So it makes sense that if I'm looking for a community of people like me who have decided to quit taking their anti-depressants online. I'm typing "DrugNameHere withdrawal symptoms" into the nearest search engine. I expected to get some garbage along with the good information. What I didn't expect was so much information.
Standing at the kitchen counter on Monday night listening to dinner sizzle away in the skillet behind me, I narrowed down the search results and finally chose one site administered by a psychiatric nurse that seemed the most reputable. In order to add any content to the discussions, I had to officially join the site, and although I did, I honestly didn't think I would be replying to any of them. Mostly I wanted to read. Gather information. Lurk and benefit from the wisdom of others.
I got more than I bargained for. The members range from people tapering off under the supervision of a doctor to people going off cold turkey. Some quit three days ago, others quit over a month ago. The ones that scare me are the ones who are 27 days off of the drug and are still having severe nausea, sleeplessness, anxiety and neurological "shocks." I am afraid to read more but I can't stop reading. The titles of some of the posts blare out at me:
AM I OKAY?
CAN I DO THIS?
PLEASE TELL ME THIS IS NORMAL!
SHOULD I GO BACK ON IT?
Okay, time out. Stop reading. Email the naturopath. Even though I know I can't possibly expect a response tonight, I still obsessively check my email as I finish making dinner. Self check: have my symptoms gotten worse today? I don't know. Definitely since Day 1, but are they worse today than yesterday? Maybe. Maybe not.
By the time dinner was over and the dishwasher was running I couldn't stand it anymore. I got the girls busy with a game and snuck back to my search results. I was soothed by the fact that there are others experiencing the electric shocks and brain buzz. I was frightened by those who have descended back into uncontrolled sobbing, fatigue and nausea.
The nurse gave encouragement, recommended massive doses of Vitamin C to flush the toxins from your body, going back on small doses of the drug itself or asking about using a different anti-depressant like Prozac to help. Apparently this particular drug stays in your system for significantly longer than most others in its class and Prozac can alleviate some of the withdrawal symptoms. When you're feeling better, the withdrawal from Prozac is relatively symptom-free, she states. I'm not going on another anti-depressant to wean off of this one. No way.
That night I decided to take a dose of melatonin despite the fact that I'm not an insomniac. I was afraid of having my sleep disturbed by hypochondriac fantasies. What if I didn't think I was having symptoms of excessive sadness but I really was? What if I have only worsening symptoms to look forward to and the tasks I need to accomplish every day like feeding my children and driving them to school become impossible because of the brain buzz?
I struggled to remain positive, breathing slowly and meditating for a few minutes at a time several times a day to convince myself that I was doing the right thing. I am certain that this drug, while it served an important purpose in my life for a while, is now toxic for me and I need to be done with it. I talked myself out of feeling nauseous, stopped at the health food store to stock up on thousands of milligrams of B6, B12, folic acid, vitamin C, GABA and fish oil. Every night as I fall asleep, the mantra I repeat convinces me that tomorrow will be a better day. Visiting the support site becomes an exercise in gratefulness that I don't have such severe side effects.
Day 7: Yesterday was the worst day. I actually confided in two of my co-workers that I was feeling spacey and disturbed by the symptoms. Afterwards I became paranoid that these two women whom I trust implicitly thought less of me and wouldn't trust me with anything anymore. I drank a gallon of water and came home to exercise so strenuously that I literally drenched myself in sweat, trying to flush the toxins out faster, faster, faster.
Today the spaciness wasn't nearly as prevalent. My fingertips now only feel like a 40 watt bulb and, despite a slight full feeling in my left ear, I am convinced that today is not nearly as bad as yesterday. Tomorrow will be even better and by October, I hope that the toxic effects of this drug will have left my body altogether.
I wish I knew exactly what long-term effects four years of daily use have had on my brain, my liver, my nervous system. Or maybe I don't want to know. The Internet search may have offered me some small reassurances that what I was experiencing was not abnormal, but I'm not sure it didn't also amplify my symptoms for a day or so. I will continue to try and monitor my symptoms as objectively as I can and believe that I have made it through the worst of it.