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mstimc

mstimc: Back From the Darkness

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mstimc

Here’s my story of the highs and lows, curses and blessings I’ve experienced since I started Paxil in 1999. 

 

I was born in Southern California in 1960 and lived there all my life.  Looking back, I suffered from anxiety since my 20’s, but it was mostly episodic and triggered by major negative experiences.  In 1999, my anxiety became constant due to work and family issues.  I went to see my GP, who prescribed a daily dose of Paxil.  At first, it helped me deal with daily life, but like many others, I gained weight and found myself unmotivated to exercise.  I didn’t see a therapist nor seek any non-medication-based help.  I continued to have anxious episodes but managed to handle them.

 

In 2006, my father died, and I had to make the decision to take him off life support.  It wasn’t a clear-cut decision and caused me a lot of anguish.  I began a descent into constant anxiety exacerbated by feelings of impending doom, both in my personal health and my professional life. Every ache or pain became a sign of a deadly disease, and every mistake I made at work would get me fired.  I began seeing a psychologist to help, but didn’t have much success until 2008, when I found one who could help me with my feelings of guilt over my father’s death, and used EMDR and CBT to help me identify the root of my anxiety and use behavioral tools to manage it.  It was then I began to develop my approach to anxiety as a chronic, though manageable, condition. 

 

In 2006, I tried to quit Paxil since it didn’t help my anxiety.  My doctor told me to taper, but didn’t offer many details, and I tried tapering much too quickly.  In late 2006, I discovered the Paxilprogress website and got great advice and support on tapering.  I began a very gradual taper in 2007, and was Paxil-free by 2009.  It wasn’t easy and I had many setbacks, but paxilprogress’ members and my psychologist gave me a ton of support.  My wife, a woman of great faith, reminded me I was meant for better things than to be lost to anxiety and depression--God had work for me to do. 

 

I continued seeing my therapist every other week up till this September, when my wife and I moved to Portugal to explore Europe for a few years.  We have one son, who’s in graduate school in Michigan and starting his own career, so the time was right.

 

Anxiety is still part of my life but it doesn’t control me or the decisions I make.  I still take a low dose of Klonopin when things get too much, but no more than one or two a month.  I use CBT and “reality checking” to keep my catastrophic thoughts in check.

 

Looking back, even at its worst, my life with anxiety was good.  I was able to function, and participate in our son’s life, even if I had to force myself sometimes.  My advice to those just starting the journey:

 

Don’t be too hard on yourself.  Even with a slow taper, there were times I had to use a higher dose sometimes, until I was ready to take the next step. It’s not a race; do what works for you.

 

Find a therapist or at least someone who can offer you support and keep you rooted in reality.  Medication alone will never be the answer.  Whether its CBT to other tools, find the behavioral practices that work for you.

 

Accept the fact that anxiety is part of who you are.  Whatever the cause, anxiety will be with me until the day I die.  I’ve learned to manage it, and most days its just a dim feeling far in the back of my mind.  What I now understand is that it only has the power I give it.  It no longer controls my actions or decisions, and therapy has helped me separate irrational anxious thoughts from genuine concerns and problems.

 

The short story is, like any other chronic condition, it takes the right tools, the right people, and determination to manage anxiety and reduce it to an inconvenience instead of a monster in my own mind.

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Altostrata

Thanks so much for posting this, ms! Good to see you again.

 

While you were going off Paxil, did you have any problems tapering? If so, how did you cope with them?

 

Did you have withdrawal symptoms after you took the last dose? If so, how did they go away? Do you have any residual withdrawal symptoms now?

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mstimc

Hi Alto.

 

Here are my responses.  Sorry for the delay--we're eight hours ahead of California out here....

 

 

While you were going off Paxil, did you have any problems tapering? If so, how did you cope with them?  Yes, I did have problems.  I actually tried tapering twice before my successful third try. My anxiety and catastrophic thinking were out of control so I had to go back on Paxil for short period to stabilize.  Even on my third try I experienced huge anxiety waves, but by then I was working with my psychologist on CBT coping tools.  The tools included:

 

  Reality checking:  Try to step out of myself and see a situation for what it is, as a third person would.  Is my "problem" or "situation" really what I think it is?  Are my anxiety-driven consequences realistic or even likely?

