Part 5 - The Medication Of Choice

I’m a firm believer in the power of choice. Choice, that is, not only in everyday things such as the food we eat, the clothes we wear and the friends we keep, but also choice when it comes to our attitudes towards the circumstances life throws at us.

Deciding to start taking antidepressants was therefore not a choice I made lightly. For years, I had been trying alternative ways to perk myself up, such as running regularly even when it was the last thing I felt like doing, and becoming addicted to Blackadder and Billy Connolly. I also tried various natural remedies over the years such as St John’s Wort, Valerian, even pumpkin seeds. So why could I, such a firm believer in choice, not just choose to stop being anxious and depressed?

Well, I finally realised that all the time I had been facing my bigger black dogs and choosing not to take prescription medication, I did in fact have another choice. And that choice was to take.

Another way of looking at it is that I am not a miracle worker. If, for example, I were an experienced climber, and I wanted to climb Mount Everest and I had just become a radical nudist (admittedly one of my more far-fetched analogies, but bare with me, if you pardon the completely intentional typo) then I could choose to start climbing au naturel. But I would never get very far.

Much as I might want to, climbing all the way to the summit of Everest in my birthday suit would not be a choice available to me. I could, however, choose to stop being pig-headed, use the protective clothing available to me, just climb the mountain, and be happy. I’m sure you get my drift.

Anyway, as I alluded to at the end of my last post, after years of being chased around by increasingly bigger black dogs one at a time, I eventually found myself with a pack of them circling me all at the same time.

At work, I had just been promoted right in the middle of an unbelievably busy period, so I was having to learn a new job in testing circumstances. I felt like I was always working – 24×7 – because if I wasn’t actually working, I was thinking – and intensely worrying – about work. I would be stressing over deadlines, or any small, run-of-the-mill mistakes I had made, becoming fixated with them all and turning them into monsters.

As a single example, I clearly remember going to the movies one Saturday afternoon just before I made the decision to go on medication. Throughout the whole movie, all I could think about was work, obsessing over specific mistakes and impending deadlines. I was literally trembling with anxiety while my friends munched away on their popcorn.

Tess and I also had two very young children to support and love. We had also bought a business two years earlier, which Tess was running while at the same time doing her very best to be a great Mum (two tough challenges, yet she truly excelled at both!) I was acting as part-time unpaid Chief Bean Counter in my spare time, and we were trying to steer our business through what was the Global Financial Crisis. Our younger son Freddie was not sleeping well at all – so of course neither were we. Just to whack some icing on the cake, my red tape dispute with insurers, builders and lawyers over our investment property was still slowly dragging on, unresolved after over two years. And of course with all these pressures came the associated irrational worries and what-ifs.

I would more often than not find myself lying awake in the middle of the night, when the irrational mind is at its most active, fishing around in the dark for new things to worry about. Well, seek and ye shall find – especially in the middle of the night with nothing to distract you from your own dark thoughts.

I even got to a point where I felt it would be bad luck to stop worrying about something. I would try to reason with myself that that not a single one of my irrational worries – major or minor – had ever come to fruition over the years, so perhaps I should choose to just stop worrying, albeit easier said than done. But then I worried that if I let my guard down and stopped worrying, perhaps this would be the worry that would actually come true. Yes, I actually was worrying about not worrying!

I ended up spending months dragging myself through each day, with those pangs of anxiety constantly swirling around in my stomach. During more severe attacks, it would rise up as a gripping sensation to my chest and almost a physical feeling of doom in my head. I eventually got to the point where I had absolutely had enough. It was time to take drastic action. Time to choose my state of mind and conquer this proverbial mountain once and for all, regardless of my aversion towards the proverbial protective clothing.

I had in fact briefly taken Xanax on my doctor’s advice a couple of years earlier at the height of one of my larger individual black dogs. Xanax is a tranquiliser that chills you out more or less within the first two hours, but as my doctor said, “you can become dependent on it” ie “it can be addictive”. Even then, I was reluctant to take it for a brief period because it meant I could never again say that I had never taken medication for stress or anxiety – a specific question asked on many finance application forms, but as I also learned, not a show-stopper. It was around that time I also sat on the couch of an outstandingly great psychologist for the first time. This was another step I had been reluctant to take for all the taboo stigmatic reasons and a step worthy of its own dedicated blog post in the near future.

I therefore didn’t make the choice lightly to go back to my doctor and ask to be prescribed something more heavy-duty, something I could take for longer than just a few days at a time. But I knew it was now the right thing to do, the right choice to make.

The date in question was 13th July 2010. After I had made the decision to go and see my doctor, I spoke to a good friend the night before, who herself was on medication for anxiety. She reiterated that what I was going through, and the choice I had just made in admitting I needed help, were nothing to feel guilty about or be ashamed of. She explained her cancer analogy, that there is a widespread misplaced belief that anxiety is created solely by the individual. She also reassured me that nowadays it absolutely was possible to pop a pill that would take the edge off it all, yet I would still be able to think clearly and rationally. 13th July 2010, she exclaimed, was going to be the day I started to take back control; it was going to be Mark Pacitti Day. She deserved an Oscar for that inspiring conversation. Instead, she gets a mention on a blog. Thank you, Sandy. Sincerely.

