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sottovoce: walking toward freedom, taking small steps

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Hi friends,


I'm grateful that this community exists.


I'm now 29 years old, and feel that life has offered me a precious opportunity to try again: to live in the ways that are most meaningful to me, and to reduce my dependence on a synthetic molecule and anything else that doesn't nourish me.


I was first prescribed Luvox at age 16 during what was later diagnosed as a long, recurrent viral illness (mononucleosis). At age 20 (2006), I switched to Effexor, at a dose of 75 mg XR. I've long recognized that very little is known about the effects of long-term antidepressant use, and I have aspired to take care of my body and mind as naturally and as gently as possible.


I have tried twice now to discontinue Effexor. In both instances, I tapered over ~6 weeks and experienced significant withdrawal symptoms including 'brain zaps', but felt that I had the resources and momentum to weather these initial waves of difficulty. Over the course of the next 3-6 months, however, I found myself becoming increasingly depressed, sliding down a slope without the resources to gain a foothold; and experiencing waves of anxiety that often felt overpowering. After the most recent effort (November 2014-June 2015), I restarted Effexor, and found that this time 225 mg was necessary to re-establish balance.


Given the history of relapses, my most recent doctor has recommended that I remain on the current dose at least 9 months (or 6 months longer) before beginning to taper. I see wisdom in that approach, as I am still finding my strength week by week, and I will be driving across the country in 4 days to relocate from Indiana, where I grew up, to the SF Bay Area. I hope also to begin work at a start-up that I regard as likely to be meaningful and challenging ("I hope", because I am told to expect an offer in the next couple days), and I want to take the long view on this, only taking each next step when I feel strong, steady, and ready.


During both of my previous attempts to discontinue Effexor, I lacked professional guidance or a community walking this path with me. I know that reducing and eventually ending my dependence on Effexor will require all of my resources, and many which I have yet to develop; and I have learned how vitally important it is both to lend support to others and to accept and receive it. Sometimes it is clear to me that each of these actions, each direction of giving and receiving support, contains the other.


When I am able to clearly, I know also that every breath, every step, and every action taken with awareness is an opportunity to develop the internal resources necessary to walk this path myself and to support others. There are very few things of which I feel certain; actually, if there is one, it is probably this: nothing is of greater value to me or to the world this path of healing and transformation.


Thank you for sharing with me what has been most powerful, meaningful, and effective for you in this journey. Please let me know, also, how I can support you. In allowing me to listen and perhaps to share what this life is teaching me, you give me a great gift.


I am happy that we are walking this path together.


In gratitude,



*  *  *


I initially included this in my signature; I'll include it here, and link to it from the signature.


Incredibly important and valuable to me in this process has been vigorous exercise (running, racquetball, biking), yoga, and especially a daily mindfulness practice (2009-present). My intention is to bring it into every part of my daily life, so that I may act from a real understanding of what brings happiness and pain to myself and others. I regard this practice, cultivating this intention and capacity, as the basis of the solidity, clarity, and capacity to generate joy which will make it possible to rely less and less on Effexor, and to live as I wish to live. I also know that this will likely be a long path, and that I will have to grow a great deal along it.


My practice has been inspired and sustained by the writings and life of Thich Nhat Hanh (Thay) and the Plum Village community. So often I am lost in my intellect and my thinking struggle to return with a physical and whole-hearted presence to life in this moment. I have been moved by the simplicity and power of Thay's teachings on cultivating a joyful awareness of the body, and mind learning to sit, stand, walk, eat, and do the tasks of life in awareness. During my last attempt to discontinue Effexor, I was an aspirant to be a monk at PV, but was unable to continue for the time being. My deepest wish is to live each day guided by the intention shared by the monastics, and some day to be strong enough to join them.

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Hi sotovoce,


Welcome to SA.  You have indeed found a community here.  One where the members are very encouraging and supportive and there is a wealth of information on this site.  To search it it is best to use a search engine and type in survivingantidepressants.org + topic being searched.


Thank you for completing your signature.  It would be helpful if you could be a bit more precise with the dates (if you don't know the date at least the month).  Thank you.  It is a good idea to keep your signature current as you taper so it can be seen at a glance.