  Purposefully catastrophising: Taking my negative thoughts to their extreme.  With each step in the process, the negative consequences became more and more absurd until even my worst catastrophic thinking was overcome.

  Being my  own best friend.  If my friend came to me with the same thoughts, what would I tell him?  Then I apply those answers to my situation'.

  Prayer and meditation.  I'm not a very contemplative person, but have been able to stop my thoughts long enough to do brief prayers to get me through the worst thoughts.  Sometimes I'd play some of my favorite music pieces and listen until the thoughts quieted.  I would also tell myself "In two hours I'll feel better or even forget about it."   Most of the time that would work.

  Keep working: I found work to be great therapy.  I had a fairly complex managerial position that demanded my attention.  It was also an environment I could control--somewhat.  Working forced me to focus my mental energies on real, quantifiable issues; I simply didn't have mental room to concentrate on my anxious thoughts.

 

Did you have withdrawal symptoms after you took the last dose? If so, how did they go away?  It's hard to say.  I certainly had--and still have--anxious thoughts and moments, but I think they are more part of my behavioral make-up than attributable to withdrawal. 

 

Do you have any residual withdrawal symptoms now?  Not really.  I still have anxiety, especially since we moved to Portugal, but I use the tools mentioned above to deal with them. Sharing here also helps!

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Oliver1974

Interesting, thank you for sharing.

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DaisyBell

Great story.  How long did it take for you to feel normal?

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mstimc
9 hours ago, DaisyBell said:

Great story.  How long did it take for you to feel normal?

Hi Daisy

 

I'd say it was a gradual process that lasted about 18 months from my final small dose of Paxil to the point where I could casually blow off incidents and thoughts that would have triggered major anxiety.  There was no "I'm cured!" moment.  It was more a realization that I wasn't reacting anxiously anymore.  Once that realization hit me, I really moved forward quickly ' knowing I could handle it was truly empowering. 

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Cocopuffz17

Absolutely amazing!! Thanks for sharing! Did you ever make nutrition changes ? 

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mstimc
7 hours ago, Cocopuffz17 said:

Absolutely amazing!! Thanks for sharing! Did you ever make nutrition changes ? 

Hi Coco

 

I honestly didn't make too many changes.  I cut down on coffee during my taper to reduce my anxiety.  I also took fish oil as a supplement.  

A caveat:  After I stopped Paxil I dropped a lot of weight.  I got into some bad eating habits and gained almost all of the weight back.  That's when I got serious about portion control and balance.  One really helpful thing I did was pre-make my breakfast (kind of egg bake/frittata knock-off), cut it up to pre-measured portions and freeze them.  I thaw one overnight and have that for breakfast.  It keeps me filled up till lunch or dinner, and I've maintained a good weight for the past seven or eight years.

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Cocopuffz17
2 hours ago, mstimc said:

Hi Coco

 

I honestly didn't make too many changes.  I cut down on coffee during my taper to reduce my anxiety.  I also took fish oil as a supplement.  

A caveat:  After I stopped Paxil I dropped a lot of weight.  I got into some bad eating habits and gained almost all of the weight back.  That's when I got serious about portion control and balance.  One really helpful thing I did was pre-make my breakfast (kind of egg bake/frittata knock-off), cut it up to pre-measured portions and freeze them.  I thaw one overnight and have that for breakfast.  It keeps me filled up till lunch or dinner, and I've maintained a good weight for the past seven or eight years.

That’s great to hear you made the necessary adjustments to obtain your goal! Once again, thank you for sharing 😁

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Sassenach

Hi M

 

Welcome aboard the crazy ship:rolleyes:

Good to see you quit Paxil, tough one to get off.

 

Sass

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mstimc
2 hours ago, Sassenach said:

Hi M

 

Welcome aboard the crazy ship:rolleyes:

Good to see you quit Paxil, tough one to get off.

 

Sass

Great to be onboard! Thanks!

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mstimc

One thing I learned as I got near the end of my taper, is that you have to have a plan to manage whatever drove you to meds in the first place.  My GP initially prescribed Paxil for my anxiety, but I didn't seek any kind of therapy to address that anxiety; I just took the pill.  It wasn't until I started tapering that I sought psychological help and learned the source of my anxiety and management tools like CBT.   Talk therapy helped me handle my taper, but more importantly, it gave the long-term tool I needed to recognize irrational and obsessive thinking and manage its effects.  To paraphrase the old Chinese proverb, you need to name your demon to control it. If you quit meds with no coping mechanisms, you run the risk of being no better off than you were the day before you started them.  I found it took a combination of CBT tools and regular therapy sessions to get to a place where I could manage my thoughts rationally.  Different things may work for different people, but the point is, you need to be prepared for the rest of your life!

