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Brooke

Brooke: Four years later, fully drug free and happy!

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Brooke

Hi all!

 

I posted my story in the Introductions forum the other day, and someone suggested I repost it here. I've got to say, it's pretty damn cool to feel squarely in the 'success' category after a decade and a half of figuring I'd be on these drugs for the rest of my life. Happy to answer questions, but here's my story: 

 

--

 

Before I get into my withdrawal and treatment details,  you need some background on why I needed to go off the drugs in the first place. My situation was unique, and it fed into how my whole experience played out. Also, I'm not a doctor and I don't give medical advice and blah blah blah you know the deal. 

 

In early 2016, I owned a bakery in New York City. I'd been on antidepressants since my father passed away in 2001, and yet I was still miserable. Whether or not the drugs had worn off or I was experiencing iatrogenic effects, I don't know, but the short of it is that I was still massively depressed for someone on antidepressants. I'd thought about trying to change my meds here and there, but there was never a good time. And because I owned the bakery, I couldn't just take time off, so I figured this was just the way my life was going to be. 

 

In February, a trip around the world dropped into my lap. It was clear to me that I couldn't ignore the opportunity, but at this point, I was having memory issues that I thought were connected to my antidepressants. If I was going to travel the world for a year, I didn't want to 1) forget the whole thing and 2) get stuck in the middle of nowhere Cambodia and not be able to fill my prescription. It also dawned on me around this time that I'd spent half my life on the drugs, and something about that deeply bothered me. So I accepted the travel opportunity and decided to try getting off the antidepressants and figure out what my baseline was, thinking that I'd have plenty of time to "even out" by the time I got on the plane to Malaysia. 

 

In early March, I saw a psychiatrist (who actually sent me out of the office with a prescription for Prozac) and stopped taking the Effexor cold turkey, on my psychiatrists recommendation. I was on a low dose at the time, and she told me there wasn't a way to step down. I've since learned that that advice was bullsh*t, but I didn't know any better at the time. Flash forward four days and I'm having homicidal visions as I walk down the street, to the point where I call in sick and lock myself in my apartment because I'm afraid I'm going to hurt someone. I don't call my doctor, because she was useless and I was concerned she'd put put me on an involuntary hold.

 

The two lifelines at this point: my mother and my dog. My mother just kept picking up the phone. And that's the piece of advice I give to any parent who asks me about their medicated kids. Just pick up the damn phone. Every time. That's what they need. I also had to keep my dog alive. Had she not required care, I don't think I would have made it.

 

The severe withdrawal effects from Effexor lasted about a month. I held out primarily out of anger and stubbornness. I was so angry at what was happening to me that I REFUSED to let it win. I would die in an explosive ball of rage before I took one more damn pill, because **** Effexor and **** my doctors for not warning me about this. I was far more miserable than I was on the drugs, but for the first time, I cared about myself. And that kept me going. Also, I kept having these little glimmers of light—seeing brighter colors, noticing how soft my dog's fur was, a creative urge—that kept me from going back to the pharmacy. One little moment wasn't enough to undo the hell, but it was enough to keep me curious enough to see what else might be out there. 

 

I stopped taking Wellbutrin cold turkey about 4-6 weeks after I stopped the Effexor. I could have tapered that one down, but by this point I was so angry that Jesus incarnate couldn't have talked me into a smarter choice. Also, I was getting low on time and beginning to worry about "evening out" before I left. I figured that less time on the drugs=more time to normalize, and I didn't want to drag it out. Lastly, my doctor told me welbutrin's withdrawal effects were negligible and likely wouldn't kick in for weeks to months, since the half life of the drug was so much longer. (A good time to remind everyone that I'm not a doctor and that this was so so so so stupid.)

 

I did not notice immediate symptoms from stopping the Wellbutrin, nothing like the Effexor anyway, which was still creating epic mood swings so severe I bent a metal ironing board in half. I realized I needed help when I was surrounded by ironing board parts, and that's when I agreed to work with a spiritual counselor. I'd resisted the idea up until then, because it sounded way too woo woo. But by this point, I was desperate. And I needed someone who would work with me remotely over the phone, so I could continue to have counseling while I was traveling. 

