Monday, March 06, 2006

Like Sands Through The Hourglass...

OK. Today, one week since my final Effexor dose...WORST EFFEXOR WITHDRAWAL DAY EVER. All the usual symptoms were there, and today? Today there was vomiting! Whoopee!

who commented on yesterday's post, compiled a list of symptoms of SSRI withdrawal.** Effexor just happens to be the worst withdrawal culprit because of the (have I mentioned this before?) NINE DAY HALF-LIFE. Anyway, here's what she came up with, and I've put in bold the ones which have affected me personally, and/or still are:

SSRI Discontinuation Syndrome. It is a medical fact that up to 78% of the people discontinuing SSRIs go through symptoms like these.

Neurological symptoms include:

* Dizziness
* Vertigo
* Lightheadedness
* Difficulty walking

Somatic (bodily) complaints include:

* Nausea/vomiting (Welcome today, nausea and vomiting!)
* Fatigue
* Headaches (In spades!!)
* Insomnia (Ditto!)

Less common difficulties:

* Shock-like sensations
* Parasthesia (skin crawling, burning or prickling) Whoooooo, BOY!
* Visual disturbances (mild)
* Diarrhea (mild)
* Muscle pain (Legs in particular in the beginning, but I knew to take magnesium thanks to finslippy's Effexor Experience!)
* Chills

Non-specific mental symptoms:

* Shock-like sensations
* Agitation
* Impaired concentration
* Vivid dreams
* Depersonalization - sense of unreality and loss of self
* Irritability
* Suicidal thoughts (I just had a few homicidal thoughts about Wyeth Pharmaceuticals)

Shocking, no? It was to me, and apparently would be to many doctors if they'd just bother to find out about it. Really, it doesn't take a lot of backbreaking research. 30 minutes spent at will pretty much fill you in.

Also in today's news: Some of you know, we have been unable to locate Buddy, the barn cat, since we moved over here. So Alex set a humane, safe trap on the back porch of the old place, where Buddy is used to eating, and baited it with Jack Mackerel. Today, he went to harvest his catch. He caught a cat, all right. A cat that looks just like Buddy. A cat that is some kind of a feline devil incarnate, or possibly a puma. Right now it's outside in the trap, actually frightening the horses. I did not make that last part up. We're trying to figure out just how to deal with the situation. I'm not even going to try to tell you any more about the whole puma-trapping incident--I'll let Alex tell you himself.

Want a laugh? Go read Anne today, as she and her husband stage an internet episode of "What Not To Wear--In Bed." Good grief, she's funny.

And visit the new renter. That's all I can make my brain say for now, OK? I've been there, and I'm making it a regular stop. That should be enough for those of you who trust me.

**Thanks to Andrea for pointing it out in comments, and here's a clarification about Effexor, which is NOT an SSRI or an just plays both in your brain, while actual being a Multiple Reuptake Inhibitor. To quote from crazymeds:

"And just as Y is sometimes a vowel, sometimes Effexor (venlafaxine) affects dopamine, but Effexor (venlafaxine) is complicated in how it deals with different neurotransmitters.

Basically, you get all the good points and all the bad points of both SSRIs and SNRIs. And the good points for one don't always cancel out the bad points for another. So while you get the benefits of extra action of working on two neurotransmitters, you get all of the side effects. So you do get the weight gain, sexual side effects and discontinuation syndrome of an SSRI along with the urinary hesitancy, dry mouth and constipation of an SNRI. Whoo-hoo! Although for women the norepinephrine reuptake of Effexor (venlafaxine) will sometimes deal with the sexual side effects of its serotonin component. But only after you get above 225mg a day. And the discontinuation effect is made worse for the inclusion of norepinephrine reuptake, even though norepinephrine reuptake discontinuation isn't that big a deal. Go figure. Be sure to read up on norepinephrine depletion and MAO vulnerability in the SNRI section."

Seriously, if you are taking ANY psychiatric medication, and you have not thoroughly read through the pages and bulletin boards at crazymeds, you are doing yourself a major disservice.


  1. I will have to read back to find out why you are coming off Effexor. My wife is on it and when she missed a day, I want to whip out the duct tape.

  2. {{{{Belinda}}}}} Hang in there, sweets! Remind us readers why you are going off? I know you went on it after a death in the family.

    I am on Lexapro and was SO fearfull of going off (or on) ANY SSRI. My Pdoc reminded me to not put the cart before the thing at a time. She is amazing. Well, that and my trusty friend Klonopin.

