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  1. Hi there, fellow Surviving Antidepressants Community Members As weird as this might sound, I'm excited to be here. After many years of feeling I have been surviving but not thriving and suspecting that my antidepressants are part of the problem--or at the very least, preventing me from identifying some of the root problems--I feel like I'm starting to get on track with full recovery at 31 years old. It might be a bit premature to say that but today, with the sun out, and having just gotten the support of my psychiatrist to go ahead with starting to taper off Prozac, I'm hopeful that this is the beginning of me taking charge of my health--mental, physical, and spiritual. I'm currently on Wellbutrin 100 mg and Prozac 20 mg. If you want the long version of my antidepressant backstory: My Introduction to Prozac I was first prescribed antidepressants in January 2007 when I was 16 years old. I was about 6 weeks in to an IOP program for eating disorders and I was not responding to treatment. I was severely underweight and was continuing to lose weight despite interventions. I can't remember what psychological symptoms I was experiencing in those six weeks, but I assume they were a mix of the same symptoms I had been experiencing first intermittently then constantly over the preceding 3 years: persistent anxiety, hopelessness, and low self-esteem. Perfectionism was present but was there much longer, probably my whole life, along with some level of anxiety. I was diagnosed with anorexia, depression (probably MDD recurrent or whatever that was in the DSM at the time), and generalized anxiety. I was referred to a psychiatrist in hopes that medication would help increase my motivation to participate in treatment. If my memory is correct (not sure), Prozac was the first medication tried and I did not experience notable side effects at the time. I worked my way up fairly rapidly to 40 mg. Within 2 months, I was admitted to an inpatient hospitalization program and I think my Prozac dose was increased to 60 mg. I was there for 2 weeks and was very successful weight restoring and beginning my emotional and psychological recovery. I continued with recommended psychotherapeutic treatment and was considered to be in full remission by May 2007. I stayed on Prozac and continued to work with the same outpatient psychiatrist. I continued to have perfectionist and social anxiety cognitions and feelings, but they were well-managed and part of this was attributed to my medication. I think I decreased to 40 mg at some point during the next few months and completed high school successfully and with solid emotional stability. Interesting note about my first time being prescribed Prozac: my mom has since shared with me what it was like for her during that first psychiatrist appointment, and that she felt she absolutely did not have a choice--that the doctor was saying I must take medication or I would likely continue to deteriorate, which my mom understood would be a threat to my life. I don't necessarily believe that was incorrect. There is a possibility that Prozac helped save my life. I just think hearing my mom's perspective and considering informed consent and the position parents are in when their children are suffering is really eye-opening. First Round of Withdrawal In college, I continued to experience low to moderate anxiety but was generally able to manage it effectively. During the summer before my sophomore year (19 years old), I shared with my psychiatrist that I wished to see if I could do alright trying to come off Prozac as I had been stable and coping effectively for a solid 2 years at that point. She agreed and recommended I cut down to 30 mg. I started my sophomore year and did not realize I was having more anxiety than usual until I started having hysterical / paranoid fears of being pregnant despite the extremely low likelihood that that was possible. I took multiple pregnancy tests a day for a few weeks. I finally realized my fear was irrational and expressed to my psychiatrist that my anxiety had become overwhelming and she increased me back to 40 mg. I stayed on this for the rest of college and the next few years and again, enjoyed relative stability with some bouts of increased anxiety and depression intermittently but nothing overwhelming or debilitating. The Middle Years, or, When Becoming a Mental Health Practitioner Leads to Increased Antidepressant Dependence My memory is fuzzy on when my psychiatrist increased my Prozac to 60 mg. I suspect it was during grad school so it would have been between 2014 and 2016 (I got my MSW to become a therapist--yay giving back! Yay using my empathy to help others! Boo struggling with my unrealistic expectations of myself to not make mistakes as a baby social worker/therapist!). It may have been shortly before actually but like I said, memory is fuzzy. It didn't bother me too much to increase and I had continued my psychotherapy increasing the frequency as needed and dropping back down to 1x every two weeks or every month when things were going well. I remember talking to my psychiatrist this time about worrying that there could be negative effects on my health due to taking Prozac long-term. She assured me there was "no evidence that there are negative effects to taking Prozac long-term and lots of people do and you might just have to be on it for your whole life." I did not love that she gave such a quick and invalidating answer, but I chose to trust her. I also asked if she had recommendations about other changes I might make to my lifestyle or routine in order to decrease my vulnerability to anxiety and depression. She gave me a handout on "Brain Food" (spoiler alert: eat lots of protein and healthy fats). I have since learned that there are A LOT of other things you can do! Apparently I have this really cool genetic variation that makes exercise super effective in decreasing depression symptoms! But my psychiatrist neither knew nor cared to discuss that possibility! (Yes, that was sarcasm. I have some pent up feelings about the psychiatrist who I trusted for over a decade and who did not really listen to me on multiple occasions). Second Round of Withdrawal Again when I was 28 years old, I talked to my psychiatrist about wishing to decrease and eventually come off of Prozac. I shared that I had read reports of women needing to stop taking