Withdrawal: The Dumbass Edition


Right, so, I went cold-turkey off of my meds. I’ve been avoiding writing a blog post because, well, that is just such a stupid thing to do. I felt like my options were either to pretend I hadn’t done it (very tempting) or admit it (urgh, shame, you useless bitch).

Anyway, I’ve come up with a third option: Pretend I did it all in the name of science! Yes! I was testing all things. For you. And so I can now say with absolute certainty: Going cold turkey off of an anti-depressant is one of the dumbest, most harmful things I could have done. It was awful. And you know the worst bit? It wasn’t planned. I didn’t even have the ego to think to myself, ‘Ah, whatever. I’m sure I’ll be fine.’ It just…sort of….happened. I ran out of cipralex. I couldn’t get in to see my doctor. It was Christmas. Shit got busy, and I forgot to take care of my, well, brain. Because I could have gone to a clinic, or, probably, a pharmacist. I honest-to-God just. Didn’t.

Anyway, having done it, I shall now recount the experience. First and foremost, though, I’m fine and generally expect no lasting effects. I am (finally) seeing my doctor tonight, and an hour after that, my therapist.


The first few days were fine. This is like the first few hours or days after a car accident, when your body feels okay, and then you try to pick up a piece of paper and your shoulder is suddenly welded to your ear. For me, the piece-of-paper moment was just outside of a bookstore (this is important, because buying books generally makes me happy). I was suddenly overwhelmed with that punch-to-the-gut grief – you know that one? It’s the morning-after-a-loved-one-dies grief. As internal dialogue, it goes like this:

*wakes up* mmpfs’morning.
Psst. Hey.
should get up. mm. pjs are comfy.
Your dad just died.
Oh fucking hell.

– it’s what I shall elegantly describe as the ‘Fucking hell’ moment. Anyway, it’s kind of overwhelming. It’s hard to breathe (due to having just been punched) and, for me, when it’s uncontrollable it means I’m going to cry rightnow and if I’m not somewhere that’s okay, I’d better get there fast.

So there I was, crying in a bathroom and trying to breathe and thinking, nope, this ain’t normal.

Thus began the funtimes game I like to call, “Is This Normal?”. If, while driving home from work, I find myself replaying various conversations from throughout the day, finding places in them where people might have meant something as an insult, and then trying to determine whether or not it was, and if it was? Is it true? Am I really lazy/incompetent/stupid? -And suddenly, I’m home, which means I’ve spent nearly half an hour thinking about a slight inflection in someone’s voice. That’s when it’s time to play Is This Normal?

And no. It’s not. I mean, I’m sure it is for someone, but not for me.

So, for three weeks I’ve been playing Is This Normal and, if it’s not, trying to control it or at least isolate myself from potentially taking out these imaginary feelings on loved ones. (Because depression sometimes = ‘HEY my feelings are HURT and so YOU must have done it!!!’ which is mean.) That’s okay, I can do that.

Christmas was great – having my family around was really nice, and it was low-key, fun and distracting. After that, I started having plenty of time in my head, which isn’t a great place to be when said-head has just gone cold turkey.

OH. And the DIZZY. Jaysus, the spins were/are so weird. It actually took me a long time to realize that it was probably a withdrawal symptom and not low blood sugar/dehydration/lack of sleep. At least I didn’t get ‘brain zaps’ which sound like the worst and weirdest thing ever. Anybody else? Brain zaps? Sounds super.

About five days ago the full-frontal emotional crazy started to recede. And I’m told that on the outside, nothing changed, which is terrifying because I feel like I’ve been living in a weird tunnel of fucked-up, but I guess that’s what coping skills are for. My partner certainly noticed the change, since he got to witness a lot of the random crying jags and was probably the lucky recipient of a few “I feel badly and thus so should you” moments before I figured out what was going on. (Sorry, honey.) Plus, the dizzy means that I occasionally fall over. (Er…it’s possible no one noticed that. I trip a lot.)

The whole problem with depression in the first place is that if you’re like me, and you’re relatively functional as a friend and employee, all of your depression gets stuck in your home. And that affects all of the poor bastards who have to live there. I’m not really sure what my point is here except to maybe say that at least if you’re depressed all over the place, then your home isn’t a haven for it. It shouldn’t be. There shouldn’t be a haven. If it’s all over your life, then probably, eventually, someone who doesn’t have to sleep next to you every night will say “Hey, dude. You’re kind of a mess.”

The night-stuff came back. That free-floating anxiety that pops up just as I’m about to fall asleep and says “Hey! -” (This is an actual example) “- What if your coworkers’ dog died over Christmas? LET’S THINK ABOUT THAT.” My heart would beat a little too fast and I’d find myself staring at the darkness – not a metaphor – with very wide eyes. Eventually, a few nights in a row, I just got up.

Then I was tired. How many people are more emotionally stable when they’re tired?

I feel like I’m starting to ramble a bit, so in summary, going cold turkey for me meant an emotional roller-coaster, nighttime anxiety, dizzy spells and exhaustion. Experiment over. The last little while has been okay, though I’ve had a bad cold so it’s easy to get lots of sleep (yay cough syrup!) and take care of myself.  The dizziness is gone, which must mean something, right? And I haven’t had that punch-to-the-gut in over a week. What I don’t know is, am I meant to have the anxiety back? Is this something I have to learn to manage? I suspect I can, as long as I don’t have to manage all of it.

I have no idea what my doctor will say – whether, at this point, I may as well just keep going along, or if I should go on the half-dose I was meant to be taking in the first place and wean ‘off’ of it properly. I’m happy with my use of the coping skills that I’ve learned (which include the Is This Normal game) but I don’t want to mess with my brain chemistry (any more than I already have). Between my two doctors and myself, I imagine I’ll have a proper plan tonight.

Conclusion: Cold Turkey = bad idea. (Except in a sandwich.) In a completely different context (think more along the lines of cold-turkey-when-it’s-good, like quitting smoking) this is a pretty great little post:  http://thequestforwellness.blogspot.ca/2012/06/why-going-cold-turkey-doesnt-work.html (h/t to Bayne)

In entirely unrelated news, Sylvia Spruck Wrigley will soon be visiting to talk about her awesome new project, Submitomancy! In the interim, you can check it out on Indiegogo. And you should.



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