I was literally in tears as I made the ten minute walk to the doctor surgery the next morning. The blubbering continued as I sat in her chair. I explained my situation, and that I just wanted the feelings of anxiety and depression to go away. I had even been worried that she might send me packing – that there was nothing wrong with me, that I didn’t need medication, that I should man-up and get back to work.

But no, she was quite understanding, and happily gave me a prescription for an initial month’s supply of Paroxetine. She explained that Paroxetine was a Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI) that acts in a different way to Xanax. Several people, she said, find that if it works well, they can stay on it for years and function normally – but without the anxiety and depression. She then said that she was obliged to point out it would take at least 4-5 weeks for it to get fully into my system and take effect. Just as I thought she had dealt me one huge enough blow in that I was not going to get instant Xanax-style relief, she also pointed out that one in five people get a lot worse before they get better. Oh, and if I should get any suicidal tendencies in the next few weeks, to go straight to a hospital. If not, I would see her again in a month’s time. And with that, I was off to the nearest pharmacist.

I was off work the following day, and actually felt a bit better. Wow, that was quite quick, I thought. Perhaps I am not going to be one of the one in five. But in hindsight, that was just relief that I had finally taken firm action. Within a few days, my state of mind nosedived.

One of the many listed potential temporary side effects was loss of appetite. Well, I knew something was happening when my own appetite completely evaporated into thin air. I’m the sort of person who was never much fun to be around if I got too hungry; I had always loved my food, priding myself on the fact that no matter how sick I ever was, I would still manage to stuff something edible down my gullet because I knew it would make me feel a little better. But this Paroxetine-induced loss of appetite was a whole new ballgame.

For the first time in my life, the mere sight of food made me nauseous. About a week later, there was one day when I hadn’t eaten a single thing by 3pm. Unbelievably, I had actually skipped breakfast AND lunch, yet I wasn’t growling at anyone or climbing the walls. I did finally manage to force myself to eat a slice of toast, though it took me about fifteen painful minutes to slowly nibble away on.

As the days passed, my appetite slowly but surely returned but I also started to sink deeper and deeper into my cave – deeper than I had ever gone before. It was like I had gone into my normal cave, and fallen down a deep, dark hole hidden behind a rock that I had never seen before. My irrational worries and my incessant what-ifs turned into inevitable and highly vivid whens – when I lose my job, when my house falls down, when our business goes to the wall.

With the benefit of hindsight, I don’t think I ever had any suicidal tendencies in those first few weeks, but I can’t recall for sure. I do however remember the vicious circle of worrying that I might become suicidal. I also clearly remember lying in bed wide awake in the middle of a Saturday night, feeling absolutely, completely and utterly, utterly useless – of no worth whatsoever as a husband, a father, an employee or a friend. I thought about the limited life insurance cover that I had, as well as my superannuation – and I literally felt that would at least be of more value to my family dead than alive.

The following morning, I lay in bed alone, with the door closed and the blinds down. To this day, I very clearly remember listening to our then four-year-old Jack chatting away with Tess in the living room. Young Freddie at just over one year old was innocently gurgling away in the background. I can’t remember exactly what Jack was saying, but his voice had never sounded so clear and so sweet. But it was actually a painful moment because at that very same time, I felt I was letting them all down. The reality of it all hit me like a sledgehammer in my already anxiety-ridden chest. Because of the state I was now in, after all, I would never be able to work again. We would lose our house for sure, all because of me. What sort of a future did my sons have now? What about their education, their shot at a decent life? Where were we going to live?

The whole enormity of it all came crashing down and if I were able to think rationally at the time, I would probably have said to myself “surely it can’t get any worse than this?” The problem was that what I did say to myself was “surely it won’t get any better than this”.

That weekend was probably the worst weekend in my entire life, about as low as I had ever felt.

I had gotten myself into such a state that I clearly needed some time out from work. I was incredibly nervous about telling my employers, but they were understanding, and I ended up taking two weeks off.

I had a lot of time during those two weeks to read newspapers and watch television, trying to keep my overactive mind occupied. One day I read in the newspaper about a local Federal MP, and Shadow Minister, Andrew Robb. Mr Robb had recently gone public about his own victorious battle over depression. His condition had also gone from bad to far, far worse as he had weaned himself onto his medication. In one radio interview, he was quoted as saying “You don’t turn around fifty years of body chemistry in three or four weeks. You need patience and there are lots of different pills and approaches.” This rang so true for me, and made me realise that perhaps what I was going through was indeed a normal part of the process. It was also the first time in a while that I allowed myself the luxury of hope.

I didn’t actually feel 100% ready to go back to work when I did, but I felt I could at least do so after just two weeks off without raising suspicion amongst those not in the know. My doctor formally signed me back on anyway – again, in hindsight, I was only ever going to feel 100% ready for work again after a few weeks back at work, and I guess from experience of dealing with people like me, she knew this. I was still feeling like hell, but I was on a sunny Sunday afternoon picnic in the countryside compared to where I had been that woeful weekend just two weeks earlier. And somehow, while my anxiety and depression were still there, I could sense that I was slowly starting to mend.

