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Sarahsmiles: Introduction


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Hi there. I found this site after trying to understand why it was so difficult to go off of antidepressants. I have primarily dealt with general anxiety disorder. I have some social anxiety disorder but it has always felt rather mild and didn't keep me from doing things out in the world. I do not have panic attacks, and have not had depression other than when trying to quit SSRIs and during a period when I was on a progesterone-only birth control pills.


Here is my history:


In the summer and fall of 2011, I was dealing with a lot of stress and decided I needed some help. Was given:


Celexa 20mg and Klonopin. I was feeling alright, until at six weeks, I suddenly started having very strange disturbances in the passage of time (I can describe it as being like a slideshow that is malfunctioning - click,click,click - some mild auditory hallucinations, and nightmares. Immediately stopped and went on:


Prozac 20mg (six months starting Sept. 2011)


I mostly felt like myself on this dose but gained 20 pounds, had no sexual function, and had a very slippery brain. (I don't have many memories from this time). I went off of it as soon as I reached the minimum six months recommended by my doctor to prevent relapse. I quit after a very short taper, and thought I was fine other than a few brain zaps. Looking back, however, I can see that my temper was flaring up for a month or two. (Not my usual mode!)


Zoloft 75 mg 

In the summer of 2012, I lost a close family member under very sad circumstances. Went on Zoloft 75mg as I was considering having another child and it was recommended by the OBGYN. I had fewer side effects on this one: tiredness and decreased ability to orgasm. Minimal weight gain. I wanted to go off of meds in summer of 2014, but my husband decided to leave me for another woman. I was blindsided, and definitely felt the need to continue on the Zoloft!


Zoloft decrease and Wellbutrin

In November of 2016 I was feeling more tired, emotionally flat, and having less sexual function, so asked doc about adding Wellbutrin. We lowered Zoloft to 50mg. Wellbutrin didn't help, also made me a little goofy and I could not keep thoughts in my brain. I had to write everything down during the 8 weeks or so I gave it a try. 


During this time I tried to taper off of the Zoloft like my doctor recommended (very quickly). I managed to get down to 12.5mg, although each decrease was accompanied by lots of weeping, anger, depression I hadn't experienced before. When I told the doctor I thought it was from the process of withdrawing from medication, he said that told him I still needed it. I countered that it seemed to be the meds since I could be very depressed, take a dose of the med, and within 24 hours feel completely better. Although I told him that depression had not been part of my mental health history, he told me that I must have been depressed and "just not known it." I got a new doctor. 


Effexor XR 75mg

I told the new doctor that I would like to switch to Prozac and wanted help weaning off of meds. She asked me to try one more med first, and I agreed. We did a quick cross-taper and the medication seemed fine at first. About 8 weeks in (6 weeks solely on the Effexor at the full dose) i was very agitated and physically amped up and told her I wanted off the med. She had me switch to 37.5mg since I would need to taper anyway. I started feeling physically awful. Worn out. I had two very heavy periods in a three week timespan. Then I began spotting daily. I was exhausted. She then gave me the 10mg Prozac.


At this point, the doctor left her practice! I had an appointment set for August with a psychologist but this was in May. So I made up my own taper and started dumping out half the capsule. Eventually I found this forum, but with a limited supply of Prozac until I could see the new doctor, I tapered down more every two weeks than what is recommended here. It was bearable though, and I believe my last dose of something like 1.25mg was on July 15th.


I had the standard brain zaps, some moodiness, tearfulness, but nothing like when I tried to stop Zoloft. Zoloft withdrawal made me think things I have never thought. I have never felt like that and I also assumed for a long time that it was just me, and proof that I needed the medication. I have never been suicidal, and I wouldn't say I actually *was* but I remember thinking things like, "you should just step in front of that car." 


