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Nadia

☼ Nadia: There is hope!

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Nadia

Hi everyone, Like a lot of you I am looking for answers and hope while coming off of antidepressants. In November of 2010, I quit Zoloft and Wellbutrin cold-turkey (have tried before unsuccessfully), at first accidentally because I went on a trip and forgot to take my meds, and then on purpose, because I had wanted to quit anyway to get pregnant. I think I do well on antidepressants: I like the stronger, more centered me that I am while on meds. It is only recently that I have started to question the wisdom of taking these pills long-term. My mind is a jumble, so I hope to be able to explain. I have a little narrative I've told for years now, which goes like this: I have always been an overly sensitive person, with tendencies toward depression (my father is the same way, and there are other cases of depression in the family). I was shy, introverted, nervous about certain things that involved dealing with other people. The first time I remember being the type of depressed where you just don't even want to get out of bed was when I was about 10 years old and I went away for the weekend with a friend and her family. I frequently had what I thought of as homesickness (even AT home) or a Sunday feeling as a child. I spent a lot of time feeling unhappy.

 

Many times as an adolescent and in college I thought, "man, if only there was a pill for this pain, like how you can take an aspirin." I finally started therapy in grad school, when I was 24. After a couple of months of therapy, which were very helpful, I asked to be referred to a psychiatrist so I could try antidepressants (not sure where I heard about them). The psychiatrist diagnosed me with dysthymia in order to prescribe the pills. He didn't think I had major depression because I was still functional (whatever that means... though I fell behind in school I somehow always got extensions and didn't drop out of life). First we tried Paxil, because it worked for my sister for her hyperthyroidism-related depression, but it made me to shaky and anxious. Then we tried Zoloft. It made me feel weird and jittery, but I tolerated it. And then I felt better than I had ever felt. I felt like I was finally able to be the me I wanted to be. I was more confident, more sure of myself, less nervous, the quasi-permanent Sunday feeling was gone. I was very unhappy in my grad program, so I applied to others and moved. (I also went off birth control pills, which in retrospect may have done more to improve my mood than I thought.)

 

The only real side-effect I had that I minded was difficulty reaching orgasm (though in the first few months the Zoloft really sky-rocketed my libido). I told myself and was told by psychiatrists that my depression was just like any other physical illness, that I had an imbalance and the medicine made it right, even if in an imprecise way. Being on Zoloft did not make me emotionally flat... but it did make me able to handle more. At first I upped the ante and would get into more extreme personal situations and seek drama... I was so used to being this depressed person that I was re-seeking that identity. But eventually I learned to be a more calm, centered, content me.

 

The downside is that the drugs eventually stop having an effect, and so over the years I tried to find new drugs that would continue the effect. None of the others I tried (Celexa, Effexor) were good. Celexa made me a total robot and I gained a lot of weight. Effexor just felt wrong. I keep coming back to the Zoloft/Wellbutrin combo which is what works best for me. I have tried to go off the meds, but always get depressed again and go back and feel better again. OK... so that is the narrative I always tell, but as I was looking through my journals to get my drug history (which I used to be able to remember more clearly, it disturbs me I no longer remember well), I realize the story is not quite so simple. I don't clearly see a pattern of feeling better while on meds. Maybe it's because I only really write in my journal when I am unhappy (or occasionally very happy). But some of my best moments seemed to be when I was only on Wellbutrin and not taking Zoloft (not that I would say I was doing things that were healthy necessarily). I don't know, it's hard to tell, because my memory of it was that I did so much better on meds. The thing is, now I seem to be dependent on the drugs to feel even the slightest bit normal.

 

Even while on Zoloft and Wellbutrin I'm a bit of a freak. I am still a very sensitive person, I still have strong emotional reactions... About a year after starting Zoloft I fell deeply in love and got pregnant and then ended up in psych ward after an abortion (long story). I was on meds then! At that point I got a new psychiatrist. She said I had Borderline Personality Disorder because I cut my arms when I got very angry. (I think I have some elements of that, but mainly I'm just a really sensitive person who developed some messed up ways of coping. I feel like I learned better ways of coping once on meds and in talk therapy and with something called Dialectical Behavioral Training.) She said I would need to be on meds the rest of my life. I didn't really believe her, but the years pass too quickly and I've stayed on meds almost 16 years now, with only brief attempts at getting off them.

 

Right now being off them I don't even want to live. And it's not like the depressions I used to have when I was younger... then I felt I had more fight in me. And I knew what "me" was. Right now I have no idea what "me" is. The "me" I know and really came to like was the me on meds. After 16 years... I just don't know what I'd be like if I had never taken them. I'm starting to think maybe I could have been taught other coping mechanisms and that I wished I had known there could be a really dark side to all of this. I'm digressing too much... so let me talk about specific symptoms. The last time I tried to go off of Zoloft and Wellbutrin I DID taper (2008), but surprisingly, the results have been pretty much the same. In both cases I did well at first... like the first month or two. I had some withdrawal, but I was expecting it. I felt blue, I felt like I wanted to cry for any weird reason, but I felt like I could get through it.

 

This last time, doing it cold-turkey, I may have gotten a brain zap or two (can't really remember because I didn't know about them until recently), but I did OK. I was grouchy mostly, irritable. Felt depressed. But I still felt like I recognized a sense of self. Now it's been 8 months and I'm worse than ever. Like the last time, I started feeling really bad anxiety. In 2008 it was mostly work-related, and it was so bad that, after trying St. John's Wort and acupuncture and Ki Gong with not enough effect, I started taking my meds again (at first I tried just clonazepam but I hate anti-anxiety meds because they make me feel dumb and drowsy). This time I'm having terrible anxiety, inability to sleep right, total anhedonia, depersonalization (I don't recognize a sense of self), dizziness... the symptoms wax and wane and transform but always to something unpleasant. I think I first started freaking out thinking about whether I should go through with having a baby or not. In the past month it has developed into full-fledged, completely paralyzing anxiety. I feel like I have "experience indigestion"... where sensations stay with me too long and they rot, and everything feels hostile and distant. In some ways it is like what I used to feel pre-meds when I was depressed... everything has that foreign feeling about it like we're headed toward some awful but totally unimportant disaster. But before I used to feel more pain.

