The Not Unhappy Pills

Today is repeat prescription day. Hurrah! I will dutifully call into the village chemist to collect the little white pills which have become part of my daily routine these last four years. When all else has been in turmoil around me, they have been my constant. 20mg of Escitaloprem a day. One pill in the palm of my hand, pop it into mouth, slug of Diet Coke (naturally), swallow and we are done for another day. So easy. So simple. So necessary. 

This summer has been a regular pill party for me due to illness and injury. Various painkillers, two different antibiotics (neither of which worked), hay fever allergy medication (for my wonky ear), various multivitamins and last, but not least, a folic acid supplement to balance a deficiency picked up in my blood tests. Yes it has been a veritable riot. Pick me up and shake me. I would probably rattle like a child’s toy.

When I was first prescribed Escitaloprem for OCD and depression all those years ago I was a bit bemused. Yes I was relieved that the voice in my head had finally been identified. I realised I was normal in a completely not normal way. I was amazed that I was not alone. I was not evil. I was not insane. Instead I was ill. As ill as the thousands of other people who had been through, and were going through, what I had endured. I now had hope that I could live my life free from the twin demons who had reigned unopposed in my head for the best part of three decades.


I was more bemused that I found myself on anti-depressants. To me they had always been the preserve of ‘moody teenagers’, ‘hysterical women’ and men who wore black and walked unannounced into their former places of employment with a chip on one shoulder and an assault rifle slung over the other. I was having problems yes but I did not write bad poetry, listen to Leonard Cohen or wear baggy, threadbare sweaters and berets. By agreeing to take them was I not accepting defeat and confirming what I had accepted all along? That I was a failure. 

I was a middle aged man with a wife, three kids and a border terrier. I had a good job and was rising through the ranks. I enjoyed a few (dozen) drinks at the weekend but I worked hard all week so thought I deserved them. Any time I was feeling down, twelve tins of Stella Artois usually did the trick. The bills were always paid and on the face of it I was a model of middle class respectability. I was happy in an unhappy kind of way. Most of the time. Wasn’t that enough?

But when the depression descended slowly upon me like a mouldy, damp blanket it wreaked havoc. I drank, I tweeted and I drank some more. I sat on my throne, the Twirly Chair, oblivious to the carnage I was creating. I was snug and tight in the eye of the storm as Hurricane Stephen raged all around me, uprooting relationships and hurling them into the abyss. I lived a twilight existence, wandering aimlessly or so I thought. Because with each shuffling step I was another one nearer the brink where I would face my final destination.

As Road to Damascus experiences go mine was decidedly a low key and drab affair. No shining light, no moment of dazzling revelation. Instead it was a series of humiliating and debilitating episodes that culminated in me sitting in a doctor’s surgery being told that I was officially one of them. I was a failure. A hopeless husband, father and son. No friends and no real future bar work, taxes and death. I was even slightly disappointed I hadn’t been diagnosed Prozac as wasn’t it the must have accessory drug these days. I even sucked at being depressed.

So I took my happy pills. Except they didn’t make me happy. Overnight I didn’t become a little ray of sunshine. My world did not become one of unicorns and pixies. Give me orcs and zombies any day of the week. But slowly, ever so slowly, the cloud lifted to the point where I was only miserable if something happened which caused me to be miserable. So I woke up with a stinking cold and felt miserable. Or Manchester United got thumped by Chelsea and I felt miserable.

I stopped being miserable,however, when I had no reason to be miserable. The OCD did not go away either but there were positive signs there as well. I always visualised it as an ancient, 1930’s radio sitting in the study of some retired army major. With a volume knob that you had to physically get up and twiddle with instead of zap with a remote control from across the room. OCD FM was still on the airways but had been turned down to a barely discernible background hum; as opposed to the deafening symphony that used to dictate my every waking hour. 

They were the tiniest of pills. And the tiniest of steps. But all in the right direction, away from the brink, and back into the arms of my family. I began to feel safe and purposeful. There was a future and a world out there where I could make a difference. I discovered running and rediscovered my faith. Yes, I still had bad days and I still had relapses; I still messed up and I still had a few car crashes to walk away from. But it became one step backwards and two steps forward as opposed to the other way around.

I embraced normality. For it is there that you find the miraculous. Normality feeds the soul, it is there that you will find the hidden gems. Right before your eyes. My son crashing over the line to score in a cup final; my daughter singing until I thought her lungs would burst on stage in front of hundreds of people; my other daughter laughing at my silly jokes and wearing her Manchester United shirt with pride; my wife saying she loved me and me knowing that she truly meant it and that I loved her back just as much in return.