So it's been about nine weeks now, and I'm seeing the psychiatrist today. My first appointment with her was after ceasing meds. She was supportive of me at least attempting to go medfree. I, however, am struggling. I've had some recent health issues come to light, am having some interpersonal stress, and trying to engage in some big decisions about what to do with my life (house, job, school, etc.) I wanted to give myself time to figure out what my baseline is, and to allow my brain to start making it's own serotonin again. I had been doing ok (not great, but pretty darn ok) with the exception of some anxiety spikes related to my menstrual cycle. Now I've found out I have some health problems and I am very fixated on them and anxious. It's not sustainable.


I'm wavering about whether I can handle doing this or not, and if I should go back on a low dose of Prozac and try a longer taper. Some of my health issues are anemia (being treated, but which can cause anxiety-like feelings I'm told) and menstrual problems/irregularities. I know I am sensitive to hormonal changes already, and if I'm doing some sort of early peri-menopausal thing, that's not good for my mental health! I'm trying to root out what is a cause and what is an effect of my anxiety. And, well, I feel a little depressed and down on myself for not being mentally better than I am. I'm wondering why I can't fix myself, and feeling bad that maybe I really do need to be on meds. It's tough! 



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  • ChessieCat changed the title to Sarahsmiles: Introduction
  • Moderator Emeritus

Hi Sarahsmiles,


Welcome to Surviving Antidepressants (SA).  I am glad that you found the site and got rid of the doctor who made the ridiculous assumption that your withdrawal symptoms were caused by an illness you had never experienced previously, managed to change doctors (thank God) and connect with a supportive psychiatrist.  Unfortunately, from my own personal experience, and the experience of many others that have found this site, few doctors have any idea how to taper safely off of these drugs and their recommendations are often a big part of the problem.  As you have a long history of taking many different antidepressants, it is extremely important that you understand the recommendations made by Surviving Antidepressants and hopefully your psychiatrist will continue to support your desire to reinstate and then get off of these drugs safely.  I notice that you have cross-tapered many antidepressants over the years and this is likely attributable to the difficulties that you have been experiencing as far back as 2011.   


Unfortunately, without knowing how long you took Effexor and then Prozac or the specific date(s) you discontinued both of these drugs, if will be difficult to make any specific recommendations and we would ask that you summarize your withdrawal/drug history in a signature - ALL drugs, doses, dates, and discontinuations & reinstatements, in the last 12-24 months in particular.   This will be a permanent part of your own introduction thread and It helps moderators to be able to see all of your details at a glance.  You can find the information on how to complete your signature at the link below:
Instructions:  Withdrawal History Signature

    •    Please leave out symptoms and diagnoses.
    •    A list is easier to understand than one or multiple paragraphs. 
    •    Any drugs prior to 24 months ago can just be listed with start and stop years.
    •    Please use actual dates or approximate dates (mid-June, Late October) rather than relative time frames (last week, 3 months ago)
    •    Spell out months, e.g. "October" or "Oct."; 9/1/2016 can be interpreted as Jan. 9, 2016 or Sept. 1, 2016.


In the meantime, I would suggest that you read the links I have provided below which outline the recommendations made by Surviving Antidepressants and give you an idea of safe tapering methods and a look at what your options are at this time.   


In particular, SA recommends tapering by no more than 10% of your current dose followed by a hold of about 4 weeks to allow the brain to adapt to the changes in the central nervous system (CNS).  When changes are made too quickly, doses are alternated/skipped, anti-depressants are cross-tapered or the drug is discontinued abruptly, the brain is unable to adapt to the changes and this results in uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.  I am attaching a few links so that you can familiarize yourself with the recommendations made by Surviving Antidepressants and the theory of antidepressant withdrawal syndrome.  


Before you begin tapering what you need to know
What is Withdrawal Syndrome?
Why taper by 10% of my dosage?

The only known solution at this time to decrease or eliminate withdrawal syndrome is to reinstate a very small amount of the drug into your system and then to hold until you stabilize.  I will attach the link on reinstatement to give you an idea of the process involved and ask you to pay particular attention to the risks and benefits.  Because you have been off of Prozac (Effexor?) for almost two months you need to be aware that a reinstatement may not be successful as it is best done when withdrawal symptoms first appear. 


