Side-effects and scary nights. part 4.

The first few weeks taking anti-depressants I was a mess of emotions; hope that this would be the start of a new season, fear that it wouldn’t work, and anxiety about potential side-effects.

Being physically ill has always been the focus of my anxiety, so taking any kind of chemicals, anything new and unknown into my body, was terrifying.  I think this was one of the reasons I had resisted anti-depressants for so long… better the devil you know, and all that.

The jumble of feelings and thoughts, the many potential outcomes, the not-knowing and the imagining were a lot to deal with. My friend Laura suggested I write it all down.

Every night before I went to bed, and sometimes during the day too, I would dump the toxicity, the spiralling thoughts, the negativity and the panic, out of my brain and into my notebook.

What follows is some of those scribblings. It is fairly raw and should probably come with a health warning.

(It is also pretty personal so please be kind, I feel kind of vulnerable with this post).

Day 5. Monday

Brain skitting about all over the place. Anxious stomach. Can’t wait for the drugs to kick in, and terrified that they won’t. Last week was a better week… but yesterday and today the hyper-vigilance is back, or at least encroaching again. The list of things I can’t read or watch is growing:

-anything to do with illness (obviously)

anything to do with children (because… just in case)

anything connected to food (including new or unfamiliar cookery books! A new low).

anything connected to travel (inability to control environment/ fear of the future)

Again I am wary to make plans, trying to keep my week quiet. And Amanda and Laura tell me to be kind to myself but I feel this is always my mantra: ‘…do less, say no, manage your boundaries’.

Most of me is waiting to get well so I can do more, achieve more, see more. But maybe that is all wrong. Maybe I should just accept that I can’t do what I used to do or what I think I should be able to do.

But that feels horribly like settling.

This was a fairly normal day. Like it had been for the best part of a year.

And because I had been here before, I hadn’t really told anyone honestly about it this time around. I just kept thinking it would go away. That it was a blip, and tomorrow or next week I would be fine. I was ashamed.

I want to preface the next extract by saying that these experiences I am describing were not 100% down to the anti-depressants. At the time I thought I was experiencing debilitating side-effects (and this was probably part of it) but it turned out I was also ill with a nasty flu-bug, and this had intensified everything.

Day 6. Tuesday.

Really tough day. Emotional and psychological roller coaster. Finding it very hard not to give feelings of failure room to grow.

Not trusting yourself to make lunch plans, or even coffee plans incase you can’t cope = hard not to feel like a loon. By 7pm I felt sick and shaky. So low.

There is no warning, suddenly my energy is completely depleted, empty, nothing left. 

Day 7. Wednesday.

Awful, awful night.

Awake between 2:30-5am panicking, catastrophising and generally despairing. Woke sweaty, anxious, exhausted. Feel like I am losing the plot entirely and more than a little out of control. Totally envious of anyone who wakes up feeling calm. Feel I am letting the kids down. I am a mess. Confused. Feeling sick. Head aching. At the end of my tether. Weak and stupid.

Later: A truly awful morning. In tears, despairing, freaking out. As bad as it has ever been. Head aching, sick feeling. Exhaustion. Barely held it together to pick up kids from school. Wonder if I should be allowed to look after them at all.


(I wrote this message to myself in the kitchen, a visible reminder of what my heart was finding it impossible to remember.)

Day 8. Thursday.

A slightly better day. Am definitely ill with some flu-bug thing. Ed off school today so I had an enforced quiet day of crochet and the radio. Barely moved. I need more days like this.

Great chat on the phone with Sri. Afterwards she text me ‘your war is my war’. 

I am impatient. Sri encouraged me to stop before I start, ie. take some time to properly recover. I am hesitant to do this because 1. what if I still don’t get better? and 2. what have the last 6 years been about? I feel as though I am always saying – soon, soon I’ll make that work, I’ll be well enough to do that job… I have these pure creative moments when I can see the work ahead of me – but then I am unable to get on with it – fear/ lack of energy/ life gets in the way and the work is continually delayed, then forgotten about.

Oh to wake tomorrow with a clear mind, no headache, no anxiety! That would be joy on joy! 

Day 9. Friday

Better day, although headaches and back/ arm ache and general tiredness. Have needed lots of reassurance I won’t always be like this…

Day 10. Saturday.

Woke anxious but was able to make a decision to sack it off. This took a huge amount of effort and focus, but I was rewarded with a good day. A day where catastrophising thoughts were few, a day where I was flexible and able to go with the flow, a day of disastrously sandy and windy walks abandoned quickly, squealing children, poor nutrition, and a hectic house with monopoly junior, dress ups and cake decorating happening simultaneously.

And. I. Was. Fine.

Those four words look like hope to me.


The first few weeks were rough. There is no denying it.

But although it felt longer, it was only a couple of weeks that were really painful.

My 6 year old crawled into bed with me this morning and asked, “Mum, why do good days go so quick and bad days take ages?” I wish I knew.

