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Minu: Lexapro withdrawal nightmare


minu

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In April 2015 I began taking Wellbutrin XL 150mg (1 tab then 2 tabs a couple of weeks later) for smoking cessation for about 10 weeks total including tapering on and off. It ended up making all of my nicotine withdrawal symptoms worse so I tapered off, each week cutting my dose in half. (2 tabs to 1 to ½ to ¼) At the time I was not aware of any potential of any crazy side effects of getting off of the medication except for maybe some tiredness and fatigue. My first day of having no Wellbutrin after tapering off, I had 3 huge panic attacks back to back. I went to prompt care and was given a small prescription of Xanax until I could go to my regular doctor the next day. My Primary Care doctor told me I was having a nervous breakdown and instructed me to take short term disability and start seeing a therapist. (I had also been on Lexapro 10mg since April 2015 as well, but was still on it at this point.)

 

So that’s what I did. I couldn’t work anymore. I could barely function. Because I couldn’t work, I couldn’t keep my place and had to move back home with my parents…at 30. I lost my home, my job, and my social life. For about 4 months I just stared at the ceiling or played a game on my phone. It took me about 3 months to find a good fit for a therapist/counselor. After about 4 months, I went to an alternative medicine doctor who told me I had Candida and Leaky Gut Syndrome. They put me on a million vitamins and probiotics and allergy shots and told me to change my diet completely. (I was used to eating pretty healthy in the past so it wasn’t new for me.) It seemed like as soon as I changed my diet and took all of these vitamins, etc. my body jump started with energy and I felt great! I started a job working from home and could slowly start to function again.

 

I started to notice these symptoms I was having, but they could all be explained away by other things. Dizziness, extreme fatigue, gagging and nausea, heartburn. Everything seemed to have another reason. Then my depression and anxiety got worse. So my (new) primary care doctor increase my Lexapro dosage to 20mg. A few months later, my depression was worse. Doctor said I was at the max dose and the only thing to do was to switch medications. Nope! I didn’t want to be on an SSRI in the first place. A few more months go by and I start doing some research online only to find that ALL of my symptoms are side effects of Lexapro! I was done. 2.5 years I had been on it. I had been encouraged to stay on it when I wanted to get off and I was done! I looked online and found a taper schedule. Every 2 weeks, cut the dose in half. So that’s what I did. (20mg to 10mg to 5mg)

 

November 12, 2017 was my first day Lexapro-free. The tapering process was TERRIBLE. Everything was amplified. It would be really bad for about 3-4 days after each drop in dosage and then ease up a little for a few days and then ease up even more over the next week until the next dosage drop. Symptoms:

 

-Increased Depression

-Increased Anxiety

-Constant Fatigue

-Suicidal thoughts (not like me AT ALL)

-Extreme Dizziness

-Nausea & gagging

-I could barely eat or keep food down

-Brain Zaps (argh)

 

After coming completely off, I was still struggling, but it was manageable. The dizziness and nausea were the worst and those seemed to have subsided along with the increased depression and anxiety. Then about 4-5 weeks after being completely off of Lexapro “Phase II” started. And that is the hell hole that I’m in now. Here are my current symptoms:

 

-Crippling Depression (worst in my entire life)

-Out of control Anxiety (worst in my entire life)

-Extreme fatigue

-Nausea

-Gagging from Anxiety

-Inability to eat very many foods without gagging

-Vomiting from Anxiety

-Varied Dizziness

-Weight loss

-Brain Fog

-Forgetfulness

-Decreased brain processing time

-Extremely easily overwhelmed

-Constant stress

-Increased heart rate that will last all day

-Sensitive to loud noises

-Derealization (especially right after waking up)

-Depressive Rumination (This is hands down the worst symptom. A thought or set of thoughts gets stuck in your brain on an infinite loop and you can’t make it stop. It drives me to near insanity.)

 

I feel like the “real me” is inside of me fighting like hell to get out. None of these symptoms are “me.” I’m not myself at all and it feels terrible. I feel like my brain is broken and it’s not functioning the way it normally does. I’m frustrated, mad, sad, every emotion…except happy. I feel like since finding this forum, I have gained more clarity about what is happening to me. Because none of my friends and family really completely understand this…how extreme this is. The more I learn about WHY or HOW my brain isn’t functioning correctly, the more hopeful I become. Because I can try to find coping mechanisms to help me while my brain heals. Before I found this forum, I thought I was literally going insane and I was going to be trapped inside this insane body forever. I was absolutely terrified. So I just want to say thank you to the people that created this place. I’m pretty sure you’ve saved lives. 

