my detox experience written by: padhia
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GETTING OFF ANTIDEPRESSANTS, SLEEPING PILLS, & ANTI-ANXIETY MEDS

I was told by doctors that I would only experience slight side effects in weaning myself off of depression and anxiety medication after all, they are not addictive . I expected to suffer headaches, mild nausea or brain zaps intermittently for a few days or weeks. My experience was shockingly different from what I was told to expect. That was either because the doctors didn’t really know and blatantly lied, or  because of the length of time I was on them and the heavy dosages. No matter what the circumstances, DO NOT suddenly stop taking your medications. This is very dangerous. I have to be responsible here and tell you to consult your doctor, but do not expect any encouragement or to be told anything except things that will frighten you into staying on the meds. Not wishing to deal with this, I went to my general practice doctor instead of a psychiatrist. He is a regular MD, but the type who is slightly more evolved in his thinking than most doctors in that he does not over-prescribe medication and will not give you an anti-biotic if he suspects you have a virus. He also is always quick to recommend vitamins and lifestyle improvements. I thought I would have a better chance of him understanding and I wasn’t expecting support, but I didn’t want to be bullied when I was so vulnerable either. He actually told me that anti-depressants and anti-anxiety drugs are only intended to be used for short periods of time and he often encourages patients to try them for a short period of time, but then make changes in their lives and get off them. I was floored. What a difference between that and my last 2 psychiatrists who told me I would probably need to be medicated for the rest of my life and would still probably never feel “good”. It was cheerfully explained to me over the years that medication is about lifting the symptoms enough to be able to cope with depression. Somewhere deep inside a voice told me that something was very wrong with this. But I ignored that voice ( why would I listen to the voice of someone with a mental illness??), good patient that I was and continued to swallow my daily dosages of whatever the latest Rx was.

So my MD wrote a couple scripts in lower dosages for me, and outlined how long to take each. I had also learned about a company called Point of Return, which provided supplements and support for withdrawal from medications. I began their program. I also began to go for neurofeedback. This was one of those things I had heard of years ago, and it suddenly popped into my mind, so I researched it. There is more about this is the resource section, but in short, it achieves the same result as medication, but it teaches the brain to use it’s own neurological pathways instead of chemicals. This helped lift the side effects of the withdrawal, helped my depression & anxiety, and fixed my horrible insomnia (that I has suffered from for years). It is non-invasive and permanent after a certain number of sessions. And so I began to decrease my dosage further. In the workbook I received with the Point of Return program, it tells you how to taper down your dosages. I admit, I didn’t follow it exactly. All I can say for myself is that at the point you realize you have been ingesting toxic poison, it is really difficult to make yourself keep taking it. Especially when you suspect it is making you sicker and way more suicidal than you would normally be.

This section is about my personal experience, not necessarily what I would advise others, so I am being completely honest. I went from 90 mg to 60 mg to 30 mg (Cymbalta). On 60 mg I was no longer drooling on myself, feeling like I had appendages made of concrete, and sleeping like Rip Van Winkle. When I got to 30 mg, I could feel the air on my skin again. I will never forget that day, I walked outside and felt the breeze on my skin. It was a sensation I hadn’t had in years. That is one of many things the pharmaceutical companies and doctors don’t tell you; these medications do not have driving instructions to your brain. They affect your whole body.

From 30 mg I went to 15 mg and then I just quit. I expected to be nauseous or headachy for a week or so… but by the second day I could no longer stand straight. I was unbearably dizzy, I felt like I was constantly plunging downward without moving. It was as if I my eyes would snap an image and then a second later when I had moved my eyes somewhere else they would snap another image, but my brain had no data in between those snap shots. It was as if there were no skull protecting my brain, and fiberglass was being rubbed on it, and knitting needles with electric currents were stabbing it. These were the most severe brain zaps I had ever had. My peripheral vision was clouded by blackness and I saw continual moving shadowy figures out of the corners of my eyes. The lights were so painfully bright, and sounds were amplified, and there were continual bursts of what sounded like sand rushing under vacuum pressure through my ears. My eyes wobbled in there sockets and I could hear every wiggle they made. The nausea I experienced was unlike anything I have ever known. I threw up, but it didn’t subside. It felt like all of my organs were fighting me to eject themselves from below. I cried constantly from all of this unrelenting excruciating pain. In the evening and the early morning I would feel “webs” of sheer terror crawling all over my back and head and then my whole body. I was gripped with spasms of anxiety. They came over me with the frequency that waves wash ashore. I lived on the 4th floor and suddenly had the worst case of vertigo. It felt like the rooms were tilted sideways and I was going to fall out. I had to crawl from the living room to the bedroom gripping the carpet as tight as I could so I wouldn’t slide out the windows or the glass door to the balcony.