My next post will be focusing on the weeks and months that followed as my recovery continued. But before I finish on the topic of medication,I also need to make a very important point. In telling my story, I do not mean to portray myself as an advocate for medication as the only way to tackle anxiety and depression. As I’ve said before, I am not a qualified medical professional, but I do know that medication can be surprisingly effective, yet not all medications work for everyone.

What I do want to be an advocate for, however, is that taking any form of action against a mental condition is a bit like the lottery – you’ve got to be in it to win it. And the odds associated with taking this action and subsequently hitting the jackpot are stacked far more in your favour than the weekly numbers game variety. Furthermore, the jackpot may not be measurable in dollars. It is, however, truly priceless.

At the height of my own anxiety I used to play the lottery a fair bit. I held the faint hope – despite the odds – that winning millions of dollars would fix my life once and for all. I would be able to stop worrying about work and money all the time. But if I had won, I would simply have conjured up reasons to worry more about things that money cannot fix. I may have become more of a hypochondriac, for example, overanalysing those moles on my skin, that tightness in my chest, those occasional headaches. What an utter pain in the arse that would have been.

I can now hand-on-healthy-heart say that I absolutely and without question would not change the life I have today for one of an irrationally worrying hypochondriac millionaire. And yet the only thing that has fundamentally changed between the life I have today and the one I had a few years ago is how I think. All because I chose to take what at the time seemed like drastic action.

If, on the other hand, you choose to take no action against anxiety, and bravely battle on, then the outcome will likely always look bleak. After years of facing my own bleak outcomes, I did occasionally trick myself into believing I had finally beaten my own black dogs when my levels of anxiety might drop significantly for a brief period. But in hindsight, I now realise that it was all relative. To say that I was feeling better would not be as accurate as to say I was just feeling less crap. I hadn’t beaten my black dogs; they just weren’t growling as hard for a while. Or, the cunning little bitches were just taking a sneaky snooze. It may have felt like relief, but they were always there – lurking, resting, recharging their batteries, preparing for the next big attack.

Well, I have now found that medication has absolutely worked for me for over a year now, kicking my black dogs into touch, and it continues to do so. Medication, that is, in conjunction with several hours at the start of the journey on the psychologist’s couch.

I do however want to be an advocate for something when it comes to medication, and it is this: if you too have found that it works well for you, and if you do end up staying on it long-term, even for life, then there is nothing whatsoever to be embarrassed about or ashamed of.

Unfortunately, despite the growing number of people taking medication, there is still a huge and needless stigma associated with it. But some of the statistics I’ve stumbled across are quite staggering – statistics such as “antidepressant use up 400% in 20 years”, “40% of Americans affected by depression”, “around one in six Australian men suffer from depression at any given time” And these statistics only relate to people who have and taken action and are therefore part of the prescription statistics. What of those who are still cowering away in their caves? Isn’t it therefore likely that someone you know may secretly be struggling, and resisting the option of taking medication? Unfortunately, many feel that taking them is a sign of weakness or failure.

It is not a weakness. It is not a sign of failure.

I also believe that part of that stigma may be associated with an unspoken and wholly incorrect general consensus, that once you succumb to any mental condition, you are a write-off. I remember several years ago – and I have no idea why this particular story sticks in my mind – reading about how Princess Diana had beaten depression after nearly a decade of suffering. How can she have possibly recovered, I thought? Maybe, I thought, if she is taking medication, it helps her get by, to barely function and no more. But surely she would never be the same again, a numbed-down version of her former self, scarred for life, broken goods.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

I often hear the analogy that it’s easy to get sympathy if you break a bone because people can see your plaster cast, but not so if you have a broken mind. I can now speak from my own experience of having had a mental condition, as well as once fracturing my collarbone in a car accident, that broken bones never quite heal 100%, the cold weather can bring on the occasional twinge.

With my anxiety and depression, on the other hand, as you will discover in my next post, for me it was more like tearing a sheet of paper and then repairing the tear with superglue. It really is possible to come back brighter, stronger and better than ever before, and to take on challenges you previously only ever dreamed of. Funnily enough, I did have a dream recently about standing on the summit of Everest. But I think it’s best for everyone’s sake if I choose to spare you the detail.


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67 Comments

Chantell responded: 5 years, 7 months ago

Mark, thankyou so much for having the courage to share your experiences with depression and anxiety...You write so well, and have such a real ability to describe so clearly what it can be like ~ I'm sure I've been nodding my head whilst reading this post, as I can relate so well to your experiences! I have recently written a post regarding medication aswell, although I'm afraid I don't quite have your talent for expression! My blog was set up for similar aims as you, to help others dealing with mental illness, maybe to reassure others that what they are feeling is 'ok', even relatively 'normal' given the nature of anxiety/depression...I can't quite remember how I stumbled across your blog now, but I'm so glad I did, and I am truly enjoying reading your posts :o) Keep going!

