Thought Catalog

The Time I Tried Quitting Antidepressants

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I’m hesitant to tell people I’m on anti-depressants, even though I’ve been crazy for as long as I can remember, because I don’t necessarily want people to look at me as such.

While all my girl friends in high school were play-acting crazy, I was the real deal. While they dressed in all black and scratched band names into their skin, I was succumbing to irrational and disturbing thoughts that would leave me sobbing into the arms of whoever was present at the time.

There are lots of targets for the cause of my neurosis, though I think pinning it down on one thing would be stupid. I’ve seen every low rent psychiatrist in Pittsburgh, none of them offering any solution more profound than ‘let’s talk about it.’ There is no one reason why I’m like this. No one did this to me. This is just the way that I am, and either I learn to live with it or I prepare for a life of fear and isolation and above all, failure.

I also believe that this is none of anybody’s business, which is why I don’t usually talk about it much with those outside my family. Everyone has problems, most far worse than mine, and talking about my insignificant business seems like I’m inviting sympathy. Even the denial that I am sounds like an elicitation of it.

I’m on these pills now that are pretty potent in terms of withdrawal symptoms. While I’m certainly no angel, when it comes to drugs I’ve never favored pills and powders and things that can really get their hooks into you. One of the few times I’ve taken pills for sheer recreation I wound up passed out in some gay bar with my head lodged between a toilet and the wall.

If I stop taking the pills I’m on now, even for a day or two, a barrage of withdrawal symptoms overtake me. They have hilarious, hackneyed names, like brain zaps, which only sound hilarious and hackneyed if you’ve never experienced them before. If you have, you realize that they’re the most accurate description of what it feels like — someone continuously zipping and unzipping the skin around the back of your skull.

The one time I tried quitting, cold turkey because I lost my health insurance for making too much money, I found myself crying over road kill on the side of the highway and never wanting to leave the house. I’ve always been moody, but never at this pace and fluctuation. My cessation experiment ended when I found myself incapable of even shutting my eyes for three days straight. Every time I would fall asleep something would grip me in the dark. It felt like some foul monster wrapped its cold green hand around my heart and I had to wake up to breathe again. I edged up to the precipice of insanity. During the worst of it, I considered checking into a mental hospital because I didn’t feel I could survive another second in my own skin.

But that moment passed, just like all the others do, good or bad. I started taking the medicine again, deciding my sanity was worth the exorbitant fee for uninsured medicine. The greatest part is that the pills don’t even really help. The medicine is supposed to control panic attacks, but they still occur with the same frequency, and I’ve only recently — within the past year or so — learned to control them through sheer will and maybe a little bit of maturity. The only thing the pills do now is save me from their withdrawal effects.

But it’s still my fault, because I’m the one who tried to OD on my previous antidepressants and ended up in the emergency room. Everyone in the hospital seemed cold towards me, and now I don’t blame them. I’d really done no more damage than a typical night out, and at the end when I was declared healthy, the doctor questioned me in the hall.

He asked if I would hurt myself if he let me go, and I had no intention of doing so (meaning, I didn’t and still don’t have the guts to off myself), so I said that. While we were talking a woman on a stretcher was being checked in. The staff was working all around her while a lone child clung to her side. The kid wasn’t crying, but appeared terrified, and the nurses were treating her with all the sympathy they withheld from me. Her mother was hooked up to a breathing machine and the people tending to her acted with a quiet urgency that made me think she was dying.

I remember looking at that woman and feeling like such an idiot. She was f-cking dying and I was just playing around. I didn’t even want to die, I just wanted the attention that every teenage girl so desperately craves, yet doesn’t have the wherewithal to understand that the sun does not rise and set on them. But she didn’t have a choice.

I do have a choice. Some days getting out bed seems impossible, but I do it anyway. Sometimes I snap at the people I love for no good reason. Now, instead of crying on my bed Scarlett O’Hara style all day, I apologize and explain it’s not you, it’s me. It’s always me, but I guess I have to live with it. Because if I don’t then no one else will. TC mark

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The Time I Tried Quitting Antidepressants is cataloged in , , , , , ,
  • http://www.facebook.com/grc15r Gregory Costa

     I had the same problems with my own antidepressant, rocky road ice cream.  Oh, it was poison.

  • PAW

    My god do I remember those brain zaps. Keep away from the cold turkey technique! Good read you know a lot of people can relate to… And courage!

  • PAW

    My god do I remember those brain zaps. Keep away from the cold turkey technique! Good read you know a lot of people can relate to… And courage!

  • PAW

    My god do I remember those brain zaps. Keep away from the cold turkey technique! Good read you know a lot of people can relate to… And courage!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=25409001 Danny Villarreal

    Yikes, sounds like EFFEXOR is a bitch.

