BLOG (Part 1): Coming Off Anti-Depressants

I debated whether or not to blog about this topic. But I figured it’s a way to start discussion, open communication, get people talking and perhaps hear about other people’s stories.

 

I’ve decided to come off my anti-depressants.

 

I went on a low dose of Effexor (75mg) in April 2011. At that point it had been some months where I’d lost enthusiasm for life, for everything I enjoyed. Everything was an effort. I had to force myself to go to work to entertain people, force myself to go busking, force myself outta bed. And when I wasn’t binge eating or sleeping, I would lie on the floor in the dark in my tiny shoe-box apartment and write depressing songs. It was getting harder to face people, harder to face the day. I decided to nip it in the bud and saw a doctor about it. I was shocked to hear I was depressed. It was hard to admit. Hard to accept. I didn’t want to be given that label, as it seemed so… real… permanent… like it would frame me to BE depressed. I was depressed. Eventually I came around to the idea of pills, along with therapy.

 

effexorThe pills helped take the edge off the depression. The lows weren’t as scarily low. And gradually I started to change my life and feel better. Found love, moved house, tried to find balance with work/personal life, developed some new tools to cope.

 

I tried to come off the meds a year later. I thought I was doing all the right things in my approach to come off them – I saw the doc and psych and had their support, I was exercising, and I weaned off really slowly over a couple of months. But when I got to the point of half a pill every 48 hours, I couldn’t handle the withdrawals; dizziness, headaches, pins and needles in the face, suicidal thoughts. I was most terrified on the day I went looking for a rope. I knew they weren’t real suicidal thoughts. I just had to keep telling myself “This is not real, this is not real, it’s the drugs, it’s the drugs.” But I didn’t trust myself. I was afraid to be alone. I ended up falling back into depression, I literally cried over spilt milk (and I spilt milk a lot), my relationship couldn’t handle the withdrawals and neither could my body/mind, so I went back on 75mg before I could reduce them anymore.

 

It’s been over two years since then. Life has changed significantly. I’ve moved to the country, which suits my soul and personality far more than the city. It gives me space to breathe, write songs, be creative and reflective. I’ve got to know new beautiful friends and be part of the community. I do tours here, there and everywhere and come back to my little bungalow sanctuary in the mountains. My music career is full of things to excite me and help me grow and I’m about to do a live album in December. I’ve done a lot of soul searching, reading, self-reflection, journal writing, and got some new tips and tools for life. And… I’ve found new love! I think it’s time. I think it’s time to come off the meds.

 

I’ve been thinking (and talking) about this for 6 months or so. It seems to be a controversial topic. Some say “Well if you don’t have any side-effects, why come off them and potentially ruin a good thing?” Others say perhaps I’m born with a chemical imbalance and need the meds. Then there are peeps who say “Sure, why not try and come off them? You’re in a good place. You can always go back on them?”

 

I have faith, if I can JUST get through the withdrawals, my brain will find its own balance and I will be able to handle life without meds. Part of me thinks that “you need the meds cos you have a chemical imbalance” is a cop out – A) it’s a quick Band-Aid solution, B) it stops people having to deal with the fact that I might be depressed and C) stops ME taking responsibility for the way I feel/process/operate only to rely on drugs. In saying that, I know there are certainly cases where people are born with chemical/hormonal imbalances and have a far better life with medication. It’s an individual case. I had depression as a teenager and it was believed that maybe there’s a chemical imbalance. But I don’t think so. I may just be in denial, but I think I was just really struggling with stuff teenagers struggle with – grades, being accepted, being gay, family, friends, religion, society, the media, body image, eating disorders, what to do with life, identity, balance, growing up, sexuality, becoming your own adult person with your own choices, opinion and pathway. That’s not to say I’ve got all my shit together, but I have faith that I’ve learned a few new tools to handle every day – like learning to say no and finding balance between work and social life, recognising that many of my problems are how I perceive them, working on finding self-worth from within rather than expecting it to come from external sources.

 

I think anti-depressants have their place. For me, at this point in time, I don’t want believe I’ll need to be on them for the rest of my life. I don’t wanna reside in “it’s a chemical imbalance, just take the pills.” I don’t wanna be tied to them. I don’t wanna spend the money. I don’t want the withdrawals on the odd day I might forget to take a pill.

 

So I am going to attempt to come off them. I saw the doc yesterday. I’ve been prescribed the half dose. This time instead of going from 75mg a day to 37.5mg for a month, then one every 36 hours for a few weeks, then one every 48 hours, the doc has suggested reducing by 75mg over each WEEK. A new plan. And when I get to the end of the 37.5mg script just stop altogether. I also plan to create a list of things to do when withdrawals hit: go for a walk, call a friend, write, sing, etc.

 

I’m scared. I’m scared of the withdrawals. I’m not really scared of “failing”. I think once I get through the withdrawals things will balance out. I could be wrong. In which case, I’ll go back on them. But I have to try. I’m at the point where I just have to try.