Taff Lovesey responded: 5 years, 7 months ago

In some quarters there is still a stigma with regards medication but thankfully less than in the past.Like you I'm no medical advisor but medication , in my case Citalopram, helped me to recovery and without it life would have been tough, especially for my family that had to tame the dogs when they took over!At one point I was taking 40mg a day but this was when their were packs hunting me!These days I make sure those black dogs are merely puppies by taking 10mg of Citalopram a day. I'm not ashamed and happy to share this with anyone who asks. Given what it does chemically it is no different to taking vitamins to improve yourself or medication for other ailments.taffybach

Mark Pacitti responded: 5 years, 7 months ago

'onya Taffybach! Thanks for contributing here and for your very kind words on an earlier post. I wholeheartedly agree with what you have written, especially the very last sentence. But you and I only truly know that because not only have we read it, we have also experienced it. It is a pleasure to count you as (an ex-boss and) a friend!Mark

Belinda Shine responded: 5 years, 7 months ago

Hi Mark, you are a very fluid writer and I can imagen that sharing your story in this way is indeed helpful for you and others who can relate.I would give you a word of caution though, don't think about the dark side of your life too much. Focus on the 'right now' and a little into the future. Stay on your medication and never take it for granted. It is a miracle worker I know (12 years down the track) but everyday we still need to use the strength of mind we have to stay focused and positive. I wish you wellness and happiness,Belinda Shine

Mark Pacitti responded: 5 years, 7 months ago

Hi Belinda, thanks very much for your kind words. Thankfully I am in a very good place now, still taking the daily Paroxetine, and have been in that good place for over a year but your advice is very timely and for that I am grateful. I agree that the medication is a miracle worker very much indeed! Parts 6 onwards will focus on the positives of my experience as the cloud started to lift. If you want to receive future posts automatically, you can subscribe on the blogsite, or Like my Facebook page www.facebook.com/dancingwiththeblackdog I too wish you wellness and happiness and hope that my future posts continue to be enjoyable for you Cheers Mark

Philip Owens responded: 5 years, 7 months ago

Hi Mark,A Facebook friend shared your story, and I have been following along. It is great to see someone who has lived it, share the inside view. Stats show 20% of the population have depression at any time, and 17% diagnosable anxiety, so you are sure not aloneMeds can be important, but I see so many people who externalize the solution only to Meds. They help, but getting a handle on how you are processing the world makes the big difference. For me, it's about creating a better tomorrow, not reliving too much of the past. Because we can't change the past, but create the future.It sounds like you have made some significant cognitive shifts- well done. In my clinic I see many people and help them make these shifts to move beyond anxiety and depression with confidence. I look forward to tuning into the rest of your story.Phil. http://www.reflectiveresolutions.com.au

AndyM54 responded: 5 years, 7 months ago

Hi Mark,I have just been sent your blog by a friend on Facebook and have read it all this morning. I will signed off work yesterday with depression which I have had for sometime. Reading your story of the anxiety and the build-up echoes a lot of how I have felt. This is an excellent read and it has brought tears to my eyes as it has uncovered thoughts in myself that I had forgotten. I will carry on searching for my own way out of the cave, and taking my own Black Dog on a walk.Andy

Mark Pacitti responded: 5 years, 7 months ago

Hi Andy, thanks for your kind words, I am sorry to hear of your own situation though. While it might feel like you are at the start of a long journey, you will see in hindsight soon I am sure that you are in fact at the start of the end of a long journey (hey I must use that in my next post!) Hang in there and remember hope is out there, and a lot closer than you might think if you just keep plugging away.MarkPs if you want to get future blog posts from me on your Facebook Newsfeed you can go to www.Facebook.com/dancingwiththeblackdog and just click on the Like button. Plenty more to follow! Part 6 is work in progress!

Mark Pacitti responded: 5 years, 7 months ago

Hi Phil,Thanks for the note and glad you are enjoying my blog. Very good points you make and thanks for taking the time to write.if you want to receive my future blog posts on your Facebook Newsfeed just go to www.Facebook.com/dancingwiththeblackdog and click on the Like button. Several more parts to come!Mark

James Christopher Reid responded: 5 years, 7 months ago

Mark,I've just read all your posts, from start to finish, and am so grateful that you've shared your experiences and your story in this way. So much resonated for me, but the notion of 'choice' being medication is especially brilliant. A real insight.At times, I have struggled with the type of anxiety and worry which you write about. For me, it is has been really important to remember that I am always at choice and to allow and support others in their choices, whatever they may be.Let there be no shame or guilt in each person choosing what is fitting and proper for them, in each moment. May we all find the courage to make our choices, find our voices, and walk our paths with the confidence that this is what life is REALLY about.Thank you for your words, they have inspired me. Thank you for being you.Love and best wishes,Jamesp.s. Scotland sends you it's love in all it's grey, overcast, radiant, green and brown glory.

Ash responded: 5 years, 6 months ago

I relate so much to everything you have posted so far. It's comforting to know someone else has experienced what I have experienced on a daily basis since I was a lonely 13 yr old schoolgirl. I just hope I can reach the other side like you have.

mrsfenno responded: 5 years, 6 months ago

Thanks Mark, for putting it out there. I too suffer from depression, which appears to run in my family, and have been taking medication on and off for many years.I was initially reluctant to take drugs due to a misguided distrust of 'un-natural' substances. The moment you walk into the doctors and actually 'confess' that you are depressed (I have done it a few times) is very confronting; a point of no return, an admission that you are not the cheery happy-go-lucky person the world sees you as. My psychiatrist even once said to me 'How is your mood, really? You present with such a cheery disposition, but what is really happening?'. And all the time, I just want to crawl under the doona, and block the world out.Some days my medication fails me and I make sure my hubby knows I am 'flat'. It gives me a security net, that someone knows how I am feeling. I am very lucky in that.Looking forward to reading the rest of your posts.