 

Now I feel more discomfort. Smells are really exaggerated, for example (this is recent), and it is VERY unpleasant. I have no desire to live, and the thought of even the simplest life-maintenance things like preparing a meal can seem catastrophic. I used to use sleep to "repair" my emotions a lot, but now I have not been able to resort to that. I wake up often during the night, and then in the morning can't sleep even though I try because I feel so anxious. When I try to take naps I feel like I can't breathe right, and that in falling asleep I'm losing myself. I start to have a horrible feeling of dread and if I do sleep, I feel worse when I wake up.

 

I went off meds because I wanted to get pregnant, but now I don't see ANY point to living... it all seems like discomfort and pain. I fear I would have a child and not love it, or not be able to take care of it. I'm questioning everything in my life. Sometimes I start to think I've made the wrong choices, and that I would be OK if I just chose the right things. But I don't know what the right things are. I'm really out of touch with myself. I am trying exercise (1/2 hour pilates a day), stream of consciousness writing, meditation (I suck but I keep trying), EFT, acupuncture. I have no appetite but I force myself to eat three times a day (and healthy foods). I actually spit out chocolate the other day because it tasted so... unpleasant. What disturbs me most is I have no feeling of accomplishment or health no matter what I do.

 

Sometimes I sit in the sun or look at plants or animals and try to feel their life, to feel empathy and well-being, but it all seems hostile and distant and even poisonous sometimes. It used to be that I could slowly spiral my way out of depression by working, doing stuff that made me feel productive, distracting myself, etc. Not now. Still, I do have short moments of feeling a bit better. Especially after acupuncture. Or for a little while after EFT. But barely, and they don't last very long. What is strange is I have always been a bit of an apprehensive person (for some things and not others... I loved roller coasters, for example, but freak out at the thought of making a phone call), but I never had general anxiety.

 

I had been thinking I was just going off meds to get pregnant and then I'd go right back on them to be OK again. But then I started reading about long-term effects of antidepressants. I am so scared that I might have damaged my brain permanently. I wonder if what I am going through is BECAUSE of the meds, or if it is a sign that I should go back on them. Or that I'm unhappy about something in my life (which, OK, there are some things I'd like to be different, but really it is not so awful so as to warrant this kind of reaction). Am I doomed to feel like this forever? I'm barely holding on to work... I work freelance at home so I've been able to hide a lot, but it's starting to really catch up with me. I only seem to be able to work one or two hours a day. (And then I feel like I'm coddling myself and not being tough enough.) I've started saying no to all new jobs so I can maybe find a way to relax and see myself through this.

 

I'm hoping it's true the brain is a plastic organ and will try to achieve homeostasis. I think, listen, brain, I know deep down you want to live and I just need you to get your dopamine and serotonin systems functioning normally. Is there hope? It makes me think of the book Flowers for Algernon... I was going to change my screen name to Algernon even. Sometimes I think it makes it worse to write about this. That I should just be able to laugh it off and that everything is surely OK and I'm just bad-tripping.

 

Has anyone that has been on anti-depressants for 10-15 years and stopped eventually been OK off of them? Right now I don't even ask for happiness, I just want to feel like myself, I want to feel like I can get comfort from a cup of tea, or a bit of sunshine, or a hug. Anything. Just a little respite.

Edited by bubble
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Nadia

I forgot to mention that I got a physical checkup, and they say I am in perfect health. The only thing that was a tiny bit off (high) was my AM cortisol... just slightly out of range. Which makes a lot of sense considering the stuff that has been posted on the forums about waking up with anxiety. At first I battled this with valerian and a few days with Xanax or clonazepam, but now I've stopped taking anything in the hopes that it will force my brain to react.

 

I was taking St. John's Wort and have stopped that as well. I'm not sure if it's paranoia or not, but I think maybe it was making the anxiety worse.

 

The good news is I have had better sleep on a few nights this past week. Last night I slept through a full 6 hours or so, and was able to go back to sleep for another hour and a half. I did EFT (this weird tapping thing my boyfriend told me about which seems totally kooky but for some reason does seem to have an effect) at night for insomnia and then in the morning to be able to go back to sleep. I don't know if it's a placebo effect or what, but it helped!

 

The strangest thing is along with the anxiety, I can feel really, really groggy and tired. So I'm continually trying to fight it off or give into it with (horrible, unsuccessful) naps. I think what I need to do is not try to go back to sleep in the morning and just get active, no matter how horrible I feel. I used to have more fight in me... my tolerance for discomfort is really low.

 

I feel better in the afternoons and night than in the morning in general. Sorry my intro is sooo long.

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ajay

Hi Nadia,

 

I wish I had some good ideas for you. I just wanted to thank you for posting your story because it parallels mine in so many ways, and you describe it so well. I do hope here's a way out of this for us.

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Altostrata

Welcome, Nadia. Your story is very like those of many of us -- the faith in antidepressants and medicine, coping with side effects for years, the inability to make a change because of dependency on the drugs.

 

Allow me to note serotonergic drugs often act as stimulants. This is why you may have felt stronger, more centered, and more energetic at times -- but, in the final analysis, they don't help resolve personal problems that lead to mood issues.