April 2015 - Started Wellbutrin XL 150mg for smoking cessation
April 2015 - Started Lexapro 10mg for depression
July 2015 - Tapered off of Wellbutrin and had a mental breakdown
December 2015 - Began slowly healing from mental breakdown
Mid 2016 - Increased Lexapro to 20mg
October 2017 - Began tapering off Lexapro. Dropped dosage in half every 2 weeks. Terrible withdrawal.
November 2017 - Finished tapering
December 2017 - Phase II began and I found this website
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  • Moderator Emeritus

Minu -- Welcome to Surviving Antidepressants (SA)

 

Another person caught in the anti-depressant and psych med horror house for a dumb reason. I'm so sorry this started for you with an attempt to make a positive health change, quitting smoking. Thank you for posting the meditation video about emotional spirals.  It looks like a good one.

 

It sounds as if you've browsed the site. What questions do you have?

 

Have you considered reinstating escitalopram (lexapro) at a very low dose?  If not, please read  (at least the first few posts in) this topic:

About reinstating and stabilizing to reduce withdrawal symptoms.

 

Reinstatement isn't a guarantee of diminished symptoms for everyone but it's the best tactic available.  You're still in the time period where reinstatement predictably works, up to 3 months after last dose.  We usually suggest a much smaller dose than your last dose of 2.5 mg, so please don't just start taking escitalopram again.  If you're interested in reinstating, please post that you are. You'll need, of course, to have a supply of the medication to take.  Some people have found that doctors can be dismissive of small doses and therefore recommend caution in those conversations.  Here are some tips they discuss:

How do you talk to your doctor about tapering and withdrawal.

What to expect from your doctor about withdrawal symptoms.

 

Withdrawal symptoms arise not because of the drug but because your body got used to the drug being present and now has to work HARD to accommodate the drug being absent. These discussions may help explain that:

One theory of anti-depressant withdrawal syndrome

How your brain responds to psychiatric drugs - aka "Brain remodeling"

Youtube video, 4 minutes: Healing from antidepressants

 

This is YOUR introduction topic -- the place for you to ask questions, record symptoms, share your progress, and connect with other members of the SA community. I hope you'll find the information in the SA forums helpful for your situation. I'm sorry that you are in the position that you need the information, but am glad that you found us.

This is not medical advice. Discuss any decisions about your medical care with a knowledgeable medical practitioner.
1997-1999 Effexor; 2002-2005 Effexor XR 37.5 mg linear taper, dropping same #beads/week with bad results

Cymbalta 60 mg 2012 - 2015; 2016: 20 mg to 7 mg exact doses and dates in this post; 2017: 6.3 mg to  0.0 mg  Aug. 12; details here


scallywag's Introduction
Online spreadsheet for dose taper calculations and nz11's THE WORKS spreadsheet

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Thelongestroadhome

I am sorry to hear what you have been through. I can’t believe how crazy the doctors are who prescribe antidepressants for quitting smoking! But not much surprises me any more. A lot of women get prescribed them during menopause which is equally as stupid in my opinion. 

 

Have you you heard of Dr Joe Dispenza? He is an author and writes on the topic of re wiring the brain. I have listened to a few of his books on Audible and found it quite interesting. His book on the placebo was very good. The anxiety during withdrawal is one hundred times worse than anything I have ever experienced before but listening to Dr Joe has really helped me. 

 

It it sounds as though you are in a constant state of hyper alert. I too have bouts of that. I am trying meditation to deal with that but am pretty crap at it right now!  Dr Claire Weeks is another favourite of mine, her books are a great help. 

 

Are you still eating a healthy diet? Your testimony regarding the benefits of that was very encouraging. Have you seen the YouTube video by Jason Vale, It is about a group of people who go on one of his juicing retreats. The end results were so inspiring. I truly do believe that our bodies want to heal and respond to the food we give them. But I am slack in that regard too!

 

I wish you all the best and look forward to your continued healing from this drug. 

