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BonesMoses

BonesMoses: Off Lexapro for almost 4 years; still can't sleep

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BonesMoses

Hi everyone,

 

Somewhere around 2012, I was put on Lexapro to try and address life-long issues of social anxiety, and newly emerging issues with GAD, including panic attacks. About four years later in mid 2016, I was starting to have more issues with panic attacks again, and decided I'd rather get off the meds than up the dose. So I spoke with my psychiatrist and started tapering. Now, I never heard of the slow taper recommended here, but I had heard that withdrawal could be brutal. So I decided to cut it by 25% every two weeks, putting me at 0 after about 8 weeks.

 

I imagine that provoked a cringe from half of the audience, but... I felt fine. No brain zaps, akathisia, ataxia, or any of the other scary things I read about. My anxiety was a bit higher, but I expected that. I figured that was the end of it, and I could move on.

 

The weeks went on, but my anxiety kept increasing, so I adopted meditation to address it. It wasn't easy, but it was better  than nothing. Regardless, I was starting to have panic attacks almost every other day. I figured I could just fight my way through them and they'd eventually go away. Then I had some kind of super panic attack that pulled me out of sleep and racing to the ER. Pretty much ever since that night, my sleep has been an absolute disaster.

 

Back then, I could barely get 3-4 hours a night if I was lucky. Nothing seemed to work either. Supplements? Name one, none worked. OTC sleep aids like Benadryl or Unisom? Paradoxical responder to all of them. Prescription antihistamines like hydroxyzine? Even worse, and somehow made me completely sleepless for the entire half-life. Benzos? Used sparingly, they are/were a relief, but I didn't want to get addicted, so never more than once or twice per week. Z-drugs? Helped slightly falling asleep, but that wasn't my problem. I had developed intractable and aggressive sleep maintenance insomnia. I also started having problems with chronic pain and spasms along my surface muscles mostly in my lower extremities, but also around my chest.

 

All of that has persisted since then, but by far the most disruptive is the insomnia. I've managed to get back up to 5-6 hours according to my Fitbit Alta HR, but I still feel exhausted most of the time. And too often, I won't sleep at all and will end up reading in another room to avoid screwing up my sleep hygiene. At this point, I've gotten that to a science: pink noise, blue blockers 2 hours before bed, 300mcg melatonin 1 hour before bed, bedroom only used for sleeping, no TV or electronic devices late at night, etc. I did CBTI with a sleep psychologist, and he said I was doing everything right.

 

But of course that won't undo neurological damage, nor will it prevent me from waking up at 4:30 AM to use the bathroom, and being unable to fall back asleep afterwards. This has taken a huge toll on my QOL, and I wish I never even heard of SSRIs. I'm not suicidal, but my sense of humor on the subject has gotten considerably darker.

 

I used to be the kind of person who would sleep through an air-raid siren. It always took me longer to fall asleep than most (30+ minutes), but I slept like the dead. Now it feels like I wake up at the slightest provocation, and if my Fitbit is at all accurate, my slow-wave deep sleep is about half what it should be for someone my age.

 

I briefly considered going back on Lexapro, if even just for some relief, but then I remembered it put me here in the first place, and I wouldn't give it to my worst enemy. Then I read that might not work anyway. I can't go back in time and slap the prescription out of my hand, or explain to myself about implementing a much slower taper, so I feel like I'm basically SOL. It's been almost four years, and I'm still fighting this. I've even begun watching for research that we finally discover how to manually trigger various sleep phases, and stumbled across the recent studies on the VLPO region of the brain. I'm desperate and poking at anything I can find. 

 

I'm just so tired. :(

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Gridley

Welcome to SA, BonesMoses.  I'm sorry you're having this terrible insomnia.  Insomnia is perhaps the most common withdrawal symptom.  Your other symptoms, such as muscle spasms, are also typical.

 

What is withdrawal syndrome.

 

Glenmullen’s withdrawal symptom list.

 

The Windows and Waves Pattern of Stabilization

 

When we take medications, the CNS (central nervous system) responds by making changes over the months and years we take the drug(s). When the medication is discontinued, the CNS has to undo all the changes it made. Rebuilding the neurotransmitter production and reactivating the receptor and transporter cells takes time -- during that rebuilding process symptoms occur.  

 

Video:  Healing From Antidepressants - Patterns of Recovery

 

You're right about the fact that going back on Lexapro might not work and could make things worse.  There's a saying, you can never step in the same river twice, and your central nervous system is not the same CNS it was before you did your fast taper of Lexapro.

 

We don't recommend a lot of supplements on SA, as many members report being sensitive to them due to our over-reactive nervous systems, but two supplements that we do recommend are magnesium and omega 3 (fish oil). Many people find these to be calming to the nervous system.  If you haven't already tried them, they would be worth a try.  Magnesium glycerinate is a good form of magnesium.

 

Magnesium, nature's calcium channel blocker 

 

Omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil) 

 

Add in one at a time and at a low dose in case you do experience problems.

 

Here are a few links on dealing with insomnia on the off-chance that you haven't tried these techniques.

 

Tips to help sleep - so many of us have that awful withdrawal insomnia

 

Relaxation exercises, guided meditations, calming videos, sleep hypnosis

 

This link contains helpful information, including insomnia and also non-drug coping skills.  

 

Important topics about symptoms, including sleep problems

 

This is your Introduction topic, where you can ask questions and connect with other members.  We're glad you found your way here.

Edited by manymoretodays
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BonesMoses

 

4 hours ago, Gridley said:

You're right about the fact that going back on Lexapro might not work and could make things worse.  There's a saying, you can never step in the same river twice, and your central nervous system is not the same CNS it was before you did your fast taper of Lexapro.

 

Yeah, but you know how desperation works. :)

 

4 hours ago, Gridley said:

We don't recommend a lot of supplements on SA, as many members report being sensitive to them due to our over-reactive nervous systems, but two supplements that we do recommend are magnesium and omega 3 (fish oil). Many people find these to be calming to the nervous system.  If you haven't already tried them, they would be worth a try.  Magnesium glycerinate is a good form of magnesium.

 

Yeah. I take about 400mg of magnesium glycinate daily when I remember, and I have several bottles of high quality fish oil (Labdoor tested) and take 3G every day.

 

4 hours ago, Gridley said:

This is your Introduction topic, where you can ask questions and connect with other members.  We're glad you found your way here.

 

 

Thanks. I've been looking around the last couple days and learning a lot about what I didn't know already. :)

 

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