    Sorry about the kitty troubles. Like you don't have enough on your plate.

    Just remember that you can only deal with today, today. Tomorrow you will deal with when it comes. XXOO!

  3. Hey, guys--it was just time to come off of whatever the AD happened to be, and I was beginning to have more and more headaches while taking Effexor. For the depression, it did help. I have to admit that. But, things are good, I'm generally feeling good (you know, outside of external influences that would make anyone sad), and when I do feel sad because of some specific event, it passes and doesn't "linger." It would have been easier to d/c if I could have taken Prozac, but I had some bad reactions to that earlier, so just had to tough out this cold turkey.

  4. Don't know if I missed it somewhere, but you do know that Effexor is not an SSRI right? The list was just so that you could compare the two maybe? SSRI w/d is bad enough but the horror stories tell me Effexor is worse.

  5. Hope you feel better! I think the eye stuff (and associated nausea) is what's driving me battiest. It will get better!

    I love the new header, by the way. It's great.

  6. Andrea--you're right, and I've added an edit to clarify that. Effexor is an MRI, which is to say it acts as BOTH a SSRI and SNRI. SO you get the joy of BOTH worlds, especially with discontinuation!! Wheeeeeee!!!

    erin--today was the first day I actually threw up. I'm kind of hoping it's coming to a head now, and will fade soon.

  7. Thanks so much for the shout out, Belinda! I DO have a pic of the tattoo, but I've exceeded my Flickr capability for the month with all the photos of the negligees and stuff.

    Good luck on the drug switch-- been there, done that, and it's HARD.

  8. Uh, this is precisely why I don't take any medications for my depression.

    Okay, before someone launches into the inevitable, indignant spew against the above sentence...I think people should do what they need to, including medication. I'm aware, medications have been a lifesaver for some. I'm a big believer in choice.

    But I'm too suspicious of the pharmaceutical industry to touch the stuff. Ultimately, my unbalanced brain is what drives my fiction, including the humor. I've heard the theory that medication is "you, only better." Huh.

    Given what I've been reading on various blogs and LJs, I'm think my phobia has saved me some trouble.

    Hope you find the correct kitty and...I dunno?--find a home for psycho kitty.

  9. I went & read that Crazymeds site & am glad I did. Fortunately, the meds I'm taking are workign okay, I will just have to be careful when I discontinue them. (if ever)
    My gosh Belinda, it sounds as though you've been thru a living hell. I hope this misery ends for you soon. You are in my prayers bigtime!

  10. Hey, guess what? I feel TONS better today!

    Pat, you have a point, to a degree and to your individual situation. If your particular "imbalance" or whatever is bearable to you AND those with whom you share your life, then I totally agree with your position. The only time I'd argue is if we're talking about a situation where the "sick" person is not capable of insight and/or literally can't function as a stable person without meds. For many people with severe depression, bipolar I, schizophrenia, and all manner of psychoses, the "option" of being med-free is just not a workable one. Alex, for example, has to take a pretty heavy medication load to maintain stability. AND, compared to what I've been through, um, he's been there, done that SEVERAL times and dealt with worse side-effects on his way to just the right "cocktail." Even now, he's dealing with damage done to his thyroid by a medication he took for a year. But he has no choice--his is not a form of BP disorder that can just be "muscled through" without medication. We have good doctors and good (as good as can be at this point in time, anyway) medication--along with Alex's tremendous motivation and dedication to staying healthy and stable--to thank for the fact that we still have a marriage and a family of our own. Do I hope they (the meds) keep getting better? Yes. Would I EVER want to have to live without them? NO.

    I hope I've not frightened anyone off of psychiatric medications, because that is not my intent. I only wound up on Effexor because I couldn't tolerate the 2 or 3 things we tried first. AND I'm having so much trouble with withdrawal partly because the drugs that are normally prescribed to ease the transition are drugs that I've had trouble with, as well.

    There was a time in my early 20's, and another time about 5 years ago, when I took ADs for a while. I had ZERO side effects from any of them. But now I'm older, I've had a baby, and things have changed.

    And Pat--if you're only as crazy as what you show? Then that's a nice "crazy." ;-)

    Jane, thank you. Listen, that guy that does the crazymeds site--he is amazing. He is epileptic, bipolar I, and has asperger's syndrome (a form of autism), among other things. I admire him tremendously. All the contributors to the crazymeds site ARE psychiatric patients who are taking these medications, and know what they're talking about.

