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Francisco Off all meds for almost two years and am never going back


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Hi,

 

I wrote my introduction on the 4th of October 2019

 

☼-francisco-on-the-way-to-a-success-story

 

At that time, I was seven months of all meds – I stated that the post was a combination of an introduction and a success story since things were on course at the time. Since that post, my mental has been put to the test like never before but it's now been around one year and 10 months since I stopped taking meds and I believe my mental health has passed the test. 

 

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 with 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 dam 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 – mainly unprocessed. 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 withdrawal effects – my nervous system reacted and consequently, I felt very edgy and jittery and my concentration levels went down significantly – obviously, work was quite difficult during this period. Also, it’s not easy to say this but my performances in the bed room were pretty mediocre during this period also (not uncommon I suppose). 

 

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/evolution to eat and exercise – the withdrawal affects would pass and I would reach stability. 

 

In the year since I posted my introduction, I had to deal with an extremely stressful project at work which was further complicated by a certain pandemic, the very difficult birth of my first child and a lot of subsequent and extremely heated disagreements with my wife under very stressful circumstances  – as I said above, my mental health has been put to the test but I haven't gone back on meds and have absolutely no intention of doing so. As I type this post, I’m in fact currently staying in my parent’s house following a particularly nasty exchange with my wife – in many ways, my family are great but I’ve already heard ‘I think you should be taking medication to get you through this difficult time’. I know they mean well and just want what’s best for me but they just don’t understand me and never really have.  

 

For most of my life, 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 two years and have been a father for a year. The first year of my daughter's life has been extremely difficult for all the reasons mentioned above – it's been difficult but I've coped. My marriage is in a very bad place right now and if it does survive, it’s going to take a lot of work and compromise between my wife and I. If it doesn’t survive, I firmly believe I’ll be able to cope with all the difficulties which come with marriage breakup as long as I find the support I need – the kind of support which this forum offers – guidance from people who’ve experienced similar things. 

If I was still seeing a psychiatrist now, I reckon he would have drugged me up to my eye balls in an attempt to get me through this difficult time. If I wasn't taking meds and hadn't made all the lifestyle and dietary changes I made over the last couple of years, I would have completely collapsed in the face of all the adversity I've had to endure. I'm still standing, however. Life now is extremely difficult like it is for a lot of people but I've found a way to manage. Now, I want to find a good life. 

 

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 basically a reaction to all the things I was doing wrong – my diet, my exercise routine, my work environment, my learning environment, my past relationships etc. 

 

I plan to keep the potentially harmful parts of 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 lot of time (but not too much 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 strength I’ve found are all the sweeter – ‘spring would not be so welcome, if we didn’t have to go through winter’. 

 

As well as the mundane lifestyle I mentioned above, I’m also going to have find a working environment which I'm designed for. In January 2010, I had a nervous breakdown at work. The job I was doing at the time was a fairly basic office job. The company undertook a large project which I was part of which turn out to be extremely stressful for all involved and which I simply could not cope with. One day, I simply left the office and never went back – didn’t hand in my notice, didn’t tell my supervisor, didn’t tell family/friends. I went home, packed a bag and took off on a train to another city where I stayed in a hostel for a week. 

 

Subsequently, I was unemployed for three and a half years while I was trying all the medication mentioned above. Once I found the medications which stabilized me, I once again started doing similar type very basic office jobs – most were temp jobs completely unrelated to the what I studied in university and which needless to say, I didn’t exactly thrive in. These ‘go-nowhere’ jobs were all I felt capable of doing while I was on meds. I never built a career based on my university qualifications because I just felt so hindered by all the personal problems I was going through back then.  

 

ain’t no office worker – I'm an introverted, insightful writer and researcher. In university, I received a first for my masters in International Relations. That was a hell of a long time ago but I feel I just have to get back into research once again. My own personal and fairly primitive research over the last decade or so helped me recover from a very serious mental health problem when all the so called experts were telling me that I would be on psychiatric medication for the rest of my life. I would love to build a career based on writing and researching about mental health and helping people who have also been told that they will be on medication for the rest of their lives. I believe I’m on the right forum to achieve this goal and look forward to contributing to the great work which is done here going forward.  

