I tried to come off my mental health medication and failed – here’s how I accepted that it’s OK

Jo Irwin


So there I sit, the girl who’s been blogging, campaigning and wittering on about mental health for quite some time.

The point I always make? That we should all be treating it the same way we treat physical health, because, well, we should.

But there I also sat nine weeks ago, adamant that I wanted to stop taking the medication I’m on to control my anxiety and lift my depression.

See, I was first prescribed mirtazapine last October.

It had been a particularly bad patch in the sense that the dark cloud had well and truly descended. I was unable to even pick up some milk without getting a feeling similar to the one you get the morning of a job interview.

I hit an all time low and, after a very frank chat with my GP, I took the decision to start taking something to help.

Not for long, mind. That was always my caveat.

While I’d come to terms with being a person who suffered with mental health issues, I wasn’t ready to be someone who needed tablets all the time to feel better.

Six months I said. I’ll give myself six months on them.

They helped. More than I could have ever really wished for.


(Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

My sleep came easily, I no longer laid awake till 4am having panic attacks or getting anxious about emails, Facebook posts and unanswered texts.

My sleep wasn’t broken. It wasn’t as interrupted as it used to be by dark dreams and cold sweats.

And the knot that I’d carried in my stomach for six years dissipated. I hadn’t realised it had been there because feeling nervous to me just felt normal.

Until it went away, and I rested, and then I actually felt normal again.

The old me, or the me that had never really had a chance underneath the nerves and exhaustion, came out. And amazing things started to happen.

My confidence grew, my energy was through the roof and I didn’t feel scared for scared sake anymore.

But my six months had been had gone.

Yes, it crossed my mind in April to do as I said and come off the tablets but I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t ready to take the risk that I might never feel this good again; I didn’t want the good things that had come to disappear. It wasn’t time.

metro illustrations

(Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

But my reliance scared me.

Then nine months crept round, and all of a sudden mirtazapine and I were heading for our one year anniversary. And that I couldn’t handle.

Never in a million years could I take these for one whole year. I wasn’t that bad. I wasn’t one of those people.

And let’s be real. Things were going great.

I got a new job I loved, a boyfriend I felt similarly about, and the worries and concerns that had surrounded my family the year before were now a distant memory.

If I couldn’t feel happy now, then when could I?

Yes, I was bored with falling asleep early every night. And yes, I’d noticed an increase in my weight since starting on the tablets.

I sought some advice – half your dosage for the first few weeks, then skip every day and then finally off you come. So I did.

At first, I put the returning butterflies down to new job nerves. I put the odd nightmare down to drinking coffee too late. I put the excessive sleep down to being on holiday and ‘needing the rest’.

But when sat on a sun lounger on a beautiful beach, with a great book, next to my Mr, it hit me.

I didn’t feel happy. I should have been so happy. I was going home to an amazing job. Me and him had spoken about plans to live together. I had the sun on my face, and a cocktail in my hand.

And yet, all I felt was grey. Uninspired, unhappy and un-me. Again.


(Picture: Mmuffin for Metro.co.uk)

I was jumping out of my skin, tearful and the overwhelming desire to run away from all of the good things was taking over.

It’s transition. This happens. You don’t need the meds. The excuses kept on.

But while having a lunchtime drink before we went home, my boyfriend simply said something that stopped me in my tracks.

‘Why do you want to come off them? If you had to take a tablet for your thyroid everyday, you wouldn’t wake up one Monday and just decide to stop.’

Why did I want to? Partly, I didn’t want to be reliant on them.


But mainly, even after all this time, I still just wanted my mental health to be circumstantial.

I wanted to be anxious because of work or sad because someone I loved was ill.

I didn’t want to still feel this low even when everything around me was amazing, because that meant that it was real. That the way I felt was not circumstantial, and not down to one particular event – it’s the way I am.

If I had a thyroid problem, yes, I would take the tablets I needed to make me feel better.

So perhaps it was time to read my own blogs, listen to my own advice and treat what I have as what it is: A medical problem, a chemical inbalance, my very own version of a thyroid problem.

And maybe in the new year, or in two years, I can try again to go it alone. But for now, it’s just a tiny little tablet, and certainly nothing to be ashamed of.




Eight Step Method to Manage Intense Emotion


Eight Step Method to Manage Intense Emotion

Recently I received this request from a reader:

What I have found lacking is books or articles on the process of revealing my feelings, the associated pain and some kind of plan to work through the feelings that would help DURING the healing process. Knowing the common steps of healing would be very encouraging and provide both patience and hope.

When you push your feelings down as a child in order to cope with an environment which cannot tolerate them (Childhood Emotional Neglect), you grow up lacking access to your emotions. A large part of the process of healing involves breaking down the wall between yourself and your feelings, and welcoming them.

But what if many of those old feelings are painful? What if the process is so painful that it’s too hard to let the wall down? What if you lack the skills needed to cope with the pain because no one ever taught you?

Managing painful feelings happens on Two Levels:

  1. In the Moment: Coping
  2. The Long-Term: Resolving

Next week’s article will be about Level 2: Long-Term Resolving. So check back!