 

I began working with in a method called Compassion Key. I worked directly with the founder of the method, but now there are about 100 practitioners all over the world. (BEFORE YOU GO GOOGLING, note that while there is a Compassion Key website with some practitioners listed, not all of them are listed (many of the best aren't) and I'm not sure how up to date everything is.)

 

Here's the reason why CK worked for me when nothing else did: it was out of the traditional mental health system. At no point was my brain pathologized. We weren't trying to fix something that was broken. Instead, we were trying to heal what was wounded. That shift in perspective was huge for me, because it allowed me to actually talk about what I was feeling and experiencing without worrying that it would be classified as a personality disorder. I knew I wasn't crazy. I knew there wasn't anything "wrong" with me in a chemical sense. But I was in an astounding amount of mental pain. Some of it was due to losing my father when I was 15, but not all. And it was the "not all" part I couldn't wrap my head around. This method allowed me to work through it from the comfort of my own home, without the pressure of a clipboard and a time clock. 

 

HOWEVER, I can't ignore the fact that at the time, I was preparing to travel around the world and later, I was actually traveling around the world. This gave me three advantages:

 

First, I was forced to put one foot in front of the other. I could have a breakdown and bend an ironing board in half, but then I had to go get a yellow fever vaccine. In retrospect, I think having a gigantic project tackle outside of myself was key to working through withdrawal and early stages of counseling. I didn't have the luxury of sitting in my own ****. I had to get it together long enough to get the hell out of the country. 

 

Second, once I was actually traveling, everything about my medicated life was gone. I was on longer able to blame my business partner or the failing business for my sh*tty mental health. I wasn't having an Eat, Pray, Love experience. I didn't suddenly blossom on foreign land. Instead, it became crystal clear that my problems began and ended with me. Nothing about my life was the same as I moved from Malaysia to Thailand to Cambodia, and yet my issues still remained. That was a hard mirror to face, but it was key to healing. My only option was to face my trauma and my choices and do the damn work. 

 

Third, because I wasn't able to get my medication abroad, I was committed staying off the medication out of necessity. For me, this was huge. I'm a big fan of safety nets, but being on the road for a year meant I had a year to figure my **** out. And so I kept working with my counselor, all over the world, and by the time I was home, I had completely transformed. 

 

It's been almost four years, and I still have lingering side effects from spending my formative years medicated. For example, I'm in my first unmedicated relationship. It was a complete mind**** when I realized I had no idea how to relate to another person because it's like I wasn't there for my entire 20s. It's like whatever I learned from age 15-30 never really sunk in, like I went through emotional puberty at 30. I still have counseling sessions, but on an as needed basis. The biggest thing I'm grateful, though, is that I now know that depression is not permanent. I know that if I could work my way from depression to withdrawal to happiness, I don't have to worry if the clouds set in. I can do it again. That's been particularly important for me to remember during Covid, when days have felt darker than they have in years. But even though it might look like depression, I know in my heart that it's not. It is an appropriate human reaction to a terrible state of events, and as corny as it sounds, this too will pass. 

 

Ok, that's enough of me! Hugs to you all. 


Effexor XR 37.5mg and Wellbutrin XL 150mg from age 15-30 (2001-2016). Hell withdrawal. Drug free (and happy) since 2016.

 

I am the founder Happiness Is A Skill, a weekly newsletter dedicated to helping people heal from depression by learning the skill of happiness. Join hundreds of others and subscribe here: http://learnhappy.brookesiem.com/

 

I wrote this for the The Washington Post: I spent half my life on antidepressants. Today, I'm off the medication and I feel all right.

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Hanna72

Such an inspiration, love it 😍 

Thank you for sharing, you give me so much hope🙏



2000/ got 20mg Paxil  for panic attacks. Many attempts to quit through out the years, without any success.

2019- January started tapering Paxil, 2019-October 10 mg Paxil , getting ready for a bridge with 10 mg Prozac  Took about 1 month during switch. Done with Paxil 2019/ November started tapering 20 mg Prozac  .Took alcohol and coffee out.2019/December 8 mg Prozac 

2020/January 4 mg Prozac 

2020/15/3 .09 mg jumped off

2020 March 16 off Prozac  Quetipine 25 mg used 1 time in 15 months, oxezapam 15 mg used 5 times 

Suppliments: Magnesium, omega 3 fish oil ( epa&dha) D vitamin 

“The two most powerful warriors are patience and time” Leo Tolstoy 

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FindRest

Thank you for sharing your story. I can relate in so many ways. Please keep us updated as time goes on. 