SSRIs when they become pregnant, and that I was hoping to have children in the next 5-10 years, so I figured I should start working on that so I wouldn't have to abruptly stop taking them if I decide to try to get pregnant. My psychiatrist assured me that there's no concern for the health of the baby or the mom if one remains on SSRIs while pregnant. I accepted this and let her know I still wanted to try tapering. She recommended coming down by 20 mg and I pushed back, noting the reaction I had to decreasing 10 mg from 40 mg when I was in college. I tried 50 mg for a few weeks and again experienced seriously increased anxiety. When I asked her about whether this was normal or not, she recommended I just go back on to the 60 mg. She never educated me about the possibility of any withdrawal or discontinuation symptoms, never normalized them, and never challenged my statements that "this must mean I am an anxious mess without Prozac." It genuinely did not occur to me during any of these episodes that perhaps removing Prozac was not unmasking latent anxiety symptoms that would continue indefinitely without Prozac keeping a lid on me. It would be another year before I would start to encounter information that helped me understand these are symptoms of withdrawal, not signs of being unable to function without an SSRI. ADHD onset at 29 years old? Derealization? Did Prozac break my brain? It may have started sooner, but I noticed my baseline anxiety increasing slowly but surely in early summer 2019 when I was 29 years old. By September, I had noticed other symptoms including difficulty focusing, difficulty organizing my thoughts, and derealization. That probably should have scared me health-wise, but it mostly upset me because it interfered with my performance at work and led to thoughts that I was developing ADHD despite knowing that is not the nature of ADHD. I had just started a new job as a school-based therapist which I thought was the best job possible for me (it did end up being pretty great, and I'm still in the job, I'm just not completely sure it's what I should be doing indefinitely) and desperately wanted to do well and impress my supervisors. I also had a part-time job in which I provided counseling in people's homes. I remember being stuck in traffic driving home from an appointment with a client one day and feeling like my attention was like a telescope and instead of magnifying visual details, it was like I was looking in the wrong end of the telescope, and my consciousness was zooming out further and further into my brain, and what surrounded me became further and further away. It was terrifying and made me feel like my brain was broken. I shared my symptoms with my therapist, who suggested my symptoms could be a sign that my medication was not working as it should and was creating these strange side effects. After experiencing a deeply irrational sadness spiral in the middle of the church at my friend's wedding, I decided I had had enough. Whatever exactly Prozac is intended to do, it was at best failing me and at worst causing me to experience bigger mental health challenges than I already have. I went back to my therapist, who was in the midst of studying functional medicine, and asked for her help trying to taper off Prozac. She agreed and helped me over the next few months get testing to identify some of the underlying issues that contributed to my difficulty with stress and anxiety. We identified that I have the MTHFR gene mutation (both mutation variants. Yahtzee!) as well as leaky gut, vitamin D deficiency, magnesium deficiency, and iron deficiency. Under her advice, I added supplements to address each of these issues and decreased Prozac first by 10 mg for 6 weeks then by another 10 mg in January 2020. It felt successful. I felt pretty okay with some increased mood lability but nothing extreme. I'm really, really grateful to my therapist for being the person who validated my experiences, my concerns with Prozac, and actually helped me work on something I expressed I really wanted. Also for genuinely saving my life when I worked with her through my eating disorder recovery. Shoutout to her COVID Strikes I now suspect that the difficulties I experienced in terms of emotion and mood starting in spring 2020 were not solely due to the arrival of COVID in the US and the ensuing shut-down, but that perhaps there was also withdrawal/discontinuation syndrome. I experienced a lot of anxiety and sleep issues in the first 6 weeks of the pandemic, then a depression set in co-occurring with the anxiety. I was working from home which sucked because I moved back in with my parents so I was living and working in an 8' x 10' room, felt completely ineffective working virtually, and was worried for my clients and my job and my friends and my parents and the world. During that time I attempted to eliminate gluten from my diet as my therapist had noted that my MTHFR gene mutations made it likely that I was gluten intolerant or at least gluten sensitive. It didn't seem to improve my mood or anxiety as hoped, and bread was honestly one of the few things that made me feel pleasure during that time so I went back on gluten in June. Around that time I started seeing a psychiatrist certified in functional medicine. I shared with her that I felt that while my therapist was being super helpful and supportive, and I had gained some important knowledge about my body in the preceding 8 months, decreasing my medication was not going well and I needed the help of a psychiatrist. I shared my background with her and my deep belief that Prozac was not helping the situation. She screened me for depression and noting that I was depressed, advised that I increase back up to 60 mg to stabilize my mood while we wait out the pandemic (remember we thought it would END at some point????) or at least some of the lifestyle situations that I could change in the meantime. I agreed, and we did some extra bloodwork and testing which led to tweaking my supplements and confirmed that I am not gluten intolerant or sensitive. This was a relief! As Oprah would say, I love bread. COVID Summer... and Fall... and Winter. Plus Wellbutrin I should note that shortly before the pandemic shutdown, I also started working in private practice as a therapist under clinical supervision (I haven't finished my hours to be a fully licensed clinical social worker). It turned out that