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Sarashall: Need clarity and support


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Hello, 

First I’d like to say this website is very validating. No one understands what I’m going through. I guess I wouldn’t either unless it happened to me. 

It begins when I was 15 and developed low grade but chronic 24/7 abdominal pain. I was having symptoms of depression for a week and doctors right away prescribed cipralex. I felt better and stopped ct after a month. I kept relapsing into severe depression every 1-2 years which lasted anywhere from 2-5 months. After cipralex was reinstated I would go back to a happy, well functioning person who believed that the depression would never come back.

 

This led to stopping the medication many times, starting new medication (Zoloft, Wellbutrin) and stopping those cold Turkey when I felt better. Fast forward to 2020 (age 25) I tapered down from escitalopram 20mg to 10mg within a month. At 10mg one day something in my brain switched and I had what I thought at the time the worst “depression” in my life. I felt like nothing mattered, I had no enjoyment, ambition and felt disconnected from everyone around me. I was simply existing, trying to get through the day.  My life was not stressful or traumatic enough for this to be PTSD. I went back up to 20mg of escitalopram and within 3-4 months felt better. In those 3 months I learned about anhedonia and this website. I finally realized that these drugs were not the solution but the problem. Had I went to therapy and learned coping skills about managing my abdominal pain condition this roller coaster would have never happened.

 

I was well for four years and started to think long term. I saw a future for myself and didn’t want to have the side effects (weight gain, possible effects on pregnancy, genital numbness). 
November 8, 2023 I made the decision to use the 10% of the last dose tapering protocol. I would crush and measure the pills carefully. I felt fine until May 2024 when I reached the halfway dose. After a resort vacation (where I was drinking one alcoholic drink daily) and getting food poisoning which triggered some health anxiety an instantaneous switch went off in my brain. I started to feel like I did in 2020 but somehow worse. This time I didn’t want to go through the journey again and just wanted to not exist. The feeling was so unbearable I went back to 20 mg of escitalopram hoping to repeat what happened in 2020.

 

It’s been 1.5 months but feels like a lifetime. It doesn’t seem to be helping. My only relief is sleep which I’m able to get 5-7 hours of due to trazodone for the past month. I can’t find joy, meaning or distraction. Anything can happen in my life and it wouldn’t matter.  Therapists, psychiatrists ive spoken to say I need the drugs to get back to baseline. The diabetes insulin analogy has been used countless times by them. I can’t plan for anything because I can’t imagine the future. I’m often living day by day and sometimes hour by hour. I hate to admit this but my quality of life is at the moment pretty close to 0. I’m not sure if this is withdrawal because I have no physical symptoms.

 

Has anyone else experienced this type of anhedonia with existential dread. I had to quit work, I’m passing up on social outings, I’m neglecting everything and relying on family to force me to get up, eat, go for walks etc). I’ve never been a religious or spiritual person so it’s hard to find any meaning in my suffering. Mindfulness and deep breathing help with physical relaxation but my mind is on 24/7 debating whether this is worth sticking it out.

 

Tapering doesnt seem like an option right now. I’m terrified of it getting worse (insomnia + physical symptoms on top of this mental anguish).

 

My constant mantra is “how I feel today does not determine how I will feel for the rest of my life”. It’s proven true in the past. 

 

Thank you so much if you’ve taken the time to read my post. 

Edited by Emonda
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  • Emonda changed the title to Sarashall: Need clarity and support
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Hi @Sarashall, and welcome to SA!  We are a community of volunteers providing peer support in the tapering of psychiatric medications, and their associated withdrawal syndromes.

 

If you could complete your drug signature, we would greatly appreciate it- this allows us to know your history at a glance when visiting your thread.  Click the following link, fill in the box with drug names/dates to the best of your recollection.  Please add any supplements that you are taking as well.  Then just click save!

 

Your Drug Signature

 

It sounds like you've done your research and are on a good path to recovery.  And it also sounds like you found out the hard why why we recommend avoiding alcohol, caffeine, recreational drugs, and using other psychiatric drugs to mitigate withdrawal symptoms- these things can and often will set you back significantly.  Being ill does this to me as well, so I suspect your food poisoning just added fuel to the fire. 

 

Having done your research, I'm sure you have read about the windows and waves pattern of stabilization.  I'll link it below, in case you haven't.  It is very normal to have ups and downs- sometimes mountains and valleys- during your journey off these meds, even when you are doing a hyperbolic taper, as you are.  You are in a very nasty wave at the moment, but I can promise you, with good self care, it will get better.