 

Also, when you describe yourself as overly sensitive and unhappy, you may be describing an inborn disposition rather than a mental disorder. The medicalization of human experience has resulted in a lot of distorted beliefs about ourselves, leading to even more feelings of inadequacy.

 

It also sounds to me like your initial diagnosis of "dysthymia" may not have been warranted and you have been medicated unnecessarily for major depression for many years -- also true of many of us.

 

Please read this background to withdrawal syndrome. It may help you to understand your symptoms.

 

....The downside is that the drugs eventually stop having an effect, and so over the years I tried to find new drugs that would continue the effect. None of the others I tried (Celexa, Effexor) were good. Celexa made me a total robot and I gained a lot of weight. Effexor just felt wrong. I keep coming back to the Zoloft/Wellbutrin combo which is what works best for me. I have tried to go off the meds, but always get depressed again and go back and feel better again....

When SSRIs stop working, it's thought to be a condition of maximal downregulation of the serotonin receptors. Because they can't shrink any more, an increase in dosage or other SSRIs work only for a short time, and poorly. Then you are on your way to what is called "treatment-resistant depression." The mechanism is thought to be "oppositional tolerance" (See this blog article by Robert Whitaker; it contains links to the papers it discusses.

 

When you went off the meds before, you were probably experiencing withdrawal syndrome rather than relapse, in the sense that your serotonin receptors were downregulated for an extended period, leading to the "depression."

 

When you get to the level of poop-out, you are d*mned if you continue to take the medication, and d*mned if you don't.

 

OK... so that is the narrative I always tell, but as I was looking through my journals to get my drug history (which I used to be able to remember more clearly, it disturbs me I no longer remember well), I realize the story is not quite so simple. I don't clearly see a pattern of feeling better while on meds....

Peter Breggin calls this "spellbinding" -- an effect of the drugs. I call it convincing yourself that you're doing the right thing for yourself.

 

Right now being off them I don't even want to live. And it's not like the depressions I used to have when I was younger... then I felt I had more fight in me. And I knew what "me" was. Right now I have no idea what "me" is. The "me" I know and really came to like was the me on meds....
From my experience, the kind of depression you get from withdrawal is much more intense and despairing than "normal" depression. Be patient, this will fade in intensity.

 

....The last time I tried to go off of Zoloft and Wellbutrin I DID taper (2008), but surprisingly, the results have been pretty much the same. In both cases I did well at first... like the first month or two. I had some withdrawal, but I was expecting it. I felt blue, I felt like I wanted to cry for any weird reason, but I felt like I could get through it. This last time, doing it cold-turkey, I may have gotten a brain zap or two (can't really remember because I didn't know about them until recently), but I did OK. I was grouchy mostly, irritable. Felt depressed. But I still felt like I recognized a sense of self....
That's a good description of initial withdrawal symptoms. Many of us have experienced symptoms getting worse after an initial period of "conventional" withdrawal.

 

....Now it's been 8 months and I'm worse than ever. Like the last time, I started feeling really bad anxiety....This time I'm having terrible anxiety, inability to sleep right, total anhedonia, depersonalization (I don't recognize a sense of self), dizziness... the symptoms wax and wane and transform but always to something unpleasant.
Waves of unprecedented melancholia and anxiety are common in withdrawal syndrome. Sleep problems, anhedonia, and depersonalization are also typical. Ordinary activities seem too complicated to handle. One may become hypersensitive to sounds, light, movement, touch, or odors.

 

....I think I first started freaking out thinking about whether I should go through with having a baby or not....
Are you pregnant?

 

....When I try to take naps I feel like I can't breathe right, and that in falling asleep I'm losing myself. I start to have a horrible feeling of dread and if I do sleep, I feel worse when I wake up....
The sleep problems often manifest as a feeling of fear or dread upon falling asleep. This is a hypersensitive alerting system at work.

 

....Still, I do have short moments of feeling a bit better. Especially after acupuncture. Or for a little while after EFT. But barely, and they don't last very long....
This is "normal" for withdrawal, and a good sign your nervous system still has the capacity to balance. This will come in waves and lurches, over time.

 

....I've started saying no to all new jobs so I can maybe find a way to relax and see myself through this. I'm hoping it's true the brain is a plastic organ and will try to achieve homeostasis. I think, listen, brain, I know deep down you want to live and I just need you to get your dopamine and serotonin systems functioning normally....
This is a good idea. Make it a project to reduce stress so neuroplasticity can do its work.

 

....I want to feel like I can get comfort from a cup of tea, or a bit of sunshine, or a hug. Anything. Just a little respite.
Do not stop doing things that will make you feel better. On a neurological level, they are calming. Eventually, you will be able to feel them on a conscious level.

 

I forgot to mention that I got a physical checkup, and they say I am in perfect health. The only thing that was a tiny bit off (high) was my AM cortisol... just slightly out of range. Which makes a lot of sense considering the stuff that has been posted on the forums about waking up with anxiety....

Yes, most of us check out as being in perfect health. Most likely we also have subclinical cortisol elevation.

 

I was taking St. John's Wort and have stopped that as well. I'm not sure if it's paranoia or not, but I think maybe it was making the anxiety worse.
St. John's Wort is a noradrenergic. Stay away from anything stimulating, including caffeine. The last thing you need is more adrenaline and cortisol production.

 

....The good news is I have had better sleep on a few nights this past week. Last night I slept through a full 6 hours or so, and was able to go back to sleep for another hour and a half. I did EFT (this weird tapping thing my boyfriend told me about which seems totally kooky but for some reason does seem to have an effect) at night for insomnia and then in the morning to be able to go back to sleep. I don't know if it's a placebo effect or what, but it helped!
Whatever works. Whenever you can give your nervous system a break from the withdrawal-induced stress, it will do its neuroplasticity thing and reach for normal functioning.

