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Yes, it will feel like a miracle when it happens for you; and it will happen for you, it is just a matter of time. I want to get that out there first thing; it is my belief that we will all heal in time; it has happened for me and is continuing to happen and it will happen for you. Am I completely 100% done healing? No. Am I so, so much better? Oh yes! Now for some basics: Male, mid 50s, took zoloft for over 20 year, quit cold turkey 3.5 years ago, was off 5 months, thought I was relapsing, so started prozac for 3.5 months and then quit that cold turkey. Then I found S.A. and discovered what I was dealing with was not a relapse but withdrawal (and recovery). So yes, I did everything completely wrong and more than once! I am proof that given time we can heal. I currently just celebrated 30 months of being drug free. Now, how to begin to describe the inhumane torture that I have endured until very recently; not sure but I will try. I have gone through both the windows and waves pattern and the continuous misery pattern. I was one of those that suffered a great deal after quitting, but really got slammed at about 6 months off. At 1 year I was barely functioning; at 1.5 years I was still miserable, and at 2 years off I was wondering if I was doomed to endless suffering with no end. But now as I have hit the 2.5 year mark I feel as if I have turned the corner. Windows and waves general comprised the first year and then it became continuous misery for pretty much the next 6 to 12 months or more; and then back to windows and waves. My last serious wave was in months 25-26 and now finally what feels like solid progress the last month or so. I am hesitant to list symptoms because I know how much it use to scare me to read what others were going through; but on the other hand it really helped when a new symptom would start, because I knew it was part of the recovery process and not some disease or sickness, and most of these are gone or have become minimal although they lasted for months or years. And just because I experienced them does not mean that you will, we all have a very individual road to recovery; so here they are in no specific order: Dark depression, anxiety, paranoia, obsessive compulsive, panic attacks, intrusive/obsessive thoughts that tortured me, hopelessness, irrational thinking, suicidal thoughts, brain zaps, intense organic fear, severe inner-body tension that felt like my whole insides were clamped up, sexual dysfunction, severe tension, tremors and pain in the back of my legs and calves, terrible shoulder and upper arm pain, mania, extreme bloating and stomach pain, nausea, dizziness, vertigo, feeling like my brain was on fire, feeling like a part of my brain was missing, feeling like a bomb had gone off in my head, floating head feeling, super-hot face, body temperature regulation problems – being super-hot or cold, constipation, dehydration, lack of appetite and weight loss, feeling dead, anhedonia, akathisia, mood swings, insomnia, terrible brain fog and inability to think clearly, sensitive vision and hearing, inching and burning skin, cold like symptoms, head congestion, phantom smells, constant tinnitus, severe fatigue and exhaustion, health anxiety, I could not read, listen to music, or meditate, heart palpitations, random traveling aching and stabbing pain throughout my body, headaches, and so many other symptoms that I can’t remember. The torture, pain, misery, suffering and utter despair was never ending…until it did finally start to end for me and it will for you too. Did anything help me along the way? I tried many things; acupuncture, vitamins and supplements, alpha-stim, gluten free diet, no sugar diet, no caffeine, no alcohol, and anything else I could do to try and feel better. Did it work? In a sense it all worked because it kept me focused on recovery and gave me hope when I had none, and the possibility that I might feel better. But time passing has been the real healing agent; although that was the last thing I wanted to hear when I was suffering so intensely. I did find that mindfulness, breathing exercises and physical exercise helped when all else failed and I was so truly desperate. Many hours were spent just trying to pay attention to my breath going in and out; and I still use this practice as a relaxation method. It also helped me greatly to visit this website daily as well as Benzo-Buddies. I read success stories for hours at a time, read the Bloom in Wellness facebook page each day and anything by Baylissa Frederick and also Don Killian. So, what remains for me? I still have tinnitus (although it has gotten much better over the last month), stomach bloating and pain on occassion, nerve pain, some brain zaps at night, fatigue and tiredness, and sleep issues. If I had to put some percentages on where I am at now I would say physically I am at about 85-90% healed and mentally/emotionally at 90-95% healed. I now eat anything that I choose although I eat as healthily as possible because I value life so much now and I want to live as long as possible; I exercise regularly and it feels wonderful; I enjoy caffeinated drinks including regular tea and coffee which I had given up for many months; I also drink wine and beer a couple times a week if I choose to and enjoy it. I am in the best shape since high school, and have lost 75 pounds (on purpose). Life is good again and just the simple things are more than enough to bring joy and happiness. So that is my story and I hope it will encourage you as you read it that you will recover and become yourself again. I remember reading similar statements in success stories and thinking, “Yea, right, that is easy for you to say, you are not suffering through this terrible hell right now!” And maybe you are thinking the same thing as I did, but please listen to my words; you will make it, you will recover, you will feel better, and you will join me in loving life once again; just please don’t give up or give in and keep going! As I sit here with a cup of coffee and contemplate what I have been through the last several years, it all seems so strange and foreign. Success stories promised that I would make it to recovery, and they were right, so now it is my turn to tell you that you will make it, “You will make it!”. Wishing everyone here all the best and a quick recovery. Please let me know if you have any questions and I will be happy to try and help. All my love. Pug