Mark Pacitti responded: 5 years, 6 months ago

Dear Ash, thanks for the note, am so glad you can relate but sorry that you are experiencing the same rough ride I once did. The bright side can be found as long as you are willing to try. Happy hunting! Mark

Mark Pacitti responded: 5 years, 6 months ago

Hi Mrs Fenno and thanks for the comments and kind words. I know where you are coming from re the un-natural substances thang! But when you have one of those bad days, I guess its time for a Medicinal Cost Benefit Analysis!! Looking forward to writing my next posts too. Watch this space... Mark

Adam Wells responded: 5 years, 6 months ago

It seems I'm now Commenting after post! Because I think I know what I want to say after Post 6, I want to write about something completely different here. And that is: there is an amazing website called Patientslikeme.com. For many of us tracking our symptoms, anxiety, depression, OCD etc etc becomes a hard thing to do. It's insidious sometimes, and we don't know if this a 'getting better' day' or 'getting worse day'. While I have no affiliation with this site whatsoever, it is a place where you can track your symptoms day to day with a single click, check out medication efficasies and see who's on what (you can also write everything is private as well). I cannot recommend this site enough. At least, visit patientlikeme.com and just have a look. please just take a look... It helped me and I hope you find it useful too.

Jess responded: 5 years, 5 months ago

Hey Mark, I agree with your thoughts on medication. It is a personal choice. I must honestly admit that I have had a horrid time with adjusting and selecting the correct amount of Effexor. At one point I was up to 150mg and went off the medication in a short space of time. It was the worst experience to experience! I am now on 75mg and I am finding it is doing its job. I aim to reduce the dose down to 35mg eventually once the big black dog stops biting as much.

gemmaphant responded: 5 years, 5 months ago

MarkWell, I found you all because Lisa Wilkinson from Today on channel nine. You responded to her tweet about cleaning out her pantry and pickled onions. Fate? Who knows :)This blog of yours, PART 5 - The Medication Of Choice was the first my eyes went to when I followed your link from Twitter. I hate reading blogs at the best of time, but, you sir, I must say, had my full attention. I was given a prescription sometime late last year, but, ended up throwing it away. I even saw a psychologist who said that I do suffer from anxiety attacks. All before that even happened where the times throughout the day I'd wondered why I'd forgotten how to breathe. It was weird. I ended up typing just that into Google, and reading how other people had the same problem and that yawning was their only solution in being able to catch their breath. Then the panic attacks would come. I thought I was going to do right there and then. But, the strange thing is, it was at a time of my life where I had made a big change in myself, by, losing weight from 134.3kg's to 88kg's. Not sure what I am at now as I thought the diet I had used to lose the weight was causing this horrible new affliction. It was a low-carb shake diet and I read somewhere that having a low-carb diet meant a lack of serotonin. Anyhoo, as I said, I went to the doctor, she prescribed me with A/D's (can't remember their name). We are a single-income family with a 3 1/2 year old girl and so I was the only one in the day caring for her. When speaking with the doctor before being prescribed, I was assured that they would be completely safe and that I could care for our little girl. Our most precious belonging of ours (as you would know being a dad yourself). Until I read the box. Do not drive or operate heavy machinery. I couldn't believe it. Not drive, when I had to taxi our little one to art classes and kindy gym and the library. I went back a week later and she, the doctor, the YOUNG doctor was half expecting me to report back to her on how my first week went. I advised her that I had not taken the medication due to what it said on the box, and plus, what I had read about it on the web. She THEN had the decency to inform me that, yes, it could make one seem a little 'out of it' (that's my explanation of it) but if I took it at night, before going to bed, that all would be OK. At this point, I was glad to have had sat down and read. Well, as you can imagine, my trust went out the window!The only symptoms I have are when I am out and about. I have to know where a bathroom is at all times, and if I am stuck in a traffic jam due to heavy traffic or an accident, I start to freak out. But, when I do get to a nearby bathroom, I don't need to go. I mean I could, but, there is no urgency there. It drives ya bloody bonkers, really. Sometimes I just hope it's got to do with that so-called diet I was on where you had to drink 2 litres of water a day and that my bladder was working overtime. I mean, being able to pee on request, was weird.I'd really love to know from yourself or from others on here if that sounds like someone who suffers from anxiety. As you can appreciate, from the experience with a medical centre doctor (what happened to the good old days with doctors and their own surgeries?) I really want to investigate this thoroughly. Because the only time I freak out is when I am in a new area or if there is a possibility that I would have to travel a fair distance. That's my only worry, peeing when I shouldn't. I hope I haven't offended anyone with my post. If I can find help and answers I'm willing to look like a weener :)Thank you for your blog, and making me read. Life at the moment, because of this affliction, is like looking through that green wine bottle, and not the clear one (after all have been consumed of course).

gemmaphant responded: 5 years, 5 months ago

* 'Then the panic attacks would come. I thought I was going to die right there and then..' (Not 'do. Sorry about that.')

