How To Come Off Antidepressants & The Mental Healthcare Crisis

14 January 2018

When I was only 17 years old, I was prescribed an anti-depressant to help deal with my fleeting happiness. What doctors failed to notice or remotely care about was whether I had depression or was just depressed. Any child at 17 will often go through depression at various stages of maturity. I didn't consider myself mature enough for adult life until I was 24, so I was on strong Citalopram for about 7 years of my developing life, fluctuating in moods along with my dosage.

I was on Citalopram for a number of years then moved onto Mirtazapine for the remaining years when Citalopram stopped working. This should have been an indication that I should be taken off and possibly had a review on the possible damage it may have caused my body.

11 years later, I am no longer on any type of medication for depression.



During those years, I'd been to counselling, CBT, counselling again, psychotherapy and CBT again. I had differing experiences with all of these but as a whole, found these to alleviate my worries so much more than a little pill ever did. 

The first time I went for counselling was during college and while it did aid me, it was also these sessions that spring-boarded me towards that little pill in the first place. 

I was referred to CBT and after waiting 6 months, on my second session - I was told that I was already doing what the therapist was going to advise and was promptly discharged.

Yeah ok mate, I just waited half a year to see you and you tell me you can't help me. Sound.

After this, I was referred to counselling in a local unit called Bickerstaffe House. This was incredible but it was also the point I realised counselling probably wasn't the answer to my specific problems. You see, there are different types of mental health services for different types of problems and counselling just wasn't right for me.

It was a number of years before I attempted psychotherapy which was much more suited to myself. However, these weren't offered via the NHS so I could not afford to keep this up - therefore this ended immediately after the initial session.

Then luckily, I was referred to CBT with Self Help at The Zion Centre in Manchester (which is by the way inspiring AF) which helped me realise something...

I did not have depression. 

Why did I get addicted?

I tried coming off several times myself but they never worked. Why? I was an insomniac. As a child, I used to be woken up for school by a a beep.

A bloody beep.

So when I was prescribed a pill that meant I slept like a baby, I never wanted to come off. I didn't actually find the medication helped all that much in terms of mood.

How To Come Off Medication

I've attempted to come off several times but the lack of sleep meant I always gave in to the pill just so I'd have a good night's sleep finally.

The best way to come off is to ween yourself off - never go cold turkey because you go a bit cuckoo. 

This is the order I committed to:

  • Full pill one day and half pill every other day
  • Half a pill every day
  • Half a pill every other day
  • Half a pill every few days I couldn't sleep
  • 3mg melatonin tablets when lack of sleep was unbearable
  • No pills motherf*ckerrrrrrr

I didn't set a duration for each of these steps, I just progressed depending on how I felt. I'm sure a qualified doctor could have suggested a better routine but the conspiracy theorist in me thinks they want me on the meds because I'm pretty sure mental health problems brings a lot of money to the UK economy. 

Withdrawal Symptoms

Are you prepared to feel and act like a crack addict? Because this is when it begins. However, there is light at the end of the tunnel and boy does it feel glorious! 

Diary of my withdrawal:

14th June 2017 - Finally stopped taking antidepressants
19th June 2017 - Emotional, cried about Grenfell Tower for 30 mins straight, insomnia begins
20th June 2017 - Emotional, lonely, heightened anxiety, depersonalisation (this was the scariest)
21st June 2017 - Nausea, dizziness, stomach pain, shakes
22nd June 2017 - Fever and sweats begin and heart palpitations 
23rd June 2017 - Lost appetite 
24th June 2017 - Excessive scratching and itching

I am very lucky in that I had been on medication for 11 years but my symptoms only lasted the best part of a month. This is because your recovery will also depend on your metabolism and I'm very grateful to have a good/fast metabolism. 

It sounds horrendous and at times, it was but you have to focus on the outcome. Read more about antidepressant withdrawal here: Antidepressants 101

I think the NHS is doing such a great job with the little resources and funding they have from the Government. I think it's sad that they are struggling so much, yet there are politicians out there on an incomprehensible salary watching porn at work. Nah thanks, mate.

There needs to be more funding and mental health awareness; stop misdiagnosing and stop dishing out pills like they're old school Woolworths pick 'n' mix and offer alternative support and the right type of alternative support at that. Suggest something other than just counselling and improve the standards of these practices. Nobody wants to wait half a year for sought after therapy only to be told they can't be helped...

People are dying for the wealth of other people's pockets. Do something.

How To Stay Safe Walking Alone

2 January 2018

Now that it's darker outside, it's incredibly important to stay safe while on-foot. Unfortunately, general crime in England has increased dramatically according to the ONS seeing an increase in July onwards of 2017. There has been a sharp increase in knife crime and theft (both physical and online fraud).