not only would I be learning to be a private practice therapist doing virtual sessions, but my supervisor was frankly... invalidating and condescending. With the emotional difficulties and stress I was experiencing, this was a bad combination and in my overachieving, perfectionist way, I tried to push through it by just doing everything MORE. This really did not help and I believe it was a big part of how overworked and overwhelmed I starting feeling in October-November 2020. I had felt decent mood-wise and stress-wise by the end of the summer and the start of the school year in September, but the anxiety and depression came back with a vengeance to the point that I was quite hopeless and having passive suicidal thoughts by mid-November. This was really disturbing as I've never had true suicidal thoughts in my life, not even at my lowest points. When I reported this to my psychiatrist, she decided we needed to try something different and prescribed Wellbutrin 100 mg to start. She advised first decreasing Prozac as Wellbutrin would slow down the metabolizing of the Prozac so the effects of both would be intensified. I went down to 40 mg Prozac and added Wellbutrin, and I felt EXCELLENT. Animated, hopeful, productive, focused, really present and mindful in my experiences. It felt so, so good to feel truly good for the first time in a long time. The EXCELLENT feeling tapered off but I really felt genuinely happy for the next few weeks. Around the 2 week mark, I started having a hard time falling asleep. I was having racing thoughts and taking hours to fall asleep or waking up in the middle of the night with my heart and thoughts racing and finding it impossible to go back to sleep. As someone who has needed at the very minimum 8 hours of sleep in order to be functional for my whole adult life, this made work really hard to manage. I reached out to my psychiatrist who scheduled an immediate (expensive) phone call and advised decreasing Wellbutrin to 75 mg. Sleep improved a bit but depression kicked in. We reconvened and she decided to try going back to 100 mg Wellbutrin but lowering Prozac due to their interaction yielding more intense effects of each. I went down to 20 mg of Prozac and stabilized sleep-wise and with depression within about a week. I had spikes of anxiety (up to an 8 on a 1-10 scale, while I had rarely experienced above a 7 before summer 2019) that were at first several times per week then tapered off to once in a while, maybe 2-3 times per month. Psychiatrist advised using L-Theanine as needed when anxiety spiked which honestly works really well--within 10-15 minutes physical symptoms of anxiety completely subside. Let's Try This Again I decided in the winter to put in my resignation notice for private practice as both that and my day job are pretty stressful, and I realized I need to prioritize time and energy for my self-care while I make a concerted effort to win my battle with depression, anxiety, and the antidepressants. Within a week of my other job ending, I started to feel like I can mentally and emotionally handle trying again to get off psychotropic meds. I'm seeing my therapist every other week, seeing an integrative nutritionist with eating disorder specialty, and just got the green light from my psychiatrist to start tapering. Her instructions for tapering are different from those on this website, but I'm going to try it her way to start as I'd rather have the support of a medical provider while I do this. I'm planning to use this thread to chronicle this attempt. I'm historically terrible at building habits, so I hope using this site to support what might be the most important goal I've ever had will stick. I'll be recording my doses, symptoms, and other modalities I'm using to manage emotions, stress, and health during this transition here. I'm hopeful, and I'm scared, and I'm so very ready to move on with my life. Something that I didn't write about in the narrative but that really bothers me is I think that meds helped me feel 'better enough' to not address really important challenges I had in my life, specifically around relationships, because I felt okay enough emotionally to keep things moving while being slightly avoidant. One of my deepest fears is that I will not meet someone I fall in love with and will not get married and start a family. I really want that to happen in the near-ish future. I know that the work I have to do in those areas is beyond any medication issues, but my hope is that starting to make this change will help me get real and work hard on what I really want to live a meaningful life. I genuinely welcome and would be so grateful for any words of support you have, and I look forward to doing the same for others. If you really read all this, wow. THANK YOU. Nothing but positive wishes and prayers for you all on your healing journey. Cara
  2. This is difficult to write about. But it's important for people to know. So many women are struggling with bulimia and I wonder how many cases are triggered by SSRIs. In 1994 I was put on Prozac and within weeks began obsessing about sugar. Thoughts so intrusive that I had to drop out of school; developed serious bulimia, spent enormous amounts of money on food; similar to heroin addiction. I felt so ashamed, responsible, no one made the connection that it might be the meds. Doctors upped my meds, was hospitalized many times, in therapy for an "emerging eating disorder". After 17 years of trying everything and 100s of thousands of dollars to heal (CBT, DBT, inpatient + outpatient therapy), three months after stopping SSRIs for 1st time in 17 years (symptoms worsened for first 3 months) my food obsession miraculously stopped. Went from being unable to think about anything but food, or participating in a real social life, always hiding my habit, to eating three meals a day plus snacks, with absolutely NO desire to binge or purge. Please pass my story along to anyone who is struggling. It has been a real awakening. I would like to write publicly about it, since this was so miraculous, so clearly connected. One day I'm an addict who tries everything to stop, but can't. Three months off SSRIs, the bulimia is gone with no effort on my part. No therapy, no attitude or life change. Just gone. Because I haven't seen anyone write about this, please let me know if you know how I might get this story out to people anonymously. Thank you for reading.