About reinstating and stabilizing to reduce withdrawal symptoms
What to Expect in Reinstatement (James Heaney article)


What is known about reinstatement from reading and from patient experience as posted on online support sites:

  • According to medical knowledge, reinstatement is the only way to alleviate withdrawal symptoms.
  • Reinstatement is best done immediately upon appearance of withdrawal symptoms. The more time that passes, the less likely it is to work.
  • The length of this window of opportunity varies according to the individual. Sometimes people can reinstate successfully months after quitting. Others cannot.
  • Often a partial dose will relieve withdrawal symptoms. If, for example, you were taking 20mg Paxil and quit rapidly only a few days ago, 5mg or 10mg may be enough. Others find they need a higher dose.
  • Start low to see what you need. You can always increase if necessary. If you've been off the drug for a month or more, many people can find relief from antidepressant withdrawal symptoms by reinstating as little as 1mg-5mg.

I hope that you find the information here helps you to make an informed decision regarding the options available to you at this time.  Please feel free to connect with other members in their introduction threads, Surviving Antidepressants has a very supportive community that are here to share their experiences and help where they can.  


Current Prescription Drugs for Hypothyroidism:  Synthroid 100mcg / Cytomel 5mcg (15 years Pristiq/Effexor)

Tapering Schedule
September 15, 2016 - switched from Pristiq 50mg to Effexor XR 75mg; November 10, 2016 - reduced to 67.5 Effexor XR
December 9, 2016 - reduced 60.75
January 5, 2017 - reduced 54.67
January 30, 2017 - reduced to 49.0
February 20, 2017 - reduced to 44.0 
May 20, 2017 - reduced to 40.25 (holding for additional month due to late onset of withdrawal symptoms after this taper)
July 17, 2017 - reduced to 38.24
August 15, 2017 - reduced to 37.5 (50% of my original dose)

October 15, 2017 - reduced to 35.6

November 12, 2017 - reduced to 33.8
December 15, 2017 - up-dose to 35.6
December 28, 2017 - up-dose to 37.5

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  • 4 months later...

Sarahsmiles any update?


Thought for the day: Lets stand up, and let’s speak out , together. G Olsen

We have until the 14th. Feb 2018. 

URGENT REQUEST Please consider submitting  for the petition on Prescribed Drug Dependence and Withdrawal currently awaiting its third consideration at the Scottish Parliament. You don't even have to be from Scotland. By clicking on the link below you can read some of the previous submissions but be warned many of them are quite harrowing.


Please tell them about your problems taking and withdrawing from antidepressants and/or benzos.

Send by email to petitions@parliament.scot and quote PE01651 in the subject heading. Keep to a maximum of 3 sides of A4 and you can't name for legal reasons any doctor you have consulted. Tell them if you wish to remain anonymous. We need the numbers to help convince the committee members we are not isolated cases. You have until mid February. Thank you

Recovering paxil addict

None of the published articles shed light on what ssri's ... actually do or what their hazards might be. Healy 2013. 

This is so true, with anything you get on these drugs, dependance, tapering, withdrawal symptoms, side effects, just silent. And if there is something mentioned then their is a serious disconnect between what is said and reality! 

  "Every time I read of a multi-person shooting, I always presume that person had just started a SSRI or had just stopped."  Dr Mosher. Me too! 

Over two decades later, the number of antidepressant prescriptions a year is slightly more than the number of people in the Western world. Most (nine out of 10) prescriptions are for patients who faced difficulties on stopping, equating to about a tenth of the population. These patients are often advised to continue treatment because their difficulties indicate they need ongoing treatment, just as a person with diabetes needs insulin. Healy 2015

I believe the ssri era will soon stand as one of the most shameful in the history of medicine. Healy 2015

Let people help people ... in a natural, kind, non-addictive (and non-big pharma) way. J Broadley 2017



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Thank you for checking in. I still need to update my signature with my drug history, but for now I'm back on 10mg of Prozac. I'm happy that my psychiatrist recognizes the downside of these meds and is supportive of me quitting again in the future. I'm getting some other health issues stabilized before attempting a taper. 

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