Normal is magical. And if it means taking a happy pill every day then so be it. I am no longer ashamed of being on antidepressants. And nor should you. They are not a crutch, rather they allow you to throw away the crutches of addiction and depression. They allow you to walk free and with your head held high. They are your badge of honour, evidence that you faced your demons and are now fighting back. You are a survivor and your life is precious. 

The battle will never be over. But at least I have a fighting chance now. I am proud that I am where I am today. Escitaloprem is a weapon in my armoury, a tool in my belt. One of many. Calling it a happy pill is misleading; rather it stops me from feeling unhappy. Which then allows my everyday life to fill the void with the natural happiness which I have craved all my life. And if I can do it then so can you. You can and you will.

Three cheers for the Not Unhappy Pill.

Proverbs 8:11 – ‘For wisdom is better than rubies, And all the things one may desire cannot be compared with her.’ (NKJV) 

Have you ever been on, are on you currently on, antidepressants? Do they make you feel happy, not unhappy or just plain numb?

Have you OCD? Depression? Anxiety? How do you visualise them?

What makes you happy?

28 thoughts on “The Not Unhappy Pills

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  1. I really enjoyed reading this. I can totally relate. And to answer your question – Yes, yes, and yes! All three! I have been on Lexapro, which I think worked ? But I maintained a healthy red wine habit so I’m quite sure it never worked to its full potential. I can’t take anything now because I have neuropathy and while the doctors cannot agree on the cause, the shrink won’t prescribe anything. It’s frustrating. I am told by every doctor “you need to meditate”. If only it was that easy. Glad you have found a sense of peace through medication. For some of us, it really is a necessity. Wish I could join you 🙂

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  2. Yes, I take an not unhappy pill also. It is for anxiety and depression. I am told I take the mildest form because my body is so sensitive to meds (ironic since I take 11 Rx). The Doxepin feels like it levels things out, to think calmly and rationally. I hope things improve for you. Praying for you and your family. God loves you each!

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  3. Great Post. I think most of us feel we have failed when we have to resort to meds to feel
    ?normal? Someone asked my daughter ( a psych nurse) what is normal? She said “do you get up every day, dress, eat, work, sleep? Then you are normal. Normal includes the craziness each of us has to encounter to do those things. Basically if you function at all you are normal. We are all wired differently. Thank God medicine has found ways to help us on our way!

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  4. A lot of people carry the stigma with them. Even after so much progress, there are still a lot of stereotypes people have about medication and mental health. I’m glad you didn’t let that stop you. 🙂

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  5. I loved reading this too. The picture says so much about where I feel in life today. But, reading blogs like this help me through it. Please keep writing great stuff – it helps me more than you know.

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      1. Thank you for the kind words. I know that all of the things I’m going through are part of God’s plan for me and something positive will come out of it. I’ve already made new friends through this blog and hopefully my circle will continue to grow.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. As always, great writing my friend. Your candor and honesty are always something refreshing for me to run across. That being said, I hope you don’t still feel as though you’re a failure for taking medication. It’s the only option for some. I know you said you no longer view it as a crutch, but I know firsthand how those feelings can still linger on. Just know, you’re a stronger person FOR getting that help despite the stigma and your fears, than you would have been if you’d just ignored it. I applaud you for getting the help you need, and for sharing your experience with others. They are words so many people need to hear. Thanks for sharing this. I look forward to your next entry.

    P.S. the new site looks great. Your wife knows her way around a text editor!

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    1. Thank you Ryan. I’m more positive than I have been in a long time. WordPress has been a real blessing and it’s great to interact with people like yourself going through similar experiences.

      And yes. Fionnuala is the brains (and beauty) of the organisation. 😂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I have been on antidepressants for 17 years now. I am not even sure that they work anymore. To start with they were very good for me. I have thought lately maybe it was time to come off of them. However since my eating disorder has taken over my life i have decided to stay with them for awhile.

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      1. Yes i have counselling in the past and am currently having it to deal with my eating disorder. I have discovered the triggers for my ED i am working hard to address them. I feel progress is being made. My head feels a lot less cluttered.

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  8. What I would’ve given to be on your medication 😦 isn’t it funny what medicine works us and doesnt work for others? I am glad you have found acceptabnce and no longer shame in incorporating medicine into your recovery from depression. Medicine should be there to help not to define us a person x

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Right there with ya!! 🙋🏻. My body gets used to the pills after a few years, so I usually switch between Zoloft and lexapro. I used to be embarrassed about it and thought it made me weak. But, it’s a blessing. Thanks for sharing

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  10. You have a wonderful way with words. Yes, I take an anti-depressant. I started on them in high school and college. Stopped for a while, started them again, stopped again. Then I had major post partum depression. I have now been on Citalopram for 10+ years and it works just they way it is supposed to. I too hope to get rid of the stigma and encourage others to get help! It’s not a crutch, like you said!

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