I don't know if this is the appropriate forum for this post, but it's something I've been kicking around in my head for a quite a while and would just like to let it out and see if anyone else has had similar experiences.
On January 15, I started taking 12.5 mg of Paxil CR, the first psychotropic medication I've ever been prescribed. Within hours of the first dose, everything went from bad to intolerable. I thought I'd been feeling bad for a couple of days, but it was NOTHING compared to the hell of Paxil--I couldn't sleep more than 3 hours a night, my stomach was torn to bits, and I was in a full-blown state of constant panic. Even though I hadn't been having panic attacks for at least 4 years, I had about 6 attacks while on the various medications.
I only took the Paxil for one week--I was completely nonfunctional on it. I was scared to go out, scared to stay in, couldn't eat. It was awful. After a week off, I'd been feeling a little, teensy bit better, but was still having trouble sleeping and with my stomach. My MD told me that I shouldn't be experiencing any withdrawal effects b/c I'd only been on it for a week, and she immediately gave me 10 mg of Lexapro, 0.25 mg of Xanax, and Lunesta to sleep.
I learned: Xanax does NOTHING for me. Lunesta is a cruel joke--it would knock me unconscious for about five hours, but I never felt like I'd slept. The Lexapro.... well, the first week I was on it, I had to stay home from work. I spent one whole day on the couch where getting up to go to the bathroom felt like a Herculean feat. However, by the second week, I had a couple of days where I *almost* felt like myself again. My mood went up--here was something that was working!!! But then, after only about 3 days of feeling marginally better, the same side effects I'd had with the Paxil emerged on the Lexapro--I couldn't sleep, couldn't eat, my stomach a mess, panic attacks with symptoms that I'd never experienced before like ringing in my ears. Then I started to develop new side effects--muscle tension in my neck and shoulders, headaches, and that unrelenting feeling of panic again.
After three hellish days of indecision, I decided to stop the Lexapro. Cold turkey. I'd only been on it for a month.
Within hours of missing the dose, I felt 100% better! I had an appetite, my stomach didn't hurt, I got a full 8 hours of sleep that night. The next three days were wonderful--I was myself again!!!
Unfortunately, my MD thinks I still need to be on something. I couldn't disagree more, and I've already told my counselor that they'll have to institutionalize me to get me to take another psychotropic. Six days off the Lexapro, and now I'm experiencing mild withdrawal effects. I feel a vague sense of anxiety that isn't related to anything I can think of--I examine my thoughts but see nothing that I'm upset about other than the withdrawal symptoms (which are just a slight sense of mental fogginess, a little stomach upset, but that's it).
I know now that the worst is over, that the things I'm feeling today are mild withdrawal effects and that I'll be better soon. Despite the effects, I still feel more like myself than I've felt in almost 2 months.
In some ways, I have an undirected sense of anger about the medications. I know that there's really no one to blame unless I blame everyone involved--myself, my doctor, my family. So I blame no one, but I'm still somewhat angry. I feel like I lost 2 months of my life and am still struggling to overcome all of the awful things that the medications did to me. I've dealt with anxiety and depression since I was 10 years old (27 now), and I've never before taken medication. In the past, I'd always take a B-complex, rest, etc, and feel better within a couple of days. I don't know why it took me so long this time to accept that the medications were making me worse, but I lost months of life to that indecision. It was a vicious circle--I was anxious about the meds, but I thought the meds were supposed to help. One of the side effects I experienced was debilitating indecision--I couldn't make a choice to save my life about the simplest things like, should I read this book or watch TV? So it was almost impossible to decide what to do about the meds.
I have found some wonderful things that make me feel better without the medications. Mild exercise like riding my bike or doing a low key Pilates routine. Getting a massage once a month relieves the muscle tension and helps me relax. Eating healthily and taking a good, well rounded vitamin supplement will boost my mood in the morning. One of the best things I've found is a restorative yoga class that meets once a week just a few blocks from my house.
I understand what triggered this episode and I know that there are a lot of changes going on in my life right now. In my heart of hearts, I am so excited about the changes--I know that they are good and that they're opening up a whole new chapter of my life, one filled with joy and beauty, love and compassion. But still, they are changes. They are changes that overthrow the person I've been for 15 years, and even though I know that they will be good, they're still scary b/c I'm letting go of my past, of all of the anger, cynicism, and rage that were my coping mechanisms developed from years of abuse and trauma. But I don't need those things anymore. Being willing to change and grow is scary and can trigger feelings of depression and anxiety. But I believe that if we work to have compassion for ourselves and remain open to change rather than trying to judge ourselves and control every moment, then we will overcome--and be better than we ever were!
Some people legitimately need medications--I have many family members among those who really were helped. But from my own experience, I want to implore everyone to really do your research. Talk to a couple of doctors, talk to pharmacists and nurses. If any one of them tells you that there are no side effects to an SSRI like Lexapro or Paxil, and ESPECIALLY if they tell you that there are no withdrawal effects, run as far away from that person as you can! And more importantly than anything else, trust your instincts/inner guidance! Know what you're getting yourself into and if you have feelings of doubt about a medication, learn all you can before you make your decision. If my experiences could help just one person avoid what I went through these past couple of months, then it will be worth it. For so many of us with mild to moderate anxiety and depression, I believe that we can overcome it without medications. It's tough, but if we care for ourselves and pay attention to ourselves, work through CBT programs like what's offered here on Panic Center, then we can do it.
The best is yet to come.
(Sorry for the super long rambling post, but I just had to get these thoughts out of my head and share them with people who may have gone through the same things.)