1988-1996  Various AD’s, all classifications.  

1996-2019  Effexor XR 37.5mg to 150mg. Jan 2017 onward, 37.5 mg.

2019  Apr 11: Latuda 20mg added to Effexor.  Apr 22: L to 40mg.  May 14: L to 20mg.  May 27: L to 10 mg for 3 days then ct (dr’s orders). Continue Effexor 37.5.  Jun 10: Rexulti .5 mg added. Incr to 1mg.  Jun 15: Rex to .5mg.  Jul 1-24: taper Rex to .25mg over couple of weeks then off.  Jul 24: CT Effexor (per dr’s orders)  Sep 9-19: Viibryd (low dose, not sure mg), CT (dr’s orders).  Sep 23-27: Trintellix (low dose). CT (dr’s orders).  Sep 28:  Prozac 10mg.  Oct 24:  Began rapid taper off Prozac (every other day for wk) began Pristiq 25mg for 10 days, then 50mg after that.  Dec 31-Jan 31, 2020:  Pristiq 25mg. 

2020  Feb 1: CT Pristiq due to serious side effects incl high BP w pre-existing heart condition.   Feb 1: Effexor XR (10 large beads from 37.5 capsule).  Feb 3: 14 L beads.  Feb 15: 14 L beads+2 med beads.  Feb 17: 15L + 5M beads (25mgbw or 7.56mgai).

Current: Mar 1, 2020: Effexor XR (15 large beads + 7 medium beads, 30mgbw or 9.072mgai)

 

Other current meds: Ambien 10mg nightly (2012), clonazepam .125mg nightly (May, 2019), omeprazole 20mg (alt w famotidine 20mg, since Oct 2019), Synthroid 125 mcg (1985), Premarin .625mg (2002), Miralax capful/day (2014), fluticasone nasal once/day (mid-2018), cetirizine 10mg nightly (late-2018) .  Supplements: D3 25mcg, probiotic

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Cocopuffz17

Amazing story :) You are so strong for getting through this! All the best for you and thank you for sharing you story :)


I follow The Plant Paradox lifestyle by Dr.Gundry. This lifestyle has given me my life back and I feel better than I have ever felt in my life. It has enabled me to finally get off of this medication and truly live my life. Nutrition is the key to health!!!!! 

 

2008 to 2019  - 20 mg Paroxetine

 

Attempted 2 CT's around the 5-6 year mark. Were absolutely terrible and reinstated. Was never explained by the doctor the seriousness of the short half life of this drug. 

 

2017 - Attempted a tapered discontinuation of this drug and reinstated after being unsuccessful.

 

2019 - Feb. 12 - After a three month taper I am off of paroxetine. The 3 months were terrible, awful withdrawal feelings. I followed the doctors guidelines for the reduction of this drug and now know it was way too fast. 
 

2019 - Oct. 12 - 8 months off paroxetine. 75% improvement since coming off the drug. Definitely have had tons of challenges along the way. Let’s go!!!! 

 

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FarmGirlWorks
On 5/24/2020 at 9:28 PM, Brooke said:

I held out primarily out of anger and stubbornness. I was so angry at what was happening to me that I REFUSED to let it win. I would die in an explosive ball of rage before I took one more damn pill, because **** Effexor and **** my doctors for not warning me about this. I was far more miserable than I was on the drugs, but for the first time, I cared about myself. And that kept me going.

 

Love this! Tragic but your sense of humor shines through. Congrats and thanks!


