The following is my personal experience with getting off of anti-depressant medication. It is not meant in any way to criticize, disparage or otherwise shame anyone who has taken, might take or is currently taking one. In fact, I suspect there will come a time that I revisit them myself. I am sharing this in the hopes that it might speak to anyone trying to make things work in our increasingly challenging times.
We all deserve to feel:
If not happy then at least content,
If not calm then at least not hysterical,
If not confident then at least not fearful,
If not joyful then at least not sad.
I happened upon this on the beach last week. I loved it then. I find joy in it now. Really, I do.
On and off – mostly on – for my entire adult life I have struggled, suffered, and had to deal with what I would now consider low – pretty darn low – grade depression which gnawed at rather than tortured me. Its symptoms never forced me to take to bed. I’ve never been so undone that I’ve not left the house for entire days. And I have never felt that I could not take one more moment of how I felt.
Until, that is, I endured the misery of getting off my anti-depressant medication.
Over the years I had found reasonable success with Paxil, Lexapro, Zoloft and, I am sure, one or two others. I took them each for years until I decided that I didn’t want to anymore at which point I endured the recommended slow taper and was no worse for the wear. Any negatives of getting off of them were so negligible that I’ve not even committed any of it to memory. So went the story: I’d take something for a while, it would stop working (whatever that meant), I’d easily get off of it, stay un-medicated for a while and then, for whatever reason, would try something new. No harm, no foul, no big deal.
Until, that is, I went up against Effexor.
I legitimately cannot recall when or why I started taking it. I can think of any number of things that might have precipitated my desire to feel better – man, life can be challenging – but, at this point, it doesn’t really matter. Suffice to say, it has been a few years. And, if we are being honest, it served me pretty well.
Until, that is, it didn’t.
Early in the summer I was far more troubled by the distention of my upper belly, the bloat of my face and the sluggishness of my body (and, um, soul) than my low-grade depression. I was acutely aware of a totally-new-to-me quickness to anger and found myself actually yelling at people with more intensity than their transgression called for. (Aside: I am a lot of things, but “yeller” was never one of them.) I was certain that everything was being caused by the meds. Completely certain.
So I did the right thing (because I always do the right thing) and met with my doctor to ensure that I did it the right way. I did as I was told (because I always do as I am told) and did a slowwwwwww taper that was truly easy-peasy.
Until, that it, it was whatever the total opposite of easy-peasy is.
In truth and fact, the first few days and weeks were entirely uneventful. No problem. A complete non-event.
Until, that is, the tapering was done, there were no pills of any dosage and the true – not to mention brutal – withdrawal symptoms kicked in.
Crying jag √
Taking to bed √
Inability to get anything done √
Loss of appetite √ (okay, I’ve often lamented that I have never lost my appetite…as in ever. This, if we are being honest, is not the worst of the symptoms. Hello, looser clothing, so so so nice to see you!)
I have been miserable. I have been frustrated. In the moments that I could pull myself together, I took to Google. These are actual searches I did. (Really… I consulted my history to confirm):
Effexor withdrawal treatments
Weaning of Effexor
Will I survive weaning off Effexor
Is there anything worse in the world than weaning off Effexor?
Amazon (aside: the cute little dress I ordered should arrive tomorrow)
Tips on minimizing symptoms of Effexor withdrawal (which led me to the darkness of chat rooms, message boards, horror stories,warnings…)
Whose great idea was it to start taking Effexor in the first place?
Zappos (aside: why yes, I did need another pair of Birks which are, I am thrilled to know, are out for delivery as we speak!)
Mayo Clinic (which led me to more chat rooms, message boards, horror stories, warnings…)
Facebook (aside: as a lurker only…no posting. A sure sign I was dying, at least inside.)
Today, day four of no meds, marks the first time I have actually sat at my computer.
Today is the first day that I am not too dizzy to walk from room to room within my house.
Today is the first day that I feel a little less panicked and a little more hopeful.
Today is the first day that I considered eating anything other than bread or bagels. (In fact, that toasted strawberry Pop Tart actually tasted pretty darn good.)
Today is the first day that I feel my sense of humor might be coming back.
Today is the first day that I not only got dressed, but even bothered to moisturize.
Today is the first day that I think I might be able to make it through this.
This has not been fun. This has not been pleasant. This has not been easy. This is not something I want to do ever again. This has sucked and will continue to suck. .
Until, that is, I find myself, hopefully sooner rather than later, on the other side of it. And then, I might just pat myself on the back.
Final honest thought: I do worry that once I get off this I am, with great likelihood, going to find myself needing/wanting (those lines are blurry) something else. But today, as the gruesome (okay, that might be a bit of an exaggeration) symptoms begin to subside, I am just going to try to sit back, relax and not worry about next week or next month.
Until, that is, I do. But then, I will do it with an un-distended belly, an un-bloated fact, an un-sluggish body and soul and the knowledge that I can do this.
p.s. A special shout out to N.S. who, as it happens, is on this same unpleasant trip right along with me. We’ve got this, honey.