8 Steps for Coping With A Difficult Emotion

  1. Sitting with the feeling is Step One toward processing it. So fight the natural urge to escape it. Take a deep breath, and set a goal to sit with it.
  2. Putting words to the feeling is Step Two toward processing it. So try to identify the feeling while you’re feeling it. Give it a name. Or, since most powerful feelings are a mixture of multiple ones, several names. For example: hurt, damaged, helpless and hopeless.
  3. Remind yourself that this feeling is only just that: a feeling. It’s your body telling you something. Don’t give the feeling too much power, yet listen to what the feeling might be telling you.
  4. Let your tears out. (This applies to you too, men.) All of the above steps work best when you don’t hold back. Tears are your friend in this process, not your enemy.
  5. Recognize that no feeling lasts forever. And the best way to get a strong emotion to pass is to accept it. If you fight or escape it, it will keep its power over you.
  6. Picture the feeling as a wave washing over you. You are not running away from the wave or swimming into it. You are sitting and letting it run its course.
  7. Use your breathing to help you. Close your mind inward and focus on your breathing. Say to yourself with your inner voice (while continuing to welcome the painful feeling):  As you inhale, you are breathing in strength, resolve and clarity. You are building your ability to tolerate this strong feeling that you are having. Keep repeating it over and over.
  8. Most intense emotions need to be felt more than once and processed before they go away. After you have sat with the emotion, when you feel it lessening, it’s OK to put it aside and distract yourself out of it. But know that you will likely need to welcome it back again. 

Each time you welcome, sit with, and process an intense emotion, you are breaking through the wall that was set up in your childhood. You are taking an old, simmering emotion that had power over you from underground, and you are taking control of it. By owning it and listening to your feeling, you are owning and listening to yourself. You are giving yourself something vital, powerful, and meaningful that you did not get as a child: emotional acceptance and validation.

Truly, there is nothing more courageous than that.

Growing up with Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN) can be difficult to remember. Yet it leaves its mark on you. To find out if you are living with CEN, Take The Emotional Neglect Questionnaire. It’s free.

What It’s Like To Travel With A Mental Illness, As Told By Comics

By Lindsay Holmes

Mental health conditions make most tasks feel excruciating. Unfortunately, this even includes traveling.

There are extraneous factors individuals with mental illness often have to deal with when going on a trip that others don’t take into account. These could include a fear of something going amiss with the plane or a physiological inability to relax even when at a tropical destination. But since many of these symptoms are invisible, it can be hard for loved ones to comprehend what’s happening.

Data suggests only 25 percent of people with mental illness feel like others are compassionate about their condition. Since outsiders struggle with understanding these challenges, illustrations can help paint a picture that words just can’t ― and these comics by UK-based artist Loren Conner are the perfect example.

Conner on behalf of the website Staysure asked several people with mental health conditions to describe what it’s like to deal with different disorders while traveling. She then turned their captions into stunning visuals that capture the plight of a traveling with mental health condition.

Take a look at the images below:






The Contradiction of Living With Both Anxiety and Depression

Carla Robinson

As you probably know, I have the misfortune of living with both a severe anxietydisorder and clinical depression. Firstly, to understand what living with both feels like, you need to understand them separately to understand how they dramatically contrast each other. This really makes everything just that much worse.

With anxiety (and this depends on the person and their specific anxiety disorder, so I’m going to be rather general), you worry too much. This is a huge understatement in itself as “worrying” doesn’t seem to do anxiety any justice. It’s more like this constant fear of everything and anything in your life that could go wrong, will go wrong.

With anxiety, you can’t just “calm down.” Telling someone with anxiety “not to worry” is rather pointless. If we could not worry, then we really would. It’s not as easy as people make it seem. It’s kind of like how you would feel if “Jurassic Park” were real and you were sitting in those stationary cars when the T-Rex makes its dramatic escape.

It’s the feeling of, Oh, God, what is going to happen? What am I going to do? How can I cope? What will people think if I pee my pants from fear right now? What if “X” happens? What if everyone hates me and blames me for the T-Rex’s escape? I know I didn’t do that, but what if I never get to tell anyone the truth? What if I do, and no one believes me?

What if I’m destined to be a failure? Maybe this is God’s way of telling me I’m a failure, by setting a T-Rex on me. Oh, sh*t, I just remembered there is a T-Rex and I’m worrying about being a failure. Will people even notice if the T-Rex eats me? Will they even care? My hands are shaking so badly. Will the people in the car notice? Will they think less of me because I’m not handling this as well as they are? Oh God, I just remembered that embarrassing thing I did/said eight years ago. Oh my God, I’m such a freak. And oh my God, there’s a T-Rex right in front of me.

Obviously, the T-Rex is a metaphor for all that anxiety bubbling to the surface and breaking through. Basically, with anxiety, you care too much. You’re often overemotional and too sensitive. You have a tendency to worry about anything and everything, no matter how ridiculous it seems. Quite simply, you care about everything way too much.

