After 8 years of prescription anti-depressants, I am now 100% pharmaceutical free. The last few weeks, I have been in "detox" hell, with withdrawal and rebounding symptoms more painful than anything I've ever experienced.
My doctors, members of the traditional medical community, have been at a complete loss: inability or unwillingness to identify my pain as an illness; and inability or willingness to offer any sort of protocol for this process.
Yes, it is political. The American "healthcare" system is under scrutiny, with almost all observers concluding that we have created a monster which falls far, far short of promoting wellness.
Pharmaceutical companies are under pressure to make their quarterly and annual numbers. Prescribe, prescribe, prescribe -- that's what they encourage our doctors to do. And the overworked doctors -- that's what they do. It's very easy to put people on to medications. But does that mean forever? What happens if and when it's time to get off?
For those who are still on anti-depressants, want to get off and are afraid of the process, I offer my experience. I am not a doctor, pharmacist or nutritionist or a food studies expert. However, I can certainly do a Google search, (apparently better than almost all of my conventional doctors). I am also very capable of describing what I have been feeling.
First, I do think, as in my case 8 years ago, that there times do exist when prescribing an anti-depressant can be beneficial. I was an absolute emotional mess. My thinking and emotions were very sick to the point that I could not function. I could not get out of bed, take care of myself, get myself to the job. The anti-depressant that finally worked for me all those years ago did provide emotional anesthesia.
However, keeping someone on anesthesia longer than necessary seems harsh. I have not shown any symptoms of underlying depression for about 6 years. After being taught a healthier way to perceive and interpret the world, I was "released" from CBT/REBT based therapy many years ago. Nevertheless, under the care of MDs/PSYCHs, I was kept physically and emotionally numb.
Interesting, now in my detox phase, that I now use words like numbness to describe how I think these medicines work. Physically, this gradual, (fuckingly slow and painful) detox process feels similar to that when the novocaine from a dentist visit begins to wear off. Your body begins to become less numb, and tingling and sensation comes back.
Yesterday, I even treated myself to a shiatsu-style massage, which targeted balance and accupoints. My goal was to get that stimulated feeling back - like novocaine wearing off, physically.
(Can anyone out there with a science background explain the similarities between anti-depressants and novocaine with respect to that numbing?)
Has anyone read books on the topic of "numbing of America" or overprescription of pychopharma medications? Please comment.
One week ago tonight, my symptoms were so severe that I landed in the emergency room at 11 p.m. My head was frozen in spots. I was spinning. Earlier that day, I had to cut short a client meeting and try to make it home. The headache and pain and dizziness and sweat made me feel like I was going to pass out. I found a spot in a Chipotle to wait for a family member to come and help me. She found me in a state too dizzy to make a subway ride by myself. I sat there in tears waiting for her help. I wasn't depressed. My tears were from physical confusion and pain.
(Funny, I've practiced law for many years -- but not personal injury. Those of us in the more business oriented legal areas, with a cocky rating game, tend to put look down on those in personal injury. However, on that day, as I sat in the Chipotle, I learned in a very personal way what "pain and suffering" means.)
My doctor -- psychiatrist -- was very little help. When I spoke with her, she said that my symptoms were "highly unusual." She suggested that I see a neurologist or consider that I was still suffering from anxiety. Anxiety, well, yes, because don't most people feel a bit of anxiety when they just don't feel well physically and the doctors can't provide an answer? I would think that's healthy and rational apprehension, doctor? Overall, however, PSY Doc's advice didn't sound all that helpful. If it was withdrawal, couldn't she help me feel better by just admitting it?
That night a week ago in the emergency room, DAY 5 of withdrawal process, they did a CAT scan, blood tests, urine tests. Conclusion: That despite my symptoms that had brought me there in at 12 a.m. with my head frozen and in pain and unability to focus, I was not "sick" by any medical definition that they had. The ER doctor told me it was "very likely" withdrawal from the anti-depressant but refused to make that conclusion.
