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arcadius: My road to recovery (Lexapro/Cipralex issues)


arcadius

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Hi,

 

I would like to share my story about drugs I recovered from or I am recovering from. I hope it will be useful to people who come here for encouragement, and it will be useful for me - to take some encouragement.

 

During the years, I have been taking several different anti-anxiety meds (Xanax, Propanolol, Lexapro/Cipralex, Lyrica). Currently I am only on Cipralex actively - and it is giving me hard time to wean off.

 

I was diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety Disorder about 10 years ago. Contrary to experience of many on this forum, I was lucky NOT be initially prescribed with psychotropics (except short term Bromazepam which I didn't have issues to stop after a couple of months). My anxiety was not induced by drugs - it was essentially my inability to accept some failures at the university - I had been an overachiever whole my life and thought that everything is doable if you try hard enough.

 

Before I tried meds I had a year and a half of psychotherapy with three different therapist. I wasn't avoiding drugs and I wasn't afraid of them - but instead was able to tolerate my symptoms and try to work them out on myself. I was stupid enough to think that if you try hard enough anxiety was going to decrease. Of course, you cannot relax by forcing yourself to be relaxed. Eventually, after year and half of therapy, my tension and anxiety just didn't want to calm down and my therapist suggested to try meds. My symptoms were primarily physical not emotional.

 

I saw a psychiatrist in May 2012 and she suggested 3 x 0.5 mg Xanax to see how it works. It was a low dose but it was effective to relax me somewhat. However, as all benzo users know, Xanax lost its power after 3 or 4 months as I developed tolerance. I still felt incredibly tense and just only slightly better then before. I was eager to try something new as I believed that my hurtful tension, which didn't want to subdue, was something 'organic'.

 

So in October 2012, psychiatrist put me on Cipralex (Lexapro, escitalopram). I took 5mg for first few days, then 10mg as a standard dosage. I didn't have almost any side effects from it (except sleepiness). It helped in a sense that I became sleepy after month or two. When I lay down and put some music on - I could very comfortably relax. The problem was that I was too sleepy - after breakfast I had to take a nap again! (I wasn't aware it was Cipralex at that moment; I just thought I need to start drinking coffee.) As I started Cipralex I slowly weaned off from Xanax without problems.

 

Eventually, during 2013 psychiatrist increased dosage of Cipralex (at my request) to 15mg and then 20mg. I felt that going from 10 to 20 mg had more effect on me then going from 0 to 10 mg. Anyway, I was stable, was sleeping (too) well, was somewhat foggy - but functional. When I miss a dose (even two doses) I didn't feel anything - no problems. That left me an impression that it would not be too hard to stop Cipralex. How wrong I was! 🙂

 

In February 2015 there was a shortage of Cipralex for some reason. Cipralex was original brand and I didn't want to use generics. Because I was feeling OK and because I didn't have any issues when I didn't take the drug for a couple of days, I thought that I might reduce my dosage to 10 mg for few weeks and if that passes OK I can stop taking it all together. So I stopped it almost cold turkey. And I didn't have ANY withdrawal symptoms for a month. But then...

 

In March 2015, a month after stopping Cipralex, my mum called me and said that she lost her job. Initially I was OK for an hour or two. But by the end of the day I started having obsessive thoughts like never in my life and my anxiety sky rocketed. I am absolutely certain that if I hadn't stop Cipralex I wouldn't explode in such artificial way, I would be stable.  I thought that I just need some time to process everything. However, anxiety became worse and worse - leaving me with restlessness I have never experienced in my life. I had to walk, I couldn't sit still. But I didn't want to resume Cipralex. I went to my psychiatrist (I DIDN'T ASK HER TO STOP MEDICATION, I DID IT ON MY OWN) to ask for Xanax as temporary remedy. But it didn't help. I had to return to Cipralex - now generic version. I was much better the same day I took a pill. Soon I was back to 20 mg a day. My symptoms stabilized but not on the level like before the cold-turkey (maybe because it was generic). Anyway, I was recovering when a close family member ended up in a hospital. It was stressful and it flared up my anxiety. 2015 was anxious time for me. It was all because I destabilised myself by irresponsible way-too-quick tapering.

 

So because I was so anxious on 20mg Cipralex - I was looking for other solutions, looking through wikipedia page about anxiolytics. I though that the solution must be in some drug. And I thought I found it - it was Lyrica. I went to my psychiatrist and asked her what she thought about Lyrica. She said she would prescribe it to me to try. So I tried. I was fixing failure of one drug with another.