Edited by mstimc
Corrected spelling errors

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rola

@mstimc

Hello,
Thank you for your story it comforts us in ours 
glad you got out.
what percentage of your withdrawal was done?
and did you stop at the 0 dose?
thank you for your answer 
 

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mstimc
4 hours ago, rola said:

@mstimc

Hello,
Thank you for your story it comforts us in ours 
glad you got out.
what percentage of your withdrawal was done?
and did you stop at the 0 dose?
thank you for your answer 
 

Hi Rola

 

If I remember correctly, I did a 10 percent reduction of Paxil at each step with several weeks between each reduction.  It look me almost a year and half to get to zero.   I stopped there totally for several months.  On the advice of my psychologist, I asked my GP for a fairly low benzo dose (Ativan at first then switched to Klonopin) of .5 mg.  I used to take that about once a week, usually on Sunday nights before work--LOL!  I now take it only when the physical effects of my anxiety are more than I can handle, so a 30-pill script will last several months.

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rola

@mstimc

thank you for your answer, 
and sorry to disturb you during your holidays;
enjoy your retirement and your wife. 
enjoy all these moments.😉

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mstimc

No need to apologize!  We'll be here for a few years and now that I'm retired I have time to give back and share my experience with those still making the journey.

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Melissa5000

Thank you for your story!

 

What dose did you take for Paxil?

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mstimc
7 hours ago, Melissa5000 said:

Thank you for your story!

 

What dose did you take for Paxil?

Hi Melissa

 

If I remember right, it was 20 mg per day.  I did the 10 percent reduction and tried to stay at each level for several weeks before tapering again.

 

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manymoretodays

Hi mstimc,

And welcome aboard!  (a little late, but hey B) )

Congratulations too, with your success.  And thank you so much for posting, as well as offering so much to other members now!

 

Love, peace, healing, and growth,

mmt

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Snorky

Hi M

 

Just picking up on your blog. (Thanks for all you help btw) I note the ref to being ready to deal with the condition that originally preceded the ADs etc. In my case, a v long time ago. From memory was more anxiety than depression. (Nervous in work situation ms, pulse racing etc) Pretty sure that’s it.

 

In that case, maybe I could expect the depression/anhedonia/restlessness symptoms to ameliorate first? (They seem to be most palpable during this acute WD phase)

 

Thanks

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mstimc
2 minutes ago, Snorky said:

Hi M

 

Just picking up on your blog. (Thanks for all you help btw) I note the ref to being ready to deal with the condition that originally preceded the ADs etc. In my case, a v long time ago. From memory was more anxiety than depression. (Nervous in work situation ms, pulse racing etc) Pretty sure that’s it.

 

In that case, maybe I could expect the depression/anhedonia/restlessness symptoms to ameliorate first? (They seem to be most palpable during this acute WD phase)

 

Thanks

 

Hi Snorky

 

Hi.  Yeah, I think that's a safe bet. 😊  My pre-med behaviors (anxiety and obsessive thinking) were pretty much mimicked and intensified by my withdrawal experience, which really drove me to address both at the same time.  I didn't want to be on meds but I didn't want to be mired in anxiety and OCD either.   But I will say a lot of my really awful symptoms started to diminish as I progressed through withdrawal. The first sign was I stopped catastrophizing all my mistakes at work.  That let me relax in more situations as well.

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Snorky
46 minutes ago, mstimc said:

 

Hi Snorky

 

Hi.  Yeah, I think that's a safe bet. 😊  My pre-med behaviors (anxiety and obsessive thinking) were pretty much mimicked and intensified by my withdrawal experience, which really drove me to address both at the same time.  I didn't want to be on meds but I didn't want to be mired in anxiety and OCD either.   But I will say a lot of my really awful symptoms started to diminish as I progressed through withdrawal. The first sign was I stopped catastrophizing all my mistakes at work.  That let me relax in more situations as well.

