Saturday, August 23, 2008

Antidepressant Withdrawal Hell

I have been unsure how personal I wanted this blog to get. I guess anytime you open yourself to people you become vulnerable. Online, and I guess also in life, you get the opportunity to either show the world only the pieces of yourself that you are proud of or comfortable with or you can be totally honest and bare it all. Well, I have been inspired by the post of an old friend to share a part of my life that is most painful. My struggle with depression. Since puberty, I have had some tough episodes in life. The most frustrating thing for me about depression is to feel so bad and wrong inside and not be able to associate it with anything that has happened. To be stuck in such a dark place and feel like it won't get better.
We have seen in the past decade or so an increased acceptance of depression as a mental illness. There have been numerous commercials and advertisements by drug companies for their various prescriptions and as much as 10% of the population has bought into those drugs. Brady told me that up to 1/3 of all visits to primary care doctors are for psychological problems like depression. It isn't hard to get a prescription for depression from one of these doctors who have limited training in treating these issues. And the drugs help at times; they really do. I have been helped by them since around puberty. The problem that I have with this is whether doctors have any idea what its like to try to get off these medications?
I guess that brings me to what my issue has been this last week. I have been married for almost 4 years and am 25 years of age and have no children. I live in a town home complex where I am a rarity. Few couples have been married longer, are older, and have no children. It is hard to be children-less around so many couples who have started their families. I have about had it. I Want Children Already! Well guess what... its recommended that you are not on any drugs while you are pregnant. So here I am, the past couple of years, slowly eliminating these toxins from my body and having a difficult time doing it. And no one had told me when started taking these drugs that it would be difficult to ever stop them. I doubt that the doctors who first prescribed them to me had any idea what getting off antidepressants did to people. Here is my latest experience.
There is one antidepressant in particular that I have been on for years and years. I don't remember when I started it, but it helps me get to sleep each night. Well, I've been tapering off it this summer. I went from one and a half to one for a while, to a half for a bit, then to a quarter and was doing just fine. Well last weekend I ran out of pills and went off of the drug. I didn't sleep well the first night and slept the most late that morning. What followed that morning was horrific. My mind and my body went berserk. I couldn't stop crying, my muscles were sore and exhausted, my brain felt like mush, I had diarrhea and was nauseated. I've come to realize that antidepressants are serious drugs that cause withdrawals like street drugs! After spending the weekend in hell, I ended up missing work Monday and visiting the urgent care. I was able to get a prescription for the drug that I had discontinued and started back on a quarter of a pill. It took a day after starting the drug again for my mind to become stable again and it took clear until Friday for my body to get back to normal.
Apparently I am not the only one who was suprised by how hard it is to get off antidepressants. I found hundreds of confused people online posting on bulletin boards about their own struggles. I can't believe that doctors don't know more about this and don't give more warning to their patients! These drugs are advertised as safe and non-addictive and yet they cause so much pain and sickness to so many people who turned to them to get relief. I found a story that ABC did recently on the topic and am glad that the world is becoming aware. Read it if you like at
Anyway, I am just so relieved to be feeling better and feel so blessed to have had my husband there to support me through this.


Keely said...

Mel -
I am so proud of you! I can't begin to imagine the physical and psychological pain of withdrawal. You already are, and will continue to be a stronger person for what you are doing. I too, am glad that Brady is there for you, but wish that you had more support at such a hard time. Love you, Kee

Debbi said...

wow, what a good post, and how brave of you to put this out there! Really! I have a really good friend that has been through the same thing as you, and now she has 2 children and is pregnant with their 3rd, but struggles every day with her feelings. It's such a hard thing and kids only complicate matter, I had postpardum really bad after Gage.

Anyway, at least Brady is home and there are lots of good support there at the ward, even though they have kids they will understand -trust me! If you ever want to talk to my friend let me know, I can email her and see if she would be willing.

ps - no worries about that day at church, your hubby was coming home and you had other things on your mind!

Sarah said...

HI Melanie!! I LOVE your post, although I haven't had an experience nearly this drastic I have had my own little experience being addicted to medications and it just sucks! I am sorry you are having to go through this and I pray that you will find strength to do what you have to do. You are an amazing and I miss you like crazy, wish I was there to be with you but I think about you always!

Jensen's said...


I enjoyed your honest post and I am sure you can draw support from your subscribers. Blogging is good therapy. There are some antidepressants you can take while your pregnant that are safe and I have had friends have to take them while they are pregnant and after. Don't suffer it if you don't have to. Some people have to have them for life and that is fine. Ask the Pharmacist Aunt Pam about questions you have about it. I understand you would rather not take anything, but sometimes that is not the safest thing either if it makes your life hell.

suds2004 said...

Melanie, I was touched by this post. What a brave thing to share something so personal. I'm glad you did. I'll be thinking of you.


Cassie and Mitch said...

Oh Melanie that totally stinks, I had no idea you were going through all of that! I hope it is getting easier and better!! That is so nice to have Brady there though supporting you!! By the way I finished the host, I liked it. It was different but I did like it, and her name was Melanie and it reminded me of you!!

Heather Steineckert said...

We should talk. I've got stories to tell you.