Last year, after a lovely dinner with friends in my quiet hometown, I was grabbed from behind by a man while on my way to the train station. I am unsure whether he intended to harm me or was merely a perverted drunk but either way, I was absolutely terrified. He kept harassing me for a good while until I turned a corner and bumped into a group of young lads who I assume startled him off and he swiftly made way towards a different direction. From then, I ran to the train (in heels might I add) and called my friend straight away. 

When I got to my destination, I was so scared - I called an Uber to take me to my front door which is typically a 3 minute walk away. It was after this, I decided to look into ways to safeguard myself and I found an app called 'Companion' and have used this on all my walks home. 

The concept of the app is very simple yet invaluable. Before you set off home, you ask a friend if they'll be your 'companion'. This means that you assign them to track your journey home, they don't even need the app themselves. You set your route home and it works out how long you should take. If anything happens to you during your journey, an alert pops up on your phone and you have to select whether you're safe or not. It gives you a time limit to respond and when that time limit runs out, it assumes you are unsafe and calls the police. 

For example, if the headphone jack is suddenly pulled out or the phone is dropped, the alert will appear. It will also track your speed and notice when you may be running (as I discovered accidentally and gave my bestie a heart attack). If you do not return home in time, it also alerts you and your companion.

The thing I was most in-shock about was the fact that this happened in my quiet home town and during a very short distance to the station. I live in Manchester and I always thought that if anything happened to me, it'd be in a city. It just goes to show that you can never be too safe. 

And if you ever need extra backup, you can also buy a spiky ring like I did or steal a staple remover from work.


28 December 2017

I jest.

My motherland is actually Liverpool where I was created but in a bid to embrace my Chinese heritage more, I nipped over to Hong Kong for my cousin's wedding and boy was it an experience. Now I hear having a lavish wedding in Chinese culture is quite common but I couldn't help but feel like I was at a wedding of a celebrity. Five dress changes, a bag of gold and a 13 course meal later and I'm ready to hibernate.

Now until this visit, I had not been 'back' since I was about 15 and prior to that just a tiny human being (which I guess I still am). So I jumped at the opportunity to explore! Apart from understanding a bit of Hakka (a now obsolete dialect), I know zero Chinese so I had to use my interpreter (also known as my cousin) to help my uncultured ass.

Amongst laughing at typical and quite innocent 'Engrish' and buying the new Toy Story Vans at an extortionate price just so I could have them before everyone else, I managed to do a bit of sightseeing. 

Nan Lian Garden was a highlight; the contrast of absolute peace and serenity against the concrete city skyline of Hong Kong was quite spectacular to see. We managed to stop off for tea and cake in a restaurant under a waterfall and crossed over to see the Chi Lin Nunnery.

We also managed to get ourselves to the light show at the harbour and hop onto a Junk Boat for a tour across the river. 

Now back to my roots...I managed to visit my grandad's old apartment in the city (now my uncle's) which I only remember from photos and smell (weird). We also managed to visit my mum's village on the border of Hong Kong and China which was really special to see. I've always been fascinated by the stories my mum used to tell me; I was especially intrigued by this cow she had as a pet and had to take up a mountain every day.

So back onto this cow right...we were eventually introduced to the mountain she had to take the cow up (but not the cow because RIP) and we paid our respects to our ancestors and family members who have now passed. Most families will have shrines upon the mountains that house the dead; we bring food because they're starving, paper gifts like shoes and fake money. They're all burnt so the spirits can receive them. We also bring food and goodies for those that guard the shrine then light fire crackers to ward of evil spirits and apparently give people (myself) a heart attack.

And as always, the best part - THE FOOD

I think it's incredibly important to remember what generations before us had to go through to make our lives more comfortable and live-able. It always baffles me how my parents have come from such poverty and yet I'm sitting here in my old bedroom that I still have in my parents home, typing away on my Apple MacBook Air, about to drive home to Manchester in my cute little red Mini. And yet what did my mum have? 

A bloody cow.

A Big Plus

12 November 2017

UN Palace of Nations - Entry CHF12

I visited Geneva, Switzerland in February this year for a stunning four days over a long weekend. It was a spur of the moment booking (as all my bookings are) and was just the retreat I needed. Four days was the perfect amount of time for Geneva, if I had more time - I would have loved to travel out for a spot of skiing (not that I have ever skied in my life...)

I would definitely recommend the Jet d'Eau/Lake Geneva, UN Palace of Nations, Broken Chair, Conservatory and Botanical Garden, Flower Clock/English Gardens, Plainpalais Flea Market, a thermal bath, Natural History Museum and take a quick trip to Mount Salève.

