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A love letter. Monday May 26, 2014

I still recall the first time we met. Years of stress, and genetic inheritence had brought me to an all time low. The running commentary of self-criticism that had replaced all normal thought had summed it up for me the previous day. I washed the kitchen floor, a small ambition to see it gleaming clean, and it did gleam. Then, a sauce bottle knocked on the floor, up the walls. The voice spells it out "You can't even do that right, you really are useless"

Next day I see my GP. I ask for you by name, and she agrees we may hit it off. She also suggests further help, a clinical psychologist. I walk out with an appointment, and a prescription. You have changed your name now to Fluoxetine, but to me you will always be Prozac. Within days you have worked your magic. Some say it is all a placebo effect, but tell me this - how come the Raynauds that made my hands crippled every winter is almost cleared -something I had not even expected.

By the time I meet the therapist I feel a bit of a fraud, but go along. The first meeting is about my history, she tells me I am a remarkable woman, promises to provide me with a "psychological toolkit" to enable me to be happy, stop hating myself.

She smiles when I admit I already feel better than I can ever remember. Antidepressants can be useful in the short term she admits, to get someone out of a crisis, but they are a poor substitute for what she can help me achieve.

The second meeting - she draws some charts. Starts delving. My fear of abandonment - that will get sorted, no problem. The next couple of weeks before the next appointment are hard. It is like someone has offered to come and clear out my loft, but just left all the junk by the front door so I keep tripping over it. I say junk, but toxic waste would be more like it - we are talking biohazard.

I just battle on, waiting for my next appointment. Without you, it would have been grim indeed. Just two weeks until the third meeting. But there is none. I arrive to be told she has phoned in sick. Another two weeks, I am just leaving the house when a call comes, cancelled again. I hear nothing for a few months, then a letter, the venue is changing and a new appointment is on the way. I never hear again. That was 15 years ago. The humour and irony is not lost on me - a psychotherapist promises to cure your fear of abandonment, then disappears!

And all these years later, you are still with me, my little green and white darling. Periodically I have to go through the motions to satisfy the doctors. Yes - I have tried to break away (lies, all lies!) We are told that mental illness is just that, an illness. Do they tell diabetics or epileptics that they really should try to wean themselves off medication, that they should explore talking therapies? You have always been there for me, we don't need words, I know what you mean to me.

A Moodscope member.

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Anonymous Mon, May 26th 2014 @ 7:58am

You write beautifully Valerie. I feel tears pricking after reading your story. My fear is of abandonment too and I can only try to imagine what what your feelings sound angry and if you are, it's justifiable. At least the Prozac is helping and I hope you don't have side effects. My very best wishes to you, little help is available for talking therapies on the NHS, they take time, and time costs money, easier to write a prescription ... so very little real help for us with illnesses that can't be seen, a scrip and six sessions of CBT.

heather Mon, May 26th 2014 @ 9:02am

Dear Valerie, I really enjoyed reading your entertaining blog, and I am envious of your love affair with Prozac, which has helped so many people. I cannot have it as I am told it is not suitable for Bipolar as my moods can fluctuate so quickly. Lithium has helped me a lot to reduce the swings. HOWEVER this "happy" Bank Holiday Monday I woke up in tears (for no real reason) feeling I was the most enormous misfit that ever walked the earth and no-one would care if I didn't. This has upset my partner who is now in an even worse mood and will no doubt make sure I suffer. Well, at times like this I run to my computer for companionship and there you were Valerie with your entertaining blog which rang so many bells. Like I say my mood swings are erratic and I think I can now get on with the day in an OK way, but do wish I hadn't taken that cup of tea up to my partner - a problem shared is not always a problem halved !

valerie Mon, May 26th 2014 @ 9:31am

Oh Yes,mood disorder plus passive aggressive partner,plus bank holiday,what a truly lovely combination! You are not alone,there will be a lot of that around today.Valerie x

Anonymous Mon, May 26th 2014 @ 9:42am

I could relate to a lot of what you said. Like you fluoxetine worked for me ( for a few years) but then it stopped working and since then no anti d has worked. I suffer from Raynaulds too - Didnt no I did until I stopped the anti d. Really hope they continue to work for you.