 

During the first month, Lyrica had heavy depressing (side)effect on me. At the moment when I thought that I need to stop taking it, depression lifted - and it seemed that I am somewhat less anxious. But, it wasn't until two months after starting Lyrica that I had 2 weeks of euphoric mood. I thought - this is it, this THE DRUG. But to my disappointment, euphoria weaned, and terrible flu-like muscle aches followed. "I will handle it, these are only side effect, this is the great med", I thought. I felt extremely tired. Every muscle in my arms and legs hurt. There is a Facebook group called 'Lyrica Survivors', you guess why 🙂 People are prescribed Lyrica for non-psychiatric problems like fibromyalgia (pain caused by nerve damage) only to be left with major side effects including drowsiness, low energy and muscle pain and inability to easily stop taking it.

 

From initial dosage of 2 x 75mg I built up to dosage of 300mg + 150mg daily. Every time I increased the dosage I though "this is the dosage which will work".  Every time I increased the dosage I had the most difficult side effects which were settling only after 3 months. There was a timeline - depression, euphoria, flu-like. And then nothing. So by the end of 2017 I was on 20mg Cipralex daily and 450mg (out of 600mg max) Lyrica daily. I was sleepy and tired all the time. Morning was the most difficult part of the way anyway - but with Lyrica it was horrible. After physical exercise I was especially sleepy. But I was thinking: "This works! I am not so anxious any more. If only this depression and sleepiness would go away and I will be healed!" Until I figured out out it will never go away because it is here BECAUSE OF the drug, not IN SPITE OF it.

 

If I miss dosage of Lyrica however - it was completely different story then Cipralex. I became anxious immediately. I remember that I reduced my dosage from 450mg to 300mg for 3 or 4 days because I had a flu. I became unbelievably anxious. It took a month to calm down. 

 

Due to reasons I don't have time to explain here, my approach to my anxiety changed (I was ably to accept it much more), and I decided to stop taking Lyrica. I knew it was going to be difficult. My logic was - it was difficult to start taking it - it will be difficult to stop it. So I went gradually - 25mg per month, with some setbacks. Whenever I reduced my dosage by 25mg I needed a month to stabilise. 3rd week was always the worst. But overall experience wasn't too hard - just avoid major stressors as you are very sensitive in acute withdrawal. I needed 18 months to stop taking it - from March 2019 to August 2020.

 

So I stabilized again and was feeling pretty good actually - much better then in years. I was so tempted to tackle Cipralex again. I knew I had to do it slowly especially as withdrawal kicks in late. Initially my plan was 5 mg per 6 months - but I didn't follow it 🙂 That's why I am in problems now 🙂 

 

On March 1st 2020 I reduced Cipralex to 15mg. I became little bit edgy and anxious. But I was impatient and reduced my dosage further to 10 mg after 6 weeks. And on 1st of May withdrawal kicked in.

 

First I became depressed. I didn't have brain zaps but some weird chilling sensation. Then nausea came. Every morning I was waking up trembling and nauseated (not really anxious). There were also calmer periods when I was feeling dizzy. However, it was a month ago when I developed intense anxiety and I started having problems with sleeping. I usually have good sleep even if I am really anxious. So I started to use some Xanax 0.25mg in the evening and Propranolol 20mg in the morning to calm down anxiety. A week ago I had bad night and then increased my dosage to 15mg. I hope I will be stable again, but I don't plan to tapper any further before next year. I hope I won't need to go to 20mg again.

 

So this is where I am today. As you might suppose - it was a tough day, so I decided to entertain myself by some giving you my story. I am not in too bad place - I have both waves and windows cycling in 2-3 days cycles - but it is tough.

 

I don't have bad attitude toward psychiatric drugs in principle. I think that they help a lot of people. It is just they are very tricky, especially to those who went to them for non-psychiatric reasons. 

 

Will give you my updates in the future.

Hope you are all well.

 

Fall 2012 - Cipralex 10 mg

2013 - Cipralex 15 mg, then 20 mg

Spring 2015 - Stoped Cipralex cold turkey - returning back to original dosage

Spring 2016 - Started Lyirica up to 450 mg (beside Cipralex)

Spring 2019 - Starting tapering Lyrica (Cipralex still on 20mg)

Summer 2020 - Stoped Lyrica (Cipralex still on 20mg)

Spring 2021 - Started tapering Cipralex - 1st of March 15mg; 15th of April 10mg; August reinstantiated to 15 mg

 

Using Xanax 0.25 mg rarely

Using Propranolol 10 - 20 mg as needed (usually in the morning)

 

 

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  • Moderator

Hi arcadius,

 

Welcome to this support site. Before we can answer your questions, please give us more information first. Good that you came here. There is a lot of knowledge to be found and shared here. Also the members can support each other here.