 

The Windows and Waves Pattern of Stabilization

 

It's also important to note that these drugs have very large effects at low doses.  I had zero difficulties going from 20mg to 10mg of escitalopram, but every step is more challenging now.  Here are a couple of links to explain how these drugs change our brains, and why things get so difficult the more you drop your dose. 

 

How Psychiatric Drugs Remodel Your Brain

What is happening in your brain?

 

It's not a huge surprise that updosing back to 20mg is not helping you at this time.  Your nervous system has likely been quite destabilized by the ups and downs with dosing, and you will need some time to recover from this.  My recommendation for you would be to hold at the 20mg for a while- likely many months, until you get to a point where your symptoms are manageable. Then initiate a slower taper- I would strongly recommend the Brassmonkey slide method- I will link it below.  It's very gentle, and given your sensitivity at the moment, it would be a great option for you.  

 

The Brassmonkey Slike Method of Micro-tapering

 

In the meantime, start a symptom tracking journal.  This will make it easier for you to see your windows and waves (because I know every day feels grim right now).  Windows may not last long at this point, nor will they likely be a complete lifting of your symptoms, but any lightening of the burden IS a window.  It's very important to recognize the better times, rather than staying caught up in the horror of it all. 

 

The importance of recognizing you're feeling good

 

You say you can't plan anything, because you can't imagine a future.  That's ok.  Don't plan anything other than working on recovery for now.  It's ok to focus on yourself and your own wellness.  More than ok in fact- it's necessary right now!  Many of us are living day by day, even minute by minute.  Keep the faith, because healing is happening all the time, whether we believe it or not.  It's ok not to feel hopeful and optimistic, because you are healing whether you feel that way or not.  What's important for now is to focus on finding ways to cope with your symptoms.  Here are some links to non-drug coping mechanisms.  You may find some of your own as well- I love gentle swimming- my body feels light, my pain disappears, and I find it very easy to be in a meditative state in the water.  You already have a wonderful mantra- keep up the good work!!!

 

Non-drug techniques to cope with emotional symptoms

Easing your way into meditation for a stressed-out nervous system

Music for self-care: calms hyperalertness, anxiety, aids relaxation and sleep

Ways to cope with daily anxiety

"Change the channel" - dealing with cognitive symptoms

Dealing With Emotional Spirals

 

In summary, I think you're right- tapering is not an option right now.  Stay the course, wait to become stable, and then you can start to taper.  Be patient, be kind to yourself, and prioritize you right now.  Since you have been taking trazodone for a month, I would not recommend tapering that right now, either- you will have to taper that down the road, but I would recommend tapering the escitalopram first.  Keep working on finding ways to ease your suffering.  This is your most important job right now!

 

Do keep us updated.  This is your personal introduction topic- feel free to post questions and updates here.  I look forward to following you on your journey and assisting wherever I can.  Most of all, you are much stronger than you think.  You CAN do this, you WILL recover.  Sending hugs!❤️

1995- 2007- On and off multiple antidepressants (Prozac, Paxil, Effexor, Wellbutrin, escitalopram). Memory poor- can’t remember dates. Always tapered fast or CT.  2007- tapered Wellbutrin, zopiclone and escitalopram over one month to get pregnant.  Withdrawal hell for many years.

2009- Daughter born 🥰 Post partum depression/psychosis- no meds taken.

2016- Back on escitalopram due to job change/anxiety

2022- Severe covid infection- Diagnosed with long covid 08/22.

2023- 01/23- Long term disability approved for long covid.  Started taper under MD advice from 20mg: 11/23- 15mg. 2024- March-10mg. Started low dose naltrexone for long covid-5mg- terrible reaction, reduced to 0.5mg.  April- 10mg escitalopram, 1.0mg LDN. May 1- 9.0mg escitalopram, 1.0mg LDN. May 15- 9.0mg escitalopram, 1.5mg LDN.  June 12- 8.5mg escitalopram, 1.5mg LDN.  July 8- Brassmonkey micro taper started.  8.4mg escitalopram, 1.5mg LDN.  July 15- 8.3mg esc, 1.5mg LDN.  July 18 8.3mg esc, 2.0mg LDN

 

Supplements/other meds: Vitamin D, B12, Claritin

 

I am not a doctor.  I don't even play one on TV.  This is not medical advice, but based on personal experience.  Please consult a medical professional.

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@Catwoman73 thank you so much for your thorough reply! I haven’t had any windows for the past 2 months and it feels bleak. I’m trying my best to hold on. 
 

I just want to feel normal and human. I feel like I’m putting on an act when I interact with others. I logically know that I love life but can’t feel it and constantly think about dying. Can the meds really do this? 
 