valerie Mon, May 26th 2014 @ 9:42am

Thank you for your kind words.I think maybe talking therapies would have helped when I was much younger,but I think there is a level of accumulated damage in my nervous system that cannot be reached by words.I have been lucky,I have friends who have been unable to find medication that suits them.Valerie x

Anonymous Mon, May 26th 2014 @ 10:26am

I agree with you both. Partner and i have already had one argument....about bacon!!...and he has stormed off upstairs blaming me! HE suffers from Raynauds too! What a coincidence! Thank you Valetie, and you are just great. Treat yourself xx S.

Anonymous Mon, May 26th 2014 @ 10:35am

I sense feelings of abandonment here!

Anonymous Mon, May 26th 2014 @ 10:41am

Thanks for this Valerie. I was with you all the way. I was introduced to Prozac when it first came on the market in the UK, by which time I'd clocked up about 20 years of eating disorders and depression, struggling every day to get up and face the day. There were many days when I just couldn't get up at all. I'd tried everything else and nothing worked My doctor suggested I might as well try this one, even though I wasn't keen on drugs. But Prozac/Fluoxetine helped me turn my life around. With guidance I began to eat what was suggested - three balanced meals a day - and 23 years later I am still doing this. I maintain a healthy weight and size for me. I can now get up EVERY day and face life. No, the depression has not gone away completely, but it is MANAGEABLE. I get up every morning these days. Yes, I have been encourage to ditch the drug and I have complied with doctors' requests to do so. The result? They see that I am much better with Prozac than without. Have a great day Valerie!

Anonymous Mon, May 26th 2014 @ 10:59am

As a Occupational Health nurse in looking after x3 major work force's/employee's.I feel burnt out seeing at least 90% of the workforce,in my sick absence clinics for stress/depression & excuses for their non attendance or general unhappiness in the job role-I am trained in mental health assessment & whilst anti -depressants really do work,for those long term endogenous depressions & sufferers.People should put into perspective & ask "Is this a REACTIVE DEPRESSION" Triggered by an event/personal situation & it will pass with therapeutic measures i.e: gym/yoga ect/family support.Real abandonment is loss of children,relationship,homelessness.
After 13 yrs sitting & listening to 10 people's excuses,every day for their (perceived stress) parrs into significance,when I have dealt with degenerative illness/cancer patients,who despite all odds,show allegiance too their employer/colleagues and struggle into work,in between chemotherapy treatments each week.

Anonymous Mon, May 26th 2014 @ 12:06pm

Hi Valerie. - re. abandonment. Yes, your 'letter' brought tears to my eyes. I have suffered from depression on and off for 35 years - and I owe a huge debt of gratefulness to the developers of Prozac - it saved my life once, and for many years on and off has helped me to function reasonably well in our marvellous but mercurial world.
Your comments on abandonment struck a deep chord with me. Age has given
me the benefit of hindsight, and the knowledge that we are not always aware of
all the facts of a matter at any particular time. We can only see a part of the
'reality' around us - part of it is always hidden. We do not have the full picture -
which is one of the deep and amazing mysteries of our lives. So, I would like you
to think for a moment of the Psychotherapist who was treating you, and whose later absence caused you to feel once again the pain of abandonment. I wouldn't
mind betting that you were not the only one to suffer. It was the 'system' which abandoned you, not the Psychotherapist. I am sure she felt badly about not being
able to continue helping you (professional standards/rules would have prevented her from making personal contact with you to explain this). For all you know, she may after all this time be still thinking of you, regretting that you were not able to continue your 'work' - and hoping even after all this time that you are healing. Her good wishes for you are still there, although you cannot 'see' them. She wished you well then, and I am sure she is still 'out there somewhere' and still wishing you well, even though you have no physical contact. I hope you can take some comfort from this thought. Perhaps you could try to access a therapist through 'MIND' to try to help lay the ghost of your feelings of abandonment. Keep asking and say you will not go away until someone helps you. I admire the way you have fought to live the best life you can, with the help of our dear friend Prozac. Well done you. But you yourself appear to think that there is more 'work' to be done on your issues. Go get, girl! So you can get the most out of your life. I am not a psychologist, but it seems to me that we all need one person in our lives at the start who gives us unconditional love, in order that we may go forward in our lives with confidence and hope. If something goes wrong with that first bond, it can mar our lives, unless we can be helped to learn how to be our own 'unconditional lover', and find the strength and confidence in ourselves to move on. It sounds to me as if you are almost there. I do wish you all the best, I really do. And hope you have found, or will find in the future, someone who you know would never abandon you through choice.. And Cheers! for Prozac! x