 

Many Thanks 

Francisco 

 

  • Quote: ‘Spring would not be so welcome if we didn’t have to go through winter’ 

 

Previous Meds taken (Not all at once - Mid 2012 to July2015): 

Lamictal, Abilify, Olanzapine, Prozac, Venlafaxin/Effexor 

Side Affects: Skin rash, insomnia, worse depression, constipation, intense sweating at night, brain fog 

 

Most Recent Meds: 

Cymbalta (60mg), Olanzapine (2.5mg) 

Taper: dropped Cymbalta to 30mg for 3 months until end of Jan 2019 - stopped Cymbalta completed at the beginning of Feb 2019. 

Stopped Olanzapine completely at the end of Feb 2019 

Withdrawal: around 4/5 weeks after ceasing meds completely, my nervous system started to react - felt very edgy, irritable and couldn’t concentrate for around 3 or 4 weeks.  

 

Have been feeling stable since despite numerous stresses in my life 

 

Edited by ChessieCat
Blackened & reduced font, spacing, fixed up link

Previous Meds taken (Not all at once - Mid 2012 to July2015):

Lamictal, Abilify, Olanzapine, Prozac, Venlafaxin/Effexor

Side Affects: Skin rash, insomnia, worse depression, constipation, intense sweating at night, brain fog

Most Recent Meds:

Cymbalta (60mg), Olanzapine (2.5mg)

Taper: dropped Cymbalta to 30mg for 3 months until end of Jan 2019 - stopped Cymbalta completed at the beginning of Feb 2019.

Stopped Olanzapine completely at the end of Feb 2019

Withdrawal: around 4/5 weeks after ceasing meds completely, my nervous system started to react - felt very edgy for around 3 or 4 weeks.

Have been feeling  stable since - better than when I was on meds,still a bit of brain fog

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manymoretodays

Hi Francisco,

And thank you so much for coming back to write this up.

And yes, I love the part about feeling stable despite the numerous stresses in your life.

Me too.  What is stress? B)❤️

Oh I know, most times, how to handle it so much better.

 

Celebrating with you!

 

Best, Love, peace, healing, and hope,

manymoretodays

Edited by manymoretodays

Started with psycho meds/psychiatric care circa 1988.  In retrospect, and on contemplation, situational overwhelm.

Rounding up to 30 years of medications(30 medication trials, poly-pharmacy maximum was 3 at one time).

5/28/2015-off Adderal salts 2.5mg. (I had been on that since hospital 10/2014)

12/2015---just holding, holding, holding, with trileptal/oxcarb at 75 mg. 1/2 tab at hs.  My last psycho med ever!  Tapered @ 10% every 4 weeks, sometimes 2 weeks to

2016 Dec 16 medication free!!

Longer signature post here, with current supplements.

Herb and alcohol free since 5/15/2016. 

None of my posts are intended as medical advice.  Please discuss any decisions about your medical care with a knowledgeable medical provider. manymoretodays

 

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Dear sojourners,

Very helpful to hear the success piece and all the detours along the way. I am a bit disheartened today as I continue with the taper of one med, wellbutrin. Still have lexapro 10 mg to go.  I had a few weeks of peace and stability and then whammo. Tears galore. It is hard to consider doing another slow and very small taper in early January but I so want off these meds. I have also changed my eating habits around the same time I began tapering, June of 2019.I do my best to prepare whole foods plant based meals. One question I have though, how on earth do you navigate when the wave takes you under? I feel so guilty that I am not upholding my job as a wife. By the way my hubby is very supportive. He wants to help but I am not sure what to tell him.

We moved to a new local a few months after the taper began. We had decided that with the move, the taper, and the pandemic, I would hold off work. I guess I am retired for now. Such an odd thing since a big part of my identity was my profession. I know I am more than what I do...but this can easily add to the waves getting larger and stronger. My mind is a wee bit mixed up currently so I am a bit of a pin ball with all over thoughts. Will I really ever recover.I think I shot my wad right now but it helps to share some of the scramble of my insides.

I look forward to writing the success story down the road. Blessings to you all.