  • Prozac | late 2004-mid-2005 | CT WD in a couple months, mostly emotional
  • Sertraline 50-100mg | 11/2011-3/2014, 10/2014-3/2017
  • Sertraline fast taper March 2017, 4 weeks, OFF sertraline April 1, 2017
  • Quit alcohol May 20, 2017, quit coffee October 2017, quit cannabis 😩 July 2018
  • Magnesium powder, fish oil, estradiol, kombucha, gluten/dairy/histamine-lite
  • Lifestyle changes: AA, kundalini practice

 

"If you've seen a monster, even if it's horrible, that's evidence of divinity." – Damien Echols

 

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persistente

i have just read all your posts.  thank you.  you are very inspiring. it sure takes certain dose of being stubborn to win ct. i know that if i was not, i would not be 3 years off next month.


3/2012 - sertralin 50 mg, no major side effects

1/2014 - ct sertralin 50 mg (tappered 3 weeks as doctor ordered)

7/2014 - back to sertalin 50 mg, no issues

4/2016 - ct sertralin 50 mg (tappered 3 weeks, my decision)

12/2016 - back to sertalin, major side effects from the first pill and the begginning of hell

2/2017 - mirtazepine 15 mg added for insomnia

6/2017 - stopped sertralin (2 months tapper)

9/2017 - stopped mirtazepine (3 weeks taper)

waves and windows

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Brooke
On 8/23/2020 at 8:04 AM, persistente said:

i have just read all your posts.  thank you.  you are very inspiring. it sure takes certain dose of being stubborn to win ct. i know that if i was not, i would not be 3 years off next month.

Three years!! Congratulations! So proud of you. Keep going. 


Effexor XR 37.5mg and Wellbutrin XL 150mg from age 15-30 (2001-2016). Hell withdrawal. Drug free (and happy) since 2016.

 

I am the founder Happiness Is A Skill, a weekly newsletter dedicated to helping people heal from depression by learning the skill of happiness. Join hundreds of others and subscribe here: http://learnhappy.brookesiem.com/

 

I wrote this for the The Washington Post: I spent half my life on antidepressants. Today, I'm off the medication and I feel all right.

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arbor

Thank you, Brooke, so much for sharing your journey.  I'm new to SA.  Not sure I could make it through PAWS without reports like yours.  Thank you for Happiness is A Skill as well.

Best wishes, Arbor


Zoloft: 1995 - 2015

Prozac: 2015 - 2018 (tapered from 40mg x day on July 31 to 30mg on August 31 to 20mg on September 31 to 10mg October 31 to 0mg on  December 15, 2018

Gabapentin: 2016 to 2019  (tapered from 300mg x day to 150mg on August 31, 2019 to 75mg on September 15 to 50mg on September 31 to 25ishmg on October 15 to 0mg on December 1, 2019

Enalapril: 2010 - 2019

Lipitor: 2017 -2017

Metformin: 2000 - 2020

Liothyronine: 2007 - 2019

Levothyroxine: 2000 - 

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Brooke
17 hours ago, arbor said:

Thank you, Brooke, so much for sharing your journey.  I'm new to SA.  Not sure I could make it through PAWS without reports like yours.  Thank you for Happiness is A Skill as well.

Best wishes, Arbor

You're welcome, Arbor. Glad to have you on the journey even if it's a crap hand to be dealt! The beauty of all this is that we know we're not alone. Hugs to you. 


Effexor XR 37.5mg and Wellbutrin XL 150mg from age 15-30 (2001-2016). Hell withdrawal. Drug free (and happy) since 2016.

 

I am the founder Happiness Is A Skill, a weekly newsletter dedicated to helping people heal from depression by learning the skill of happiness. Join hundreds of others and subscribe here: http://learnhappy.brookesiem.com/

 

I wrote this for the The Washington Post: I spent half my life on antidepressants. Today, I'm off the medication and I feel all right.

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Naczoz

@Brooke did u have pssd? did it resolve with time? what other sexuall sympthoms did u have?


01.12.2018 - 01.03.2019 - Took sertraline and than fluvosamine for major depression. 

 

Got SEVERE PSSD (no libido, no erections, pleasureless orgasma, total genital anesthesia, emotional numbness, lost of personality)

 

No wave and windows, no improvement so far. Just lije 1-2% in numbness in first two months post quitting. 

 

Im suicidal because of pssd. I dont believe in recovery since my state didnt improve in any significant way.

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Brooke
7 hours ago, Naczoz said:

@Brooke did u have pssd? did it resolve with time? what other sexuall sympthoms did u have?