heather Mon, May 26th 2014 @ 1:24pm

What an extremely thoughtful and helpful comment Anon 12.06. Heather x

Julia Mon, May 26th 2014 @ 1:54pm

The reason why Prozac and anti depressants work and CBT and other therapies do not long term is because you can take a pill every day (and it doesn't cost much) but CBT has to stop at some point unless you are very rich and can carry on forever, Counselling can work to change thought patterns while you are in the midst of the sessions but once they are over, it is almost impossible to maintain the energy or will power to think and act how you have been taught to.The NHS is trying to improve it's free counselling services but it hasn't got there yet and sometimes it can be a depressing experience in itself attending one of their sessions. (See Anonymous above 10.59.Hopefully not all NHS mental health counsellers feel jaded and resentful in the way Anon describes her feelings towards us poor souls. I need one of Suzy's emoticons here)

Anonymous Mon, May 26th 2014 @ 2:08pm

Yes, MIND is a good idea. The IAPT scheme has some merits and there are always centres where the cost of therapies is very low so you can take responsibility for your own recovery, rather than depending on the vagaries of others. Many people do take prozac type tablets for a long time and many will not come off them for they solve the problem for them, which, despite what is said therapies, gym and other activities do not always do. It rather depends what information is being supplied to your doctors surgery at the time. If they have read something negative about long term use of tablets they panic and demand you come off them. At one time they did the same with valium. It is not a thought through process they just panic. Yes tablets can/are addictive but can be extremely useful. If you read the many books available about these types of medications you will know more than the doctor and can make your own decisions. Many of our problems are caused by constantly looking to authority figures for the answers rather than finding our own anwers. Abandonment? Go to Al-anon. You will begin to recover and they will never abandon you.

Anonymous Mon, May 26th 2014 @ 2:11pm

Valerie. You do write beautifully. As a person who has coped with depression and anxiety, post trauma for many years, feel your disappointment with the
therapist and your relief with a pharmaceutical answer. The drugs seem so much more reliable.
I also want to make a point you no doubt already know. Not all therapists are created equally. CBT is one approachI never liked it. I
found a Jungian therapist
who has helped me grow,
heal and deeply accept
myself in ways I never
thought possible.
Its about the healing
relationship. I hired and fired
many before I found the right
Drugs will never help you
mature and fight through your battles. They dull the pain. That is necessary.
Depression is a life
threatening illness.
The healing comes from relationships: friends, family (sometimes), peers, & a good fit therapist. Is there room for love with all of that within your love affair with Prozac? Dont give up.
Sincerely wishing you serenity & growth.

Anonymous Mon, May 26th 2014 @ 2:42pm

Thank you. Your timing is perfect for me. I thought the drugs were to cushion us as we make our journey. Even if we decide our organic makeup is that of needing one on going. To be human means to change in some small way each day, either positive or negative. Our personal growth is more fluid than water. It is up to us to direct this growth through knowledge, experience and contemplation. So whether this be done through counseling, a great author, a blog, friends.... I don't see how the need of a prescription cancels our personal growth path.??? I am commenting as Anon-"me." (So I can be identified within this conversation context-there are a lot of Anonymous commenter right?)

Lex McKee Mon, May 26th 2014 @ 2:43pm

Dear Valerie, this is so close to poetry... a love letter to Prozac... really excellent, touching, emotive...