 

....The strangest thing is along with the anxiety, I can feel really, really groggy and tired. So I'm continually trying to fight it off or give into it with (horrible, unsuccessful) naps. I think what I need to do is not try to go back to sleep in the morning and just get active, no matter how horrible I feel. I used to have more fight in me... my tolerance for discomfort is really low.

 

I feel better in the afternoons and night than in the morning in general. Sorry my intro is sooo long.

This is also very familiar. Your body is tired from lack of sleep and stress but the elevated cortisol from a hypervigilant alerting system keeps it going. The natural decline in cortisol in the afternoon gives us some relief.

 

To restore sleep, you may wish to follow a regimen of regular hours, no naps, low light in the evenings, etc. There are more suggestions in Symptoms and What Helps.

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Nadia

Thank you for your responses, Ajay and Alto.

 

It's probably my fault more than any doctor's about taking the meds. I asked for it. I grew up thinking I had to be able to take anything. My mom would constantly tell me I was oversensitive and I would be yelled at if I felt depressed or angry. I had to put on a good face. She had it worse as a kid... her mom went through a war and there was no room for any weakness "nonsense". I did work through a lot of these issues when I was in therapy... in fact, I thought I had resolved a lot of them. I guess it was just the desensitization from the meds (at the time I just thought I was finally at a normal level of functioning). I always told myself I was stronger than most people because I feelings were so exaggerated for me, but now I don't feel any of that strength (I have a much harder time dealing with anxiety than with depression). I think I'll have to relearn (in healthier ways than I developed as a young adult before therapy and meds) how to cope. I just wish I had the desire to see this through. Right now all that is getting me through it is not wanting to hurt anyone else and wanting to avoid pain and anxiety.

 

I'm not pregnant yet, and I'm doubting my whole relationship at the moment, my job choices, where I live. I have started to think the anxiety has to do with making the wrong choices, that I want something else. The anxiety seems to have escalated when my boyfriend moved in with me. I'm not sure how long I'll be able to afford it, but I think I have to go a see a therapist to talk some of this through. I'm not sure I could make the necessary changes to get rid of the anxiety because of the anxiety itself (looking for a job in a different city, for example). The thought of having a child scares the hell out of me, considering how I am feeling. Normally I am someone who gets a lot of satisfaction from having pets, growing plants, being with friends... but all of that seems like too much work and stress now. So then I start thinking, well, maybe it's the same with a baby... maybe I would want a baby if I didn't feel this way. Or maybe this is my body telling me it's the wrong choice.

 

So this is the hardest part for me... not knowing if I am causing my symptoms because I'm not making the right choices, or if this is just something physical that is happening to me that is coloring how I look at my life. Most likely it is a mix... I keep thinking a couple of months ago I was better, I even had moments of optimism.

 

Today I woke up really, really anxious. I think it's because I didn't work yesterday. The EFT that worked yesterday only marginally worked today. I have acupuncture later this afternoon, I'm hoping for that. I know I will feel better if I work, and I'm about to start trying, but I feel pretty paralyzed by the anxiety.

 

I'm tempted to go back on Zoloft, particularly since my side effects were really low and I hadn't reached the "poop out" you described. But it's only a matter of time, I guess. And what if next time is even worse (though I can't even conceive worse right now)? Here I thought everything was fine, and now I've woken up into a nightmare.

 

Thank you for the suggestion to do calming things even if consciously I get no pleasure from them. It is good to know it helps anyway.

 

I will read up on the links. I think what was most surprising for me is that I thought withdrawal would be in the first couple of months, and so this must be something else. I even had a doctor tell me it was not likely my new symptoms had to do with withdrawal as too many months had passed. It was only by reading posts on this site that I started realizing it was all connected and that other people have gone through the same or worse.

 

I will post any progress I have, or if I find something helpful.

 

Thanks again for your help and kindness.

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Altostrata

Nadia, do not blame yourself. This only adds to the stress. We all went willingly to the doctor and willingly took the medications. We all drank the Kool-Aid.

 

This is true of all the 60+ million people on antidepressants. Very few of them were forcibly medicated.

 

Right now, don't try to make big life decisions. Figure out what you need to do to take care of yourself day to day. Don't push yourself as you would normally do to reach for big goals.

 

Try to focus on your work. It will take your mind off your symptoms, plus you'll get it done and not feel anxious about it. Then do what you can to slow down as far as your work goes.

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Nadia

Just a quick update to say I am feeling MUCH better after acupuncture. I'm not sure if it does much for my depression, which is probably more complicated, but it seems to do wonders for my anxiety. I had a big work meeting afterwards and it went really well since I was feeling much calmer. I hope it's true that over time I have to go less and less (right now I am going twice a week) and that it will have a more lasting effect. Right now it only seems to help for a day or so. If anyone else has experience with acupuncture for this stuff I'd love to hear about it.

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Nadia

Nadia, do not blame yourself. This only adds to the stress. We all went willingly to the doctor and willingly took the medications. We all drank the Kool-Aid.

 

This is true of all the 60+ million people on antidepressants. Very few of them were forcibly medicated.

 

Right now, don't try to make big life decisions. Figure out what you need to do to take care of yourself day to day. Don't push yourself as you would normally do to reach for big goals.

 

Try to focus on your work. It will take your mind off your symptoms, plus you'll get it done and not feel anxious about it. Then do what you can to slow down as far as your work goes.

 

Thanks for the very sound advice. The part I'm having the hardest time with is the not making big life decisions... in particular regarding having a baby. I'm 41 as of tomorrow and the doctor told me if it's going to happen it needs to happen as soon as possible. But I'm trying to ignore it and wait at least a couple more months... like other people have told me, I could still adopt in the future if I really wanted a child.