 

If you have a positive success stories to share with me, with us, give me a li’l pep talk, I’d love to hear your experience and insight (remembering that it’s an individual case).

 

I also ask that you just… check up on me. Every once in a while. It might be a rocky few months. But when’s a good time to do it really? Life is always gonna be there. But I’m pumped (and scared!) and I’m excited (and nervous) and ready!
Love to hear your stories, connect via Facebook or Email: [email protected]

This is Part 1 of a three-part blog on Coming Off Anti-Depressants. To read other parts see links below:

Part 2: (November 2015) Towards the Finish Line
Part 3: (April 2016) A Year Off Anti-Depressants

4 Responses to “BLOG (Part 1): Coming Off Anti-Depressants”

  1. Al Buchan November 14, 2014 at 2:08 am #

    Jenny, that’s a beaut story. The truth is always the best story. You are brave and I love you. But drugs are drugs. They’re synthetic. They’re like putting a simulator in your system and the doctors are clueless about treatment plans. Seriously. Their approach is trial and error. Try this, but come back if it doesn’t work. Pfft! They’ve got drawers full of options, chests of drawers! Each option lines their pockets and we are mere guinee-pigs funding their new BMW and retirement plan. The pharmaceutical industry is a giant machine that makes trillions of dollars. They make up names for new drugs as quickly as they can. They publish new names for conditions that fit each new drug. They are making a killing, literally! Jenny, your move to the country is the right one. Try researching natural bush remedies. Eat foods that are liberating, drink tea not coffee, get off sugar if you haven’t already, stop spraying aluminum under your armpits if you haven’t already, avoid Sodium Laurel Sulphates (SLS), never eat McDonald’s, don’t drink coke, don’t touch anything with the word DIET in it. Watch this movie > (it will change your life!) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UDlH9sV0lHU

  2. marzipan November 14, 2014 at 2:18 am #

    Welcome back JB. Some of the social media chronically ill patient support groups advise using the med sledgehammer to crack the nut, but then stop the anti-depressant/anti-convulsant once lifeskills fill in the disconnect with an oft harsh reality. Too many depression diagnoses should really be described as ‘adjustment disorder’, our minds being understandably slow to cope with unfair shit around us. A med is one way to buy a little time.
    When we started on Endep (a tricyclic anti-depressant) for fibromyalgia, a Dr mate was really pleased for us that a solution was available. A year after dropping them and subsequent resumption of life’s joy we caught up, and he looked shocked – since this meant rethinking the prescriptions he thought were doing good.
    And though I slag the hypocrisy of Cochrane in my blog at fnmyalgia.com , one of the founders puts a book chapter on the dangers of SNRI’s for download from mentalaz.wordpress.com

  3. BevM November 14, 2014 at 8:16 pm #

    Jenny, we only met once. Your songs touched me, but more importantly, I thought you were just a great person to be around. Your greatest gift to the world is you – all of Jenny – music, that great laugh, your honesty, your intelligence, your fun, your courage, the way you communicate, your ups and your downs, the whole kaleidoscope and roller coaster. I wish you success in dropping the meds, but if in the longer term you think you need help with fine-tuning, at least they’re one of your choices. I’ll be thinking of you.

  4. Monique Kinerson November 14, 2014 at 10:07 pm #

    Thank you for sharing such a personal part of your life. Firstly, you are not alone and you are taking brave steps to do what you feel is right and that is a great start! I love that you asked people to check up on you and see how you are going. We all get so busy with so many things in life, it’s easy to forget and just power on through. I have had a different story related to my undiagnosed thyroidism at the time which impacted me heavily with depression. I really related to your thoughts of knowing deep down that the thoughts weren’t real. I kept saying to myself, this isn’t real. I don’t really feel that bad. Why are my eyes wet? It was overwhelming and for someone who is very social, I became a hermit, quit my business and kept thinking I should just slip away. On a whim I moved to Sydney and finally, after 10 doctors found nothing, he found that my thyroid was completely out of whack and even jumped out of his seat when he saw my levels, i remember he said “I’m surprised you haven’t topped yourself.” It was a relief. 14 years later, I am now on daily thryoxine to keep my hormones in balance and find the right level. I don’t struggle like those days that it really impacted me but I do have days here and there where I know “it’s not real” and my biggest reliever is knowing that it will pass. Every story is different and every person is different. I don’t have the answers, but I do appreciate talking to others when it hits. I cry till I run dry and I seek help when I need it most, from those that ‘get it’. I am pumped that you are excited! My story is different to yours because only you can truly know YOU. I want you to know that you are not alone, that you have impacted others and you have definitely been a source of positivity in my life. I only smile when I think of you and I love that about special human beings! I will try and check in with you, what I want you to know is that I am here. I might be able to help you pass through one of those difficult stages, if only just to think good thoughts for you. 🙂 x

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