Mark Pacitti responded: 5 years, 5 months ago

Hi Gemma so sorry for the delayed reply, been all over the place physically the past 2 weeks (in a good way – holiday and now packing to move house!) I am absolutely no expert and can only offer my opinion but it does sound to me like you suffer from something eg always needing to have a bathroom as a “what if” perhaps its not an anxiety thing perhaps something similar, but only a psychologist or counsellor might be able to get to the bottom of that. When I used to go on holidays I would constantly check for my wallet or tickets in case either had fallen out of my ‘manbag’ (!) but now realise it was no different to being at home and anything that might fall from my bag could be recovered these days quickly. Similar to your story in that I always had to know they were there. Anyway I don’t worry about that sort of thing any more. Don’t google though – my rule of thumb is if you have a possible bad answer to a question in your head you can find it on google, or if you have a good answer to the same question you can find that answer too, to the same question, if you look hard enough. As I mentioned in part 6 about counselling it is important to find the right one for you. Hope this helps, if not let me know, happy to answer more questions Mark

Adam responded: 5 years, 5 months ago

Tick. :)AdamPlease excuse any typos as this was written on my phone. 

Lara responded: 5 years, 3 months ago

Mark, this was amazing for me to read.. I have always been an anxious person and 5 years ago it started taking over, but I denied it and blamed it on other things, such as "I didn't like university" and then 2 years ago it got a lot worst when I attempted a new career and I felt like I couldn't go on any more, but I still refused medication and blamed it on circumstances, saying I wasn't ready for the job and convincing myself I'd be fine. A few months later I started taking the medication and after a month or so decided I was fine and didn't need it anymore.A year ago I moved in with my boyfriend and the change just hit me full blast and I literally could not cope, I felt like I just did not want to exist. I moved back home, started a 40mg dose of the medication and built myself back up, started a new job, well after 6 months I felt great and convinced myself I definitely did not need that medication. I was ok without it, however those big black dogs (and my biggest fear is dogs!!!) started coming back, I pushed them out and said I was fine, last week I moved back in with my boyfriend and was due to start a new job (2days ago) and bam it hit me, I went straight back to the doctors and am on the medication again, but as you know it takes a while to kick in.I moved back in with my dad in the hope that it would take the pressure off for starting the job Monday, but it was the worst I had ever been, I couldn't eat and for me that is huge, I felt so sick, the anxiety was gripping me, I cried constantly, I had a pounding head, stomach pains and felt dizzy and weak. I went in to the first day of the job and I have not gone back. I am feeling at a loss with what to do now!! Reading your blogs is helping to see a new insight, as I have tried a million self help books and it can be quite frustrating to read about people who have got better, because I think well good for you! But your blog is honest and frank so thank you for that. So sorry to babble on, but it feels good to talk to someone who has been there!!!!!!!!!!

Adam responded: 5 years, 3 months ago

Lara. Isn't it great? The best thing toucan do now is to become an ambassador for the blog. Pass it on and fb and tweet it etc etcSo glad ur feeling better!AdamSent from my phone. 

Mark Pacitti responded: 5 years, 3 months ago

Hi Lara, thanks for your very kind words and for taking the time to write them. I love writing my story but it is always good to hear that I am hitting the mark and doing what I set out to achieve with it. Im no health professional but have you ever spoken to a psychologist too? If you read the part called “All I Want For Xmas Is A Million Plus Tweet” funnily enough it ties in with seeing a psychologist. Reading your feedback made me realise how powerful talking to a professional was – she taught me about shades of gray – when we worry about things we always see black, the best outcome is white of course, and there are usually acceptable shades of gray in the middle that are what really happens. I don’t want to go on about this too much as it is not my field but have a read of that section and you might well want to see one. Also I am still on my meds and have been feeling great for about 18 months now, but Ive seen too many people in the same boat go off them and realise that feeling fine is a sign the meds are working – not a sign you don’t need them any more. Perhaps being on them and pushing through the first few hards weeks will encourage you to stay on them for now? All the best! Mark  

Mark Pacitti responded: 5 years, 3 months ago

Adam my number 1 as-yet unmet PR man! Many thanks once again, I look forward to shaking your hand one day soon Mark  

Mick Caul responded: 5 years, 2 months ago

I really appreciated reading your story. Thank you for writing so honestly and Intelligently.