Current...Drug free since September 2018

December 2007 30mg Lexapro and a benzodiazepine December 2008 25mg, December 2009 20mg, December 2010 15mg Lexapro, December 2011 10mg Lexapro. Long hold as I felt happy with the dose and saw no need at the time to reduce further. September 2015 dropped to 5mg. Terrible anxiety started two months later. June 2016 dropped to 3mg and terrible obsessive thoughts and anxiety so ten days later I reinstated back to 5mg. October 2016 dropped to 4mg. April 2017 dropped to 3mg. September 2017 dropped to 2mg. Terrible obsessive thoughts. Anxiety through the roof. OCD.  September 2018 quit cold turkey 2mg Lexapro. March 2019 feeling better than I have in years. 

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@scallywag Thank you so much for this info! I looked it over and I'm not sure reinstating is right for me. My anxiety is the highest it's ever been and I'm so nervous at the idea of getting back on an SSRI. I don't know how I survived the last 2-3 weeks and I don't think I could handle anything potentially getting worse. 

 

I don't have any other questions for now. I've been looking all over the site, especially at the pinned posts and have found SO much helpful information. Specifically WHAT is actually happening to me. I knew it had to be the med WD, but this forum has really helped me learn the scientific theories behind it. I've read so much people describing almost verbatim what I'm going through. I'm tearing up just talking about it. I seriously think this site saved my life.

 

@Longestroadhome Thank you so much. And YES..near constant state of hyper alert. I think I spend more time taking deep breaths and trying to stay calm throughout the day than anything else. Thank you for your suggestions of authors and videos. I'm definitely going to check those out. I have meditated enough in the past to be able to do it pretty well. It is a really hard habit to develop though. I don't know why it's so hard to do it every day, because I swear it's the "medicine" I've ever tried. Even when I wasn't going through WD it helps so so much. We just have to keep trying. Maybe 5-10 minutes per day in the beginning.

 

I'm not eating too healthy right now. I'm actually barely eating anything at the moment. It's hard for me to find food I can stand to eat and when I do, it's hard to keep it down. Sometimes I feel like maybe that's what pregnant women go through. Food aversion and nausea. I call it a win when I can keep 1 meal per day down. That alone would tell me something is wrong because I usually eat my feelings! I try to listen to my body the best I can. One thing someone said to me once that stuck with me is, "no matter what you eat, make sure you feel good about it." What they meant was, if you're going to eat a piece of cake then eat the cake and don't feel guilty about it. While I do think eating as healthy as possible is the most ideal, I think we just need to do what we can in each moment and be ok with that. Thank you again for those suggestions!

April 2015 - Started Wellbutrin XL 150mg for smoking cessation
April 2015 - Started Lexapro 10mg for depression
July 2015 - Tapered off of Wellbutrin and had a mental breakdown
December 2015 - Began slowly healing from mental breakdown
Mid 2016 - Increased Lexapro to 20mg
October 2017 - Began tapering off Lexapro. Dropped dosage in half every 2 weeks. Terrible withdrawal.
November 2017 - Finished tapering
December 2017 - Phase II began and I found this website
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Thelongestroadhome

You are more than welcome. I hope you find some help with the suggestions. 

I remember when first diagnosed with anxiety my appetite was so poor. I thought I had some kind of stomach issue because I was so intolerant to food. I was wasting away! I didn’t realise that anxiety had that affect. Lexapro did help with that by making me gain a tonne of weight.....still can’t lose it! 

 

I will I’ll continue with the meditation, thank you for your encouragement.

 

I hope your day is brighter. Take care. 

Current...Drug free since September 2018

December 2007 30mg Lexapro and a benzodiazepine December 2008 25mg, December 2009 20mg, December 2010 15mg Lexapro, December 2011 10mg Lexapro. Long hold as I felt happy with the dose and saw no need at the time to reduce further. September 2015 dropped to 5mg. Terrible anxiety started two months later. June 2016 dropped to 3mg and terrible obsessive thoughts and anxiety so ten days later I reinstated back to 5mg. October 2016 dropped to 4mg. April 2017 dropped to 3mg. September 2017 dropped to 2mg. Terrible obsessive thoughts. Anxiety through the roof. OCD.  September 2018 quit cold turkey 2mg Lexapro. March 2019 feeling better than I have in years. 