It would seem that you experienced withdrawal symptoms and were put back on to the AD because of this.  Many doctors do not recognise withdrawal as lasting longer than a few weeks and diagnose it as relapse or give a new diagnosis.  Please see Introduction to AD Withdrawal Syndrome.


This site recommends a 10% taper of the previous dose followed by a month of holding (depending on what symptoms you are experiencing).  This allows the brain (which has been changed by the drug) to adapt to not receiving as much of the drug.  These might help you understand this:


Why taper by 10% of my dosage?


Brain Remodelling


Video: Healing from Antidepressants: Patterns of Recovery


And here are Tips for tapering off Effexor (venlafaxine)


You can use your Intro/Update topic to ask questions and as a journal of your progress.

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Thank you, ChessieCat. Those tips and resources are very helpful.  


The post from Rhiannon on "brain remodeling", including her description of the physical processes involved in "growing a new brain," was especially illuminating to me, and sparks my imagination as I seek new practices and return to old ones.

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Yes! I found that incredibly thorough, helpful, and powerful.  


For others who might like to read it, here are some things I found helpful; anchors of encouragement and understanding:


1) An understanding of the central roles of glutamate and GABA (and many other facets) in the brain's chemistry; the interconnectedness of the body-mind, and inspiration to become a student of my own process; from my body, my feelings, thoughts, to my chemistry.

2) A powerful metaphor for visualizing what is happening during withdrawal, and accurately and skillfully framing it for myself as it is happening.

3) A way to share this process with friends and family so that it is clear to them what I'm experiencing and how they can help.


I'll include some excerpts from each that were especially helpful for me:




GABA is inihibitory... [Glutamate] is the "excitatory" transmitter... [When using benzo, which increases GABA levels] the only choice the body has to maintain a regular speed is to do two things ..  It can TURN OFF it's own GABA receptors - thereby rendering those benzos unable to affect the GABA in the system. And it can grow MORE excitatory Glutamate receptors to counteract the slow-down.  And that's kinda exactly what happens....


Only - this isn't true balance either.  The body does the best it can - but over time, things begin to suffer.  The body cannot make enough serotonin in this state. Or dopamine. Some things get made in excess - and other things do not get made enough!


But just so you know - you're not really fighting a beast.
You don't even need to fight it.  Just wait it out. All that reconstruction is happening on your building. 
And soon - the frame will be back standing, stronger than before. The furniture will be inside. The elevators will go all the way up to the top again.   And the people can come and go and work like a well-oiled machine.  
Don't feel you need to fight the recontruction. It's just healing. And all that is happening to us is a sign of that.




It would be like if the World Trade Center Towers hadn't completely fallen - but had crumbled inside in different places.. Imagine if you were trying to rebuild the tower - WHILE people were coming and going and trying to work in the building! ... 

That is EXACTLY what is happening with windows and waves.  The windows are where the body has "got it right" for a day or so - but then the building shifts and the brain works on something else - and it's chaos again while another temporary pathway is set up to reroute function until repairs are made...


When you are having intrusives, try to think of it that way.  Tap your finger to your temple and say to yourself, "I know what this is. This is my hippocampus healing! Ha!" Because it IS.  And if it were NOT healing, you would not be having those symptoms....


But just so you know - you're not really fighting a beast.

You don't even need to fight it.  Just wait it out. All that reconstruction is happening on your building.

And soon - the frame will be back standing, stronger than before. The furniture will be inside. The elevators will go all the way up to the top again.   And the people can come and go and work like a well-oiled machine. 

Don't feel you need to fight the recontruction. It's just healing. And all that is happening to us is a sign of that.


This is withdrawal - yes - okay -we call it withdrawal -  but it's really "recovery". The symptoms that are left are not the "enemy". That's our brains doing the EXACT right thing.



 [Recovery] happens when the brain is able - and not out of sheer will. But it does happen. So please stand by us and say loving things and reassure us every day. Notice our improvements and tell us what they are. 


Anything you would say or do for a family member that had had a car accident and a brain injury - please do that for us.  And be patient... we are getting there.


Thank you :)


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