Taking Fluoxetine to treat eating disorders: Tula's story
- Anxiety and phobias
Attention was drawn to my mental and physical health in response to a serious case of anorexia and obsessive exercising, in May 2013.
There was a great urgency for me to primarily get my body back to health, so the main focus was to gain body mass, whist simultaneously using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy to help me deal with the vast lifestyle changes I had to make that were imperative to my wellbeing.
As a consequence of my dealing with these bodily changes, I went into mental turmoil, hitting deep depressive and anxious episodes as my condition mutated from anorexia to bulimia.
My mood had become heavily dependant upon a great deal of exercise, so taking that away, alongside the trauma of finally processing what had been happening, made coping extremely difficult for me.
I also had experienced many problems with the mental health services, who judged my increased weight due to bulimic episodes as an incorrect sign of recovery. I was finally admitted to see a specialist in the field of Eating Disorders in November, who prescribed me with Fluoxetine.
Fluoxetine works to prevent the depletion of serotonin levels, a 'feel-good' hormone. The aim was to level out my moods, making me less inclined to fall into bulimic tendencies, and to be able to deal with them more calmly if they did occur.
I felt very hopeful when being prescribed my medication as I was finally being heard, and I felt assured by the knowledge that I didn't have to fully rely upon myself to get better. I had medication to do some of the work for me.
I began taking one 20mg tablet every other day for 2 weeks, and then a tablet a day, to ease myself into the medication. I felt better instantly.I can't say if it was partially a placebo effect, with the virtue of finally being diagnosed leaving me feeling consciously much more optimistic. Nevertheless, I was feeling better, and that was all that mattered.
Fluoxetine does not work to give you a sort of 'high' or state of euphoria, rather it prevents you from getting so down. This is great because it leaves me feeling still human, still me, just inside a world which is a little easier than before, when everything felt so hideous.
The only downfall to the medication for me was the side-effect of a ceaseless dry mouth. For a while my bulimia simply disappeared, as did the dry mouth.
After a couple of months I hit a particularly stressful time in my life, during which my bulimic tendencies crept back, becoming habitual again. I was thrown, thinking before that Fluoxetine had somewhat cured me. As my health deteriorated, my Fluoxetine dosage was increased to 40mg a day, which I continue to take now.
It has not offered any magic solution to my disordered eating, but it certainly makes my recovery a lot easier to handle. I have felt that taking the medication has had little downfalls. However, I have found it to be detrimental to my social life, as sobriety has been a priority, alcohol being a very bad idea to consume alongside anti-depressants.
As this has been a year characterised by 18th birthdays, I have felt alienated from the party landscape... This has not simply been a result of taking the medication however; when I have been depressed there would be no chance of catching me on the dance floor.
It is thus clear to rationalise that feeling better should be prioritised before anything else. I would recommend informing close friends and family that you are taking medication, so that they understand why you are perhaps less social than before, and can make an effort to see you in alcohol-free environments.
A positive result of this has been being motivated to meet friends to spend quality time with, rather than simply socialising through mindless partying. My illness has simultaneously separated me from some people, yet drawn me closer to others. In times of hardship, you will truly see who the best people are to surround yourself with.