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Francisco

☼ Francisco: On the way to a success story

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Francisco

Hello all,

Apologies in advance for the length of this post – it’s essentially a combination of an introduction and a success story – I know that members can only post success stories after a full year off all meds – I’m seven months now off all meds and am feeling far better now than when I was taking pills so I reckon it’s only a matter of five months before I post an actual success story.

I was given a diagnosis of bi-polar by a consultant psychiatrist in the autumn of 2011 after years of volatility in my mental health and began taking meds six months later.

I started with Lamictal (Lamotrigine) – after a few weeks on a low dose, the dose was increased – the next day I noticed a rash all over my body and stopped taking it.

I was then given Abilify – I was on this over for a month or two but stopped taking it since it caused me insomnia and really intense pain in my wrists.

Next, it was Olanzapine/Zyprexa (5mg) to deal with my elation – the 5mg worked well but when the dosage was increased to 10mg and 15mg, it caused nothing but depression so I went back to 5mg.

I was then given Prozac to deal with the depression side of things – this however, caused me the worst depression I ever experienced. I was on it for a bit over a month until I could take no more and stopped taking it.

My psychiatrist then prescribed me Venlafaxin/Effexor in September 2012 – I started at 75mg and eventually made my way up to 300mg. As the dosage increased, my depression did get better but the side affects most certainly got worse – constipation and intense sweating in bed at night. Also, I always felt the medication was causing me brain fog, despite what my psychiatrist was telling me – ‘all these meds do is treat depression’, I was told and basically, how limited intellectually I felt was in fact an actual reflection of the abilities I was born with.

I was really getting fed up the side affects and decided to do what a lot of people in my situation do – come of the meds without telling my doctor. I slowly tapered down the anti-depressant but came off the Olanazpine quite abruptly – result, disaster. The depression came back in a big way. Around this time, I remember one sleepless night lying in bed just saying to myself over and over – ‘I just want to die – I wish I had the courage to kill myself’.

Went crawling back to the psychiatrist in July 2015 and told him the truth – needless to say, he was quite annoyed but prescribed me Cymbalta/Duloxetine (60mg) and agreed to reduce my dosage of Olanazpine to 2.5mg.

The Cymbalta no doubt stabilized my mood at that time – I was pretty down low, as you can imagine. Once again, I felt it was limiting me but after the volatility I had experienced, I was happy for a bit of stability.

In the summer of 2017, I began to learn a lot about the affect diet and exercise can have on mental health. Up until that time, I thought I ate and exercised healthily – how wrong I was. Over the course of around a year, I completely changed my diet and exercise regime – I experimented a lot and ended up with my current diet which is essentially a Mediterranean diet – meat, dairy and eggs a few times a week but primarily plant based food – all unprocessed and organic. A lot of my free time now is spent cooking and preparing food.

After I started with Cymbalta and before I changed my diet and lifestyle, I felt that my depression/elation cycle was going on in the background but the medication was keeping it in check.

As my dietary and lifestyle changes kicked in, I began to feel that the cycle was longer there – I was essentially stable.

I got married in July 2018 to the woman who stuck with me through the diagnosis and all the mental volatility over the years. Immediately, we started trying to conceive – I really wasn’t mad about the idea of trying to conceive while I was on medication – I know that women are advised to come off meds before becoming pregnant and I wondered if my own meds could have an affect on any potential child I conceived. Did a bit of research – heard a bit about meds possibly causing fertility problems but nothing about meds causing birth defects etc.

For a number of months after the wedding, we tried hard to conceive with no success. Consequently, I made the decision to start tapering. Not surprisingly, my wife was initially reluctant given what happened previously when I tried to come off meds – this shook my confidence a bit but I really believed that I could cope this time round, given the dietary and lifestyle changes I had made.

Unlike the previous time, I told my psychiatrist who to my big surprise, did not object in the slightest. He initially suggested that I stop taking the 2.5mg of Olanazpine altogether – he told me that according to the research, 2.5mg has no real anti-elation effect – it only really aids moderate anxiety and sleeping. I genuinely believed that the olanzapine was indeed helping my sleep so I decided to continue taking it and instead drop the Cymbalta from 60mg to 30mg at the beginning of November, 2018.

I was on the lower dosage for three months – I didn’t notice any major withdrawal affects during that period. Consequently, when I saw my psychiatrist three months later, I suggested to him that I stop taking the Cymbalta altogether – once again, to my big surprise he was very supportive.

I continued to take the Olanzapine for another month – I had planned to stay on the Olanzapine for three months but given what the psychiatrist told me previously about 2.5mg not really having any anti-elation affect and given how I hadn’t experienced any major withdrawal affects up until that point, I decided to come off completely at the end of February 2019.

A part of me was worried that my sleep would go to hell without the Olanzpine but once again, I really believed as long as I stuck to my diet and lifestyle, I would eventually enter into a natural, healthy sleeping pattern – this transpired. Also, around four or five weeks after I ceased the meds completely, I started having definite withdrawal effects – my nervous system seemed to react and consequently, I felt very edgy and jittery and my concentration levels went down significantly – obviously, work was quite difficult during this period.