Hi again

 

Many thanks again. Trying to carry on at work as you know (for reasons you did, endless distractions etc). However, getting v difficult. (Neurological symptoms today like Parkinson’s D)

 

Re catastrophic thinking- not like your example. My rumination is constant desire to list and categorise my symptoms, even to the point of using mnemonics!!

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mstimc
10 hours ago, Snorky said:

Hi again

 

Many thanks again. Trying to carry on at work as you know (for reasons you did, endless distractions etc). However, getting v difficult. (Neurological symptoms today like Parkinson’s D)

 

Re catastrophic thinking- not like your example. My rumination is constant desire to list and categorise my symptoms, even to the point of using mnemonics!!

 

I had much the same problem, except I used to try to match my real or imagined physical symptoms to the worse possible ailment I could find on the Internet.  My favorite was finding diseases that had no symptoms until you're on death's door. 

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CyclistN

Hi mstimc,

We have something in common. We both started on Paxil (Paroxetine) in 1999. 

Thank you for sharing your story. I have been self managing my taper since 26th December 2019. This was after ending up in hospital twice, after two different Drs, one a very young Psychiatrist, tried to transition me onto Citalopram. 

Now I just tell my Local Dr what I'm doing. 

I previously mentioned my story in the new introduction posts.

At the moment I'm on Paroxetine 5mg, Citalopram 10mg and Quetiapine 50mg before sleepy time.

I plan to stay on Paroxetine 5mg for a while. It took me about 7 weeks to adjust to 5mg Paroxetine from 7.5mg. Had I joined this site sooner, I would have a tried 10% taper, as suggested by Gridley. 25% is way to bigger jump. 

Many thanks for your inspiration, by the sounds of things, I'm still in the early stages.

Ciao, CyclistN.

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Windsor77

Catastrophic thinking around health anxiety is where I am at right now and is how my anxiety manifests.  Currently in a bad wave. My neurologic symptoms are back and troubling after many months of being minimal.  All began again when I got a chest cold in January and then my father was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer in feb. doctor visit after doctor visit is not the situation that I need to be in, but I must.  
Id love to learn more about how CBT helped you.   I have practiced some of the techniques youmention but they all end up with Mr. Catastrophe winning the day.   

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mstimc
21 minutes ago, Windsor77 said:

Id love to learn more about how CBT helped you.   I have practiced some of the techniques you mention but they all end up with Mr. Catastrophe winning the day.   

 

Hi Windsor

 

Not every tool worked every time.  It very much depended on the situation.  When it came to my imagined ailments,  I found reality checking and purposeful catastrophizing to work best.  When I discovered a new ache or pain or symptom,  I applied a little reality check.  Most serious illnesses have a host of symptoms, not just one.  If I had an ache in my side, it could be a pulled muscle or a huge tumor.  If it was a tumor, chances were pretty good something else would be wrong--some important bodily function would be messed up.  Also, if it wasn't getting worse, then it wasn't serious.  Using purposeful catastrophizing, I just kept asking myself "Then what"?.  Ok, I might have a terrible disease. then what?  I need to get it diagnosed and treated.  Then what?  I'll either get better or die.  If I get better, great.  If I die, at least I can prepare myself.  Both practices had the effect of taking the terror  out of the thoughts.  It took me a long time and a lot of effort, and like you, sometimes it didn't work.  And really, time itself helped.  If I had a terrible disease, then it was certainly taking its time to kill me.  Maybe it was just a pulled muscle after all.

 

 

 

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Windsor77

Thx.  You’re right, if I have a terrible disease, it sure is taking its time......

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mstimc
12 hours ago, Windsor77 said:

Thx.  You’re right, if I have a terrible disease, it sure is taking its time......

Something my wife told me really helped , too.  She told me if I spend my life worrying about having a terrible disease, I may as well have it.  I was wrecking my quality of life with the constant worry just as much as if I really were sick.

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SurvivingOnAnime

Did you go through a period of time where you felt that you could not enjoy anything or find any enthusiasm?  I, like many, am going through that now.  I use many strategies to cope with anxiety and my physical symptoms, but the joylessness is what I feel wears me down.  I feel love and focus on gratitude, but these are very gray days.  I keep feeling like there is something more I should be doing - maybe my impatience is a symptom as well.

 

I apologize if you have addressed this already, and I missed it.  My focus isn't great today.

