It's been a minute since I said I would share about my journey of weaning off antidepressants. I wanted to wait a little longer because these medications can take a while to completely move out of your system and I wanted to be able to give you a better overview. So, here we are!
It's officially been 6 weeks since I completely weaned off my 75mg dose of Effexor and it's been a journey to say the least. You can read more about my experience with several antidepressants and the process to find one that worked for me. You can also read more about how my first psychiatrist appointment went and how I got referred! The spark notes - I've been on more than six antidepressants and pills for the last year trying to find something else to add to my mental health support and finally, my doctor gave up referring me to a psychiatrist whose focus is mental health + illness. Now, here we are,ore than a year since the antidepressant journey began and officially weaned off.
As much as it was a choice and it will always be a choice when it comes to my body and mind, it made sense as the next step in my journey. After connecting with my psychiatrist, we agreed it would be best to wean off and wipe the slate clean so to speak. Start from a more clear baseline where my moods and symptoms aren't interfered with by my medications. Yes, it was during winter which can be the toughest time of year. Yes, it seems backwards if all I wanted was a medication to help. But really, if I could wean off and manage at the hardest time of the year - I would be more confident in being able to manage my symptoms throughout the rest of the changing seasons. For a year, I didn't know what my "normal" was, this was a brand new doctor, and I felt supported enough to take this next step to see how far I've come.
This is key. And so important. If you're planning on weaning of medication please consult with your medical/mental health supports. Weaning off antidepressants is no joke and the withdrawals if not done properly (sometimes even if you do) are excruciating. Don't do it alone. I was checking in regularly - and continue to - with my family doctor, psychiatrist, and counsellor. I even added in extra counselling appointments and made sure to be open and honest with my supports - including friends and family. If those around you don't know what's going on or what you're going through, it makes it awfully difficult to support you. So I remained an open book, with those who needed to know or whenever I felt comfortable, in order to maintain support.
First, aw. Thank you so much to everyone who reached out and asked how it was going and how I was doing. Even if I didn't reply or didn't reply much, it means a lot to hear from people. The first two weeks were unpleasant to say the least. I weaned down over a few days with the consultation of my psychiatrist and once the last pill was complete the withdrawal symptoms began. I've made the mistake of missing multiple days of antidepressants in a row so I've experienced the withdrawal and it is exhausting, so when they came on I wasn't super surprised. But I was frustrated. And so over it. These symptoms for me included night sweats, waking up every few hours soaked in sweat and shaking unable to control it, nausea and zero appetite, brain fog and scrambled thoughts, heightened anxiety and shaking throughout the day, horrible morning wake ups... And I was feeling ready to get right back on something else. But then, two weeks later, I stopped sweating in my sleep, was able to sleep through the night, got my appetite back, less shakey and more focused. Feeling lighter, like I had thoughts and feelings and emotions. I cried! I cried for the first time in a looooong time. On antidepressants I always felt numb, it's what I needed sometimes, but eventually it made me feel like an incapable zombie. So this was pretty cool. Longer term, I'm noticing how much work I've truly done with/on myself in counselling and other mental health supports. I feel very confident in managing my depression, however my anxiety and intrusive thoughts are pushing their way through. It's something the antidepressant was clearly helping with and I didn't realize until I was off of it. So I'm making sure to share this with my medical/mental health supports to see where we can go from here. Maybe it's another medication, maybe it's a different resource, maybe it's more counselling and self discovery. As of right now, I'm not on any antidepressants (which isn't good or bad, medication should NOT be taboo). Maybe one day I will be again, maybe it'll be temporary or permanent, but here's where we are so far.
Please know, whatever you're going through, you're not alone. Reach out with any questions below or shoot me an email for anonymity firstname.lastname@example.org!