    • http://twitter.com/sodiumsepia Rick

      Brain zaps give it away. Good god, those were terrible.

    • Coka_Im_fine

      I know, right? I just started like a month ago and now I’m wicked scared…. :(

    • a.

      WARNING: Pristiq is just the newest incarnation since they lost their patent. It’s just as bad.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=25409001 Danny Villarreal

    Yikes, sounds like EFFEXOR is a bitch.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=25409001 Danny Villarreal

    Yikes, sounds like EFFEXOR is a bitch.

  • Nels0n924

    Wow I want to punch whoever wrote this in the face i too am on anti depresents and I don’t consider myself crazy for 1 and 2 there are actual mentally ill people out there who have REALLY tried to take their lifes not just done it for attention as she said she has.

    • Anonymous

      Not everyone on anti-depressants is the same.

    • http://twitter.com/sodiumsepia Rick

      Think about the following statements: “I don’t consider myself crazy” v. “I want to harm someone because they report an experience that differs from mine.”

      Also think about using a comma once in a while.

      • Guest

        Rick, you are amazing.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1363230138 Michael Koh

      is there an anti-inflammatory anti-moron pill

  • Nels0n924

    Wow I want to punch whoever wrote this in the face i too am on anti depresents and I don’t consider myself crazy for 1 and 2 there are actual mentally ill people out there who have REALLY tried to take their lifes not just done it for attention as she said she has.

  • Nels0n924

    Wow I want to punch whoever wrote this in the face i too am on anti depresents and I don’t consider myself crazy for 1 and 2 there are actual mentally ill people out there who have REALLY tried to take their lifes not just done it for attention as she said she has.

  • ams

    Oh, the brain zaps! One day I forgot to take my pill and I was weeping in the alley by work over a pigeon with a mutilated foot. I had to sit in the bathroom for an hour before I could go to my desk.

  • ams

    Oh, the brain zaps! One day I forgot to take my pill and I was weeping in the alley by work over a pigeon with a mutilated foot. I had to sit in the bathroom for an hour before I could go to my desk.

  • ams

    Oh, the brain zaps! One day I forgot to take my pill and I was weeping in the alley by work over a pigeon with a mutilated foot. I had to sit in the bathroom for an hour before I could go to my desk.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_HYTLXH3LX6NTP2SJDQKOZDH6HA AZJay1007

    I’ve never heard the phrase ‘brain zaps’ before. But reading that phrase made perfect sense to me. I recall having had a couple of these during a time of intense stress but not from withdrawal from anti-depressants. I tried to describe it to a friend once because it scared me and he looked at me like I was f’ing nuts (they’re kinda hard to describe without sounding crazy). But “Brain Zap” is succinct and perfect. It made a sound too and it was like an electrical discharge in my head … see I told you I sound crazy when trying to describe it lol. I’m actually kinda relieved hearing you and commenters describe it as well. I’ve started taking anti-depressants a few months ago and after reading your story, I think I understand that they seem to make no difference whatsoever.

  • drblank

    Nelson, news flash, depression is a mental illness. The darkness and the feeling that it is neverending is real. Being functional on most days does not mitigate the pain. 

  • Mich

    Wow Nelson needs to calm down…

    You do have a choice, and it sounds like you’re trying your darndest to make the best ones. Not that many people can accept and admit to the less-than-flattering parts of their pasts, but you’ve managed to put them in perspective and rise above. Good for you!

    I’ve never experienced brain zaps, but when I quit abusing anti-anxiety meds I got what my doctor said is called “exploding head syndrome.” Not cool. 

  • Arosario589

    it took me three tries to get off anti depressants that i had been on for two years. the first time i did it cold turkey and had brain zaps, dizzyness, weird light body sensations nausea and then a complete emotional crash with panic and anxiety, it was terrible. and that was my doc’s suggestion too! she thought because i was on a low dose, i wouldnt have any side effects from stopping cold turkey.  then the second time, i tried weaning but i did it too fast and still ended up with side effects. the third time i did it reallllllllllly slow, i weaned down over a period of two to three months, and had no side effects that way. It’s hard but it can be done.

  • Sharquanda

    Don’t just “live with it;” that kind of passivity is a dangerous outlook. Just as you emphasize in the last paragraph, you have choices. With my depression, I choose everyday to not be lazy or self-indulgent. You have to choose to fight these feelings and you will eventually overcome them. Live with them as in not kill yourself? That’s good. But live with them as in, whatever, they’re here, let me try to just manage them instead of proactively combating them? That’s a no.