I am writing this as an addendum to My Story which details what ADs did to my life and discusses to a degree how I got my life back. However, I am writing this to elaborate on what certain problems where posed both physically and logistically after I stopped taking medications. Please keep in mind that I went COLD TURKEY and did not taper, which differentiates me from many people on here; also my story took place over 10 years ago, so my memory is not is 100% clear which means it is hard for me to apply a quantitative number to aspects of my physical recovery. In 2002 I quit cold turkey from a drug cocktail that included an Antidepressant (Celexa), an Antipsychotic (Zyprexa), an Anticonvulsant (Depakote), a Benzo (Ativan), a Z-Drug (Ambien) and a prescription diet pill (Phenteramine – given to me by my pdoc to lose the 60 pounds of weight I gained from the other weight gaining medications). The physical ramifications of quitting cold turkey where hard core, and lasted to the best of my recollection in hard core form for six months. These were: insomnia, exhaustion, akathesia, flu-like symptoms, headaches, nausea and vomiting, total loss of appetite and over-sensitivity to certain substances. There were also mental symptoms: overwhelming memories, mania, depression, over-emotional reactions to certain situations (e.g. crying or extreme anger) and PTSD from the whole ordeal. It is important to note that many of these symptoms continued to linger in a much lesser form for several years. I know that many of you would like a firm number of how long I suffered, but I cannot put a number on it because I started my recovery in 2002 – 10 years ago. This is further complicated by the fact that to get through the exhaustion from WD, I smoked cigarettes anywhere from one to one and a half packs for many years after. Since smoking can mimic some of the symptoms of WD (loss of appetite, headaches, mania, anger) it is hard to delineate what was what. However, I do believe that smoking provided mental focus that I would not have had otherwise. I finally quit smoking in 2007, five years after stopping meds. It was an odd thing, I just stopped one day and no longer wanted to smoke anymore. Maybe this was a sign of my recovery, but it may also have been a reaction to the fact that because of NY laws and my husband, if I needed to smoke I had to go outside. Smoking outside in the rain or cold was getting stupid. I do believe that part of this was a sign of final recovery – I didn’t need to mask symptoms anymore. So if this is true, and I had to put a number on it – I would say I battled with minor symptoms and PTSD for five years So what problems was I left with after drugs had stolen my life? And how did I regain control? Here is a list: Weight Gain A ruined job history A ruined credit history from filing Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Over $20K in debt to the IRS plus two tax liens PTSD Estrangement from my family I was fully aware of the PTSD, and would think on occasion of reaching out to a therapist. However, because the whole ordeal left me extremely suspicious of the whole field of mental health, I declined to reach out to anyone. So based on this list, I will try to tackle how I recovered in each area: 1) Weight Gain: I lost my appetite during WD and I also became a huge walker. In one year I lost sixty pounds with little effort. I did eat, but I ate very small meals, 200 kcal 3-5 times a day, mostly high protein and I ate an apple a day and I drank a TON of herbal tea. 2) A ruined job history: I had been fired from three high paying jobs, all in IT. I had no references, a job gap of four years, but I had good computer and office skills so I reached out to temporary agencies. I worked as a temp for many years, in the NY/NJ area only taking jobs at Fortune 500 companies. I built up my resume this way. Today, I list those jobs as “contract” and I explain that I liked the flexibility of “contract work” and that I was in the process of getting married and building a home with my husband, no one questions it. 3) A ruined credit history: I got a copy of all three of my credit reports and joined a credit law forum. I found that there were many examples where creditors where breaking either or both the FCRA or FDCPA laws on my credit report. I also hired an attorney. The attorney got 50% of it cleared up, I got the other 50% cleared up myself by tenacious letter writing and disputing with the Credit Bureaus. The forum I used had a great database of creditors who gave people with Bankruptcy on their reports a card with a small credit line; I applied to all of these and rebuilt my credit this way. When I married my husband in 2005, he added me as an authorized user to his accounts, giving me a longer and stronger credit history. 4) Tax Debt and Liens: After hiding from the IRS for several years, I contacted them and got on an installment plan. Because I was not working at the time I called them, my payment amount was on $185 for $20K+ in debt. I paid it faithfully for years; in October 2011 I was paid in full. Because the IRS has a law that you cannot pay more than 25% in interest and penalties of the actual tax debt, a good $10K got knocked off the total bill. But I still had two tax liens on my credit report. I did some research and found out about a service called the Tax Advocate service which is run through the IRS. I contacted my local Tax Advocate. For the sake of brevity, I will not go into the details of how I argued my case to get two tax liens released, but I did and in 2005 poof they were gone from my life and my credit report. If anyone needs more info, I would be happy to answer questions later in this post. 5) PSTD: I just endured this, but chose to embrace anger over victimhood. I was one extremely angry person for many years and I ruminated and had nightmares for years. I often thought about writing the SHRINK who did this to me, but refrained. One thing that I learned from this whole ordeal was to trust in my instincts which was empowering and allowed me to pick and chose my relationships with people and situations that were good for me. I let go of many friends who were not healthy for me. 6) Estrangement from my family: In 2003 I was estranged from my entire family (father, mother and brother). Today I am by choice still estranged from by father and brother. This is because I realize it is futile to ever expect them to change and to stay in relationship with them will only hurt me. I have however, repaired my relationship with my mother. I am extremely happy to share that six months ago I convinced her to move from Illinois to New York and reclaim her life. She tapered off multiple pmeds herself around 2007 and was left with two medical conditions diabetes and downbeat nystagmus from taking lithium and depakote for many years. She lived alone, my brother who lived close by was not helping her, and she was not getting the proper medical attention so she agreed with me. Today she lives 2 miles away from me, we are extremely close and I have helped her get her life back. My husband and she adore each other. So that is how I put the pieces of my life back after being devastated by polypharmacy. And I joined this forum because I think it is important that people know that taking these medications can be extremely harmful on so many levels. I hope this information helps someone out there. Please feel free to post any questions you may have. I wish all of you the best and trust that if I could restore my life which was utterly devastated by psychiatry, you can too.