Looking back now, I find peppered through my barely legible scrawlings from those days words of hope, of support. Words from people who loved me and were with me through it all. Even though at times I felt I was, I was never alone.

There were also moments of clarity. In amongst the brain fog, extreme tiredness and feeling completely overwhelmed, there were pinpricks of light.

At the point of most despair, of most acute anxiety, I have written in my notebook;

…As I identify another element of my brokenness, I shine like the morning.

When I discovered this phrase amongst the desperation I was surprised. My emotions were screaming a different story, but this is the truth of what was happening, and on some level, even from within the confusion, I knew it.

I understand this a little more every day. Richard Rohr, Franciscan Friar and Catholic Priest, puts it brilliantly;

“The path of descent is the path of transformation. Darkness, failure, relapse, death and woundedness are our primary teachers rather than ideas or doctrines.”*

Digging in the depths, acknowledging my suffering and being willing to sit with the pain long enough, is the path to healing, acceptance and grace.

In fact, it is the only way.




(Coming up – part 5, the final instalment, feeling fairly confident it will be a bit more up-beat!).



  • OJ
    Posted at 19:31h, 27 April Reply

    Just to say that I recognise those horrific and terrifying sensations too. They are exhausting to live with (survive?) and, though my choice was not to take the drugs, there is no “moral” dimension to that. I don’t know whether there is any point separating side-effect experiences from “primary” experiences. You live them all.

    I was looking at blossom on the tree outside my window this week and remembering being in the grip of all those things in this season last year. Mercifully not so now. This too shall pass. Hopefully for you too.

    • thehippochronicles
      Posted at 09:38h, 03 May Reply

      Thanks Oonagh, it can be pretty terrifying can’t it? But I feel for me the worst is over, at least for now, I am enjoying relative peace and stability. It is amazing how it sucks your ability to focus on anything else when it is bad. I am really enjoying concentrating on other things now, and planning fun stuff to do – without panicking (too much!) about if I will cope. Thanks for your message xx

  • John Gibson
    Posted at 08:36h, 28 April Reply

    Great Blog Elli – this kind of honesty is so helpful for others to hear. I get the vulnerability and fear that you must battle with when considering to put something like this ‘out there’ but be encouraged of the power of a shared experience. I was so fortunate when battling depression to have people around me who had had similar experiences and were willing to talk about it. I’m also shocked that almost every time I talk about my experiences in public I get people come up and say ‘I’ve suffered for years and never heard anyone talk about it’… or words to that effect.

    I had a real love / hate relationship with the anti-depressants – hated the side effects, like shaking hands that would embarrass and betray me in public but loved the fact they enabled me to leave the prison of my duvet and go outside.

    Thanks again Elli!!

    • thehippochronicles
      Posted at 09:36h, 03 May Reply

      Thanks John, sorry – just getting around to responding to these messages! Thank you for your honesty, it amazes me too how these kinds of illnesses still remain so hidden – I feel like I spend half my time talking about them…! For me the anti-depressants (once I got over the first few weeks) have been a God-send, literally! X

  • Jo Jacko
    Posted at 11:52h, 28 April Reply

    Honest, sobering, needed to be written and heard. God uses your vulnerability, but it’s not about being useful it’s about just being. Love and best wishes as always x

  • Courtney
    Posted at 16:53h, 29 April Reply

    I’m new to hope*writers, but I found this through Emily’s post this morning. Your thoughts and feelings so very closely resemble my own during my hardest days. I, too, now take an anti-depressant, and I, too, avoided it for way too long. Physical illness is/was also my biggest trigger. So, just wanted to say I understand and I am encouraged and inspired by your transparency and openness. Brava!

    • thehippochronicles
      Posted at 09:34h, 03 May Reply

      Hi Courtney, I’m pretty new to Hope Writers too, I am sure I’m not getting the most out of it yet – I need to spend some serious time reading and connecting. Prioritising it can be challenging with everything else in life going on.I know the drugs aren’t for everyone, but for me they have been a huge help. Thanks for the message, Elli x

  • mossmemoires
    Posted at 22:41h, 02 May Reply

    Oh my goodness! We live very close and sound like we could do with a bosom buddy chat!! Scarily similar stage of life and experience! Don’t know how to message you! Thanks for writing xx

    • thehippochronicles
      Posted at 09:32h, 03 May Reply

      Hi Kate, Thanks for your message. There are quite a few of us going through similar things – contrary to how isolating I (we?) can find it. X

  • Shaena
    Posted at 08:40h, 03 May Reply

    So nice to see other people sharing their experience with mental health illnesses. I often post things and get worried about people thinking I’m wanting attention or just over reacting but when I see someone else talking about similar feelings it’s a great comfort. Your blog is brilliant and I think you’re doing so well. I’m in the middle of a little relapse at the moment so reading your blog has helped me a lot. Thank you xxx

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