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Altostrata

Women in their 40s get pregnant all the time, just not as often as women in their 20s.

 

I had similar good experiences with acupuncture. I found it quite effective for anxiety, pulse rate, blood pressure, etc. Acupuncture can gently guide the nervous system back to normal. Just make sure the acupuncturist doesn't do anything that's stimulating -- we need calming, not stimulating.

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Nadia

I'm starting to notice a definite pattern: awful waking up, anxiety... then by mid afternoon I'm feeling exhausted and groggy and really depressed and estranged from everything. Dizzy and generally unwell (even physically). Then later afternoon, especially if I go to acupuncture, I feel better (on the better days). Not happy, but not anxious and more CENTERED. The world starts seeming like maybe it could be an OK place and I can even feel like I'm a worthwhile human being and that there is hope. I am able to absorb whatever is good in my environment more... sometimes in really small ways, but still significant.

 

I think the biggest challenge is trying to do something about the depression side without negatively affecting the anxiety side.

 

And having the self-discipline not to stay in bed once I can't sleep anymore and to do all the things I need to do to feel OK, like exercise and stay out of bed and eat (I do not enjoy food at all lately but seem to be constantly hungry so it requires discipline).

 

Alto... when you say you had similar results from acupuncture, did you mean it also didn't seem to do much for your depression side?

 

Then again, I'll take depression over anxiety any day! Heh heh... as long as I can fall asleep and forget the world I can cope. Oh, sleeeeep... you were my primary drug of choice...

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Altostrata

I found acupuncture to be more obviously effective for the symptoms that come from the alerting system.

 

One thing to keep in mind is the depression you are feeling may be what we call "neuro-emotion" (© Healing). This is signalling that comes from a dysregulated autonomic nervous system and may not be your own "true" emotional state.

 

In withdrawal syndrome, neuro-depression and neuro-anxiety come in waves with no apparent trigger. Over time, they will gradually fade away.

 

The techniques to manage neuro-depression, however, are the same as with "true" depression, so you are building life skills that will help you when you have recovered from withdrawal syndrome.

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Eliotsmum

Hi Nadia: Your story sounds similar to my life. I hhave been off Pristiq for 3 months now, and am just feeling the morning anxiety. It's SCAREY! It reminds me of how I felt just before I started taking SSRI's 12 years ago, like I'm loosing control again. I felt absolutely horrible this morning, stomach in a knot feeling hopeless, crying uncontrollably, my partner and I put our cloths on and went for a 25 minute walk. It was a struggle at first then I can feel myself feeling better and better. I was a 3/10 when we started, I was a 6/10 when we finished. I am even feeling better now. (oops, I did take a 1/2 a clonazapam pill) Sorry, I just felt I needed it......I'm scared this willl go on and on. They never told me it would be like this....But I'm getting dressed and going to work. Alto, I really appreciate your kind words and wisdom. You realize you are making a difference too people right!....Thank you...

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Nadia

Hi Elliotsmum! Thanks for your response.

 

I was just about to ask that on the forum... how much time passed for people going off SSRIs before they started getting this morning anxiety. For me it was a few months. I wish I had written down when it happened, but I'm thinking it was about 4 months after quitting. Today I have it soooo bad. I just did my pilates and meditation (not very good at the meditation yet) and I'm still having these waves of... don't even know how to describe it. Palpitations and sweating, or so it feels, not sure if it is going on "on the outside". I tried EFT to no avail as well. Since I never had this type of anxiety before going off meds (I had fear and felt anxious, but not in the morning and not in such a generalized, unfocused way), I'm not sure how to pin it down. It most reminds me of times I've been really ill to my stomach with diarrhea and those waves of shivering almost when you feel like you can't really hold on to your body or yeah... losing control. I'm dealing with it by just trying to feel it, really experience it, but maybe I am not accepting and inviting it enough for it to go away. I think I must be rejecting it because I started feeling suicidal again, like, "I can't take this anymore"... which is rejection at base. It's so hard to feel hope, and I am not a patient person with myself. I go back and forth between "this can't be happening to me", "I can beat this" to total despair. What I need is acceptance. I find myself questioning everything, wondering if going off meds is really the cause, or if it is something in my life that I need to change.

 

I think the walking is key... a lot of people here emphasize it. As soon as I can I am going to go for a walk! It was raining and grey in the morning and I stupidly didn't get out of bed when I woke up and just stubbornly lay there for hours. I really need to work on my self-discipline.

 

I should also mention I went to a combination ayurvedic/allopathic doctor yesterday. I was looking for some hope, but instead I got "I can give you some supplements that will help, but you have to heal yourself. And maybe you DO need to be on psychiatric meds." It was that last part that really got me down. He gave me a valerian and other calming herbs combination. I thought not to take it, as just a couple of days ago I had decided not to take ANYthing to try to get my body to find its own balance, but then I thought... man, I spent the money to go to this doctor, why not give it a try. It hasn't helped so far, so I'm really wondering if I should keep taking the herbs or not. Maybe it's a cumulative effect. I have tried taking Xanax and clonazepam before, and it helped temporarily some of the times, but I felt maybe it was just delaying healing. Other times I think stopping the anxiety in its tracks stops the cycle. But maybe that is only for a situation or emotion-caused anxiety.

 

The mind is so powerful, but it has a mind of its own! I have been thinking of looking into hypnotherapy. I don't know that I would let myself be hypnotized, but I would love to have someone get in there and calm my brain down!

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Sam

Hi Nadia,

 

I am so sorry that you are suffering and having so much pain. I would not give up though. Please explore all avenues of healing and getting better, massage, talk therapy, yoga, running, learning about foods that boost your emotions, anything but going back on the evil effects of antidepressants.