    And while I needed the Effexor, it really did handle the depression. Did a nice job. Alex's medications are doing a fantastic job of treating bipolar disorder--what we have to watch with him is the toll they may or may not take on his physical body. But go without them? He just can't. And you are so level-headed, empathetic, eloquent, and caring...whatever you're doing must be working very well, indeed.

    But yes--everyone check the "experience" on the (be sure not to go to bad site) site, because doctors mean well, but in most cases they haven't taken, or discontinued, these drugs.

  11. And now I'm scared as hell to ever go off my paxil.

  12. I used to be on prozac but went off it when after 6 years it never really helped lool... I went cold turkey even tho everyone warned me... I was lucky I didn't have horrible side effects tho, that was dangerous and I'm never doing it again. Hope you feel better soon!

  13. QOS--I think Paxil is one of the things they give to "ease" the Effexor withdrawal, so maybe it won't be so bad. Nothing has as long a half-life as Effexor, I don't think. But hey--nobody says you have to get off that Paxil, baby!

    Crystal--thanks! Actually, Prozac has a half-life of 4 hours. HOURS! So you shouldn't have had any trouble discontinuing that. When I took it in my 20's, I just quit when it was time to quit, per doctor's orders, and all was fine.

  14. I am really sorry about your loss, but you're freaking a lot of people out needlessly. This is exactly why people should not go on medication just to get them through a difficult time in their life. People who really need this medication, and are suffering from a mood disorder have a miserable time switching meds until something works, we don't care about the withdrawl, b/c if it's working, we aren't planning to stop taking it! Nine days withdrawl is nothing compared to the suffering that the medication alleviates.

  15. Sorry to leave this comment here, but your comment came to me without an email address. You can just delete it off your blog once you've read it, or trash it now if you'd like. If you have any questions to ask me about my "experience," please feel free to email me at ninjapoodles at gmail dot com. Thanks.

    Josephine, I think I have a LOT more experience with serious mood disorders than you might guess. Ask me.

    As for "freaking people out needlessly," well, if I hadn't been able to find this same information out there from other women who've taken Effexor, I would have had NO idea about the very real side effects and withdrawal syndrome, and would have been very, VERY frightened when all these things began to happen to me! So if I can give someone else the "heads up," then I will do that. Someone who is making their medical decisions based on what they read in someone else's personal journal is not someone who's really committed to, or stable enough to make the decisions that need to be made about their medical care.

    And as for "9 days' withdrawal," I can't imagine WHERE You got that idea. So far, it's 6 weeks plus, and I'm still sick every day. Just a little less sick as the weeks go by.

    And lastly: Just taking medication "to get through a difficult time" in my life? Seriously, and I ask this with all gentleness, did you only read this ONE post on my blog? How do YOU define "a difficult time," and when would YOU decide that you should seek medical attention? After a year of being unable to work? Check. How about over 6 months barely getting out of bed? Check. Crying for a good part of the day EVERY day? Check. Yes, maybe my great loss was the "trigger" for this crippling bout of depression, but it's been 2 years. In YOUR opinion, when my GP *and* my psychiatrist told me, adamantly, that I should be medicated, should I have said, "No, I know better than you. I do not have a 'serious mood disorder' according to some people who do not know me, so I will just keep going like this until I die, thanks."

    If you will read through ALL my posts on this topic, as well as all follow-up comments, I think you will see that my intent, far from being to "freak people out," was to inform many of my friends who take this drug what they might expect when discontinuing it, and to offer some tips (some of which, like the magnesium, I got from *other* bloggers) on how better to d/c the med or switch over to something else.

    I welcome any inquiries or comments you might have, but only ask that you check things out before labeling me as someone who "didn't need" an AD. I think my family would be sick at the notion, and since I have just this week returned back to the world even part-time, I think they're glad to have me again.

  16. I replied personally to josephine, but would refer anyone else to simply reference the above comments in their entirety, particularly my replies, something which josephine obviously didn't do.

    Should we lose a great resource for people struggling with MI like, too? Just because he tells of the negative effects of psychiatric medications? I just don't think so.

  17. Oh, and? *I* chose to try Effexor even AFTER reading multiple "horror stories" about the withdrawal syndrom, plus all the info at crazymeds plus the bulletin boards...and I'd like to think that most of the world is at *least* as sensible as me. (Heaven help us if they're not.)