Anonymous Mon, May 26th 2014 @ 3:09pm

That is lovely, finding something that works for you and recognizing it without guilt. I too have come to terms with the fact I am in need of medications and that they make me feel better. I love my meds, they change the chemicals in my brain and have thus changed my life for the better. They have saved my life on numerous occasions.

valerie Mon, May 26th 2014 @ 4:42pm

I won't bore you with my history,and I agree with quite a lot of what you say.I should also add that I -in my time- would qualify for all the criteria you set for "abandonment".I have never applied for benefits,and as any self-employed person will tell you,could never afford to crawl away under the duvet.Quite apart from having to earn a living,the animals in the sanctuary I run from home would starve.So,not just me but the British tax payer have every reason to say "Thank God for Prozac! I should also add that with only a couple of exceptions ,all the people I know who have mental problems have battled on very bravely to keep on top of their responsibilities,often at enormous cost to their long-term well-being.

Valerie x

valerie Mon, May 26th 2014 @ 4:55pm

Aw shucks! Thank you so much Lex,coming from someone with your gifts it means a lot.Valerie x

Anonymous Mon, May 26th 2014 @ 5:02pm

I was in therapy when my therapist decided I was definitely depressed and sent me to a psychiatrist for meds - Prozac. It did save me for many years. When I left corporate life I was able to go off it for a number of years. After breast cancer I was put on Arrimedix. The next day I couldn't even speak I was so depressed. Prozac to the rescue again! I have to say though that the therapy (about 25 years ago) did help but it took 2 years! I now use EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique, commonly known as tapping). I do it on my own and when I can't get something resolved, I found a psychotherapist who uses EFT and we have a few sessions (or even one) and I'm fine. I have resolved deep hurts that have run my life through EFT and a tendency towards anxiety. I notice that I hardly ever rate scared, nervous, etc. on the Moodscope higher than 0 except when there is a specific circumstance I am a bit worried about. EFT has truly freed me and doesn't take long. Note: I have studied EFT (Carol Look's DVDs) and been using it pretty regularly for 3 years now. You wrote a lovely blog - meds are needed but there are some real benefits to addressing one's fears and emotional states too.

Silvia A Mon, May 26th 2014 @ 6:27pm

Valerie said: "I think there is a level of accumulated damage in my nervous system that cannot be reached by words."

I think therapy is not just about words but also the presence, the energy, the effort of the therapist which in your case all these aspects were missing.

Anonymous Mon, May 26th 2014 @ 8:26pm

Hello, this is Anon 7.58am. I have friends who work for the NHS, as nurses and also in mental health assessment. I know that they are very stressed by the conditions they work under and also the limitations of service imposed upon them by financial cuts, but they continue their daily work. So I can sympathise with some of your views about some excuses for non attendance or general unhappiness in the job.

You make a valid point about reactive depression. However, my abandonment as a small child (I won't bore you with the details but assure you it was "real" abandonment) has had a profound effect upon a long life. This was exacerbated by botched physical treatment by the NHS, many years ago. The NHS abandoned me and I have lived with the physical disabilities ever since, choosing not to raid NHS funds by requesting compensation.

When someone experiences serious abandonment as a child one becomes very sensitised and later abandonment issues bring to the surface the emotions around the original abandonment. I believe that the cortex also undergoes permanent change when a child experiences such things, leaving permanent sensitivity. I am lucky to have been able to afford very good therapy during a long life. However, some things cannot be cured by therapy and drugs don't work for me.

So, I keep on going on. Trying to help others when I feel well enough and hiding away when I don't. Degenerative illnesses and cancer are terrible things, I've supported friends through both - please don't dismiss emotional illness. It's a terrible thing to live with. I'm not asking for your sympathy, but for your understanding.

G Tue, May 27th 2014 @ 8:15am

At first I took medication that left me sedated and not working in making me feel 'normal', falling back to crises from time to time even with daily medication (it's Mirtazapine). At that time, talking therapy helped me tremendously.

I had moved and therefore seeing different psychiatrist and therapist---this time the new medication "Valdoxan" works perfectly for me but the talking therapy... not so much.

Even though I still have what Heather says "woke up in tears (for no real reason) feeling I was the most enormous misfit that ever walked the earth and no-one would care" every other month, I am happy to act like a normal person and carry on daily routines most of the time thanks to Valdoxan.

Thank you everyone for sharing.

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