  •  1995 -1998 prozac 20 mg; unsuccessful C.T.
  • 1998-2004 paxil 10 mg ; unsuccessful C.T. 
  •  2004-current  lexapro 10 mg
  •  2009 added drug Wellbutrin 150mg, 2016  bupropian300 mg XL
  • 2019  start taper June-;alternated between 300 mg and 150 mg XL (as per PCP guidelines) until  reached daily bupropian 150 mg XL in December 2019
  • 2020 January-March skipping 1 -4 days in between 150 mg XL then crashed mid month March
  • 2020 March-April resumed skipping every 3 days
  • 2020 April 28 began splitting bupropion 75 mg HCL and taking 37.5 mg am &  pm
  • 2020 April discovered SA and the brassmonkey slide taper; making own pills now
  • 2020 June 10-71.3 mg bupropion HCL (2 pills daily -divided);July 10 -67.7 mg;August 9 -64.3;August 31-61.1;September 21-58.0; October 12-55.1; November 2-52.4 mg bupropion HCL;December 3-8 -49.8; reinstated December 9 -52.4mg,
  • January 7 liquid taper of Wellbutrin done by compound pharmacist . Same amount as before.
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  • Altostrata changed the title to Francisco Off all meds for almost two years and am never going back

Hi Benesh, 

 

Many thanks for your above reply and wishing you all the best in your efforts to come off meds. For me, it's the day after a very awkward and tense XMas day - I'm feeling quite low but replying to your own response will get my thoughts flowing in the right direction and will give me a bit of lift - something similar to an endorphin high after moderate exercise.

 

You ask above how I navigate when the wave takes me under - I've certainly had to endure a lot of waves as of late and the root cause of these waves seems to be somewhat similar to your own situation. Like yourself, I'm temporarily retired at the moment - I left my most recent job in mid-September of this year. I had been doing that job for over three years - it was very mundane and unfulfilling but after having been thrown in at the deep end, I mastered and improved it quite quickly because the working conditions did suit me - it in fact gave me the opportunity to begin tapering because I felt stable in the job and capable of being able to continue working while having to cope with the inevitable withdrawal affects. 

 

After a discussion with my wife last summer, we both made the decision that I would leave my job and look after our one year old daughter full time when she finished her maternity leave. This decision was motivated by the pandemic obviously but also by the fact that I just couldn't do that job any longer - it was unfulfilling and was leading nowhere. By the end, it was having a very negative impact on my mentaI health - not always because it was overly stressful but because I am just not designed to do a regular nine to five job like that in the long-term. I actually suspect that if I was still taking medication, I could probably do a job like that indefinitely but even if this was the case - regardless of what my family is currently telling me - a job like that simply has no future - half of it will soon be given to some already over burdened colleague and the other half will be taken over by an automated process. 

 

I'm currently looking after my daughter full-time and was hoping to use some of my free-time on the weekends to build a career in line with my natural abilities but so far, that has not happened - my wife is working in a hospital during a pandemic and not surprisingly comes home in a very bad mood most nights, resulting in a lot of bickering between the two of us. She's also making a lot of formal complaints about her colleagues and I in fact have had to use a lot of my limited and cherished spare time proof reading these complaints because English is not her first language. 

 

Last night, we had yet another argument after which I was staring at the TV not being able to concentrate and felt a wave coming - my family wants me to go back on medication so that I'll once again be able to do the mundane jobs mentioned above and even my wife is starting to think in these terms.

 

I felt so demoralized and deflated and that the tears you mentioned above would come at any moment - because of all the negativity I have felt from those closest to me (even though I know they feel they are looking out for my best interests), I felt completely useless. 

 

Then, I started thinking about what I managed to achieve in terms of my recovery from my past mental health issues - I was told by a psychiatrist years ago that I have a condition which cannot be cured, can only be managed and like a diabetic, I would have to take my medication for the rest of my life. Every time I saw that psychiatrist, I paid €150 for a thirty minute consultation (and there was a lot of consultations). Essentially, I was paying him a fortune for providing me with a service which I have proved that I do not need. Every month, I was paying €40 for all these pills which once again I proved that I do not require. My former psychiatrist I have no doubt spent years in university studying and researching the service he eventually gave me and likewise the pharmaceutical companies which produced the pills that I consumed and yet, with my own extremely primitive research, I was able to prove these people wrong. Is there not something seriously wrong with this type of situation? I certainly think so and that is what gave me a tremendous boost during a very dark moment.

 

Previously, I would have gone to bed on a night like that absolutely exhausted, depressed and would not have been able to get up the next morning. However, last night I managed to lift my sense of self worth, got a good night sleep, launched into looking after my daughter once again this morning and am now submitting a post on this forum which in itself is extremely therapeutic. My circumstances haven't changed and life isn't any easier but once again, I feel able to manage.

