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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: 

 

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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. 

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Hanna72

Such an inspiration, love it 😍 

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

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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. 

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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 :)

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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!

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