I have had some sexual side effects, but not to the level that I've heard that some people experience. I don't have numbness, for example. Instead, my primary symptom was/is absolutely no libido at all and a difficulty reaching orgasm. For a while, I thought I was asexual but I've come to realize that it was the result of being medicated right at puberty, so I never really developed or acted on that urge. And then, when I got off the drugs, I carried a lot of shame around it which only made it worse. 

 

My strategy, like always, is to set the physical symptoms aside and work on the emotional. The reality is that it is possible to have a deeply satisfying sexual experience without ever making contact, but if your head is in the way, it's never going to happen. It's a complex subject, especially for women, and I've found that there was a lot to untangle including how sex was treated in my house when I was a child and early, pre-medication sexual experiences. It's easy for us to blame the drugs, but I don't believe it's the whole story. And in my experience, the more work I do on the subject, the better my physical symptoms get. I also have patient and supportive partner, and his presences "forces" me to work on the emotion. If I was single, I think it would be easy to just blame the drugs forever and say "This is the way I am." But since I'm with someone, and want to be with him, it's given me a kick in the butt to address the emotional side of it as well. Like all deep work, it's hard and terrible but it always helps in the end. 


Effexor XR 37.5mg and Wellbutrin XL 150mg from age 15-30 (2001-2016). Hell withdrawal. Drug free (and happy) since 2016.

 

I am the founder Happiness Is A Skill, a weekly newsletter dedicated to helping people heal from depression by learning the skill of happiness. Join hundreds of others and subscribe here: http://learnhappy.brookesiem.com/

 

I wrote this for the The Washington Post: I spent half my life on antidepressants. Today, I'm off the medication and I feel all right.

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Naczoz

but did your libido and orgasms return? 


01.12.2018 - 01.03.2019 - Took sertraline and than fluvosamine for major depression. 

 

Got SEVERE PSSD (no libido, no erections, pleasureless orgasma, total genital anesthesia, emotional numbness, lost of personality)

 

No wave and windows, no improvement so far. Just lije 1-2% in numbness in first two months post quitting. 

 

Im suicidal because of pssd. I dont believe in recovery since my state didnt improve in any significant way.

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Brooke
23 hours ago, Naczoz said:

but did your libido and orgasms return? 

Yep! I'm certainly no randy teenager, but I've definitely seen improvement. 


Effexor XR 37.5mg and Wellbutrin XL 150mg from age 15-30 (2001-2016). Hell withdrawal. Drug free (and happy) since 2016.

 

I am the founder Happiness Is A Skill, a weekly newsletter dedicated to helping people heal from depression by learning the skill of happiness. Join hundreds of others and subscribe here: http://learnhappy.brookesiem.com/

 

I wrote this for the The Washington Post: I spent half my life on antidepressants. Today, I'm off the medication and I feel all right.

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Naczoz

so no full recovery yet? what about genital numbness?


01.12.2018 - 01.03.2019 - Took sertraline and than fluvosamine for major depression. 

 

Got SEVERE PSSD (no libido, no erections, pleasureless orgasma, total genital anesthesia, emotional numbness, lost of personality)

 

No wave and windows, no improvement so far. Just lije 1-2% in numbness in first two months post quitting. 

 

Im suicidal because of pssd. I dont believe in recovery since my state didnt improve in any significant way.

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Brooke
4 hours ago, Naczoz said:

so no full recovery yet? what about genital numbness?

No numbness, but I think it's more complicated than recovered or not recovered because the spectrum of sexuality is varied and highly personal. Also, I don't have any frame of reference because I was a child when I was put on the drugs, so there's no obvious before and after. All I know is the during drugs and after drugs part, so it's hard to tell what might have been had I never been on ADs. 


Effexor XR 37.5mg and Wellbutrin XL 150mg from age 15-30 (2001-2016). Hell withdrawal. Drug free (and happy) since 2016.

 

I am the founder Happiness Is A Skill, a weekly newsletter dedicated to helping people heal from depression by learning the skill of happiness. Join hundreds of others and subscribe here: http://learnhappy.brookesiem.com/

 

I wrote this for the The Washington Post: I spent half my life on antidepressants. Today, I'm off the medication and I feel all right.

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