Eleanor responded: 5 years, 2 months ago

It's always good to see someone speaking out about depression, more so for me about anxiety, as I think that it's less understood...of maybe I think that due to the anxiety! I've been on a few different anti-depressants and had different counselling and theropies since I was 14...I'm now almost 23. I remember the first time I came out of my psychiatrist appointment (after being dragged there by my wonderful mum) and sobbing my heart out because for the first time ever I felt that maybe there was an answer to this hell. I started taking Sertraline, which for about 8 weeks I became even worse and went back to believing that there was no answer, this was it, nothing more, just a numb dead feeling. I never tried to commit suicide, although I did self harm. But I actually started to believe that I would just die or that I was already dying...I can't actually describe or even comprehend myself that feeling or what I was actually thinking. The medication then started to work and, along with the love from my family, saved my life. I feel extremely lucky to have such great parents and little sister, as I know so many people don't have that. I continued to suffer with constant panic attacks and and overwhelming emotions, but I managed to get to school most of the time and pass most of my GCSEs! I eventually was then put on Fluoxetine (for depression) and Busperone (for anxiety), things we're looking up, although it was up then down then up then down then up then down... however the medication for anxiety was definately a great idea! However I then exhausted the use of these meds and needed to go on to something different....as you said, there are so many different choices of meds and theropies, you have to find the right one for you. Anyway I went on to Venlafaxine (depression) and Pregabalin (anxiety) and I can truely say that for me these were magic drugs! I almost felt normal. However I was in a bad relationship at the time and I had started to depend on alcohol and drugs. Never a good idea! Especially with and mental illness. I had counseling and went to groups for my alcohol use and eventually got away from a horrible situation with a very disturbed young man. I was with him from being 19 and I escaped a few months before my 22nd birthday. If it hadn't been for my family I would still be in a terrible place...and I'm not sure where it would have leaded but I know it would have been a disaster. I've never written online about anything like this before so I'm not sure how coherant I'm being, it's a bit of a rough draft...although I'm not sure if anyone will read it, but nevermind! However I ended up having to alter my medication and then after a few months of realising I was crying again for no reason and felt like my brain was swelling up I ended up back on the Venlafaxine (I'd stayed on the pregabalin) Although this time when I started taking it after increasing the dose I had awful side effects: my whole body was itchy all the time, I was constantly uncomfortable, I became down again, and I felt more sick then I've ever felt before, it was like constantly being on a boat and feeling sea sick and having to stay very still because every movement made me feel worse. But then after a couple of weeks I was back to normal (if you can call it that!) . In the months between getting out of a bad relationship and going into a great one I'd started to find myself and felt like I was becoming 'human' a feeling I'd never had before. I describe it as feeling like I'd come out of a cave and into the light for the first time. For some reason even though it's a happy feeling it makes me feel sad...perhaps because I feel like I may have missed out on a lot of things growing up. However, like you've said, I wouldn't change it for the world. So now I'm very nearly 23, I've never had a job and I suppose I'm a bit behind everyone my age. However I am a singer/songwriter and ironically I love to be standing on stage. Hard to understand I know, but it's totally differnt to talking to people. I still can't go somewhere and ask if anyone needs a singer...I need my own stage where I can just get up without having to talk to anybody! lol. But I am still making progress, it's all about little steps and I finally feel like I have a life worth living, and I intend to make the most of it as much as possible. I'm sure i'll reach my goals someday....which is something I would never have believed before! I hope other people can find that strength, that seems to come from nowhere, because no matter what, it's definitely worth fighting to reach a state of happiness. Wow I've written a lot...agh now I'll send it...before I change my mind!!

Sharon Hurst responded: 5 years, 2 months ago

I have found this blog via Stephen Fry and I'm so glad I did. What an inspiration you are and I wish everybody who either suffers from depression or is trying to help someone with depression gets the opportunity to read it. I have endured many things in my life which I thought I had managed to hide from the world and deal with in my own 'special' way...ignoring it and pretending it never really happened. It took just one last 'thing' to bring everything to the forefront of my brain and then of course years of pretending, faking and lying to myself and everyone else came spilling out at a great rate of knots. I went into complete melt down. Thanks to a great GP I was referred to a counsellor who in turn realised I needed more than just her help so she referred me to the mental health team at my local hospital where I now see a clinical psychologist and psychiatrist on a very regular basis. It hasn't been an easy journey, I've had to confront things buried so deep it's been like child birth all over again without the happy ending. I was on Fluoxetine 80mg and I, knowing myself better than anyone else, of course decided that I no longer needed them. I am afraid that I will always be known as 'the nutty one on drugs because she can't cope with life' and to be truely honest I am ashamed that I can't cope on my own. Bad decision...my mood dropped to a 1 and I self harmed. Cue different pyschiatrist as mine was on paternity leave and a prescription for Venlafaxine and I was sent home. Wow was that the wrong thing to do! I suffered really badly from sweats, dizziness to the point of falling over, really graphic, scarey dreams and twitchy muscles. I know there's always a risk of feeling worse when you first start taking new AD's but it wasn't until I over did it with the drugs and alcohol and had the mother of all hang overs for a week that it really sank into me how lucky I am to still be alive. I forced myself to go to my regular psychiatrist, now back from paternity leave, who was, I felt, less than sympathetic to my issues. He changed me back onto Fluoxetine but I left his office feeling more of a failure than ever! I have to see my psychologist on Monday and I am very tempted to tell him that I don't want to see him anymore as I now feel that I am 'attention seeking' and if that's all that's come out of this then everything is a waste of time. My mood is down to about 0.5 so I don't think I'm really capable of making such descisions. I'm really sorry that I have 'gone on' here. I just wanted to congratulate you on a great blog but I felt comfortable enough to let my thoughts and fears run away with me. I could delete everything but then I think I would be doing my well being more harm. I'm sure no one will read this anyway but it has, I think, helped me for the moment so I thank you for giving me this opportunity.