  • Sharquanda

    Don’t just “live with it;” that kind of passivity is a dangerous outlook. Just as you emphasize in the last paragraph, you have choices. With my depression, I choose everyday to not be lazy or self-indulgent. You have to choose to fight these feelings and you will eventually overcome them. Live with them as in not kill yourself? That’s good. But live with them as in, whatever, they’re here, let me try to just manage them instead of proactively combating them? That’s a no.

  • bones

    you are brave and strong. you are young, alot of this will pass as you learn coping mechanisms that work for you. don’t lay on your bed. get up and do something for someone else. start small- shovel your  neighbor’s driveway or have coffee with someone who is lonelier than you are. these things will take take you out of your own head, which is where you need to get to.doing stuff for other people will add dimention to your self. it’s really not all about you.  believe that it WILL get better, but BE YOUR OWN SAVIOR.

  • http://twitter.com/caitlindean Caitlin Dean

    Preach, sister.

  • https://twitter.com/iamthepuddles Jordana Bevan

    STACIE READ #2 SERIOUSLY

    1. The first time I cold turkeyed (accidentally, left them at home on a weekend trip) I had a white-out seizure at the top of a staircase and fell all the way down on my head. Didn’t realize it was because of withdrawal, though. The second time I cold turkeyed I was admitted to the ER because they thought I was having a mini stroke. Fuck effexor. Fuck my doctor for sending me to another country without counseling me on  how to take an anti depressant, how to go off an anti depressant, and how to adjust to being on anti depressants.2. I’m going to write about my story because maybe you’ll be able to see similarities in yourself and maybe what happened with me could help you.  In seventh grade I started cutting myself and that was either the catalyst for further behavior or a symptom of what would someday become the norm. Parents found out, blah blah, I started high school and began having weird mood swings. Sometimes they would happen because it took more than 2 minutes for my boyfriend to text me back or because someone was walking slowly in front of me (random examples, just trying to show the scope of ’causes’), sometimes I would just be hanging out and out of nowhere a huge dark cloud would come sit on my chest and put me in such a rage I couldn’t deal with it. There were different mental states for the moods – I want to fucking die, I want someone else to die, I want to get fucked up and break shit, I want to fuck everything that moves, I need to get out of my body – but they all had the same physical feeling, a feeling that basically was a panic attack without the fear (there are such things as non-fearless panic attacks, but not a lot of info out there). Sometimes I’d go a month without them, sometimes I’d go from normal to angry to normal to angry in a day. They’d last 2 minutes or ten minutes or five hours or three days. There was no consistency except for their persistant existence. When I left for college, the structure in my life basically disappeared, and the mood swings became much more prevalent. They happened more frequently: hardly a day passed without them, and on the days when I did have them I would have two or three. I’d compare it to cyclothemic bipolar II, but without the mania. I’m very conscious of my social interactions because I hate hurting peoples’ feelings, but it got to the point where I was walking out of rooms in the middle of my friends’ sentences (maybe not a big deal, but is relative to my normal behavior), fighting with people for no reason, and basically isolating myself because people just couldn’t be around me. What also happened was I was able to act on the moods – the ‘I want to get fucked up’ and ‘I want to fuck someone’ feelings could finally be realized, and I indulged. Instead of having to sit at home (like I had to in high school), I could go out and rid myself of the mood by acting on the physical sensations it gave me. Anyway, in December 2010 I was given effexor as an off-label mood stabilizer by my doctor in the States (I went to uni in London). They didn’t make me feel different, and ultimately I felt that my decisions became worse and worse, and I attributed that to the Effexor. My parents eventually got involved and brought me to a psychologist in May back in the USA. After a few meetings, he diagnosed me with ADHD. Initially he put me on strattera, which is a bullshit medication, and then I left him and went to a new family doctor who put me on Concerta. Concerta is the best thing to happen to me in quite some time. Initially I went through a 2 week honeymoon period of loving stimulants, followed by another two week period of intense self loathing and suicidal ideation (coincided with my parents nearly kicking me out, not sure about which is the cause and which is effect). Then one day I woke up and didn’t feel like shit anymore. I went around living my life and didn’t freak out at my friends or my family. I started getting my life back together after going on medical leave from college. I’m 5 months in now, and things are great.
    But anyway, the reason I’m writing this and the reason I really hope you read this is because I GET the crying in whomoever is there’s arms thing (I think). All through high school I was trying to explain to people what the mood swings were like, but if you don’t have them you can’t understand them (and I hope I’m understanding correctly that horrible, horrible, self-loathing moods are part of the problem). I think the issue has to do with impulsivity (which is why I ‘have adhd’). My brain ITSELF was impulsive – something that someone else could have a passing thought about (‘Text messages don’t take this long to type!’) became things my brain couldn’t stop itself from exploding over. I would have an instant emotional reaction to the same things as everyone else, but my emotional reaction wouldn’t be ‘checked’ and balanced like other peoples’, it would instantly and impulsively became a HUGE fucking thing and just shoot adrenaline all over the place. But what I’m saying is, since you can get antidepressants see if your doctor is willing to prescribe you a daily 10-15mg pill of methylphenidate (Ritalin, concerta) which is more of a calm stimulant than adderall. Concerta especially because it’s essentially abuse-proof because of the way they structure the pill. Don’t compromise for a norepinephrine inhibitor or the like, it’s not the same and probably won’t help. you’ll have to go off the antidepressants first, but then can start concerta.
    I really hope I’m not projecting things on to you that you don’t feel or taking a wiser-than-thou approach. I just know how much being on concerta helped me and I want to help other people who sound similar in whatever way I can. If anything I’ve said strikes a chord with you, seriously email me (fwae_@hotmail.com) and you can at least have a comrade. I don’t know. Meep.

