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  1. Hi Everyone, A year ago I never thought I would be writing this, but I am here to tell you that HEALING IS POSSIBLE! Here is my story; I hope it helps... Like many of you on here, I was prescribed an antidepressant (the SSRI Paxil) after going through a period of prolonged stress that left me anxious and depressed (though, ironically, nothing even close to how depressed and anxious I was AFTER coming off the Paxil and going into a prolonged withdrawal). I was extremely hesitant to go on anything that would, “mess around with my brain chemistry” because I use my brain a lot in my work as a...wait for it...school psychologist! Yes, even with my deep knowledge of mental health, I still got sucked into the medication trap! I just wanted the pain to go away and, while I knew therapy was an option, I irrationally thought that my thoughts were “normal” and couldn’t be changed...who knows, maybe, as Victor Frankl once alluded, my ‘neuroses’ were a normal reaction to an abnormal world...but that’s another story and I know you guys want to get to the good part about recovery. Anyway, thankfully, I was only put on a very small dose (10mg) of Paxil and I was able to feel the benefits quickly. Because it worked, I decided to just keep taking it...and no doctor who refilled my prescription during the 10 YEARS+ that I was on it EVER suggested that I quit...they just kept writing the script; indeed, some even asked me if I wasn’t ready for a higher dose (thank God I didn’t go that route). Fast forward to winter of 2017 and I began thinking it was time to go off the Paxil for a variety of reasons including the fact that I was getting some weird side effects. My doctor at the time (just a regular GP, not a psychiatrist as here in Canada any MD can prescribe antidepressants) suggested that I take 5mg for 2 weeks then quit. I knew better than to do that, so I came up with a tapering schedule (something I cobbled together myself from a bunch of research online....but unfortunately not Surviving Antidepressants as I didn’t know of the site yet). Doctor thought I was being ridiculous to want to slow taper, but nevertheless prescribed a liquid suspension and I began dropping 1mg per week. All was OK until I got to below 5mg (half my dose)...that's when the more intense physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms appeared (head zaps, weepy, low mood, etc.)...so I decided to slow down and drop dosage every 2 weeks by 0.5mg instead. It was still hard though and the brain zaps continued, but my mood seemed OK-ish, but not really 'normal' for me. At that time, I went to see a naturopath who put me on a mood boosting supplement that has some GABA and 5-HTP and L-theanine. She also gave me St.Johns Wort to take 400mg 3x per day (total of 1200mg a day). I don’t think either of these really worked during that time and I eventually tapered off them. Anyway, I completed my taper by mid June 2018. In July 2018 I went on a 3 week trip to Morocco. I was relatively fine in July though I slept VERY poorly on the trip and overall the trip was very exhausting and it was very hot! When I got back I went into a total spiral; I could not handle even the slightest amount of mental stress or my body would have a near panic attack. It was as if my body was sort of out of control/ possesed. I won’t get into a huge story detailing the timeline and exact symptoms I had because this is not a novel, but I will say that within a matter of a couple of months I was a total mess, much like many of you. My sleep was f*#$ed, I rapidly lost my appetite and lost weight (OK, I'll admit, that was a bit of a silver lining for me...haha), and anxiety and eventually a deep depression were daily guest. I read and researched a lot to try to figure out what was going on! And that’s how I found Surviving Antidepressants and read other people’s stories and realised what was happening to me. When I spoke to my doctor about it, she dismissed the notion of protracted withdrawal, saying instead that I was just ‘relapsing’ (yeah...right...only feeling 1000% worse than I ever had BEFORE the Paxil) and offering me a different SSRI to which I said no, of course. I have to say, that while in the depths of my withdrawal and what I can only describe as a living nightmare that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy (I know you guys can totally relate) I never thought I would get better. One of the worst parts was not knowing IF and WHEN I would recover. Honestly, one of the things that kept me from going back on the meds was my fear of ending up on a psych-med merry-go-round that might leave me debilitated and steal even more years of healthy, vibrant living from me. All I could do was go one day at a time, with the knowledge that some days would be better and some worse than others. I tried to keep close to people as social connections always helped. I binge watched Netflix like it was going out of style (normally I don’t watch any TV as I have lots of interests and hobbies). I also got out in nature as much as possible since I have always found that healing. Going to the gym fell off the radar as did a lot of 'self-care' stuff that I had been so good and diligent at doing BPW (before Paxil withdrawal), but I tried to accept that and forgave myself for not having the strength to keep it all up. I tried to eat (when I had an appetite) as healthy as possible; did a lot of take-out, but luckily there are healthy options available now and I would also eat whatever others were willing to feed me! Anyway, slowly slowly, things began to improve...but I am not going to lie and say that it was fast (I wish I COULD say that because lord knows, it was what I wanted desperately to hear while I was suffering through this)...It took me about a full year off the very last micro-dose to feel about 70% 'myself'. Now, 19 months off, I feel 90 to 95% 'myself' and much much stronger; somehow I even survived the death of my beloved dog 3 months ago without meds (I grieved hard and it hasn't been easy, but I accept this as part of life now). If I were to plot my 'healing' over time I think the graph would resemble the stock market graphs, with daily and weekly fluctuations, but with the overall trajectory being 'up'. I want to let you guys know you are HEROES and SO BRAVE for taking on this journey. While this process is so incredibly hard, there IS hope and recovery WILL come...our brains are ‘plastic’ and I truly liken this process as a sort of 'brain injury' that needed time to heal. Please stay strong. One day, looking at it all from the other side of this nightmare, you will be glad you made it through and are med free. Much love and strength to all.
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