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Nadia

Thanks for the encouragement, Sam!

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Altostrata

Nadia, the early-morning anxiety you describe sounds like the very same many of us have experienced as a part of withdrawal syndrome.

 

Often herbs and mixed supplements contain substances that might set off symptoms, so please use them with care. Try only a very little at first to see how you react.

 

Most of us become hypersensitive because of withdrawal syndrome and react to things that people with normal autonomic nervous systems would not react to.

 

Many of us have also occasionally used benzos for the symptoms. There are three risks with benzos: they might set off a paradoxical reaction, they might go paradoxical themselves, or if you use them too often you might develop a physical dependency on them -- and tapering off benzos is very difficult.

 

Shutting out the morning light may reduce that early-morning anxiety and help you sleep a little more in the morning, with little risk. Getting good sleep helps our nervous systems heal.

 

We can't say how long withdrawal syndrome lasts. It's different for everyone. Hang in there, it will get better.

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Nadia

Yes... I think I'm going to go "against doctors orders" on this one. Especially since it didn't help at all today. In fact, I was worse today. I didn't like what I read about valerian... I think it could be the same problem in the end. I think I need to get to some baseline, or as close as possible, before experimenting any more.

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Nadia

I'm having a really dark moment right now... I made the "mistake" of reading some of the stuff from Dr. Stuart Shipko. I'm having such a bad day that I feel like I can't handle another day of this, let alone 5 years!! I feel like I am in a huge nightmare.

 

It's so hard to find that right balance of acceptance and hope. I guess I'm going through the denial phase. Maybe I don't have discontinuation syndrome! Maybe I'll get better faster than anyone else! I am so, so, so scared, and obviously that cannot help.

 

I worry about how much of my symptoms are self-perpetuating. How worry about not getting better will contribute to not getting better. I have to somehow accept my current situation and not expect anything at once.

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Altostrata

Nadia, everyone is different. Some people recover after a matter of months. Some people turn the corner at around 2 years. Some people take longer.

 

What we need to accept is our nervous systems have taken a beating, and do what we can to help them recover. It's so hard, I know, to accept there's no defined solution, which is something we've come to expect from medicine -- and ordinarily get.

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ajay

Hi Nadia,

 

A few things really jumped out at me from your posts.

 

"I'm not sure I could make the necessary changes to get rid of the anxiety because of the anxiety itself (looking for a job in a different city, for example). The thought of having a child scares the hell out of me, considering how I am feeling. Normally I am someone who gets a lot of satisfaction from having pets, growing plants, being with friends... but all of that seems like too much work and stress now."

This describes my state of mind perfectly. The things I used to love now seem like hard work and I don't have the energy for them. I'm in midlife crisis. I have made poor choices in my career. This fact has come into strong focus since going off the drugs. I figured that the keen awareness of my situation was from coming out of the Zoloft haze, and that truth was causing the despair. It didn't occur to me that withdrawal might be blowing that despair out of proportion, too.

 

"how much time passed for people going off SSRIs before they started getting this morning anxiety?"

I was off meds for about 3 months before I had a crash-and-burn episode where my anxiety level went through the roof. It seemed like a switch was flipped, I couldn't sleep, and I've had very few good nights of sleep since then.

 

"I think the biggest challenge is trying to do something about the depression side without negatively affecting the anxiety side."

 

Agreed. The things that help the depression seem to keep me from sleeping. I'm pretty sure the lack of sleep is an anxiety/cortisol problem.

 

 

 

I am so sorry about the dark moments. I haven't figured out to get through them. A new trick I'm trying is to imagine a happy version of myself based on the things I used to love, and then see that as the future.

 

 

I've had pretty good luck with acupuncture, also.

 

There is a line from my meditation class that I like: "There is more right with you than wrong with you."

I think this is true for you, Nadia.

 

About having a baby: Is this something you really wanted, but your feelings changed after going off the meds? Or did you go off the meds just in case you decided to get pregnant?

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Eliotsmum

Hi Nadia: Its difficult and scarey, when we don't expect to feel like this afte stopping SSRI's. Your body is searching for the drug, and it's not there. This is normal to feel out of sorts, but we are all capable of reaching for help. Please reach for a counsellor or friend to lean on while you recover. Don't try to do this alone. I am also fighting the feeling of being out of control. But, when I get my butt out of bed and go for a walk, (I also listen to my ipod with uplifting classical music, because I hear that helps create happy brain chemicals) I do feel better. So, as Deepak Chopra said on Dr Oz last night, we do have control of our bodies. I am going to a counsellor, walking, trying acupuncture, and I believe they are helping. I'm not saying it's easy. I woke up yesterday crying and wth a knot in my stomach. But the morning walk helped me through that. I have to believe I can do this, and I think you can too. Stay strong and reach for help, please........

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Nadia

Thanks Alto, Ajay, and Eliotsmum for your support!! I can't tell you how much it means to me. I've been having such a bad couple of days that I'm like a dog chewing its own paw off.

 

I didn't sleep at all last night and was having these really weird waves of panic/anxiety/something. This is the worse it has been for me this whole time... may heart would beat faster, I felt like a cold fire was going through my body. I fell asleep fine, repeating "I will sleep long and deep and wake up feeling refreshed"... and then about an hour later I woke up with a terrible feeling of dread... and then those rushes of whatever it is. This time it was the most "physical" it has ever been. And it's strange how they lasted in waves over and over and over (still now, but much weaker). I wonder if I timed them if there would be a regular pattern. What is so scary about all of this is not knowing what is happening. It's not like a headache or a fever and that feeling of "oh, yeah, I'm getting the flu".