 

In your above reply you state in relation to your profession that 'you are more than what you do'. I agree with that completely but with regards to my own situation, I really want to start working in line with the talents I was born with - researching and writing. The medication I took probably enabled me to do mundane jobs indefinitely while completely suppressing my natural abilities and thereby preventing from developing a fulfilling career. 

 

I discovered a lifestyle (the lifestyle I believe I was designed to live) which helped me to recover and come off meds but I find it so hard to live that lifestyle given the pressures I'm constantly under. I'm not a revolutionary - I don't want to completely overturn the current order but in order for people like me to live contented, drug-free lives significant change is needed to the current way of doing things. I'm certainly in a minority and most people I talk to in relation to these issues think I'm completely crazy but I believe the following to have a large degree of truth: I'm a very simple person and do not require a lot to be stable and content. If people like me were in the majority instead of the minority, maybe the world wouldn't have so many problems (climate change, global inequality etc.).

 

I'm now about to practice some of the lifestyle changes which enabled me to recover - regular moderate exercise followed by a healthy, primarily plant based meal. Like submitting this post, they will no doubt give me a boost during a difficult time. I hope some of what I have posted above will give you yourself a boost Benesh. 

 

All the best.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Previous Meds taken (Not all at once - Mid 2012 to July2015):

Lamictal, Abilify, Olanzapine, Prozac, Venlafaxin/Effexor

Side Affects: Skin rash, insomnia, worse depression, constipation, intense sweating at night, brain fog

Most Recent Meds:

Cymbalta (60mg), Olanzapine (2.5mg)

Taper: dropped Cymbalta to 30mg for 3 months until end of Jan 2019 - stopped Cymbalta completed at the beginning of Feb 2019.

Stopped Olanzapine completely at the end of Feb 2019

Withdrawal: around 4/5 weeks after ceasing meds completely, my nervous system started to react - felt very edgy for around 3 or 4 weeks.

Have been feeling  stable since - better than when I was on meds,still a bit of brain fog

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Francisco,

Ah yes your words of honesty and encouragement sure do help. I am not a writer or typer so brief responses are what I do best. You are a clear and gifted writer and a good story teller. Anyway I decided today I would wake up and walk..changed it up a bit. Usually I have time with God, pray but decided that at this point movement is critical. God knows how to listen when I walk outside as well.🙏🙃

Caring for your  one year old must be amazing. Talk about learning from an expert on present moment awareness. Babies have that skill down pat.

I will pray that peace, grace and understanding abounds between you and your wife.
Not good when family members or friends intimate a return to meds. A resounding no to that one. My sis suggests it often enough. My hubby reminds me that she can’t tolerate seeing me in distress so she wants her pain to stop as she watches me, so of course she says..please get back on those meds.

Just for today.no way!

During our after Christmas shopping, a store clerk was saying that the store will likely close up..but he will not let anyone steal his happiness. 
ok then I will not allow anyone to steal mine and I will do what I can to ensure I feed myself lifestyle choices that promote well being.

Thanks for your response.

Benesh.

  •  1995 -1998 prozac 20 mg; unsuccessful C.T.
  • 1998-2004 paxil 10 mg ; unsuccessful C.T. 
  •  2004-current  lexapro 10 mg
  •  2009 added drug Wellbutrin 150mg, 2016  bupropian300 mg XL
  • 2019  start taper June-;alternated between 300 mg and 150 mg XL (as per PCP guidelines) until  reached daily bupropian 150 mg XL in December 2019
  • 2020 January-March skipping 1 -4 days in between 150 mg XL then crashed mid month March
  • 2020 March-April resumed skipping every 3 days
  • 2020 April 28 began splitting bupropion 75 mg HCL and taking 37.5 mg am &  pm
  • 2020 April discovered SA and the brassmonkey slide taper; making own pills now
  • 2020 June 10-71.3 mg bupropion HCL (2 pills daily -divided);July 10 -67.7 mg;August 9 -64.3;August 31-61.1;September 21-58.0; October 12-55.1; November 2-52.4 mg bupropion HCL;December 3-8 -49.8; reinstated December 9 -52.4mg,
  • January 7 liquid taper of Wellbutrin done by compound pharmacist . Same amount as before.
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