It’s hard to find a therapist that can help me through this. One I’ve been seeing says increasing my dose and possibly switching meds will help me diminish symptoms so I can be at a place where I can work through trauma. But I feel like the trauma is what these meds have done to me. 

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Hi, I sent you a DM

SECOND TIME USING MEDICATION

> OXCARBOZEPINE at some point dont know the dosage > LAMICTAL at  some point don’t know the dosage > QUETIAPINE (seroquel) 09/08/22 300 mg    10/24/22 400mg    11/02/22 500mg    01/02/23 700mg  03/09  650mg  04/20 600mg    05/12 550mg   06/11 500mg    07/15 450mg    07/29 400mg  kept tapering until 100mg and then 200mg at the hospital in March then 300 after getting CLOPIXOL DEPOT 200mg 3 times. QUETIAPINE 05/13/24 200mg 05/25 175mg 05/29 150mg 06/05 100mg. 06/12 50mg> BIPIRIDEN 04/23 - 04/30 2mg OMEGA 3 FISH OIL 05/20 4mg

FIRST TIME USING MEDICATION

> RISPERIDAL AT SOME POINT dont know the dosage >    OLANZAPINE (ZYPREXA)

07/21 10mg      08/21 20mg       09/21 15 mg        10/21 10mg then 5mg     11/01/21 off Olanzapine

>    SERTRALINE (ZOLOFT)

08/21 100mg        09/21 supposedly 150mg as prescribed, 200mg as a mistake for a while       10/21 100mg        11/21 50mg       12/11/22 off Sertraline

>    LITHIUM
07/21 300mg (1 pill)        08/21 600mg        09/21 900mg (stabilized in blood tests)     10/21, 11/21, 12/21, 01/22 tapered off in the course of 2 weeks     02/22 off Lithium 

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4 hours ago, Sarashall said:

I just want to feel normal and human. I feel like I’m putting on an act when I interact with others. I logically know that I love life but can’t feel it and constantly think about dying. Can the meds really do this? 
 

It’s hard to find a therapist that can help me through this. One I’ve been seeing says increasing my dose and possibly switching meds will help me diminish symptoms so I can be at a place where I can work through trauma. But I feel like the trauma is what these meds have done to me. 

Yes, the meds really can do this!  You aren't the only person who has asked this question.  I'm still shocked every day that these meds are prescribed with so little thought and consideration, and that doctors really have absolutely no clue how horrible it is to try to get off of them for most people.    I know it's hard, but start that symptom journal- I think you may find that when you're really paying attention to your symptoms, and perhaps rating them on a scale of 1-10 every day, you may find you are having windows.  Windows don't necessarily mean a complete lifting of your symptoms- just an improvement in the awfulness.  And do work on trying out some of those non-drug coping mechanisms that I linked for you above.  I swear, if you work hard at it, and just keep trying, they do make a big difference. 

 

As for therapists, yeah, I get it.  There is the A-team, and then there's the rest of them. I refuse to see psychiatrists anymore, because all they do is push more meds.  I've found a wonderful therapist that does a lot of trauma work using EMDR and IFS.  She has also really helped me develop my mindfulness skills to help me deal with the ups and downs of both long covid and withdrawal.  But it took a lot of time to find her.  It doesn't sound like you've found your perfect match therapist, but if you look for trauma certified therapists, that's a good place to start.  And I agree- the meds themselves are traumatic!!!  I can't believe I've lost 30 years of my life to them!  I'm still coming to terms with that.

 

I see you are in Canada- I don't know your financial situation, or what province you are in, but in BC and Ontario, there are a small handful of providers that will assist you with tapering.  It's not covered by provincial health plans though, and it's not exactly cheap. If you're interested, I can send you some info.  They are not therapists, but I am tapering with one of them, and she is extremely well-versed in withdrawal and tapering, and I do find that there is a bit of a counselling component to our sessions as well.  Happy to share more if this would be helpful to you- just let me know! 

 

In the meantime, you're doing fine.  Deep breaths, one day at a time!  Be careful with painting a smile on your face for others though- that can wear on you, and cause you more stress in the long run.  I've found it very helpful to talk to my loved ones about what I'm going through, answer their questions, and keep them in the loop about how I'm doing.  That way, I don't have to fake being ok.  I'm waaaay too tired to keep that up!

 

Thinking of you! ❤️‍🩹

 

 

1995- 2007- On and off multiple antidepressants (Prozac, Paxil, Effexor, Wellbutrin, escitalopram). Memory poor- can’t remember dates. Always tapered fast or CT.  2007- tapered Wellbutrin, zopiclone and escitalopram over one month to get pregnant.  Withdrawal hell for many years.