This was quite severe for around five weeks and then gradually started to diminish. I fully expected some withdrawal affects so they did not surprise me one bit when they came. Once again to stress the point, self-belief was hugely important at this stage – I just knew that as long as I stuck to my diet and lifestyle – essentially, the way I was designed by nature to eat and exercise – the withdrawal affects would pass and I would reach stability.

I am now off all meds for seven months and I’m feeling good – still not one hundred percent but a lot better than when I was on medication.

The Cymbalta didn’t cause me major side affects but I realised when I completely came off it that it contributed to some minor side affects which I wasn’t really aware of – my skin improved (I’ve always had problems with acne), my gums stopped bleeding when I brushed my teeth and my hands didn’t dry up so easily the way they used to, for example.

I still have a bit of brain fog which is a bit frustrating but not unexpected – I started taking meds in mid 2012 and ever since, I haven’t felt as if my brain has been operating at its optimal level. I do believe this will come back with time – I just have to patient and allow my brain to adjust fully to the meds being completely out of my system.

I should also mention that for most of my life, my brain has not being operating at its optimal level - for the most part, since my early adolescents I’ve been miserable and it wasn’t because of some chemical balance in my brain which would have been triggered no matter what – I had to deal with some personal problems which were really inhibiting me.

Like my medication, those problems have been put to bed – I’ve been married for over a year and if everything goes according to plan, I’ll be a father at the end of November. As I mentioned above, I stopped taking the Cymbalta at the end of January 2019. In mid-April, my wife found out that she was eight weeks pregnant, meaning she conceived around mid-February, two and a half weeks after I stopped taking Cymbalta. Maybe ceasing the Cymbalta didn’t have any effect on my fertility whatsoever – in any event, I’m delighted I don’t have to go down the IVF route!

 I have no problem saying that I have the bi-polar gene. I experienced all the symptoms and those closest to me can verify that. However, I don’t consider myself mentally ill and do not believe that I was born with a chemical imbalance in my brain. As long as I live the way I was designed to live, my bi-polar gene will be completely suppressed – it simply won’t be an issue. For the most part, I believe that the symptoms I experienced were in part simply a reaction to all the things I was doing wrong – my diet, my exercise routine, my work environment, my past relationships etc.

I plan to keep my bi-polar gene suppressed for the rest of my life and in order to do that, my life is going to be quite mundane – no substance abuse, regular moderate exercise, healthy sleeping patterns and I’m going to have to continue to spend a hell of a lot of time cooking and preparing healthy food. However, I will take ‘mundaneness’ any day of the week over mental volatility and side affects from psychiatric medication I’ve had to endure over the years. Having come through all that, the stability and contentedness I’ve found are all the sweeter – ‘spring would not be so welcome, if we didn’t have to go through winter’.

Once again, apologies for the length of this post – I promise my subsequent ones won’t be as long! As I mentioned above, I feel my brain still isn’t operating at one hundred percent after seven months of all the meds so if anyone can provide me with some advice in relation to this issue, it would be greatly appreciated.

Many Thanks

Francisco

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Altostrata

Welcome, Francisco.

 

Thank you for taking the time to recount your experience. 

 

For the brain fog from the drugs and going off them, we have found  fish oil and magnesium supplements are often helpful, see

https://survivingantidepressants.org/index.php?/topic/36-king-of-supplements-omega-3-fatty-acids-fish-oil/
https://survivingantidepressants.org/topic/15483-magnesium-natures-calcium-channel-blocker/

 

Try a little bit of one at a time to see how it affects you.

 

How's your sleep now?

 

Because you're feeling better, I added our cheerful "here comes the sun" symbol ☼ to the title of your Intro topic, to show you're recovering.

 

Please continue to let us know how you're doing. I hope you will add your story to our Recovery Success Stories eventually!

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Francisco

Many thanks for your previous post. I've added chia seeds and healthy dark chocolate to my diet in order to get sufficient omega three and magnesium as I don't like to take too many supplements. I take a Vit D supplement and I don't really want to take any more than that. 

 

In terms of brain fog in general, I'm quite happy with my progress - it still hasn't been a year since I ceased the meds so I'm not expecting to be one hundred percent for another while yet but I feel like I'm slowly but surely heading in the right direction.

 

My sleep has generally been good - I make sure i eat well everyday and do my utmost to get some good exercise outdoors - this really helps with sleep.

 

I'm delighted the way my mental health has stood up to what has been a very difficult last couple of weeks - I'm going through one of those periods everyone goes through every now and again - the company undertakes a new project, the work just keeps piling up with no end in sight - add to this, my wife is due this week with our first and we've had some false alarms so far. The way I'm coping with these difficult situations proves to me that my mental health is in a good place - I don't feel wonderful dealing with these issues but I can manage without collapsing, unlike previously.

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