 

Last night I enlisted my mom's help... I told her I needed her to help me with the self-discipline of getting out of bed and going for a walk in the morning. So even though I literally felt like it was going to kill me, at 7:30 I joined my mom for a walk and stuck with it though I felt like I was going to pass out. Then I ate breakfast and was feeling so weak that I decided to try to stay in bed before doing my yoga/pilates (I do it alone but I think I should enroll in a class for more distraction).

 

Here's something interesting... if I fully lay down, I would get the waves of panic/fire and dread much stronger, so I tried leaning back on some pillows and bending my knees so my feet were flat on the bed. I turned on the fan in the bathroom to get some white noise and that helped too (I'm looking into getting a noise machine). I was able to get what I would call some "proxy" sleep, heh heh. Not fully asleep, but dozing off. And it relaxed me enough that I then was able to do a light version of the exercise and now try to continue my day. I feel really weak and dizzy, and still anxious, but I'm hanging in there. I go back and forth a lot in my head about whether it would be better if I had to work outside of the house (so as not to be able to coddle myself) or if what I need is a break. In any case, I made up yet another excuse for the main project I'm working on now. I said I had a really bad reaction to the amoeba medicine I took (which is not untrue) and needed the weekend to recover (there usually is no such thing as a day off in my field). I'm hoping that will help me minimize the anxiety I feel about my deadlines. What can they say! I'm sick! And my client knows I usually work insane hours to get things done so, even though he is extremely demanding, hopefully this will keep him at bay for a bit.

 

In reference to some of what you guys have said:

 

Eliotsmum: What kind of classical music do you think works best? I have tried to listen to music, but have trouble listening to just about anything. I was thinking Mozart or Chopin might be soothing enough (some classical music I'm finding just too extreme! Like... forget Beethoven, Wagner, etc.). Also, I'm looking into the counselor, getting some referrals. I haven't been to counseling since 2006 and I'm scared about the money, but I think I really do need it.

 

Ajay: Midlife crisis in full force here! I turned 41 on Wednesday, and I have had tons of doubts and fears about what I did with my life. I spent too much time getting advanced degrees and not advancing my career. I have/had creative aspirations that I have buried so I feel like a failure (even though everyone points out to me my successes). The baby thing... I've had my doubts, because I wanted to be in a different city and more advanced in my career and as a person before going through with it, but get this... I left a relationship I was in with a guy I was really in love with, but who was not ready to have children, in order to start a relationship with someone who was (an oversimplification perhaps, but true). This is a big can of worms and I'm afraid spending time at the computer too much is making me feel worse (especially if it's indulging myself in this stuff and not working, heh heh)... so maybe I can say more later. But basically the ONLY reason I went off meds was because I didn't want to affect the baby and I was planning on getting pregnant. But the timing of it and with who and everything have more to do with feeling like this is my last chance to have my own (early menopause runs in my family and I've started to feel subtle changes in my cycles). But at the same time, I'm not a huge "I love all children" type of person. It was never a priority... I just think I'll be sad if I never have one. Or I did feel that until recently. Lately I'm just so freaked out about the whole thing I don't know. I still suspect that my anxiety is my body saying "don't do it!" Here is where I really need to go to counseling and talk this through with an objective party. What you say:

 

"I figured that the keen awareness of my situation was from coming out of the Zoloft haze, and that truth was causing the despair. It didn't occur to me that withdrawal might be blowing that despair out of proportion, too."

 

THAT IS EXACTLY IT!!! And very nice line from the meditation class, thank you. Also, it is comforting in some way to know that my anxiety started about the same time yours did, and so long after taking the meds. How long has it been for you, Eliotsmum? This is a recent problem, right?

 

I just hope the severity the problem has reached for me lately means that it is my brain doing some serious readjustment. I guess sometimes we have to get worse before we get better. I send you all a virtual hug of deep gratitude.

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Altostrata

Very sorry you're having withdrawal insomnia, Nadia. It is indeed a very difficult symptom.

 

Those shocks of anxiety or whatever are your alerting system reacting to your body relaxing. It's a danger signal to an alerting system set to be overly vigilant by the neurobiology of withdrawal.

 

Some of us find that if we try to sleep "lighter," we can get more sleep; your instincts led you in the right direction.

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Nadia

Very sorry you're having withdrawal insomnia, Nadia. It is indeed a very difficult symptom.

 

Those shocks of anxiety or whatever are your alerting system reacting to your body relaxing. It's a danger signal to an alerting system set to be overly vigilant by the neurobiology of withdrawal.

 

Some of us find that if we try to sleep "lighter," we can get more sleep; your instincts led you in the right direction.

 

Aaah... that makes a lot of sense. It explains the dread feeling as well. I think I'm going to be experimenting with some sleeping positions!

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Altostrata

The paradoxical nature of a hyper-vigilant alerting system is always hard to grasp.

 

For a while, I found I slept better with the TV on -- it kept me from sinking too deep into sleep.

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Eliotsmum

Hi Nadia: I'm glad you got out for a walk with your mum. For me it gets better and better each time. I look for small improvements and try to be thankful for those.... Try to keep it up, it should help .......The CD I got from itunes is called "Morning Lift" it's in the classics section, it's a compilation of various artists. I have been off Pristiq since April 9. The morning anxiety started about 2 weeks ago. There must be some way you can get counselling and have it subsidized... a non-profit organization in your area or a crisis line may be able to point you in the right direction. I went to the emergency room at our hospital here (Victoria, BC Canada) and told them I was having suicidal thoughts (this was about 10 years ago) and the hospital offered me a series of 10 or so counselling sessions. (My sister in-law told me that the hospital would offer free counselling if I went into emergency and told them I was having suicidal thoughts. I also told them I had a close support group (family) so didn't need hospitalization, that I was being looked after, but that I needed to speak with someone.....)

