When Eleanor, 25, was struggling with anxiety and low mood at uni, her doctor prescribed her an antidepressant called sertraline. Here is her story.
N.B. 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.
Taking steps to improve your mental state is an incredibly positive and brave step to take. This is part of your journey towards understanding your mental health. It is nothing less than admirable.
It’s been one-and-a-half years since I stopped taking antidepressants.
I took sertraline for two years of my life when I was at university. The decision to begin taking antidepressants was not an easy one. I was suffering with overwhelming anxiety and depression during my second year of university, which I was unable to control as I didn’t understand exactly what was happening to me.
As a 19-year-old, drinking became the way I attempted to handle my emotions. As you can probably guess, this was not a great coping mechanism and, in fact, it actually made my anxiety worse and I began having panic attacks. It was then that I decided to contact my university’s counselling team to seek some professional help.
I took sertraline for two years of my life when I was at university. The decision to begin taking antidepressants was not an easy one.
Reaching out for help from uni
Through my university’s counselling team, I received six free counselling sessions. I began talking and opening up about issues I had never addressed and started finally realising what it was that was making me so unhappy and anxious. However, my sessions then came to an end and I felt as though I was going back to square one.
After looking up how I could possibly continue counselling I was dumbfounded by the expense of the sessions. I felt disheartened – I was a university student who could barely pay her rent, let alone fork out that kind of money. I was frustrated that I was finally in a mental space to want to help myself, but felt that there was nobody there to help me. It was then that I turned to my GP, who prescribed me the antidepressant sertraline.
I was frustrated that I was finally in a mental space to want to help myself, but felt that there was nobody there to help me.
Fighting the stigma
I was apprehensive to begin taking antidepressants because of the stigma attached to them. Taking medication seemed drastic to a teenager and it was not something I wanted to openly discuss with any of my friends or family. I vividly remember telling my Mum that I was having to take antidepressants and seeing the worry on her face made me feel as though I had let her down.
However, after taking antidepressants for a month or so, I started seeing a big difference in my mental state. The weight that I was carrying around with me lifted slightly. I finally felt as though getting out of bed in the morning wasn’t such hard work. I heard myself laugh again - a sound I hadn’t realised I’d been missing for such a long time. The stigma I’d attached to antidepressants no longer seemed important; all that mattered was that the medication was helping.
I heard myself laugh again - a sound I hadn’t realised I’d been missing for such a long time.
Where I am now
As I write this, two years on, I remember what a turning point taking medication was for me. It provided the foundation to be able to build my self-esteem. I began practising mindfulness and wellbeing. I started taking care of my mental state and listening to what my mind and body were telling me.
Antidepressants gave me the time to understand my anxiety and depression and allowed me to pick myself up and learn techniques to cope with my anxiety until I no longer needed the extra support of medication.
Antidepressants gave me the time to understand my anxiety and depression and allowed me to pick myself up and learn techniques to cope.
To anyone who is feeling embarrassed for taking medication or afraid to take that step, I encourage you to notice how far you have come. Taking steps to improve your mental state is an incredibly positive and brave step to take. This is part of your journey towards understanding your mental health. It is nothing less than admirable.
More information and advice
We have tips and advice to help you find the support you need. Take a look at our guides.
Where to get help
However you're feeling, there are people who can help you if you are struggling. Here are some services that can support you.
Supports students to look after their mental health by providing information and advice.
They also provide details about local services offered by universities and information on how you can access support group programmes.
You can call or email for more information (this is not a helpline).