 

Can you please give us specific information about your drug history for all drugs you are on and have been on, especially for the past 18-24 months?  It would be especially helpful to have the details of your drugs in a concise list (no symptoms), only drug names, specific dates (as best you can say for example early March if you don't recall the day) and dosages of each medication decrease or increase.  Please read the link below for instructions.  This will allow us to give you the best guidance.  

 

https://www.survivingantidepressants.org/topic/18343-please-summarize-your-withdrawal-history-in-your-signature/

 

 

On 8/19/2021 at 6:34 PM, arcadius said:

My symptoms stabilized but not on the level like before the cold-turkey (maybe because it was generic).

 

You say this about the cipralex (escitalopram). I guess you did not feel the same after reinstating as before CT, just because this happens very often. Just as we see that withdrawal symptoms start 2-4 months after stopping or after a too big drop in dosage, we see that one does not feel the same after reinstating the same dosage as one took before. After CT or a big dosage change and reinstatement to more or less the same dosage as before, we often see that the nervous system got sensitized. And it may take a longer time to get stable again then.

 

On 8/19/2021 at 6:34 PM, arcadius said:

Due to reasons I don't have time to explain here, my approach to my anxiety changed (I was ably to accept it much more), and I decided to stop taking Lyrica. I knew it was going to be difficult. My logic was - it was difficult to start taking it - it will be difficult to stop it. So I went gradually - 25mg per month, with some setbacks. Whenever I reduced my dosage by 25mg I needed a month to stabilise. 3rd week was always the worst. But overall experience wasn't too hard - just avoid major stressors as you are very sensitive in acute withdrawal. I needed 18 months to stop taking it - from March 2019 to August 2020.

 

You did a great job in tapering and stopping the Lirica! So glad to read you got away from that already!

 

Do I understand you are taking 15 escitalopram again now? 

 

IMPORTANT:

Please understand the more often you go up and down in dosage, the more sensitized your nervous system may get. And the more difficult tapering may get....

 

https://www.survivingantidepressants.org/topic/6632-the-rule-of-3kis-keep-it-simple-keep-it-slow-keep-it-stable/?tab=comments#comment-525233

 

Is there something you want further advise for? Do I understand that you do not want to start tapering yet?

1993    Anafranil (Clomipramine) for a few months. Later in 1993 Paxil for a few months 1993- 2006      No medication

2006   Effexor, Cymbalta, some Benzo’s. All for short periods. Later in 2006 Lexapro (escitalopram) 10 mg and shortly after Wellbutrin XR 150mg, against side effects Lexapro 

Since 2006 until end of 2015: Several times on and off Lexapro and Wellbutrin and several slight dosage changes. Mostly taken dosages: 5mg Lexapro and 150mg Wellbutrin

2016  Dosage change Lexapro from 5mg to 2,5 mg. Wellbutrin stayed om 150mg

November 2016 – April 2017 Down from 2,5mg to 0,6mg Lexapro (in steps) without much problems. Wellbutrin down from 150mg to 66mg. Also without much problems.

April 2017 – March 2019       Lexapro 0,6 mg        April 2017 - August 2018       Wellbutrin in small steps down from 66mg in to 37,5 mg . Quite heavy WD after each step.

March 2019 – May 2019 Lexapro down from 0,6 to 0,3mg then Prozac to 0,6 mg switch because severe discontinuation effects (may also have been from Wellbutrin..)    

Wellbutrin down from 37,5mg to 35,3mg 

October 2019        Seroquel 12,5 mg for 4 weeks because of extreme sleeping problems, then weaning off in 2 weeks       Prozac up dosage to 1,2 mg

March 2020     Wellbutrin in 2 steps down from 35,3mg to 33,3mg   Extreme withdrawal affects during 8 months. Stopped tapering Wellbutrin  until total off Prozac. 

February 2020 – November 2020   Prozac down in steps from 1,2mg to 0,57mg. 