It was after about two months of this, that I suddenly remembered hearing that chemo patients have terrible debilitating nausea, and have been helped by acupuncture. I found a local practitioner and by the time I left my first 30 minute session, I felt not one ounce of nausea that had gripped me so badly it made my bones ache. For the first time in some 60 (?) days. The doctor of Chinese medicine said some very interesting things, which in retrospect were pieces of the puzzle. For example, she said that the mind knows when it is unsafe or the body is weak and therefore it will not allow sleep. She also started telling me about Chi, which I had never heard of before and found fascinating.

Ch’i or qi (pronounced “chee”) is the Chinese word used to describe “the natural energy of the Universe.” Chi is thought to permeate all things, including the human body. One of the key concepts related to chi is the concept of harmony. Trouble, whether in the universe or in the body, is a function of disharmony, of things being out of balance and in need of restoration to equilibrium. She said that in American medicine, the symptoms are treated and not the cause of the imbalance. Now, that sounded like it had a much truer ring to it than the things these psychiatrists had been telling me for years.

I went for a few weeks and then couldn’t afford it any longer. It wasn’t covered by my insurance, though they would have been smarter to cover acupuncture to avoid my costly hospital stays, visits to the psychiatrist and prescriptions. But as I have found out, insurance companies do not believe in preventative medicine.

Of the many things that kept me going through this nightmare was this thought: what the hell was this stuff I had been ingesting all of these years if detoxing off of it could be this bad and last this long? It was frightening and disgusting, and although it was so painful it somehow increased my determination to get this stuff out of my system. The folks at Point of Return were so nice, a lot of them had been through similar situations and they encouraged me, saying that it would be 6-8 months before it would be entirely out of my system.

Things came back a little at a time. The neurofeedback enabled me to start sleeping again. I could eat more than just yogurt and ice pops. I began walking, I could barely do 10 minutes at first without everything turning green and spotty. After weeks of trying I could walk as far as I pleased and was even using little weights. I was beginning to want to do things that I found unbearable on the meds, like go to the movies, the mall, walk outside. After 6 months or so… honestly I was still not quite right. In the morning my eyes were still shaky and I still got the brain zaps, the fiberglass feeling and ear ringing was still there. This always burned off as the morning wore on, just like early morning haze. I reminded myself it was quite subtle compared to a few months prior.

The most significant part of this detox was that the clouds around me were clearing. I hadn’t even realized they were there. I was starting to see myself. I could feel myself. I wanted to move. I wanted to laugh again. To feel joy. To get my personality back. To be me again. I realized how disconnected I had become from humanity and the universe. How I had isolated myself, ever so slowly disconnecting my plug from the energy of society. This was a shocking observation… one of so many. It was as if I was waking from a long dark sleep…

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  1. Lenny
    12/15/2012

    Anxiety attacks, also caelld panic attacks, are unexpected episodes of intense terror or fear. Anxiety attacks usually come without warning, and although the fear is generally irrational, the perceived danger is very real. A person experiencing an anxiety attack will often feel as if they are about to die or pass out.Self-Help Tips for Controlling Reducing Anxiety Exercise regularly Exercise is an effective treatment for anxiety. Yoga and aerobic activities are particularly calming. To learn more about how moving your body is good for your state of mind, read Exercise eases symptoms of anxiety and depression.Get enough sleep Lack of sleep can exacerbate anxiety. Getting the Sleep You Need describes the importance of a full-night’s rest and offers tips on how to sleep well.Eat a healthy diet Healthy eating can help you in your battle against anxiety and stress. Make sure your diet includes plenty of fruits and vegetables. Read Healthy Eating for guidelines and tips. Meditate Many types of meditation have been shown to reduce anxiety. Common types of meditation include mindfulness, walking meditation, and transcendental meditation. Visit Meditation Balances the Body’s Systems for an overview of its benefits for body and mind. Practice relaxation techniques Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and visualization can help reduce anxiety. Relaxation Techniques for Relief of Anxiety Stress describes a variety of relaxation exercises you can practice on your own.Avoid alcohol and drugs Don’t use substances to cope with your anxiety. They can make the problem worse, and eventually will cause problems of their own. Eliminate caffeine Stop drinking or cut back on caffeinated beverages, including soda, coffee, and tea. Caffeine can increase anxiety, cause insomnia, and even provoke panic attacks.Cultivate a support system Spend as much time as possible with people who make you feel good and are emotionally supportive. The more social support you have from friends and family, the less vulnerable you will be to anxiety and stress.

  2. Auth
    12/15/2012

    Thanks for wriintg such an easy-to-understand article on this topic.

  3. cindy Paolicelli
    9/19/2013

    we are kinder spirits I can fill in my own experiences by taking out few words in everything i read . will read you word for word and share thank you.