle – sometimes an extra kick of it, taken in tablet form, can help us to nod off.
Although it can take a while to have an effect, it made no difference to me – I was so anxious that I was just overriding any medication that could possibly help.
Instead I was prescribed clonazepam. This didn’t have much effect on me, but thankfully that meant no side effects either.
I was so anxious that I was just overriding any medication that could possibly help.
Given that none of the sedatives were helping me sleep, and I had also recently been diagnosed with autism, my psychiatrist decided to change direction and try to tackle the anxiety itself. I was prescribed fluoxetine, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI).
Fluoxetine helped me to feel less anxious, but it gave me slight breathing difficulties as I have asthma. Because of this, I was put on sertraline (another SSRI), which I have been on ever since.
Initially, I was a bit concerned that I would always have to depend on medication to be happy but it’s important to realise that you wouldn’t judge someone with diabetes for having to take insulin, or judge someone with asthma for having to use an inhaler.
You wouldn’t judge someone with diabetes for having to take insulin.
The good thing about taking sertraline is that I feel much less worried, and because of this I’m able to sleep much better. Luckily, I’ve experienced no significant side effects, apart from feeling dizzy if I forget to take it for a day, but I think that’s minor in comparison to feeling so much better.
I think it’s really important to understand that medications aren’t a ‘one-size-fits-all’ type of thing. One medication that might be great for you might have very little impact on someone else. That doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you or the medication - we’re all just different! It’s also good to remember that medications can take a while to start working. One tablet won’t magic your troubles away and even as they do start to help, it’s still important to have other tools in your box to help you cope.
Questions about mental health medication?
If you would like to know more about the different types of mental health medication you could be prescribed, how they help and what the side effects could be, have a look at our guide to medications.