Depression, in many ways, is the exact opposite. With depression (and again, I’m being general, as there are so many different types of depression, and everyone deals with it differently), you often don’t care about anything. You don’t see the point. Why care, when everything is seemingly pointless and hopeless?

It’s like a black hole. Depression sucks in all the negativity, all the badness and forces you to focus on that. It alters your reality to make life seem worthless. The black hole, so capable of drawing in every bad word, bad moment, bad action and bad event, seems to effortlessly repel anything even slightly positive or hopeful. As you can already imagine, having both is torturous. Imagine caring too much while simultaneously not caring at all.

Do you know what it’s like to think, Oh my God, I need to do “X” because of “Y,”and then think, What’s the point? It’s not like it matters anyway. This thought process goes around and around again. Imagine being oversensitive, meaning anything and everything slightly negative is ingested into your black hole of darkness. Imagine the T-Rex is breaking through the fence, and you are simultaneously panicking with despair and fear. (You’re the guy running to the toilet in this situation). All the while, you are wondering what difference it would make if you were eaten. (The guy in the toilet also fits this, as he is eaten. *Spoiler, but really, if you haven’t seen “Jurassic Park,” shame on you.) After all, you tell yourself, would anyone even notice? Perhaps, it would be the best thing for everyone.

This is what living with depression and anxiety is like. It’s both caring and not caring whether or not the T-Rex eats you. (I really feel as though I’ve pushed this metaphor further than it can go, but it sounded nice in my head.) Remember this before you judge someone, questioning their motives, their mental illnesses and their invisible ones.


By Jazmine Reed,


First, I applaud most everyone who shares their thoughts, experiences and testimonies on Thought Catalog. As a contributor, it takes an amount of courage and vulnerability to offer your work to the Internet. It’s like walking into a circle of bullies and asking for a sucker punch. So ultimately, I commend Dante for his piece. And as someone who has dealt with depression, I’ve felt these emotions myself.

I noticed in the comment section, people were brutal. But some readers did offer a fair question: “What do I say to a depressed person?” And while the word “depressed” is debatable itself, here are personal epiphanies and things that were said to me that helped when I was at the very least, in a dark place.

Disclaimer: There are so many different mental illnesses, so I understand not everything will be applicable to everyone. And I also recognize that some pain is so deep, so chronic that it can only be resolved with therapy and/or medication. But for the pain that can be subsided without those aids, here you are.

“You are not your failures.”

If you know someone suffering from low self-esteem or going through what feels like an impossible grieving process, remind them that they are not defined by their faults, rejections or shortcomings. Remind them of the sincere qualities they possess that make them worthy of happiness.

“You can spend your whole life trying to be satisfied or content or getting answers. Why not spend your life ….living?”

Wise words said by one of my best friends. Sometimes, we can become so absorbed in our own thoughts, problems and worries that we forget to notice there is a whole world waiting for our impact. While you’re trying to figure why something happened, go make something new happen.

“Things will never get better until you stop being bitter.”

You know when people tell you “the most you stop looking for love, you find it”? It’s somewhat like that with happiness. The moment you stop having tunnel vision on your depression, your prospective will change. You may even be more at peace than you thought.

“Just know there are a million people in the world experiencing a similar pain. Be one the ones that heals.”

This may actually appear insensitive. Perhaps it is to some people. But I remember finding such an unusual comfort in knowing that I am not the only one who has dark periods of turmoil. And I think of the thousands of people who will overcome whatever painful situation I am going through. And yeah, I do want to be one of the strong people.

“One thing is certain: The things that don’t make sense or don’t seem fair are the very same things that make you stronger.”

So basically I am paraphrasing a catchy pop song and a platitude older than Earth, but it’s so true. I believe God doesn’t give you anything you cannot handle. Pain teaches us empathy, perseverance and patience.

After being assaulted a couple of years ago, I had so much anger towards the world. And while I will never be happy about the experience, I know that being so brutally hurt, both emotionally and physically, is the very reason I can step up to others and see that I am not my abuse.

“Would you like to go see someone?”

Sometimes, we all need a little intervention. We want someone to give us the nudge we’re afraid to take. Offering a suggestion like therapy is not a cop-out or an insult, it’s saying, “It’s okay to take your pain seriously, and take care of it properly.” Also, the occasional therapy session is awesome! It’s like having a profound sounding board.

Attempt to find the root of the issue

Maybe this takes probing and an in-depth, raw conversation, but a listening ear can lead to revelations and breakthroughs. And I mean really listen when they speak; so often a friend or my mom was able to read me like a book.

“You were created to live a magnificent life. What demons are stopping you?”

Similar to getting to the root of the problem, but remind them that they were created in God’s (or whoever’s) vision. Life was given so that the soul could manifest. Remind them that their life was meant for something, and they should honor that.

My best advice: Just do not brush off their pain

What I found so hurtful in the comment section was the vast amount of “Get over it.” No one wants to feel helpless, so please just try to help them. Of course there’s a difference between wallowing and suffering, but listen and extend positivity and sincerity.