Jan 2021  Prozac down to:  0,55> 0,53>0,51mg,   Feb 0,47mg ,  Mar 0,42mg,   Apr 0,37, longer hold because of WD symptoms July 0,36 and hold again, Sept 19 0,35, Sept 26 0,34mg, Oct 3 0,33mg  

January 20, 2022:  Wellbutrin from 33,3 to 32,3mg

March 22, 2022 Prozac down from 0,33mg to: 0,30mg, Apr 0,29, May 0,28, 0,27, June 0,26, 0,25, July 0,24, 0,23, 0,22, 0,21, Aug 

 

Supplements: Fish Oil (3000mg), Magnesium 100 mg, 2 drops of Lavender Oil when feeling anxiety. 50mg of L-Theanine when severe discontinuation effects caused by Wellbutrin

 

Please note this is NOT a medical advice. Discuss all your medical issues with a doctor who understands psychical drugs and really knows how to withdraw from them. I wish that you will find one.

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Thank you Go2zero for your response.

 

I don't need any particular advice right now. I am here as I feel I can share my experiences and connect with other people, especially in times of great distress.

I am currently on 15mg per day - and I am still not stable - but I am better. I hope I will be stable by the end of the year. 

Fall 2012 - Cipralex 10 mg

2013 - Cipralex 15 mg, then 20 mg

Spring 2015 - Stoped Cipralex cold turkey - returning back to original dosage

Spring 2016 - Started Lyirica up to 450 mg (beside Cipralex)

Spring 2019 - Starting tapering Lyrica (Cipralex still on 20mg)

Summer 2020 - Stoped Lyrica (Cipralex still on 20mg)

Spring 2021 - Started tapering Cipralex - 1st of March 15mg; 15th of April 10mg; August reinstantiated to 15 mg

 

Using Xanax 0.25 mg rarely

Using Propranolol 10 - 20 mg as needed (usually in the morning)

 

 

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  • Moderator

OK, welcome again! And you can ask questions when you have any!

1993    Anafranil (Clomipramine) for a few months. Later in 1993 Paxil for a few months 1993- 2006      No medication

2006   Effexor, Cymbalta, some Benzo’s. All for short periods. Later in 2006 Lexapro (escitalopram) 10 mg and shortly after Wellbutrin XR 150mg, against side effects Lexapro 

Since 2006 until end of 2015: Several times on and off Lexapro and Wellbutrin and several slight dosage changes. Mostly taken dosages: 5mg Lexapro and 150mg Wellbutrin

2016  Dosage change Lexapro from 5mg to 2,5 mg. Wellbutrin stayed om 150mg

November 2016 – April 2017 Down from 2,5mg to 0,6mg Lexapro (in steps) without much problems. Wellbutrin down from 150mg to 66mg. Also without much problems.

April 2017 – March 2019       Lexapro 0,6 mg        April 2017 - August 2018       Wellbutrin in small steps down from 66mg in to 37,5 mg . Quite heavy WD after each step.

March 2019 – May 2019 Lexapro down from 0,6 to 0,3mg then Prozac to 0,6 mg switch because severe discontinuation effects (may also have been from Wellbutrin..)    

Wellbutrin down from 37,5mg to 35,3mg 

October 2019        Seroquel 12,5 mg for 4 weeks because of extreme sleeping problems, then weaning off in 2 weeks       Prozac up dosage to 1,2 mg

March 2020     Wellbutrin in 2 steps down from 35,3mg to 33,3mg   Extreme withdrawal affects during 8 months. Stopped tapering Wellbutrin  until total off Prozac. 

February 2020 – November 2020   Prozac down in steps from 1,2mg to 0,57mg. 

Jan 2021  Prozac down to:  0,55> 0,53>0,51mg,   Feb 0,47mg ,  Mar 0,42mg,   Apr 0,37, longer hold because of WD symptoms July 0,36 and hold again, Sept 19 0,35, Sept 26 0,34mg, Oct 3 0,33mg  

January 20, 2022:  Wellbutrin from 33,3 to 32,3mg

March 22, 2022 Prozac down from 0,33mg to: 0,30mg, Apr 0,29, May 0,28, 0,27, June 0,26, 0,25, July 0,24, 0,23, 0,22, 0,21, Aug 

 

Supplements: Fish Oil (3000mg), Magnesium 100 mg, 2 drops of Lavender Oil when feeling anxiety. 50mg of L-Theanine when severe discontinuation effects caused by Wellbutrin

 

Please note this is NOT a medical advice. Discuss all your medical issues with a doctor who understands psychical drugs and really knows how to withdraw from them. I wish that you will find one.

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