    • https://twitter.com/iamthepuddles Jordana Bevan

      sorry for writing a fucking novel

      • http://thefirstchurchofmutterhals.blogspot.com/ mutterhals

        It’s totally cool. That’s the thing that gets me, I asked the doctor who prescribed me Effexor about side effects and she gave me some blow off story. Had I known about how hard it would be to quit I would have never taken them.

      • https://twitter.com/iamthepuddles Jordana Bevan

        Concertaaaaaaaaa

      • http://mrianmbelcurry.tumblr.com/ Mr. Ian M. Belcurry

        I like how you care enough to share your knowledge and experience

      • http://thefirstchurchofmutterhals.blogspot.com/ mutterhals

        It’s totally cool. That’s the thing that gets me, I asked the doctor who prescribed me Effexor about side effects and she gave me some blow off story. Had I known about how hard it would be to quit I would have never taken them.

  • Katie

    This is my life word for word, right down to the hospital visit. It’s eerie how much I can relate to it and how similar everything sounds. Thank you so much for posting this. I’ve been on antidepressants since I was 16, and other than my family, no one knows, not even my closest friends who know pretty much everything else about me. I wish I had the courage to say something to them, but I don’t want it to look like I’m trying to get attention. But it’s just been such a huge part of my life for so long now, and it just doesn’t feel right that I can’t share it. But your post has inspired me, and hopefully one day soon I’ll also have the courage to share my story.

  • Katie

    This is my life word for word, right down to the hospital visit. It’s eerie how much I can relate to it and how similar everything sounds. Thank you so much for posting this. I’ve been on antidepressants since I was 16, and other than my family, no one knows, not even my closest friends who know pretty much everything else about me. I wish I had the courage to say something to them, but I don’t want it to look like I’m trying to get attention. But it’s just been such a huge part of my life for so long now, and it just doesn’t feel right that I can’t share it. But your post has inspired me, and hopefully one day soon I’ll also have the courage to share my story.

  • Kt

    I often forget to take my Zoloft and will only realize it when I am hit with an intense wave of vertigo.  Every time I try to wean off of it, the vertigo gets so bad that I don’t even want to get out of bed.  My unfortunate problem is that when I’m regularly taking Zoloft, I am mentally stable but kind of forgetful, kind of dazed, kind of a zombie.  When I am not taking Zoloft, I am either curled up on the floor sobbing over a missed phone call (or something equally stupid) or I am furiously writing, drawing, painting, or otherwise creating something.  And I am good.  I face a most difficult decision each morning when I wake up and take that little grey pill.  Take it, and feel and act “normal” but like I’m living in a haze, just a boring shadow of my true self?  Or refuse to take it, and be the creative, quick, emotionally messy, brilliant disaster that is my natural state?  It would probably be an easier decision if it didn’t cause that damn vertigo.

    • Liz

      I have been on a few different kinds of anti-depressants. Pristiq was one I had to switch from (because it ended up not being enough, or so my doctor says) and I was prescribed Zoloft. I do not mean to quit cold turkey on medication, it just happens sometimes due to forgetting; so I asked my doctor what would happen if I accidentally forget to take it. Interestingly enough, my doctor said getting off of this medication was simple and did not have the same kind of effects that getting off other anti-Ds have. Still, I sometimes forget to take it and I even run out while I am away on trips (because planning ahead is not something this medicine helps us with… considering the dazed and confused attitude every day). When that “wave of vertigo” hits, it’s almost worse from other medications. With Pristiq, it’s the feeling of when you lay down and close your eyes, the room is still spinning. With Zoloft, the nausea takes over, balance is a thing of the past, crying is the new laugh, and sleep is the only help. It’s just miserable. 

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