2009- Daughter born 🥰 Post partum depression/psychosis- no meds taken.

2016- Back on escitalopram due to job change/anxiety

2022- Severe covid infection- Diagnosed with long covid 08/22.

2023- 01/23- Long term disability approved for long covid.  Started taper under MD advice from 20mg: 11/23- 15mg. 2024- March-10mg. Started low dose naltrexone for long covid-5mg- terrible reaction, reduced to 0.5mg.  April- 10mg escitalopram, 1.0mg LDN. May 1- 9.0mg escitalopram, 1.0mg LDN. May 15- 9.0mg escitalopram, 1.5mg LDN.  June 12- 8.5mg escitalopram, 1.5mg LDN.  July 8- Brassmonkey micro taper started.  8.4mg escitalopram, 1.5mg LDN.  July 15- 8.3mg esc, 1.5mg LDN.  July 18 8.3mg esc, 2.0mg LDN

 

Supplements/other meds: Vitamin D, B12, Claritin

 

I am not a doctor.  I don't even play one on TV.  This is not medical advice, but based on personal experience.  Please consult a medical professional.

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Hi, I really appreciate your warm and thoughtful responses. I live in Ontario, please send over the information for the providers. 
 

I will check out the list of things that will help me cope. I find myself frozen in complete apathy and know some things that can help me improve but spend my time reading posts on my phone. I will try to add a few things tmr that I didn’t do today. I think I spent like 8 hours on my phone today. I think part of me pushing things off besides the fact that I feel severely depressed is that I’m worried they won’t help and then I’ll feel even more hopeless (but idk if that’s even possible). My menstrual cycle is starting so maybe that explains the heightened anxiety hopelessness and avolition. 

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11 hours ago, Sarashall said:

Hi, I really appreciate your warm and thoughtful responses. I live in Ontario, please send over the information for the providers. 
 

I will check out the list of things that will help me cope. I find myself frozen in complete apathy and know some things that can help me improve but spend my time reading posts on my phone. I will try to add a few things tmr that I didn’t do today. I think I spent like 8 hours on my phone today. I think part of me pushing things off besides the fact that I feel severely depressed is that I’m worried they won’t help and then I’ll feel even more hopeless (but idk if that’s even possible). My menstrual cycle is starting so maybe that explains the heightened anxiety hopelessness and avolition. 

Hormones definitely create some instability.  I weep like a baby for days leading up to my period.  EVERY. TIME.  And I'm perimenopausal, so I can't even predict my periods lol... my cycles are anywhere from 23 days to 103 days.  My husband always has to ask me when I get all weepy if my period might be coming.  In other circumstances, I might take his head off for this, but when in withdrawal, I appreciate the reminder that everything that happens to my body can throw me into a tailspin. 

 

Here are some links to the websites of providers who can assist you with tapering here in Ontario.  I'm working with Monica Mina, and she's amazing!

 

https://nicoleargoma.com

https://www.mindfulmedicinebymonica.ca

https://drshawngill.com

 

Do try a few things... swimming and mindfulness stuff is what is most helpful for me, but you'll find your own way.  We're here to support you along the way... just take it one minute at a time!  You can do this!

1995- 2007- On and off multiple antidepressants (Prozac, Paxil, Effexor, Wellbutrin, escitalopram). Memory poor- can’t remember dates. Always tapered fast or CT.  2007- tapered Wellbutrin, zopiclone and escitalopram over one month to get pregnant.  Withdrawal hell for many years.

2009- Daughter born 🥰 Post partum depression/psychosis- no meds taken.

2016- Back on escitalopram due to job change/anxiety

2022- Severe covid infection- Diagnosed with long covid 08/22.

2023- 01/23- Long term disability approved for long covid.  Started taper under MD advice from 20mg: 11/23- 15mg. 2024- March-10mg. Started low dose naltrexone for long covid-5mg- terrible reaction, reduced to 0.5mg.  April- 10mg escitalopram, 1.0mg LDN. May 1- 9.0mg escitalopram, 1.0mg LDN. May 15- 9.0mg escitalopram, 1.5mg LDN.  June 12- 8.5mg escitalopram, 1.5mg LDN.  July 8- Brassmonkey micro taper started.  8.4mg escitalopram, 1.5mg LDN.  July 15- 8.3mg esc, 1.5mg LDN.  July 18 8.3mg esc, 2.0mg LDN

 

Supplements/other meds: Vitamin D, B12, Claritin

 

I am not a doctor.  I don't even play one on TV.  This is not medical advice, but based on personal experience.  Please consult a medical professional.

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