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Just wanted to keep updates here about what’s going on with me. I’ve been feeling much more clearheaded and level for about the past 8 days. I’ve been careful not to overdo it since I’ve been feeling a bit better and it has definitely been to my advantage. I feel like I’m slowly able to function better. I’m not sleeping all day and have been able to get quite a few hours of work done each day. I’ve been better able to focus and distract myself from depressive thoughts. It’s been taxing though. It’s exhausting trying to keep the sadness part as far away as possible.

 

About 3 or so days ago, I started feeling extremely dizzy again. Something I haven’t experienced since Phase I. It will happen when I’m sitting or lounging in bed. Comes and goes quickly. The nightmares have come back too. Those are the most disturbing. It seems I mainly get them if I sleep on my stomach, which I used to do with no problem before I started tapering. Anyway, the nightmares aren’t actually the type of nightmares I would normally have. They are kind of just regular dreams that maybe aren’t all that great, but they aren’t disturbing. But the FEELING I get when I’m having these dreams is extreme level 10 terror. Sometimes I’m aware I’m dreaming and fight to wake myself up which feels even worst. I’ll be awake enough to know that I’m talking or screaming in my sleep. When I do wake up, it takes everything I’ve got to move my body into a different position before I fall back asleep. The dreams are so bad sometimes that I’m scared to go back to sleep.

 

Having symptoms recur makes me so nervous. I have such a huge fear of regressing. I was having similar problems with the fear of regression before I started tapering. I try not to think about it. I try to fully enjoy when I’m feeling better. But it gets exhausting keeping all of things thoughts at bay. 

April 2015 - Started Wellbutrin XL 150mg for smoking cessation
April 2015 - Started Lexapro 10mg for depression
July 2015 - Tapered off of Wellbutrin and had a mental breakdown
December 2015 - Began slowly healing from mental breakdown
Mid 2016 - Increased Lexapro to 20mg
October 2017 - Began tapering off Lexapro. Dropped dosage in half every 2 weeks. Terrible withdrawal.
November 2017 - Finished tapering
December 2017 - Phase II began and I found this website
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  • 1 month later...
TroubledThoughts

Hey minu,

 

Sorry to hear about your experience with Lexapro, I know how terrible it can be. 

 

Just wondering if you're feeling any better or how things are progressing for you?

Lexapro (10-20mg): 2010-2016

Lexapro 5mg: 2016-September 2017

Lexapro 2.5mg: September 2017-November 2017

Lexapro 1.25mg: November 2017-December 2017

Lexapro 1.25mg (every other day): December 2017-January 31 2018

Quick taper since I thought I had sfx, was actually withdrawal

Reinstated Lexapro .25mg: March 10, 2018

 

Lamictal: May 1-July 1 2016

Klonopin: July 1, 2016-August 1, 2016

Seroquel, Clonazepam, Xanax, Paxil, and others: 2010-2016

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  • ChessieCat changed the title to Minu: Lexapro withdrawal nightmare

@TroubledThoughts Thank you for asking how I've been doing. That really means a lot to me. Since my last update, I've still been having ups and downs. In general, I'm feeling more on the normal end more often, but when I say "normal" I mean "better than bad." I don't know why it's so hard to explain. I've been in a really low low for the past 10 days or so. I've managed to start doing things again rather than just laying in bed over the last 2-3 days though. I had an anxiety attack today for the first time in a while though.

 

I've spent a lot of time getting lost in videos on YouTube and trying not to think about anything at all. When I take a moment to assess how I'm feeling or what I'm doing with my life, my mind starts racing and jumping from thought to thought. I guess I just go in between functioning some and not functioning at all. The depression never really goes away. In general, I'm better than I was a few months ago. My counselor says I'm improving and I see it here and there too. But it's like going from level 10 depression to level 9. The progress is painfully slow.

 

Thank you again for asking about it. I'm sorry it took me so long to respond. I was trying to wait until I was feeling a bit better/functioning.

April 2015 - Started Wellbutrin XL 150mg for smoking cessation
April 2015 - Started Lexapro 10mg for depression
July 2015 - Tapered off of Wellbutrin and had a mental breakdown
December 2015 - Began slowly healing from mental breakdown
Mid 2016 - Increased Lexapro to 20mg
October 2017 - Began tapering off Lexapro. Dropped dosage in half every 2 weeks. Terrible withdrawal.
November 2017 - Finished tapering
December 2017 - Phase II began and I found this website
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