I'm sending calming thoughts your way.

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Nadia

Thanks for the calming thoughts!

 

Last night I woke up several times, and spent about half the night sleeping upright. All I can say is it was better than the night before that, and that today is better than yesterday. It probably helped a ton that I went to acupuncture yesterday afternoon as well.

 

I went for a walk at 7:30, and then ate breakfast, and then tried to rest in the half-sitting position like yesterday, but it only made me feel worse. I think I was trying to indulge myself, because though I am tired and nervous, I am still feel manageable anxiety. So I forced myself to get up, I did my exercises, then meditation, then EFT with the phrase "though I feel anxious about maybe having to reinvent my life, I still deeply and completely love and accept myself" (with good results!).

 

I then went out on a search for magnesium (no citrate, but got hydroxide at least), phosphatidylserine (no luck, I think I'm going to try to order it from the US and hope it passes customs), chromium picolinate (see http://www.springerlink.com/content/g107xv9n39646531/), and a sound-machine for sleep (got a basic model, looking forward to trying it tonight). Being in the shopping mall made me very dizzy and exhausted, but I'm about to attempt to work for a couple of hours and then I'll watch a movie as a treat. I'll report back about anything that seems to help!

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Altostrata

(Nadia, there are birthday greeting for you here More July birthdays.)

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Eliotsmum

Hi Nadia: Sounds like yesterday was an improvement for you. YEAH! We have to look for small improvements and hold on to those to encourage ourselves. I am starting to realize exercise is one of the answers... see my thread for my latest update.... Lets keep believing healing is possible...I think it really is.... I'm off to work now...

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Nadia

Last night was a step back instead of a step forward, but I am trying to remind myself that these things come in cycles, not a steady upward improvement. I'm still walking, still somehow hanging in there, though I am exhausted. I realize that after I conquer this anxiety phase, there is still depression and "the rest of my life" to deal with, and I wonder if that is somehow also making me hold on to the anxiety (since it incapacitates me to deal with anything but my most basic needs). Maybe I feel like as soon as I'm out of this not being able to sleep at all except for brief light dozing off now and then, I'll have to start making decisions, and that is blocking things.

 

I stubbornly tried to lie down and take a nap after breakfast, all I got was more of those intense waves of horror and anxiety and feeling of dread, along with a burning sensation. So up up up! My nerves are frayed and I am exhausted, but I'm not as exhausted as I was last night, so I have to work, exercise, and meditate.

 

Thanks for the encouragement!

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Eliotsmum

Hi Nadia:

 

I realize that after I conquer this anxiety phase, there is still depression and "the rest of my life" to deal with, and I wonder if that is somehow also making me hold on to the anxiety

But remember, mild to moderate depression can be treated successfully with exercise, good nutrition etc....You may be fine after this anxiety phase. What if the best outcome were to happen? Try to think of each day, or each week and no further than that. Break it into manageable chunks. Thinking of the rest of one's life is enough to give anyone anxious thoughts. You will most likely be fine. As you feel better and better, you will be able to handle more and make more decisions and feel more confident. On Sunday, when we were walking, my boyfriend asked me what we were having for supper, I snapped back, "I can't think about what we're having for supper, I'm trying to enjoy the moment right now" Good grief I though, let me enjoy what I'm doing right now. Nadia, live in the present......the future will probably be fine. What is that saying, "My greatest fears, never happened....." or something like that.

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Nadia

So true! I have to just trust things will work out. Someone recently posted somewhere online: Not everything is going to be all right, but some things will. Thank you for your words of encouragement!

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Nadia

I actually got some sleep last night!! I soaked in a tub of Epsom salts, though not the 5 cups recommended as I have not found them in bulk. I got five little packets (about 130 grams) and stayed in there in really hot water for about 40 minutes. I went to bed at 11:30 and was able to sleep well until 5am, and then was able to sleep in small stretches between the waves of anxiety (now much more manageable, I didn't even have to sit up, I would just stretch and drink water and go to the bathroom every time I felt them and then try and go back to sleep).

 

Right now I am only a tiny bit anxious, more depressed and tired, but feeling a lot more normal. My appetite seems to be better, too, even though my digestion is more messed up.

 

A couple more nights of sleep like this and I feel like I am finally coming out of the horrible stretch. I know this will bring its own challenges (dealing with other issues), but I am so thankful!

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Nadia

Another interesting thing I found... Recently I was diagnosed with amoebas and the doctor gave me metronidazole to get rid of them. I had already been feeling anxious and having sleep issues, but I seem to have gotten much worse after that medication. Last night I Googled it and found that a lot of people mention having anxiety, panic attacks, and insomnia after taking it. One person also mentions "fear when falling asleep", which is what happens to me. Also "feelings of dread and doom". Lots of these people says things like they had never had problems with anxiety or depression. So imagine, if a perfectly healthy person can have a strong reaction to this medicine, it is no wonder that this created a more severe crisis for me!

 

I imagine for others there could be some other stressor involved that sets things off or makes symptoms worse.

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Altostrata

That's great news, Nadia, on both counts. You may be getting over an adverse drug reaction to the amoeba med.

 

Gianna Kali suggests that we can absorb magnesium, nature's calcium channel blocker, in those lovely mineral baths, and this is relaxing and soothing to our nervous systems.

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Eliotsmum

Hi Nadia: I'm happy you are seeing some improvement, the bath was a great idea. Spoil yourself once in a while and take it day by day. I'm glad you found out about the amoeba med.... perhaps that was not helping. Grrrr Did you get a relaxation cd or a white noise machine? Yes, perhaps you are coming out of a bad stretch, stay strong....your body wants to get better

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