(Does anyone with a medical background know why everyone I met in the medical community avoided making that conclusion? Damn! Cause this was a very good hospital, the same one that helped President Clinton this week.)
Five days later, I was still spinning and the head-feeze was still intense. My internist MD made things worse. She said there was "no indication" of any illness. At the suggestion of the psychiatrist, however, the internist offered a referral to a neurologist, or possibly, considering some psychiatric medication. Well, of course this brought out a bit of frustration, quite rational in the circumstances -- I was going through detox.
Detox and Rehab: We see those words all the time. We recognize detox from alcohol, opiates. We know there's "withdrawal" from smoking. We send people to "rehab" for 28 days to get past the physical addiction. Is that only to treat the symptom of cravings? Yes, many progressives do make fun of a certain radio host who can't seem to detox or rehab from precription medications. But many of these substances, created in corporate laboratories, are targeted in their pupose. Giving them up can be a very difficult challenge.
It was almost impossible to finding someone in the conventional medical establishment would acknowledge my pain. There was no one in the conventional medical establishment who had a remedy.
So, I did my own research. Here's what I found.
First, about 4 - 10% of people who try to get off SSRI/SSNIs report extreme withdrawal, as I experienced. Note that my source, Quit Paxil has had over 1.2 million visitors.
Second, severe symptoms can be estimated to last 2 - 8 weeks. The first 2 weeks are hellish, the third begins to ease up. They are just about all gone in 8 weeks. Interestingly, this seems to coincide with what people who quit smoking (and other substances?) report -- right GUS?
If you are going to get off from these medicines, set aside a few weeks to feel terrible. Get the help of family members. Remember -- your home has become a detox/rehab hospital. Unfortunately, the medical/pharmacutical companies won't pay you for your time off or the cost of having people help you clean the house, pay the bills, while you're getting better...
Don't get too frustrated by the conventional medical community. Remember that there are some very talented doctors who are open to listening and taking wellness in new directions. I had a very open, reassuring conversation with an MD who practices physical therapy and pain management, who found my situation fascinating. There are others doing appropriate studies.
Here's some information and links that I found helpful:
Nutritional and Supplemental "Protocol"
In the height of my suffering, I reached out for nutritional sources. I could actually feel that my body was out of "balance" after 8 years on the
Foods that helped:
I'm not a nutritionist, but I prefer nutrients and good food because I trust mother nature more than I trust Pfizer. I believe that food cravings are an indication of something the body wants and needs.
DAYS 1 - 3 - very light foods such as toast. I drank lots and lots of citrus, such as orange juice.
WATER, WATER. GREEN TEA. WATER.
DAYS 4+ fish; eggs with runny yellow; challah or brioche (which is made with egg yolks)
DAYS 7+ "grassy" and "gamey" meats such as duck, lamb; mushrooms.
From research, I discovered that foods rich in choline (acetylcholine) would help. That would explain the craving for eggs!
The last day or so, some greens seem to be finding their way back to my plate.
Also -- a few years ago, those of us who listened to Air America here in the big city found their mornings preempted by "the vitamin guys." In my suffering, I reached out to them. The conventional doctor said something along the lines of "of course the Vitamin salespeople are listening to you... they want to sell yoiu something." Doctor -- what about the pharmacutical companies... no?) Here's what I found helpful:
a very good multivitamin, several times per day; 4000 mg fish oil; add B-12, B-6, folic acid. Also this one, for some reason the "vitamin guy on the radio" might know, really helped a lot:
Detox product.(active ingredients include NAC and ALA).
I'm also taking L-Theanine to help sleep and chill out a bit.
In ending, I do hope you will share any information you can. Please recommend this diary, too, so that many others can see and share. There are people who stuck on these medicines, terrified that they can't get off. We may be "on our own" with this, but you are not alone.
(This diary is not intended to challenge people who want to continue on medication, but for those who want to get off and want help and information.)
P.s. pLEASE excuse my misspellings and lack of editing. I'tm in detox. By the way -- did I mention the insomina????