Eleanor responded: 5 years, 2 months ago

Sharon, I have read your post. I hope things get better, it is a constant battle but you just have to keep fighting to find what works for you :) I found this through Stephen frys tweet also! All the best.

admin responded: 5 years, 2 months ago

Hi Mick, thanks for taking the time to comment too. Much appreciated, and I am glad you enjoyed the read! Part 11 will be out soon...

admin responded: 5 years, 2 months ago

Hi Eleanor, thank you so much for writing such a detailed insight into your own journey. I hope that others will read your post too in order to get another perspective on the medication/counselling balance, as in my humble opinion, everyone's story is different, so we can all learn from the stories of others. I am so glad that you did not change your mind before sending, and I am sure that others will find comfort in your words too. Best of luck with the singing/songwriting, if you ever get anything released, or if you already have, let me know so I can tune in! Mark

admin responded: 5 years, 2 months ago

Hi Sharon, thank you for your kind words of feedback and for sharing your own story on here too, it all adds to what others can learn from on my website. So no need at all to apologies for 'going on' - I am sure that others will read your comments too and take courage from them. In my post "All I Want For Xmas Is A Million Plus Tweet" I talk about my own experience with psychologists - perhaps that will be of interest to you too? I do believe, as my GP told me when I first set out on the journey to beat the black dogs into submission, that you need to find one you are comfortable with and can connect with. Well, I got lucky - second time!

admin responded: 5 years, 2 months ago

Couldnt agree more - thanks for jumping in Eleanor!

Clive responded: 5 years, 2 months ago

Hi Sharon Thank you so much for sharing your current situation with us. your honestly and ability to describe your own experiences so clearly is to commended. I am just coming out of big and deep depression and anxiety..the anxiety was so bad that at times I thought my stomach was going to explode with all the acid that was churning around..but medication - fluoxetine - helped me along with counselling. It has taken about 6 months to climb out of my cave. I'm not out yet but I can see day,iChat and I'm able to function. There is light at the end of the tunnel. I promise. I really do!

admin responded: 5 years, 2 months ago

All I can say to that Clive is 1) I wholeheartedly agree and 2) thank you for sharing with Sharon. And yes the light is at the end of the tunnel. Complex maze of a tunnel but the light is there... Mark

Lynn Waters responded: 5 years, 2 months ago

The black dog was part of my life for a long while.I would advise a sufferer to just keep on and keep on until they find relief for themselves.Ignore the critics. The happy you is intact underneath.

admin responded: 5 years, 1 month ago

Hi Lynn, as you can probably tell I am not a man of few words, but the only thing I can think of which sums up what I thought when I read your comment is a great big ginormous magnificent HEAR HEAR! THANK YOU!

Untolfunato responded: 4 years, 11 months ago

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alice renwick responded: 4 years, 11 months ago

having suffered depressiion over a long period and commenced a small dose of medication. I was on the medication for two years,then stopped. I feel I need to recommence the med. After reading your blog, I fell comfortable to go back to my GP and recommence the medication. Many thanks for your blog. Alice Renwick

jolene parsons responded: 4 years, 10 months ago

you have a good saying to climb that montain ....i myself have one....running p that hill..kate bush ...i will always be running up that hill with problems and i know i'll never reach the top ....i am medicated ...but sometimes i think to myself ..do i really want to be taking these tablets all my life ....then i think of the reality i have to because that dark place i had been to before i dont want to go back there for fear i might not return ....so i'll stick with kate...running up that hill regards jolene

christine lawford responded: 4 years, 8 months ago

HELLO! I HAVE EXPERIENCED ANXIETY, BREAKDOWN AND DEPRESSION I HAVE TAKEN DIFFERENT MEDICATIONS I HAVE NEVER HAD ANY TESTS DONE. I HAVE TRIED ALL THERAPIES. I AM NOW GOING TO SEE IF I HAVE CLINICAL DEPRESSION THIRTY FIVE YEARS OF SUFFERING IS TOO LONG! CHRISTINE X

Eleanor responded: 4 years, 6 months ago

Thank you for responding :) . I kept meaning to come back on here but ended up doing another stupid jig with the black dog!!! Been trying to write another song though, and it's a positive one for a change, which is hard to write when I'm not in that mood. But I'm trying and still trudging on and always learning how to deal with my problems. I don't think you ever stop learning if you keep your mind open. Thanks again anyway and hope all is :)

Anni responded: 4 years, 1 month ago

The symptons of anxiety have abated slightly - and with the cipromil and Xanax I am able to function quite well. To see your journey written, without the pompousity of Stephen Fry - does indeed make me feel more secure in the fact I am not alone - loved this chapter Anni

Jason Brooks responded: 4 years ago

Thanks Mark. Sharing as you have done here, helps. Really - Thanks.

fran responded: 3 years, 7 months ago

i found this so interesting,im currently in my black hole,and my dog,is human,they follow me everywhere,i hope that one day i may hold onto the joy of life,i have had this illness for years,and only just admitted i have a problem,controlling it nowmy toes are touching the bottom of the hole,i have been prescribed tablets,but my human shadow tells me to save them,im so lost at present,im trying to cling to joy,

john logue responded: 2 years, 9 months ago

Hey Mark Just finished part 5. Hell of a journey mate and one I recognise in a few friends and family. Glad I "found" you again and glad you seem to be living a full and happy life. You were always the handsome, funny and successful one in my eyes, but then your competition was des and bobby! Take care Bogie

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