  3. I am an almost 30 year old wife and mom of 2 beautiful kiddos. I stumbled across this website while trying to figure out if the current issues I have been having were from tapering off of Zoloft in November 2017. I started SSRI's (Paxil) at 11 years when diagnosed with OCD tendencies. (recurring thoughts, perfection/control issues). Switched to Celexa after weight gain issues after starting Paxil. Had issues with body image and eating (over eating and restriction). I started restricting heavily and binging and purging at 20 years old and was switched to Prozac. I also was on adderall for ADHD in my early 20's for a brief period. (I was mostly concerned about not being able to concentrate, brain fog, and irritability). I was diagnosed as anorexic with bulimic tendencies at inpatient care for eating disorder at 24 (2012). Had a couple of relapses after inpatient, but then became pregnant in 2013 and haven't relapsed since. I switched to Zoloft (100 mg) during early pregnancy (2013). In Summer of 2017 I realized that my medication didn't seem to be helping me at all anymore. I suffered from insomnia, irritability, fatigue, and brain fog. I decided to taper from the 100mg of Zoloft I was on. I dropped to 75 mg for a month, then 50 mg for a month, 25 mg for a month, and have been medication free as of November 2017!!! I had no withdrawal symptoms, but still had irritability, insomnia, fatigue, and brain fog. In February 2018 I started getting super itchy at night. I would get hives and I couldn't fall asleep. It was maddening!!! I switched laundry detergents, made sure I used fragrance free soap. I took all the normal precautions for skin issues and nothing helped. I tried relaxing through the issues and it has helped the itching, but I have developed Dermatographia (skin writing). I will get hive like marks where clothes rubs or any extra stimulation has occured on my skin (for example: if I carry a bag, I get tons of hive like marks where the bag was resting in the exact shape of the bag handles) Skin issues seem to occur more in the evening hours, but still can happen during the day, usually more mild. I do sometimes get a burning/tingly sensation in areas (usually hands or feet), but that goes away rather quickly. In April 2018, I started a new job and have had less issues with insomnia. Just a random night here and there where it is difficult to sleep, but I work a 12 hour rotation on first shift and have 2 young children, so that could very well play into that 😉 I also started having recurring stomach issues. Lots of gas/bloating. Sometimes it is super painful. I get so bloated at times I look like I'm in early pregnancy! It is usually more painful during the evening hours. I have diarrhea/loose stools every day. I do follow a balanced Vegan diet (dairy and egg introlerances) and I am very active, but it has never seemed to be an issue before. The fatigue just has me constantly feeling like I want to take a nap and thinking of picking up my 30 pound toddler or walking up a flight of stairs just exhausts me. It's hard to even push my kids on the swings. My last period was March 5th and I have never been this late (NOT pregnant.... husband has a vasectomy and I took 5 tests 😆) I am unsure of whether this is a result of being off of SSRI's or if it is a different health issue. It is driving me crazy trying to figure it out!!! I just want to enjoy my time with my family and function properly. I have a doctor appointment in June for a pap and to talk about my symptoms, but wanted to see if anyone else has went through something similar (and I honestly think the doctor may tell me I'm crazy-- lol). 💜a7xbabydoll 2000 - Paxil A few months later - Celexa 2010 - Prozac 2012 - Brief period of Adderall 2013 - Zoloft (100 mg) 8/2017 - 75 mg, 9/2017 - 50 mg, 10/2017 - 25 mg November 2017 - MED FREE!!!
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