Botanical Gardens - Free

Cathedral Saint Pierre - Free
Chapel of the Maccabees (not the band) - Free
Jet d'Eau Water Jet - Free
Natural History Museum - Free
Broken Chair - Free
Parc Des Bastions - Free
Reformation Wall - Free
Plainpalais Flea Market - Free
Love this, can you imagine drinking a bottle of red wine at a car boot in England? We'd get banned...

One thing I would definitely recommend is to hop on a tram then bus to Mont Salève which is technically France but whatever. The bus ride will take you through picturesque villages and towns and drop you off at a stop near the Salève Mountain cable car. Walk uphill through the sweet little village and you'll find yourself queuing for a cable car ride that will take you up to see an incredible and breathtaking view of The Alps.

Mont Salève

Just some things to note about Geneva; it is "expensive" in the way that it's pretty much similar in cost as England. Don't buy a Geneva pass as you can get transport cards from almost any accommodation and the local supermarket is called Migros.

Due to the alpine area of Switzerland, the country is a haven for crystals and rocks so if you're a collector like myself, stop by the Plainpalais Flea Market and pick up some unique crystals. They're also available in a lot of shops and also the Natural History Museum. 

Now let's talk about Evian water; it's actually sourced from Lake Geneva and so the tap water is basically just Evian water - drink to your heart's desire! I discovered this by accident when I realised I just swallowed the tap water. But it tasted so good, I had to Google it.

Now the picture you're all waiting for...

Get yourself some chocolate, cheese, Birchermuesli, toasted almonds (they are to die for) and definitely try to find some fondue and raclette.

This trip was a neat little break for me and while the culture wasn't entirely different, I found myself learning a lot about this city and met some very interesting people. One woman I met gave off such positive vibes, it healed me instantly and put a lot of my anxiety at ease. 

My flight cost less than a waffle...

30 October 2017

What do you do when Ryanair have a £2 sale and it's about to end in 8 minutes? You book a spontaenous week's holiday to Belgium obviously...

I've never been that person to plan a holiday way in advance, never have been and never will be. My life is spontaneous, you can't always plan things and sometimes it's better not to plan things.

The flight was £2.04 each way to Brussels Charleroi in November so £4.04 in total, which ended up being less than what I paid for a waffle and little did I know, it would change my life...

I started off in Brussels and stayed at a train-themed hostel aptly named the Train Hostel in Schaerbeek which is possibly one of the best hostels I've ever stayed in. It was ridiculously clean, well-equipped and I met some lifelong friends here too on a holiday I will never forget. Schaerbeek reminded me a lot like San Francisco which its sharp and crisp architecture and hills.

I met a lovely group of people in my dorm, all girls and have kept in very close contact with three of them. One is a nut-job from Australia (the only type of Aussie), another was a sweet girl from Italy who is the least Italian Italian I have ever met and lastly, my sassy and incredibly supportive Egyptian beauty. The Aussie and Italian ended up moving to the UK and now we're taking turns to hold weekends for one another. 

We got into a lot of mischief and fun in Brussels, we went on walking tours, did a bit of shopping, watched the Christmas Market opening, visited the Atomium, the Rene Magritte museum and ate loads of waffles, frites and moules. I would definitely recommend the Atomium and the Rene Magritte museum, and a walking tour is essential.

Atomium - Paid

Transport is super easy, but if you're stuck - just use Google Maps.

Considering there hadn't long been a terrorist attack, it was so special to see everybody rise above the terror.

Cinquantenaire - Free
Grand Place Grote Markt - Free

Mannequin, Jeanneke and Zinneke Pis - Free

Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula - Free

Museum of Rene Magritte - Paid
Place du Jeu de Balle (market) - Free
Le Botanique - Free
Royal Palace - Free
EU Quarter - Free
Opening of the Christmas Markets - Free

As my well travelled father had previously lived in Belgium (get in, dad) I made a conscious effort to visit Antwerpen too to see the city he lived in. Bruxelles was very commercial but Antwerpen was much more quirky... Antwerp is just an hour on the train and well worth the visit.

Cathedral of Our Lady - Free
Modemuseum (Momu) - Paid
Plantin Moretus Museum - Paid
Mas - Paid
And last but not least, feast your eyes on the Belgian food we had, from waffles and frites to Belgian chocolate and moules. I am very adventurous when it comes to food, I love trying new things so when I visit a new country, I always write a list of everything I want to eat, just as much as things I want to do in the city.

I would never have considered Belgium as a holiday destination and purely went because of the Ryanair sale which I'm grateful for because it's by far one of the most enjoyable holiday's I've had and I've made three new amazing friends. I see both the non-Italian Italian and the nut job Aussie every now and then, and recently went to Egypt and has a sweet little reunion with my Egyptian beaut.

Also side note, the boys in Belgium are fiiiiiiiiine.
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