 

Thank you for sharing your story and your time. :)

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mstimc
1 minute ago, SurvivingOnAnime said:

Did you go through a period of time where you felt that you could not enjoy anything or find any enthusiasm?  I, like many, am going through that now.  I use many strategies to cope with anxiety and my physical symptoms, but the joylessness is what I feel wears me down.  I feel love and focus on gratitude, but these are very gray days.  I keep feeling like there is something more I should be doing - maybe my impatience is a symptom as well.

 

I apologize if you have addressed this already, and I missed it.  My focus isn't great today.

 

Thank you for sharing your story and your time. :)

 

Hi S

 

Oh yes, that was a huge problem for me, too, and one of the most persistent.  And I'm not famous for my patience, either! 😆  I think the kernel of successfully addressing this is in your message:  "I keep feeling like there is something more I should be doing."  Open that up a little and turn it into "I know I'm meant for something better than this, and that I have value and something to offer the world.  One of the things that got me out of the joyless trap was joining a site like this (Paxilprogress.org) and sharing and helping others in the same situation.  It is exhausting but you can overcome it.

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DiscJockey

I wanted to know during your withdrawal process, did you ever have to take klonipin or ativan when withdrawal symptoms got really bad and unbearable? I have a 30 day supply of Klonipin at .50mg. I am only suppose to take it as needed. But the past few days have been really rough. I have morning anxiety when I wake up. At work, I am a little disoriented, brain fog, etc. I did a drop in dose at the last week of February. I was fine until a couple days ago. I'm on Paxil, was on 30mg, then dropped to about 27mg (end of Feb). I don't know if I should wait it out, but add Klonipin if needed. Or go back to 30mg. And what is your personal rule of thumb if you are using anti-anxiety during withdrawal?  Should I take it if I really need it? And up to how many times a week should I take it? Last thing I want is to have to taper off of that after tapering Paxil. I was reading your story and thread and thought you would have insight. Some mornings I wake up thinking I will never be able to get off this drug, feared, and feeling all alone, but just reading your success story kind of gave me a slight window, plus I am almost at the end of my work shift, which 8 hours feels like eternity during withdrawals.   

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mstimc

Hi Disc

Great question, especially given the times we're in and your location (I'm So Cal born).  I actually still have a generic Klonopin script for .5 mg to use as needed, so we're very similar.   I got the script on the advice of my therapist a year or two after I completed my withdrawal from Paxil.  He wasn't a big fan of meds, especially benzos, but recommended it.  Given you're still in the early stages of WD, here are my thoughts.

 

The reason I have the Klonopin script is because, as my therapist explained at the time, there's a physical component to anxiety that sometimes can't be managed by CBT or other coping  tools.   Basically its just the way we're made, and sometimes we need something to get us over a difficult physical/emotional period.  These triggering periods are when I take a pill.  For example, I've always been an introvert and don't like being the center of attention.  Pre-retirement, my job occasionally required me to make public presentations that were sometimes televised to the community.  For especially challenging presentations, I would cut a Klonopin in half and take it a couple hours before the meeting to keep me clear-headed.  I also don't like flying and may take one before a flight.  When work got really stressful, I would take one on Sunday night so I could go in on Monday in a good frame of mind.  Typically, a bottle of 30 pills will last me six months, so I don't take them often.

 

Having said that, my suggestion, before you think about taking a benzo more than occasionally is to separate your WD symptoms and associated feelings from your "baseline" anxiety.  To deal with withdrawal and truly recover, you need to adopt and practice effective coping strategies like CBT or similar behavioral modification tools.  There are links to coping tools on this site. To ensure long-term recovery, you really need to address the issues that put you on Paxil in the first place.  If you were okay until a couple of days ago and tapered at the end of last month, I would say you're hitting  wave of withdrawal symptoms.  You're going to experience these "windows and waves" as you taper, and the best way to deal with them is to start practicing coping now, (and participating here for support). 

 

I'd give coping a try first unless the physical symptoms become unbearable.  I would not use a benzo as a support for withdrawal--as Gridley as mentioned to others, benzos are addictive and you can experience withdrawal after just a couple of weeks' use or sometimes intermittent use.  

 

It took me a couple years to get through my taper and recovery, so you might want to think about giving yourself some time to see if coping tools and time will help with your withdrawal before turning to another med.

 

Hope this helped!

 

 

 

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DiscJockey

Thank you kindly Mstimc! 

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